Ruth Spencer on ways to put orig­i­nal­ity into your gift-giv­ing

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Ruth Spencer on ways to put orig­i­nal­ity into your gift-giv­ing

With Christ­mas loom­ing and peo­ple in­con­ve­niently hav­ing birth­days every year, you may wish you had a go-to source of orig­i­nal gifts. Per­haps you’re a crafter or would like to be, and you’re keen to turn your hand to mak­ing heart­felt and charm­ing presents. How­ever, noth­ing strikes fear into the hearts of friends and rel­a­tives like hear­ing that you’ve taken up or­na­men­tal pot­tery. If you’re look­ing for a hobby, con­sider some­thing more un­usual and, along the way, pro­duce gifts some­one might ac­tu­ally want. Here are some sug­ges­tions.

At­trac­tive fire­side logs

Take your time choos­ing, cut­ting and ar­rang­ing a pile of whim­si­cal, nat­u­ral fire­side logs. Slen­der sil­ver birch for tex­ture, pine for its rus­tic scent, and a clus­ter of twisted willow for kin­dling. An ideal gift for young men who dress as lum­ber­jacks, or for any­one whose decor leans to­wards Scandi, be­cause there are lots of forests in Scan­di­navia — or there would be if they hadn’t all been turned into flat-pack fur­ni­ture. This gift is per­fect: you’ll get lots of ex­er­cise on your col­lect­ing walks, the earthy wood tones go with ev­ery­thing, and if the re­cip­i­ent hates it and its oc­ca­sional bonus spi­der, they can burn it with­out guilt.

Hand-blown glasses

Ev­ery­one needs a glass, whether sam­pling IPA or Adam’s Ale. Take up glass-blow­ing and never be short of a ves­sel, un­less it’s the blood ves­sel you burst blow­ing into the tube. A chal­leng­ing and skilled hobby, this will stretch your cre­ative tal­ents while pro­duc­ing a great deal of in­ter­est­ingly wob­bly glass­ware. It’s the gift that

Wax ba­nanas Tra­di­tion­ally crafted soaps

keeps on giv­ing: the in­built in­sta­bil­ity makes sure it breaks be­fore it be­comes the tragic ugly duck­ling of the glass cab­i­net; they’ll still be pick­ing shards out of the bot­tom of the dish­washer when you give them more next year. Bot­toms up! Ac­tu­ally if the bot­tom is up, you might want to start over. You may think that bak­ing is a won­der­ful gift. It is, when it comes from a com­mer­cial kitchen with an A cer­tifi­cate. Be­fore you in­flict your gin­ger­bread on some­one ask your­self whether they’ve ever seen your kitchen, the one with the smelly chux cloth hang­ing over the tap and the ant nest be­hind the oven clock. Is your soap dis­penser out of soap? Be hon­est, is your soap dis­penser a cracked bar of Sun­light in the laun­dry? Giv­ing up bak­ing might be the safest thing you ever did. In­stead, con­sider carv­ing food out of wax. We’d all love a fruit bowl that al­ways looks per­fect, with no blueish pow­der gath­er­ing at the bot­tom. Once the pride of the din­ing ta­ble, wax fruit has be­come in­creas­ingly rare. Try not to worry about whether there’s a rea­son for that while you res­ur­rect this tra­di­tional her­itage art. It’s not like any­one eats fruit any­way, that’s what smooth­ies are for. An­other of life’s great dis­pos­able items, if the re­cip­i­ent doesn’t want it they can ban­ish it to the undies drawer or leave it in the bot­tom of the shower to waste away like a Weight Watch­ers celebrity. The melt-and-pour kind of soap is for am­a­teurs; get some sat­is­fac­tion out of your hobby by com­bin­ing ash and lard, which you prob­a­bly had ly­ing around any­way if your kitchen is any in­di­ca­tion. Peo­ple al­ways need soap, so gift your hand­crafted bars year af­ter year. Ig­nore the nos­tal­gic tears in their eyes as you tell them how much they’re sav­ing now they don’t have to go to Lush.

Dan­de­lion wine

What could be more ar­ti­sanal and Pin­ter­est-wor­thy than bot­tles of your home-har­vested, or­ganic dan­de­lion wine? It’s weed al­co­hol, although don’t tell your friends that in case you get their hopes up. This gift is mostly ap­pre­ci­ated by the re­cip­i­ent’s teenage chil­dren when they raid the liquor cab­i­net for what­ever their par­ents wouldn’t drink even when they were out of ac­tual wine. Some of your friends and rel­a­tives might sud­denly claim to be tee­to­tal. Be sus­pi­cious of any­one claim­ing to be do­ing Dry De­cem­ber, which is be­yond the realms of hu­man abil­ity.


The sea holds many trea­sures. Un­for­tu­nately as we’re out­side of the ma­jor ship­ping routes, most of them don’t wash up on our shores and beach­comb­ing isn’t the lu­cra­tive ad­ven­ture it is in other coun­tries. But booty is in the eye of the be­holder. While you might not find any am­ber­gris or pi­rate dou­bloons cast on the Pt Chev sands, you’re sure to dis­cover the odd in­ter­est­ing bit of drift­wood, man­grove pod or lit­tle plas­tic soy sauce fish from some­one’s sushi. You’re only a hot-glue gun away from sea­far­ing sou­venir craft! Give away to any wist­ful oceangaz­ers you know, es­pe­cially to par­ents of boy ba­bies, who of­ten make a hope­ful at­tempt at a nau­ti­cal nurs­ery be­fore Bat­man oblit­er­ates their whimsy for­ever. The sea’s bounty is end­less, so set up a stall near the ice­cream shop with any ex­tras and make some spare sea change.


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