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Tis the season. No really, it is finally the season we talk about all year. Makers and handmade artists across our state wait for these days. As you work on your Christmas lists, consider some of these “Made in Arkansas” options.
There is something about getting a special gift with a back story. It’s why I love giving gifts. I will search all year long for friends and family thinking about a story they told me, a need they were trying to meet or just a fun “want” they mentioned in passing. It’s like a yearlong scavenger hunt. I love finding products that create a unique solution or are a homemade version of something I usually buy at a grocery store on a regular visit. The bonus comes when you meet the artist or maker behind the product and learn the story about each piece or what drives them to make it.
Slow down this year as you give gifts, meet the people behind the items and share their stories far and wide.
Lewie’s Blades — Mountain View-based knife maker, Lewie Lloyd hand makes all his pieces from mostly American-sourced products except for a few exotic wood types. His craftsmanship often leaves hunters and campers coming back for more.
PJ’s Finesse Baits — this company has a unique mission to employ locally and abroad. While they are based in Fayetteville, and many of their baits are tied here, some are also tied through an employment program in rural villages in Central and South America. Their goal is twofold — provide quality lures that catch fish and provide employment opportunities for women in poverty.
Little Mountain Bindery — for the writer, journaler or note taker in your world, the leather bound, hand-stitched pieces offered by Little Mountain are one of a kind. Paper craftsmen (well, craftswomen), retired librarians, and artists work together to assemble and customize each piece.
Beard Oil — Ozark Beard Co was born out of a love of beards and desire for high-quality products at a more reasonable price. Now they are making their own hand mixed potions in West Fork. The result is a stellar grooming routine for the bearded man!
Arkansas Made Gifts for Her
Miller’s Mud Mill Pottery — these pieces are more than just useful vessels, they are beautiful pieces of art suitable for home or commercial décor. They are lead-free and safe in the microwave, oven or dishwasher. Each piece is stamped in Dumas at their store and hand signed by the artist.
Strack Studio Furniture — whether you know what she wants or are looking for a custom piece, Strack Studio makes art, tables, cutting boards, wall hangings, custom doors and even shuffleboard tables. Strack is an Arkansas Capital success story of turning Lucas Strack’s dream into a business.
Beth Macre Studio clay pieces — Beth is a Fayetteville-based artist who makes her pieces at her home studio. A former Art teacher, Beth uses her skills to create custom drawings and pencil work but is most known for her clay pieces. A jewelry bowl would be a beautiful piece to sit out and hold rings or bracelets. Or, in the right space, a beautiful bar soap holder. Custom Garden Markers are another special piece she carries at certain times of the year. And, her specialized dog bone ornaments are always a hit.
Dower Co — this Little Rock-based leather company has been recognized by Garden and Gun and Southern Living magazines for their unique, simple and sophisticated designs. Their collection includes belts, wallets, large totes and crossbody bags.
Hook and Ladder Woodworks — handmade cutting boards and serving trays are the specialty of this Bentonville-based business. Charcuterie meals always look better on beautiful trays!
Arkansas Made Gifts For Kids
Tammy Sue’s Critters Owie Ointment — this coconut and sunflower oil-based ointment is perfect for cuts, bruises, burns and bites. We are in Arkansas, and all of those things are going to happen!
Vivi’s Jewels — a high school history teacher turned maker. This local seamstress is always pushing the limits with her product and pattern combinations producing boutique-quality, handmade clothing.
Westwork Designs Cube Puzzle Toy — wooden, handcrafted toys built and designed by an architect. The lettered blocks are hand cut and painted. Hours of fun and learning with card guides for three-lettered word spelling and mind puzzling. The original of this collection is part of the permanent collection at the Arkansas Arts Center after receiving the Purchase Award from the 18th Toys by Artists Show and Collection.
ABC Racing Box Cars — Crazy fun for kids of all ages, yes even the grown-up variety. These “boxcar” style racing vehicles are made special where one can drive, and one can ride. Specifically designed with play in mind, these vehicles operate off gravity and are maintenance free.
Arkansas Made Gifts For the Hostess
Bourbon and Boots — A Southern Kitchen Collection of unique cutting boards, pecan pie in a jar, leather-sleeved Mason jars, reclaimed railroad tie utensils and hand carved cherry wood salad tongs.
Arkansas Coaster Set — Whether you are being hosted for a weekend, using an Airbnb over the holidays, attending a dinner party or meeting up with new co-workers, a set of leather Arkansas-impressed coasters usually will cover the “thank you trick.” This American Native, Fayetteville-based specialty store can tackle this piece and more out of their online shop.
Magic Chicken Dust — Townsend Spice in Melbourne has you covered when it comes to unique gifts for the hostess. Their wide range of BBQ sauces, marinades, rubs, and seasonings will have your hostess doing the mostess.
My Father’s Garden Lime Jalapeño Pepper Jelly — turning a tragedy into a sanctuary, the owner uses a garden planted together with her dad to stay connected to him and turned the abundance into a business. The Pepper Jelly is a perfect gift for one who loves to do all the cooking and can even keep it semi-homemade.
As you can see, Arkansas is a makers’ state. But we are not talking craft show, fringe hanging off the edge kind of makers. Arkansas is full of artists from woodworking to soaps, jewelry, handmade bags, children’s clothing and specialty products. Make this a year of giving Arkansas made gifts; we are the Natural State after all!
Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!