Every year for the past six or seven, Nora and I have driven down to see the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts’ CraftBoston Christmas show at the Hines Convention Center. We usually make two full days of it, one day to browse the 175 or so booths and the second day to shop. We always tour in opposite directions, so that we can talk with artists and pick out things that the other one won’t see until it’s too late (ha!).
But in this pandemic year, the holiday show—usually a fundamental part of how artists and craftspeople make their living—isn’t available to us. So I thought I’d do some beloved people a favor, and recommend their work to you. Imagine that you were walking from booth to booth, and had a chance to stop and chat. It would reward your time to visit their websites, and just to slow yourself down and browse and read and look around.
When Nora first saw the work of Bonny Hall, she told her “Now I’m going to have to get pregnant just so that I can give my kids your animals!” We have a pair of Bonny’s Beasts, and they lend their vast enthusiasm every time we see them. If we have anything like a totem animal, it’s one of Bonny’s dogs. We aspire to be as joyful as they are.
My friend David Munyak has been turning wood here in Middletown Springs for a long, long time. I think I probably have eight or nine of his turnings (plus a pair of salad scoops, just because they’re comfortable). He just sees wood in ways that I don’t have many precedents for. The grain comes alive in his hands, turns into shapes and curves that are just brilliantly wonderful.
I met Aimee Lee when she reached out to me after reading The Adjunct Underclass. And our friendship has been one of the very best things about that book. She’s just so smart and so committed to both the visual and material character and the cultural history of paper, and to bringing a new generation of viewers and students into the craft. Nora and I are the proud owners of one of her ducks, looking out the window at the garden. And I also have one of her handmade artist’s books, which I keep next to my writing desk as an inspiration for those inevitable lonely, difficult days.
I met Kurt Meyer seven years ago at CraftBoston, and seek his booth out every year when I return. He is a master of geometry: sometimes precise and mathematical, other times revealing the patterns that already live inside the wood that he presents. We have some of his ornaments, as well as a wonderful and intricate jewelry box. And if you’ve paid any attention to the media world in the past few months, you’d know that The Queen’s Gambit is the biggest thing on streaming TV this year. (Watch the Netflix show, but read the book, too, one of my long-time favorites.) Chess has become such a big thing this year that chess sets are in short supply. But you can get one from Kurt. And you should.
Jewelry comes in thousands of flavors, and tastes will all vary. But when Nora wants to reach for a necklace-and-earring set that’s light and easy and eye-catching, she puts on the “Vertigo” work from Meghan Patrice Riley. It’s simultaneously simple and unique, super light, and you won’t find anything else like it.
It’s a good thing we like our friends. Otherwise, I’d have to wonder about questions of inappropriate harassment every time Nora wears her goddess pendant from Carolyn Morris Bach. People instinctively reach for it, stare at it, want to touch it. It has magical powers. It lures people in, perhaps too close.
I already told you about Kurt and his chess sets. But if you’d like to learn to play pool, I’d have you come visit for some lessons… and I’d have you invest in a cue from Thierry Layani of Quebec. The engineering is ingenious and productive, and the visual craftsmanship is absolutely stunning. (And we’d be using Aramith balls, and playing on a first-generation Brunswick Gold Crown table, covered with Simonis worsted-wool cloth. These tools are not merely fun and games; they enable spiritual growth.)
Christmas and Hanukkah and the new year are coming, thank god, and it’s the appropriate season for gifts. I would wholeheartedly recommend a gift from any of these wonderful artists. Sure, you could get your love another pair of socks, or some gimmicky bullshit from the Sharper Image or Hammacher Schlemmer catalogs that’ll break or be stuffed in the back of the closet by February. But if you want to give the blessing of repeated engagement and lasting fascination, these are the crafts you want.