The Joy of Handmade Gifts

creative gifts

The Joy of Handmade Gifts

The joy of handmade gifts emerges from the happiness of watching our loved one’s faces light up when they receive a gift made especially for them. Humans have been gifting for thousands of years in cultural ceremonies and celebrations. For example, the ancient Egyptians showered the dead with gifts so that they would have everything they needed in the afterlife, their belief system centred heavily around this concept. We build our relationships and express our emotions in gift giving; we pay respect, show gratitude, apologise and offer to help. The yearly celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are days that we are expected to buy gifts for one another, however the unexpected tradition is to create these gifts ourselves.

This November, 137° is hosting a ‘Creative Gifts’ workshop suitable for beginners and experienced potters. Autumn is a time of year where many of us plan our Christmas gifts for our loved ones – and why not start with creating unique and thoughtful gifts by hand? Creating gifts can emerge naturally from our creative hobbies, it allows us to practise our skills and having a recipient in mind offers us a kind of brief to tailor our work.

This article explores the reasons why we should opt for making ceramic gifts, why it benefits the creator, recipient and beyond.

1. It’s the thought that counts

By putting our personal time and thought into gift making, we are telling our loved ones how much we care about them and how much they deserve to have a unique gift. Gift making takes time and preparation, it isn’t a process to be hurried, as we are more likely to rush to the shops and buy something if we forget to plan ahead. Gift giving should revolve around how much money is spent, as it’s not a true reflection of how we feel about someone, however, thoughtful planning and making presents speaks much louder when it comes to our emotions.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself (or subtly ask your friends and family) to discover gift ideas.

1. What does this person need? It may be that you’ve recently visited their home and discovered they love collecting house plants, in which case – fully dive into making terracotta planters. Gifts for the home
2. What is this person’s style and taste? Are they more minimalistic, or do they love to mix and match colours, designs, patterns? Understanding the aesthetic look of your creations early on can lead you to finding inspiration when it comes to researching. Use platforms such as Instagram, or Pinterest to immerse yourself.
3. Where do your talents lay as a creator? Perhaps, your skills are suited to creating functional pottery, rather than sculptural fine art pieces. Explore your options and experiment within your field of expertise, and think of ways to adapt it to your friends and family.

2. Personalisation wins

Personalisation is a key factor in the joy of handmade gifts. Personalisation has become a huge trend that captures our attention and makes everyone feel a bit more special. The initials of our first name, our zodiac sign, birth year, or even our lucky number can serve as little charms that elevate the gifts that we give. When it comes to ceramic gifts, the finishing decoration stage is perfect for adding unique details to personalise the piece. You can use sculpting tools to carve out images and letters before applying engobes and glazes to make your design stand out.

3. Clay is sustainable

One of the more important reasons to create ceramic gifts is that clay is a sustainable organic material that doesn’t cause harm to our planet – the earth is full of it and it’s right beneath our feet. In current news, we see shocking figures everyday about the number of tonnes of plastic that is left NOT to biodegrade in our oceans and on land. Clay is an endlessly recyclable material (before the firing process of course), which means that if we make mistakes, which we all do, we can simply start again without having to abandon our materials and purchase more. If your friends and family care about climate change and the environment, they will surely appreciate gifts that are not made of plastic! There are many different types of clays which each require a different temperature for firing, if you really want to keep the energy cost low, invest in low-fire clays, e.g. terracotta that fire at around 900-1000°c. Alternatively, have a look at these self hardening clays from Angela Colls which don’t require any firing at all! Your creations can be sealed and painted for decoration.

4. Handmade gifts can be budget friendly

Sometimes, the pressure of buying expensive gifts can be really overwhelming and cause us stress and anxiety – the pressure to follow trends and keep up with our peers is certainly doing more harm than good. Everyone’s budget is different, and I truly believe that handmade gifts offer a solution to lower budgets. Once you decide on a series of gifts, be wise when you purchase your materials, sometimes buying in greater bulk can offer excellent discounts that bring your overall costs down considerably.

5. Creating gifts can help our wellbeing

In a previous article, I wrote about the mental health benefits of working with clay. Art therapy is considered a licensed practise intertwined with the world of psychology and health. It can improve our concentration, resilience and set us in a tranquil and calm state where our anxieties are numbed. The joy of handmade gifts lies in the peace it can bring us, making it beneficial for the creator and the recipient!


Written by Freya Saleh