Town&Gown's "Help Me!" series takes on consumer challenges and interests and finds local resources to help.
After the holidays fade away and I settle into the New Year, there is often a feeling of dread that creeps into my thoughts. It builds up as the calendar gets closer to the middle of February, because I know that Valentine’s Day is coming.
Like many men, and surely many women too, the task of buying my sweetheart a Valentine's Day gift is not one that I relish.
While I truly like the idea of getting my partner, Becky, something nice to show her how much I appreciate and care about her (seriously, I really do), my problem is that I just don’t know where to start anymore.
Over the past 14 years that we have been together (time flies when you are having fun), I have done the flowers, the chocolates, and the romantic dinners. Neither of us likes to make a huge deal out of the “Hallmark” holiday, but this year I want to get Becky something unique and memorable, something that she will really like. And I don’t want to stress about it.
Many men in my situation head to the jewelry store for some earrings or a necklace made of gold and diamonds. While those are great gifts, I know they are not Becky’s style. Becky likes unique and handcrafted jewelry and artwork, so I figured that is a good jumping-off point.
Then I remembered that over the holidays, she mentioned that she was out shopping with her mom and they stopped at The Makery, the little studio on Calder Way in State College. She thought the place was neat and said it had a lot of interesting things made by local artists. She even bought something that day, although I can’t remember exactly what it was. (She buys lots of stuff; I can’t keep up.)
I remember thinking at the time that I never knew The Makery sold things. I thought it was a place for people to create crafts and art projects. The Makery offers classes, open studio time, and space for parties and events. But I learned that there is, in fact, a market in the space. See, I do pay attention sometimes.
So I stopped in to The Makery and asked Lisa Cousins, the market manager, if she could help me. I had never stepped into the place before and I was impressed with the open, colorful space. There were large tables and tools all around that were used to create things. The creative space almost made me decide that I would roll up my sleeves and make something for Becky this year. But if you know me, you understand that my crafting skills are less than desirable, and anything I made would not be up to gift-giving standards.
The market at The Makery is filled with interesting pieces, many made by people who also teach classes there. There was jewelry, clothing, macramé and needlepoint pieces, paintings, and more tucked away in a nook and on the walls all around the studio. Being outdoorsy, I was immediately drawn to a locally crafted wood charcuterie board that had a Rothrock Forest logo on it. I do think Becky would like it, but it was not a very romantic gift idea, so we kept looking.
Soon, I spotted a macramé owl that was hanging on the far wall. The owls were in different colors and I thought they were pretty neat looking, with big owl eyes made with string and sticks. Becky likes owls, and so this is something I kept in the back of my mind. I think it could be a nice addition to the wall of our home.
Next, Lisa showed me a wide variety of jewelry made by local artists, including some made by her. There were many interesting pieces to choose from.
I liked a pair of earrings that were made of leather and shaped like maple leaves. They were pretty bold, and I was not sure if they would be too much for Becky.
We then noticed a cute little pair of earrings that were made to look like lemons. They would be a safer pick.
Another thing I was drawn to was the needlepoint artwork. The word needlepoint makes me think of something that may have been in my grandmother’s house, but these pieces look fresh and fun, with designs that were inspired by nature. I especially liked one that looked like a landscape with a river and a sunset.
Lisa said an interesting option would be the needlepoint and a gift card that would allow Becky to take a class herself. That got me thinking.
Even the gift cards at The Makery were creative, coming wrapped in a cloth card-holder and string. So I could give a gift card and it would still look creative.
After looking through everything, I had a lot to think about. With plenty of time before the dreaded Valentine’s Day gift exchange, I felt good about my options.
Will I get her the earrings, or the macramé owl, or maybe something else? It will have to be a surprise.
If Becky feels so inclined, the market also offers a registry where she can share the things or classes she likes, making this whole process even easier for gift-givers like me.
Whatever I choose, I think she will like it. Thanks for your help, Lisa.
Vincent Corso is a staff writer for Town&Gown and The Centre County Gazette.