Giving Good Gifts: simple ways to add meaning and give well
Here are all my secrets. Ever since I was very young I have loved giving gifts. For Christmas when I was four, my discerning mother, presented me with a batch of small pastel soaps shaped like animals and wrapping paper so that I would stop wrapping up her jewelry to give her over and over again. She is both discerning and economical. Giving gifts brings me great joy to this day.
Truly this is the heart of Heirloom Art Co. The variety of products we carry may seem disconnected but what unites them all is the intent: gifts worth giving. Lest you think our curation simply an aesthetic, I hope to show how we take the art of giving good gifts very seriously and source our product accordingly.
WHY SHOULD YOU GIVE WELL?
Why spend the time and money planning ahead and giving well? Love and joy are the simple answers but there are several logical reasons to invest.
Memories help define our personal narrative. Research shows that people with a clear personal and family narrative are happier, more resilient and more successful. Objects can be powerful reminders of our own stories and our interactions with others. Items that create a memory or trigger a happy memory from the past make some of the very best gifts. This is the idea behind a memento, keepsake or aide-memoire. Memento in Latin means remember. When you see the object on a shelf, or even better, use that object regularly you are reinforcing that narrative.
The world today is bombarding us with product. Some objects save time, some are well designed, most are quite simply worthless. The objects we choose to surround ourselves should as Marie Kondo puts it "spark joy". Gifts we give should do the same. If we all learn to give well the world will be full of fewer but better things. Carolyn recently introduced me to a small book called "Why I will Never Buy a Computer." As I type here on my computer I must say I haven't fully adopted the notion but I did appreciate elevating the qualifiers for things I choose to bring into my life.
Simply put giving more thought means you and those you love end up with less of other men's junk and more of your own treasure and the story to go with it.
HOW DOES ONE GIVE WELL?
To give well doesn’t require super-human skills just a few guiding principles, a lot of love and a touch of creativity. Everyone knows that a personalized gift is always better. What most don’t understand are the layers of subtle personalization that have a more potent effect than having a mall kiosk engrave a name across the front of anything and everything. Here are some of the layers of personalization I employ in the hopes of striking a chord deep within my recipients soul.
The world is full of symbols and there was a time when more of us knew what they meant and where to find them. Symbols are different than logos or emojis. The symbols of the past are deeply rooted in tradition. Using these age old symbols to your advantage is a gift giving super strength. The symbolism of trees, flowers, animals, materials, and patterns is what the human narrative is made of. Finding out what people love can give you power in connecting them with the gift you offer.
For instance, Chelsey loves sheep. I happen to know she loves textiles. A simple google search for "What does a sheep symbolize?" revealed that "The sheep is the symbol of the circle of life along with peace, purity, compassion, creativity, infinity, courage, sure-footedness, progress, and big dreams." Sure enough it describes her perfectly but perhaps instead of a stuffed animal sheep I will choose for her a lambswool throw from Scotland.
As siblings, Chelsey and I have stories that go way back but some of the most recent additions to our story involve sheep in Scotland. Finding a way to re-tell the story of a stunning early morning in February stroll up a soggy dirt path when presenting her with a lambswool blanket would make it only that much more delightful. Of course, you can allow the subtlety to speak for itself. Wool, Scottish patterns, a cozy blanket, might send her right back to that hillside but it never hurts to attach a note, an excerpt from my journal that day, or a leaf I picked up along the path.
Remember when giving a gift these stories don't need to be yours alone. Perhaps you know that your mother loved her own mother deeply. What might you give that would draw upon that connection. Heritage is a powerful way to add modesty to your gift. It truly is all about them and not you. You don't need to own the story just help retell it.
What are the stories that have forged your friendship new or old? Where did you first meet? When did their ancestors arrive and where did they come from? When did you laugh until you cried or cried until you could laugh again? Think of these moments and look out and around from the window of your memory or the annals of history to see if something catches your eye. Retell the story with a simple object that isn't perfectly obvious to everyone else but perfectly poignant to your recipient.
Don't underestimate the power of the senses to recall. As you are thinking back to the moments and stories that mattered think of what sense might trigger the same for your loved one.
My grandmother most days I came to visit would start by walking me into her bathroom to smell a candle she kept there that smelled of anise. It was like our little secret. We would repeat after a solid whiff of the pink wax surrounded by tin, "Anise, anise". I've never known why she did that but I have never forgotten it.
Was it the smell of pine, or rain? Did the sun beat down on your face as you talked for hours without noticing the passage of time? Was it a taste of something warm and savory or cool and tart? What shared experiences have sent your senses into overdrive and what gifts might encourage recall.
Give with earnest. You must put effort forth to build connection with people and things. Sentiment is nurtured with kind words, gentle touches and shared experience. An object whose giving is explained and attached to already existing sentiment between people breathes life for the first time. Perhaps this is why jewelry is so often given. A sparkling bit of gold around a loved ones slender neck or hardworking finger encourages kind words, gentle touch and hand holding.
An object can also become sentimental in similar ways, abundance of handling, proximity during important moments, and when it is an encourager of kind words.
Sentiment is different than hoarding. The object itself acts as a talisman of nobler thoughts and deeds connecting individuals. Even when that person is gone the potent feelings remain often pulsing from the object with differing levels of feeling depending upon the day, the mood, the light and the circumstance.
These are the objects you hope to give. Not a fleeting gadget or something to be admired while the trend lives on for another several weeks. Don't be afraid to invest in the perfect thing. I have chosen to give my mother several Birthday's worth in one go because it was just the right thing, right then. She loved the cards that followed each year for a few years.
*An additional note for the men out there or the women who think their man should read this.
ALWAYS write a note. This is a must. Length doesn't matter. Card choice is less critical too but I do encourage you to refine your ability to express yourself and a beautiful card never hurts.
THEME the occasion. For anniversaries, Valentine's, milestones and moments where expectations are high pick a theme. I have found this to be both inspiring and simplifying. I have used many different and sometimes obscure themes like daisies, the color white, bee's, strawberries, a favorite song. Everyone has things they love so pick one and run with it. Even down to the meal you share and the entertainment you choose for the event. Theme it and it suddenly is more fun. Don't be afraid to make it a stretch. It can be very amusing to try and fit a white theme into a meal or a game of bowling.
LIGHT. Flickering light from a fire, or the shadows cast by a candle are always a welcome addition to an enjoyable morning, evening, or life really. Don't be afraid to add the gift of light to any gift. Flowers and chocolate have a similar effect.
CHILDREN really do value these same things. They are more manipulated by ads and what their friends have but when it comes down to it these same principles of giving well are shockingly successful with kids.
I really hope this adds some arrows to your quiver of good giving. As the holiday season approaches we are taking this very seriously. We have reworked the navigation our website so you can shop by recipient, by occasion, by holiday, by material and even by rooms of a home. We will continue to send you meaningful content via social media and especially via email so make sure you don't block our emails. We will promise to only send you products and ideas that have made some of our most spectacular gifts. Of course now you know what is required. You must invest the time, money and plan ahead to give well. This might be my one true gift.
Warmest wishes to you all and stay well,