If you’re looking for something really special to give someone for the holidays, personalized gifts are always such a nice way to go. It’s fun, exciting, and surprising to receive a one-of-a-kind gift that is both unique and personal. Here are a few ideas that I’ve had success with in the past:
For my Dad’s birthday one year, I created a special photo book about him through Pinhole Press. My Mom and I raided some super old boxes of photos on the sly and found long-forgotten pictures of him as a baby, with his family as a child, with my Mom in college, and with me and my siblings as youngsters. I tried to find pictures that really captured his goofy/lovable personality, and then using the Wire-O Photo Book template, I put them all in chronological order and had the book printed up. It came out really professional looking and it’s such a beautiful keepsake. It’s not like a chintzy photo book – it’s actually really, really beautifully printed and bound. I think the best part was that I included some seriously old pictures that I think he had definitely forgotten existed, if he ever even knew they did! I chose the book spine that was orange (his favorite color), and chose a picture of him proudly wielding a fish that he’d caught for the cover. It was a hit! I think anyone would be super excited and flattered to receive a photo book from Pinhole Press. Not gonna lie, the process of making it took a decent amount of effort, but in the end it really paid off to see his face as he paged through it.
By the way, that is not my Dad in the picture! I forgot to take pictures of the book I had made when I was home last (blast!). I’ll probably update this post with pics of it once I’m home for the holidays.
A personalized gift that I got my Mom one year was a custom pen-and-ink drawing of our house, which I think is such a nice and incredibly personal memento. I worked with Etsy artist Heather Young of The Ink Lab, and she couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. I recruited my Dad to take sneaky pics of our house from the street, sent them to Heather, and she mocked up a rough draft. After getting my feedback, she drew a pen and ink rendering of our house. It came out beautifully and it was so cool to see a custom piece of art depicting my childhood home. We had it framed for my Mom and it now hangs in our hallway. Besides the pen and ink drawings, Heather also does watercolors (and I think she would do custom watercolors as well). Again, that’s not our drawing above because I forgot to photograph it. This is pretty much what it looks like though, just a different house 🙂
Another idea: Do you have a friend or family member who is an aspiring writer? Perhaps they’ve written short stories, poetry, or an essay that they’re particularly proud of, and perhaps they harbor a (not so secret) dream of having it published one day. Well, you can have it published for them! McNally Jackson (one of my favorite bookstores in NYC), actually has a book machine where they can take your writing and turn it into a bound paperback. Like, a real book. We actually did this for my Dad for a special birthday present, and his reaction was seriously priceless. If you know anyone who has a really special piece of writing, they would probably be speechless if you gifted them their writing, in book form. And you don’t have to be in NYC to do it – it can all be done online. Check the McNally Jackson website for info!
One other idea I think is super fun and special: get a person’s portrait done by an artist that you or they love. I’m obsessed with Inslee Fariss, as I think readers of this blog must know, and she does commissions. How cool would that be, to give someone an illustration of themselves either solo, with a loved one, with a beloved pet, or doing something they enjoy, created by an amazing artist? So, so fun.
One more idea for a personalized gift idea is in this post that I wrote last year.
Personalized gifts like the ones I’ve mentioned above take advance planning (commissioned items must be ordered in advance, sometimes far in advance), a lot of effort, and oftentimes, a lot of money. They’re not your everyday, average gift, but rather for those times when it’s appropriate to really go all out. I hope this helps if any of you are searching for something special for the holidays or a big life event/occasion. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear in the comments!
First picture by me. Other photos via Pinhole Press, The Ink Lab on Etsy, mcnallyjackson.com, inslee.net