Regardless of how you feel about buying and giving gifts, that time of year has officially arrived. You might fully enjoy picking out unique items for every person on your list — or resort to the gift card rack at the supermarket on your way to family dinners. If you’ve set a high bar with knock-out presents in years past and need to match it, or you’d like to seriously improve your game this year, we’ve got some ideas to get you started.
Though a large quantity of gifts might be more fun to open, giving gifts of a higher quality will probably earn you good marks over the course of the whole year, when friends and family continue to appreciate the items you gave them. With that in mind, The Cheat Sheet talked with John Peabody, a writer, photographer, and founder of The Hand & Eye, a website that features artisans and craftsmen who create items all over the United States.
Peabody gave us some insight about the kinds of work you can find all over the country, if you’re willing to look for it. Based on the people he’s met and profiled, he also gave us some good ideas about the perfect gifts for every guy on your list, and maybe some items you’ll want to receive yourself. Take a look at Peabody’s work and his suggestions before making your shopping list — you might be able to skip the shopping mall lines altogether.
The maker movement
Peabody was the small business editor for Reuters a few years ago, and when he left he wanted to continue profiling entrepreneurs. That, coupled with his interest in craftsmanship and the creative process, led him to create The Hand & Eye. “It’s really a place for me to celebrate creative entrepreneurs and the work they do, while learning a little from them as well,” Peabody said in an email interview.
For Peabody, buying goods is all about quality. “I believe in buying less, but buying better. I’d rather spend my money on something that’s going to last a long time that I can appreciate for years to come, than buying something I’ll have to replace in a few years,” he explained.
It doesn’t matter to Peabody whether the items are from a one-person operation or by a larger company that’s still able to produce high-quality goods. “I think consumers should demand higher quality products and support the businesses and brands that are committed to quality. Of course I understand that there are also cost issues, and I’m not insanely rigid about this. I get that it’s 2015 we can’t all be wearing and buying artisanal everything all the time. That would be a bit crazy,” Peabody said.
When it comes to buying gifts for other people, Peabody said looking for unique offerings is easy in New York, where he lives. He’ll check out ABC Carpet and Home, Leo Design, and The Lodge, plus online sites like WorkOf. “You also can’t go wrong with standbys like L.L. Bean, Patagonia and Filson. I don’t know a man who wouldn’t like a gift from either of those places,” he wrote.
Peabody also listed a few specific gift ideas, hosted on The Hand & Eye and crosslisted in a partnership with another website called Huckberry. Check out Peabody’s suggestions for The Cheat Sheet readers.
1. Jackson Cannon bar knife, R. Murphy Knives
“This bar knife from Massachusetts-based R.Murphy Knives, the oldest knife maker in the country, is awesome. It’s the kind of thing someone might not buy for themselves, so it makes an awesome present. It’s durable and tough as nails, and the perfect addition to any guy’s bar,” Peabody said.
If you’re looking for a different knife, Peabody also speaks highly of R. Murphy’s oyster knife on his site.
2. Backgammon board, True.ink
“I’m really into this backgammon board from the team at True.ink. It’s handmade in Rhode Island and is a true heirloom piece that will be in the family for a long time. Also, it offers the opportunity to get social with people without a phone in hand,” Peabody wrote.
3. Rover Pack, Topo Designs
Said Peabody: “I’m really into Topo Design packs. They’re made in Colorado, have a great retro look to them and are totally functional. Who wouldn’t want a new weekend/excursion pack?”
There are plenty of other designs from the company, too, many of which Peabody covers on his site.
4. Leather items, Tanner Goods
“Anything from Tanner Goods is a win too. A wallet, key fob or a belt. All these things will last a lifetime and only get better with age. They make their good in Oregon and are totally committed to the process of craft and quality,” Peabody attested.
Peabody would know — he’s profiled the company’s work in a lot of posts on his own website. Want to learn more? Check them out here.
5. Wool blanket, Faribault Woolen Mill Co.
“A wool blanket from Faribault Mills is also a great call. These are perfect for the apartment but do just as well on camping trips and at bonfires on the beach. Everyone should have one,” Peabody said.
Aside from being known for its quality, the Faribault Woolen Mill Co. has also been in operation for 150 years. If you’re interested in learning more about the company, check out Peabody’s quick description.
6. Wine subscription, Stolpman Vineyards
“If it’s for someone who enjoys wine, I’d recommend a wine subscription from Stolpman Vineyards. They’re based in Los Olivos, Calif. and they make my absolute favorite wine,” Peabody said.
Want some more gift suggestions? Peabody put together a separate list on his own site with additional ideas to spark your creativity. If you’re still looking for the perfect item, try checking out the Maker Profiles on the site as well, which include coverage of other entrepreneurs who might be able to provide the perfect holiday present.