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Our second annual Artisanal Gift Guide

Our second annual Artisanal Gift Guide

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With the holidays approaching, why not look for the perfect, handcrafted gift–or maybe a workshop or some other experience for an artisan-in-the-making?

By SHARON TILLEY

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Photo by Shawn Linehan

As our second year of publication concludes, we can happily indulge our readers who requested a repeat performance of last year’s Artisanal Gift Guide, based on the work of the craftsmen and craftswomen in our first year’s five issues. Now, drawing from our 2016 stories, you have dozens of additional choices. And remember, you vote with your dollars every time you shop. Giving a well-crafted gift directly supports the principles and the kind of built-to-last economy that Craftsmanship Quarterly champions.

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Before his vermouth can begin to take on the flavors and scents of his ingredients, Carl Sutton macerates the herbs and botanicals in demijohns, each reserved for a single ingredient. Photo by Andrew Sullivan

For Foodies

Fine beginnings and endings to a meal can make a lasting impression, and we’ve got gift ideas for both. In our current issue, Laura Fraser covers the return of artisan-made vermouth to the center of the aperitif scene. The foodie on your list may appreciate the unique blends of botanicals these U.S. producers feature in their fresh takes on vermouth:

Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth ($25) is made in small batches in Oregon, from Pinot Gris, with flavors of chamomile and sage, and is designed for drinking on the rocks.

Vya ($16 and up), produced in Madera California, makes extra dry, sweet, and whisper dry varieties, for cocktails or sipping alone. Available from multiple online wine stores.

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Martini & Rossi has been making its storied vermouth in Pessione, a small town near Turin, Italy, since 1863. Photo by Peter Eckart

Other artisanal vermouths to seek out at your local or online wine merchant include: 
Sutton Cellars Brown Label Vermouth ($18), which is produced in San Francisco from Sonoma county wines; the vermouth is made in a dry style, using orange peel, chamomile, and rosemary. Ransom, an Oregon distillery, offers handcrafted sweet and dry vermouths ($30) with its own botanicals, from arch angel root to wild cherry bark. Uncouth Vermouth ($38), made in Brooklyn, features such unusual flavors as Serrano Chile Lavender, Beet Eucalyptus, Butternut Squash, and Rhubarb.

We learned the secrets of master gelatieri Andrea Soban in our summer issue, when contributor Erla Zwingle transported us to Valenza, Italy. Obviously most of us can’t jet off to Italy whenever we want some gelato. So, after a considerable amount of research, we assembled a list of the best gelatiere around the country who make gelato in authentic, natural fashion, with high-quality ingredients—and will ship it to you in the mail! They are:

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Photo by Erla Zwingle

Capogiro Gelato ($60 + shipping for 6 pints). Based in Philadelphia, featuring classics like Stracciatella and Pistachio, or more herbacious selections like Rosemary Honey Goat’s Milk.

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Purists debate whether it’s better to offer gelato from tempting, open containers or from potentially flavor guarding covered tubs called “pozzetti.” Andrea Soban, the master Italian gelatiere we profiled, is agnostic on the debate. To him, it’s all about the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and the technique. Photo by Erla Zwingle

Gelato Fiasco ($60 + shipping for 6-pack). Using milk from local Maine family farms and real fruits and nuts, Gelato Fiasco offers bold, intense flavors like Aleppo Pepper Pumpkin and Balsamic Black Russian Tomato.

Taste Forte ($69 + shipping for 24 cups). This 2015 Men’s Health “Best Foods for Men” winner based in Connecticut features four high protein flavors using rBST-free skim milk and cream, organic agave nectar and cage-free egg yolks.

Il Laboratorio del Gelato ($60 + shipping for four 20 oz containers). This Manhattan custom “lab” features an array of intriguing flavors such as fresh basil, pomegranate and grapefruit campari.

Dolcezza Gelato ($40 + shipping for 4 pints). This Washington, D.C.-based gelato maker crafts unusual flavors like Lemon Ricotta Cardamom, Peanut Butter Stracciatella and Champagne Mango Sorbetto.

Zingerman’s Creamery ($175, incl. shipping, for ten 12-oz containers). This famed Ann Arbor, Michigan based maker will create your own DIY gelato gift – you select the base, flavors and mixables, name your creation for the custom label, and Zingerman does the rest.

