Non-Commercial Gift Giving: The Art of Sharing

Non-Commercial Gift Giving: The Art of Sharing

Craft fairs and open studios happen across the region during the holiday season. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

During the holiday season, gift-giving is considered a traditional aspect of our seasonal celebrations.  Instead of purchasing a gift, gift givers can also look to the domestic arts, crafts, and visual arts for inspiration in making handmade gifts that encourage originality and thought. This week in Learning Ahead we are featuring ways to give gifts that are value-base (non-commerical & creative-free play), support learning and accessible through community-based events, resources and opportunities!

Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Nov/Dec), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.


Traditional Crafts & Artisan Skills: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Shop Local: Craft Fairs & Open Studios

Take the challenge this year by shopping local and non-commercial during the holiday season. The abundance of craft fairs and open studios happening in the area featuring handmade products by local artists and artisans make it easy to find that special something when looking for a gift of any kind. Handmade wood or glass ornaments, hand-knitted scarves, upcycled accessories, one-of-a-kind prints and stationery… our region is filled with a strong creative economy filled with amazing artisans!

While browsing an artisans studio or booth, take the time to stop and talk with them. Be curious and ask them questions. Discover how they learned their craft skill, what the history is behind their craft, how long they have been making their art, and where they find their inspiration. A purchase not only supports the artist and artisan, but your gift now comes with a story to share with the person with you will give your gift.  Read the rest of this entry »

Language Arts & Creativity: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Handmade: Write a Zine or Make a Journal

Zines (short for magazine or fanzine) are self-published books that include different media forms: collage, illustrations, comic strips, and words.  A zine can be a book of poetry or a story, it can be a guide book or a collection of fairy tales – the sky’s the limit!  Zines can also be photocopied and bound so that you can produce multiple copies.  Here’s a short documentary on Zines…

Making a zine is a rewarding, creative process and can certainly be a part of your gift giving plans for the holidays. Need some inspiration for your zine-making adventures? Check out the Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton, MA.  The Flywheel Arts Collective has a community Zine library and cafe with over 3,000 zines, featuring many from Western Massachusetts!  Flywheel is a collective of art and poetry that allows people to share their work with others in their local community.  It’s a great community resource for those looking to feel inspired through grassroots art and literature that aims to inspire, provoke thought and engage the community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Science & Art: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Go to a Makerspace!

Makerspaces inspire creativity!  These community places provide the space to combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM!) in order to make and create.  They are like an artist’s studio but also include digital making as well as physical making.  Activities include woodworking, electronics, computers, 3D printing, knitting, screen printing, sewing, and more!  Western Massachusetts has a number of community maker spaces to start brainstorming your do-it-yourself gift giving ideas.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fiber Arts, Math & Mindfulness: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Knit Something!

Remember the knitted items you saw during the Agricultural Fairs towards the end of the summer? Get ready for next September’s aggie fairs while working on gifts for others this season! At, you to search for free knitting patterns that can help you come up with your next project gift idea.  Perhaps a one-skein hat? A pair of mittens?  Or a hand-knitted cowl?  Knitting is not only a fun activity and great way to hand-make a gift, but it’s also a wonderful way to get together with fellow knitters of all ages and knit together!  Who knows what new stitches you’ll learn and the new friends you’ll meet!  Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary and Pastry Arts: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

The Gift of Food!

Bûche de Noël from Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, MA. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Tis the season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

We explored food preservation earlier this month – now it’s time to put those skills to use!  Pumpkin or apple butter make great holiday gifts and are something the recipient can enjoy for the entire season! Jams and jellies are also a nice gift idea! Want to help the gift recipient get ready for sugaring season in the late winter?  How about preparing a ready to go pancake mix in a jar? Finally, freshly baked cookies and pies are always a great gift idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Experience a Holiday Season from the Gilded Age at Ventfort Hall

Gilded Age Christmas in the Berkshires

Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum will kick off its 5th annual “A Home for the Holidays” program, an exciting full month of festivities for adults and children alike. Starting Friday, Nov. 23rd from 10am-5pm, the day after Thanksgiving, the 1893 mansion will have been lavishly decorated for a Gilded Age Christmas by a host of volunteers, among them the Ventfort Hall Flower Ladies.
In addition, throughout the month of December, there will be theater performances, concerts, dances, tours, viewings of Les Petites Dames de Mode, Victorian Holiday Teas, and a Museum Shop stocked full of gift ideas for Christmas. (Courtesy photo)

Along with the strong spirit and traditions of the holiday season comes the challenge to celebrate apart from the commercialism and consumerism we’re deluge with via advertisements and conspicuous consumption. There are, however, safe havens at which to celebrate the holidays non-commercially – and Ventfort Hall Mansion and Guilded Age Museum‘s Mansion and Gilded Age Museum’s holidays programs in Lenox perfectly illustrate such a space. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season, the museum will offer a wide variety of programs for kids and family alike – everything from museum exhibits to traditional Victorian tea, an evening of dancing to a hand chime lesson!

DANCE & FOOD: On Sunday, December 2nd at 4pm, dancers from the American Dance Institute will perform Classical Ballet Highlights in the museum’s Great Hall. Following the performance will be a Victorian Holiday Tea, at which families can enjoy delicious treats and learn about Victorian foods and etiquette. ($$)

MUSIC: On Sunday, December 9th at 3pm, become an instant hand chime master and member of a hand chime choir! Director Jane Holland will teach participants to play the chimes as an accompaniment to Christmas carols. Families can learn about how the chimes work as a multi-player instrument and can learn to better understand how to read basic sheet music. A Victorian Tea follows the chime tutorial! ($$)

STORYTELLING: From December 27th-30th, puppeteer Carl Sprague will present a marionette production of the classic Brothers Grimm tale, “Hansel and Gretel.” After the show, kids can meet the antique puppets used in the show at a Victorian Tea, and there will also be an opportunity to learn about the puppeteer’s methods. ($)

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: For parents, the museum hosts a couple of evening highlights worth getting a babysitter for! The opening reception for the Lenox Caroling Festival on Friday, December 7th from 6-8:30pm ($$). The event will feature a performance from MCLA’s Allegrettos, last year’s 2nd place winners. Enjoy hors d’ouvres and a cash bar. Or, if you feel like dancing, on Saturday, December 8th, the Greg Caputo Quartet will play at the museum! From 7:30-10:30pm, there will be dancing, food, and a cash bar ($$).

NEW YEARS EVE: Finally, from December 26th-31st, the museum will host one-woman performances of, “Paris 1890 – Unlaced!” which features actress Anne Undeland as five different women navigating the Belle Epoque age of late-19th century Paris. The New Year’s Eve performance will have a champagne reception and meet-and-greet with Undeland ($$).

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