On Sunday afternoon I visited the terrific (and very crowded! Hurray for crowded!) Picnic Arts Winter Sale, and we also took a moment to stop by the new Residence Inn on Fore St to check out their first annual Gingerbread House contest and display. It was a lovely day, and a great reminder (as if I needed one) of all the creative work that is going on in basements and kitchens and craft rooms all over Portland. If you weren’t able to attend Sunday’s event, let me share some highlights:
Fuzz.e.food is my pick as Artist of the Day. She makes this amazing, tiny, needle felted food – perfect for hanging on your Christmas tree. I picked up a slice of cherry pie as a gift for my mom (Hi Mom!) and I cannot stop looking at it. My friend Jenn was there with me, and this work sparked a conversation about “craft” vs. “art”. Kerri Wessel’s felt food is absolutely art (I wish very much I’d take a photo of the ‘Heinz’ Ketchup bottle she had on display) and would look as much at home in a gallery as it would on your holiday tree.
Ktaadn does gentle, understated textile designs (and some notebooks) and I am in love with their pillows. I saw them a couple of weeks ago at the MECA Holiday show and was pleased to see them again yesterday. Their work has a timeless quality that would look equally ‘at home’ in just about any decor – from Ikea modern to my mother’s 18th century farmhouse. I particularly love the very high quality of the textiles they use. (And now I feel like I’ve given away my mother’s entire list of holiday gifts in this blog. Oh well.)
GneissSpice sells high-quality spices in some of the most unique (and useful) packaging you’ll find. The magnetic lids stick to your fridge (or a metal plate on the wall) and are perfect for homes with tiny kitchens or limited storage space. The spice collections themselves are thoughtfully put together (they also offer tea and catnip), with the (mainly organic) raw spices coming from Mountain Rose Herbs company in Oregon and mixes, rubs, salts, and popcorn seasonings custom mixed by them. (You can buy spice refills from them as well.) I strongly recommend them as a go-to place for gifts for anyone on your list who likes to cook. Or eat. Or has a cat.
Merchant’s Row sells some of the most beautiful and creative wooden toys I’ve seen in a long while. I particularly love their giant wooden alphabet in a bag, their exquisite wooden concentration-style memory tile game (with a gulf of Maine theme), and their Counties of Maine puzzle (which instantly had us singing that song we all learned in middle school … “Sixteen counties has our State, Cumberland and Franklin….”). These are thoughtful toys, made with care, and I have no doubt they’ll last for generations. (Also, the landscape photography on their blog is gorgeous.)
There was a bundle of letterpress work there, but for my money the best was done by Strong Arm Bindery. Their website says “Our work is mighty and useful” and I think that sums them up perfectly. They have a card with a team of goats on it that is a true work of art (I wish there was a print, actually, because the card seems too ephemeral somehow for such a detailed, lovely, careful image) and all of their work reflects a very spare design sense, infused with a gentle humor, that is tremendously appealing.
I could go on and on (and on) about all the fantastic things we saw yesterday, but I will refrain. the Picnic website has a list of their vendors – but (because I can’t resist) here are a few more that I particularly loved: Ferdinand (home of the famous drumming squirrel image), eco-kids (all-natural creative materials for kids – their crayons are a favorite at our house), aimselponti (who make fantastic notebooks out of recycled album covers: yes, it’s true, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album can once again hold pride of place in your backpack), Fins and Flowers (handmade wooden and felt toys) … ok, I’ll stop now.
As I mentioned waaayyy up at the beginning, we also stopped in to visit the Gingerbread House contest and display at the Residence Inn on Fore St. This small display is part of a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House. The houses will be on display until December 16th, and the display will conclude with a grand finale brunch on the 16th which will include a silent auction. The houses themselves will also be auctioned off at the brunch.
If you have a child in your life who is fascinated by gingerbread, or are just looking for some inspiration for your own holiday cooking, I urge you to stop by. It’s a small display – only about eight houses – but they’re all charming and of very high quality, and each has some quirky bit that made me think “oh THAT’S a good idea!”. You can vote for your favorites when you visit, and you can also make a donation to the Ronald McDonald house at the hotel front desk. A visit should only take 15-20 minutes, and it’s a great way to let the whimsey of the houses (and the scent of the sugar and the gingerbread) put you in a holiday mood.
Where to go: Residence Inn 145 Fore St Portland + Website + Here’s a map!
What? Did you think I would show you all the houses? Go see the display!