Cousins are having them. And colleagues. And friends. Babies, I mean. They seem to be popping up everywhere. My husband and I are always delighted to hear the news, of course. But then we wonder what kind of gift to send. We want it to be something the little one can use for a while and not grow out of. Something that’s safe, and that the parents approve of. And something that’s as unique as the new person.
We’ve settled on handmade quilts—cozy, eye-catching, easily shippable. And recently we’ve found a great source, the ArtSpring store in downtown Silver Spring.
When it opened two years ago in its first location on Ellsworth Drive, this retail outlet for locally made arts and crafts was interesting but not a place that we visited very often. It always seemed like a good idea, but we never found anything we wanted to buy. It was just a bit too Becky-Home-Ecky-makes-placemats-from-burlap.
Then, a year ago, the store moved to its new location on the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Georgia Avenue. SHAZAAM! Magic started to happen. The large, light-filled space is now filled with a constantly changing, and ever delightful, collection of things. Quilts for babies, quilts for grownups, patchwork pillows, aprons, jewelry, pottery, glassware, T-shirts, paintings, scarves, soaps, greeting cards, Christmas tree ornaments, reusable grocery bags, funky-chic purses, etcetera and ad infinitum, hooray. All made one by one, nothing identical to anything else. Some pieces are still very hippie-crafty, but a lot are really first-rate—beautiful, clever, intriguing, guaranteed to get a “Wow!” when the gift box opens. If you can bring yourself to give the things away, that is. Sometimes I avoid the give-or-keep question by purchasing two similar things—one for the giftee, and one for me. Happy, happy, material girl.
The people who run this place figure that 80 percent of their customers are like me, shopping for gifts. “They want something that has meaning, that someone has had their hands on,” says Annette Bilancio, one of the founding artists, whose specialty is old furniture revived with creative applications of paint.
The store also holds special events. Shopping with the kids? From 1 to 3 every Saturday afternoon, artist Mary Mallia conducts a craft session just for them ($3 per child). Need a new look? Check out the artists’ T-shirt show coming up on July 17. (Designers, get your entries in. We’re dying to see them.)
Me? I’ll be in soon. My sister’s birthday is coming up. And maybe I’ll find a little something for me. Who knows?
8519 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Thurs 12-6 (winter), 12-8 (summer)