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Southern Makers: Eight Great Gifts

Southern Makers: Eight Great Gifts
Edited by Erin Byers Murray

All Wrapped Up

This year’s holiday goal? Support small, independent makers by giving their one-of-a-kind wares as gifts that make a statement. Over the years, we’ve shared stories from countless Southern makers. Here, we revisit eight of our favorites: From a potter making striking hand-thrown dishware to a glassblower’s sturdy set of rocks glasses to a third-generation market owner’s Kentucky-raised caviar, these highly skilled producers are here to supply you with just the right gift for everyone on your list.

Pottery by Osa

ONE GREAT GIFT: Custom Dishware, prices vary 

In the art-centric community of Sarasota, Florida, Osa Atoe creates pottery that is elegant and distinct: striking stoneware outlined with simple geometric motifs and pastel glazes. It’s also highly functional and works for today’s unfussy, eat-at-home diner.

 

Smithey Ironware

ONE GREAT GIFT: Carbon Steel Oven Roaster, $275 

It all started with a skillet. A Griswold No. 8., to be exact. When Isaac Morton’s sister-in-law gifted it to him a decade ago, he had no idea it would inspire a hobby of rehabbing old pans and, eventually, a business—making them from scratch under the label Smithey Ironware. Now, the Charleston, South Carolina-based producer sells various sizes of skillets, plus a dutch oven and oval roaster, as well as leather handle sleeves and other accessories.

 

Terrane Glass Co.

ONE GREAT GIFT: Oklahoma Decanter, $150

Inside a small, celery-green cinderblock building in tiny Spruce Pine, North Carolina, the air shimmers with heat generated by the tools of a glassblower’s trade: a ceramic crucible holding molten glass at 2,300 degrees, a small furnace for heating the glass to make it pliable, and an annealing oven for cooling finished pieces slowly to room temperature. Set deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Colin O’Reilly of Terrane Glass Co. works to craft round-shouldered decanters and thick-bottomed rocks glasses.

 

Schuckman’s Fish Company & Smokery

ONE GREAT GIFT: Two-ounce tin of Kentucky Spoonfish Caviar, $59 

American-raised fish roe, which some call caviar, has been making waves for decades. You’ll find everything from the bright orange roe of salmon and trout to the inky pearls of hackleback or paddlefish. In Louisville, Kentucky, Shuckman’s Fish Company and Smokery has been hand-packing gold tins of its trademarked Kentucky spoonfish caviar for two decades, currently at fifty-nine dollars for two ounces. “Kentucky spoonfish caviar is not expensive, and the applications are unlimited,” says third-generation owner Lewis Shuckman. The flavor that bursts out of these firm black eggs is bright, clean, buttery, and nutty—a near stand-in, fans say, for high-end sevruga caviar from overfished Caspian Sea sturgeon, both in appearance and taste.

 

Middleton Made Knives

ONE GREAT GIFT: Custom-made Cleaver, prices vary 

When Quintin Middleton started crafting cutlery fifteen years ago under the name Middleton Made Knives, he was a one-man operation. He earned his reputation as a craftsman working out of a tiny wooden shed in his backyard in St. Stephen, South Carolina, where he used tools to convert sheets of carbon steel into cutting implements. Now, he’s working from a larger shop, producing custom blades ranging in price from $180 for a paring knife up to almost $1,000 for Damascus steel chef knives that feature intricate swirling patterns on the blade. For the handles he sources interesting woods, such as colorful cocobolo and dense kingwood. Beyond beauty, Middleton Made Knives are popular because they work well in the kitchen. His knives are built for comfort and ease-of-use with ergonomic handles and a rounded spine to help the blade fit easily in the hand.

 

Jardí Chocolates

ONE GREAT GIFT: Raspberry Macadamia Nuts, $20 per tin 

Named for the Catalan word for garden, Jocelyn Gragg’s chocolate company, Jardí, is based in an unassuming production facility in the Atlanta suburb of Chamblee. She founded it in 2015 with her husband, Jacob Gragg. Jardí Chocolates is a confectionary so Gragg does not make the actual chocolate herself—she sources from the French company Valrhona and Atlanta-based Xocolatl. Then, she transforms it into truffles, chocolate-covered nuts, and elaborately filled candy bars. Everything but the nuts is hand-painted or airbrushed using plant-based dyes in a corner of her shop. Each chocolate is bright and whimsical, like sugar-filled reproductions of deep-space satellite images. It’s also her flavors—hazelnut crunch, whiskey pecan, raspberry-rose-pistachio, hibiscus lemonade—that shine. She takes inspiration from everywhere, including her own travels.

 

Rewined Candles

ONE GREAT GIFT: Signature Collection Champagne candle, $28

Adam Fetsch once worked in restaurant management, but he and his wife always knew they wanted to start their own business together. Having worked his way up the line in restaurants, Fetsch assumed it might be related to restaurants and dining. But, about a year after the couple relocated from Chicago to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2008, he came up with another idea: a wine-scented candle crafted from a wine bottle. Today, Rewined Candle is a large operation, employing a diverse crew of manufacturers that make enough products to land in 2,000 retail stores. The product line now includes tins and other glass vessels as well as the original line of wine-inspired scents.

 

Carolina Ground

ONE GREAT GIFT: Whole wheat bread flour, starting at $6.75 

Jennifer Lapidus spent fourteen years as a baker of naturally leavened breads at a small wood-fired bakery in Marshall, North Carolina. She’s since shifted, having founded Carolina Ground, a micro-mill and L3C (a hybrid for-profit and nonprofit company with a social mission) in Asheville that works exclusively with local grain, forging the sacred—if often overlooked—link between farmer and baker.

Carolina Ground makes its home inside a multi-use facility, in a room that once manufactured electrical equipment. There, a stone gristmill hums alongside a sea of one-ton sacks brimming with fresh whole grains, mostly soft and hard red winter wheats, all grown on certified organic farms in the South.

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