By Laura Jean Whitcomb
Photography by Lucy Thompson
One of my favorite things is finding the perfect gift. You’re walking through an art show, and you see a painting that your friend would love. Or you find an ornament to tie on a gift bag — and will later adorn a family member’s tree every holiday season. It can be difficult to get that “ah-ha” feeling in a box store, but it can easily happen at a locally owned shop or seasonal craft fair in the Upper Valley. Here are a few items Kid Stuff magazine found in the Upper Valley.
Brick peeks out between slats of old weathered barn board, the reddish-brown tint of the clay adding hints of color underneath a darker brown. Each board has its own personality — knotholes, swirls, lines and nail holes — and they sit atop a solid concrete-colored foundation with bricks of its own.
Am I describing the architecture of an historical building? Nope. I’m looking at a beautiful ceramic mug, made by Nara Burgess, owner of Nara Pots in Bradford, Vt. “I wanted to bring attention to the hidden beauty that I see in abandoned buildings. They have such history and culture,” she says. Add her detailed drawings to a mug and you have “a daily reminder to appreciate the beauty in things that are broken and aging, instead of just tossing it aside.”
Burgess has been making pottery since the fall of 2013, her freshman year at Maine College of Art. “That was the first place I touched clay. I had originally gone to college for photography but changed my major to ceramics pretty fast,” she says.
After graduating, Burgess interned with Tennessee studio potter Eric Botbyl at Botbyl Pottery and Companion Gallery. “It was an amazing opportunity that taught me a lot about owning a gallery,” she says.
Now a Vermont resident, Burgess enjoys working in ceramics “because of the endless possibilities the material holds,” she says. “It could be a statue to watch over someone’s garden or a mug that gets used daily. I love how little details can bring a small amount of joy to the user every morning. Ceramics is more than just making a mug or bowl. There’s a certain level of heart that goes into everything that gets made.”
You can find Nara Pots at Chapman’s in Fairlee, Vt., and various shows. For dates, go to narapots.com
Anna Hranovska Vincelette has a one-woman ceramic studio in White River Junction, Vt. She makes incredibly detailed sculptures out of clay, ceramics and stone. You might find an intricate dragon box or a shelf-size statue of Medusa with hissing snake curls. This delicate heart, with lace-like patterns in red, was found at the Long River Gallery. It’s a great gift any time; a holiday stocking stuffer or a Valentine. Find her work at Long River Gallery in White River Junction and online at Etsy as Minkbrook Studio.
Crafts by Pat Masone
Pat Masone of Grantham, N.H., has been crafting a long time, and her creations just keep getting cuter and cuter! She offers a variety of snowmen and Santas for the holiday season, but this little lady — with chicks and eggs — caught our eye.
Why not have one of her ornaments for every holiday: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter…. Find her work at Artisan’s of New London (N.H.).
Wee Pine Manor Crafts
Fay Youells and Sandy Dickau of Wee Pine Manor Crafts in Lebanon, N.H., use their painting skills to decorate many things: slate signs, wooden boxes, woven baskets and ceramic ornaments, to name a few. “As tole painters, aka decorative painters, we enjoy painting on many surfaces with acrylic paint,” says Youells. “The fun is to be creative and ‘see’ what could be put on any object.”
These adorable tin houses are one of their favorite objects to paint. It starts with two coats of acrylic paint, a spray matte finish, then “the snow is applied with a snow-tex material that gives the house that 3-D reminder of snow in New England winters,” says Dickau. This little village can easily decorate a tree, table or mantle. You’ll find their work at the annual Lebanon Arts & Crafts Association Christmas Show & Sale in West Lebanon, N.H.
Who doesn’t want a stocking stuffed with artisan bath and body products? Farmer’s Body lotions, soaps and more are handmade in Hartland, Vt., using ingredients grown by local farmers. The Gentle Citrus hand and body soap, for example, contains olive oil infused with calendula flowers.
“I utilize locally grown farm products like tallow, honey, milk, flowers and herbs, fruits and veggies in every product,” says Farmer’s Body co-founder Meggan Wehmeyer. “I am picky about ingredients and consider each ingredient and its source carefully — putting each through the ‘what does this bring to the product and do I want this on my kids’ skin’ test before including it in my formulations.”
The result is a win for everyone — the farmers gain an additional market; Farmer’s Body uses the freshest possible ingredients and customers benefit from an amazing product. “My favorite part about Farmer’s Body is hearing from a customer that using these products brightens their day,” says Wehmeyer.
You can find Farmer’s Body products at Spring Ledge Farm in New London, N.H., or online at farmersbody.com
Caramel fans are in luck. Vermont confectioners have concocted some amazing soft treats. Big Picture Farm (bigpicturefarm.com) in Townsend, Vt., makes raspberry rhubarb caramels using Vermont cow cream and Vermont rhubarb wine and cider honey caramels with cow cream, apple wine, cider jelly and honey — all from Vermont. Bristol, Vt., based Farmhouse Chocolates (farmhousechocolate.com), uses 70 percent organic/fair trade chocolate — along with Vermont heavy cream and salted butter — in its chocolate covered caramels. Red Kite Candies (redkitecandy.com), out of Bradford, Vt., makes a traditional maple caramel “out of fresh local milk from cows we know” that is divine. You can find all these treats at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market in Woodstock, Vt., or online.
Sewn in Vermont
Sharon Gouveia Comeau creates whimsical, eco-friendly stuffed animals, containers and bags from her home in White River Junction, Vt. These super cute pencil bags — or cosmetic bags or whatever-you-want-to-put-in-them bags — are made of organic cotton canvas. The liner is wipe clean. But it’s Comeau’s eye for fabrics, sometimes upcycled and sometimes new, will compel you to buy one of each. Find them at Post in White River Junction or online at sewninvermont.com
Laura Jean Whitcomb is the publisher and editor of Kid Stuff magazine. Halloween is her favorite holiday, but Christmas is a close runner up.