Handcrafted Leather – Utility, fashion and beauty combined

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Photo by Scott Chernis

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Beatrice Amblard, a San Francisco-based master leathercrafter, carries on the traditions of fine hand stitching that she learned while working for the famous French atelier, Hermès. Photo by Scott Chernis

Leather turned out to be the medium favored by several artisans we profiled in 2016. Beginning with our Made in America? Spring issue, Laura Fraser explored the rebirth of the Shinola brand as a manufacturer of luxury goods in downtown Detroit and our editor & publisher, Todd Oppenheimer, sought out the perfect, American-made leather bag. Leather appeared again in our Summer and Fall issues. The first was Grace Rubenstein and James Daly’s inside tour of how the iconic British company Brooks has made the world’s most comfortable (leather) bicycle seats since 1882; this was followed by Andy Rieber’s in-depth profile of master rawhide artisan Bill Black, a former cowboy renowned for the skill and artistry with which he braids hackamores and other horse tack.

Whether you’re shopping for a city-slicker or a buckeroo, they’re apt to appreciate a well-made leather item built to last a lifetime. Here is a list of the leather crafters we’re talking about:

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Another rare leather goods shop in San Francisco is Glaser Designs. Their travel cases are so thoughtfully made–with such high quality leather and at such relatively moderate prices–that the famed travel writer Paul Theroux stops in for some shopping whenever he is in town. Photo by Scott Chernis

Leather crafters of handbags, briefcases, wallets and belts ($200 and up): Shinola (Detroit, MI), Tanner Goods (Portland, Oregon), Glaser Designs (San Francisco), April in Paris/Beatrice Amblard Atelier (San Francisco).

Leather bicycle seats by Brooks ($100 and up): Wallingford Bike Parts Co. or Amazon for their flagship model, the Brooks B17 standard saddle.

Hackamores, bosals and other horse gear by rawhide artist Bill Black ($400 and up): Try Twin Trees or contact Bill & Teresa Black directly via their Facebook page.

And if you’re looking for the perfect stocking stuffer to go with your leather gift, Obenauf Leather Care Oils ($17 and up) is highly recommended for vegetable-tanned and oil-tanned leather goods. It has even been tested by the Leather Research Laboratory, in Cincinnati Ohio. After boots and other leather goods were treated with a variety of leading leather dressings, and then put through nine different stress tests, Obenauf’s ranked first.

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

In the heart of Venice’s concrete cobweb of ancient canals, Daniela Ghezzo has mastered what has long been a man’s trade in Italy: creating custom-fitted, bespoke shoes. Her trademark is her ability to marry beauty with comfort, even in a high-end dress shoe. Photo by Erla Zwingle

Last, how about a pair of shoes? If you count yourself among the elite travelers of the world, here is what might be the ultimate of the ultimate, at least as far as Tuscan travel goes. You may recall our profile of Daniela Ghezzo, a Venetian master shoemaker. If you happen to be in Venice, a visit to Daniela’s workshop can guarantee you a pair of some of the finest shoes on the planet—and the most comfortable. If you’re not going near Venice, and Tuscany is on the itinerary, consider making arrangements with Eliiss, a new outfit aimed at giving travelers a full-service, luxury experience combining fashion and travel. And yes, it includes a custom-fitted pair of bespoke shoes, which you design yourself in consultation with Eliiss’s artisans.

For Cyclists

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Craig Calfee helped pioneer America’s first bamboo bicycles, which Calfee believes are both stronger and more comfortable than most metal-framed bikes. Photo by Jeff Greenwald

If there’s someone on your list who qualifies as a road or mountain biking gear head, our 2016 profiles of famed bike-builders Ross Shafer (“From bicycles to pedal steel guitars: One maker’s quirky frontiers” by Owen Edwards) and Craig Calfee (“What? A bamboo bicycle?” by Jeff Greenwald) may help you understand their passion a little more … and provide a couple of gift ideas at the same time.

Starting at the high end, if your biking enthusiast has been admiring bamboo bikes, which combine natural beauty (and sustainability) with impressive strength and flexibility, you may want to check out these bamboo bike artisans ($470 and up): Bamboosero MTB and road bike frames (Calfee’s nonprofit initiative in Africa); Calfee Design (Santa Cruz, CA), Greenstar Bikes (Minneapolis), Erba Cycles (Boston), and Renovo Bikes (Portland, OR).

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Founded in Chicago in 1895, the Schwinn Bicycle Company quickly grew to dominate the American bike market. The memory of this beauty, a 1962 Jaguar Mark IV, has been well preserved, thanks to the efforts of Dave’s Vintage Bicycles (www.nostalgic.net).

If you’re shopping for a mountain biking lover who has already collected WAY too many bike frames and parts (we hear that happens), consider buying them a permanent spot at the new Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Fairfax, California by way of a personalized brick ($250 and up) in the museum’s Mt. Tam Legacy Wall. The tiny museum here is worth a visit, virtually or physically, for a range of reasons. The bikes on display are fascinating, and gorgeous. And the proprietors (Connie and Joe Breeze, of Breezer Bikes) sell stunning gift cards, featuring photos of classic 19th Century bicycles. Hall of Fame t-shirts and other memorabilia are also available for $20 and up.

Stocking stuffer idea: a gift subscription to Bicycle Quarterly ($36/year) – in addition to plenty of bike tests and technical articles, the magazine has amazing bike travel features with beautiful photography. It is also perhaps the most in-depth magazine on the market about the world of bicycling (albeit from a traditionalist’s perspective).

For Fly-Fishing Enthusiasts

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Photo by Yukari Iwatani Kane

Bamboo’s strength, durability, and flexibility has been coveted by crafters of fishing poles for centuries. Our Summer 2016 story by Yukari Iwatani Kane explores the disappearing traditional Japanese craft of making wazao – collapsible, portable bamboo fishing poles that are also collectible works of art. If the fly-fisherman on your gift list has been pining for a handmade bamboo fly rod, here are some sources to consider.

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

In Japan, the real test of a fisherman who uses traditional bamboo poles, called wazao, is not whether you can catch a big fish. It is who can catch the smallest fish. Only a handful of the old wazao masters are left. And the fine bamboo their craft depends on is disappearing quickly too. Photo by Yukari Iwatani Kane

Tenkara fly-fishing poles are available ($157 and up) from Tenkara, USA (Boulder, CO), Tenkara Rod Co. (Driggs, Idaho) and Patagonia Provisions.

There are a number of highly regarded U.S. makers of handmade bamboo fly rods ($1000 and up), including Tony Bellaver at Alpenglow brand (Oakland, CA); Glenn Bracket at Sweetgrass Rods (Twin Bridges, Montana); Jason Fox and Tom Morgan of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths (Manhattan, Montana); and Bill Oyster (Blue Ridge, Georgia).

If you (or yours) are looking for a fly-fishing experience rather than gear, check out the trips and guides at World Cast Anglers (Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) and Lost Coast Outfitters (a network of two dozen guides covering Oregon and California).

For Cinephiles

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

More than any other, Woman on the Run turned out to be the film that got Eddie Muller obsessed with film noir. The film was produced in 1950 by its star, Ann Sheridan (who appeared in Gone With the Wind). It languished in obscurity until Muller tracked down an aging copy. Photo courtesy of Eddie Muller

If the movie lover on your list tends to complain about the poor quality of old films available for rent—or just their unavailability—look at our film restoration story by Barbara Tannenbaum. This remarkable piece of journalism is likely to inspire you to poke around in the following resources.

For a classic movie DVD to put under the tree, try Flicker Alley, the Warner Brothers Archive (includes Sony Pictures Screen Classics library), and the Universal Vault Series. All three offer Manufactured-on-Demand (DVD) old film noir titles online. The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber also offer collections of restored classics, and FilmStruck is a new classics subscription service by Turner Classic Movies and The Criterion Collection.

Last, for budding leather & bamboo artisans

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

Photo by Jeff Greenwald

The Water Innovators | Craftsmanship Quarterly, Winter 2017

These African-made Bamboosero frames are being inspected at Craig Calfee’s shop in La Selva Beach, California. Calfee changed his business model in 2013 from importing frames for American consumers to making frames in Congo–not for export but for the Congolese. So far, it’s worked. Photo by Jeff Greenwald

We close with some ideas for the tinkerer or amateur artisan on your gift list – adult or adolescent – who would rather make something themselves than receive a finished product. While researching the perfect leather bag and the new world of bamboo bikes, we discovered a handful of workshops and DIY kits.

On the West Coast, we found four leather crafting courses ($92.50 and up): “Leather School” at Amblard Leather Atelier (San Francisco); The Crucible (Oakland, CA); MakeSmith Leather Crafting Classes (Santa Barbara, CA); and Aiden’s School of Leather Trades (Rogue River, Oregon).

For DIY bamboo bike building options, Calfee offers DIY bamboo bike building kits ($200 and up, frame only). And you can find a variety of bamboo bike building resources at Bamboo Bike Supplies. If you happen to live in the Southeastern U.S., HERObike will offer several bamboo bike building workshops in 2017 ($650).

And that’s not all. In our next issue, Spring 2017, we will have a story about the best schools, workshops, and courses around the country for hand craftsmanship in a range of disciplines. So stay tuned for more.

Sharon Hatcher Tilley is the development and communication consultant for Craftsmanship Quarterly and its parent venture, The Craftsmanship Initiative.

© 2017 Sharon Tilley, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: November 27, 2016

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