What’s better than getting a present from a talented, crafty friend? Getting them from a bunch of those friends. Ever since Em B. told us about her Annual Maker Easter Swap, we’ve been dreaming of a handmade gift exchange of our own. It finally happened! And it was amazing! (“It’s seriously as good as christmas. Plus snacks,” Em says.) And we came out of it with some great ideas and pro-tips from our makers.
How to host a handmade gift exchange
This isn’t as simple as going on Amazon and ordering a dozen of something. The artists we know are perfectionists and procrastinators…so a handmade gift exchange takes some doing.
- Put it on the calendar. Leslie S. says, “Having an exchange on my calendar forces me to set aside the time to plan and make a set number of items.”
- Send out the invites. Ashley recommends: “Get a diverse group of people that are great at lots of different things.” And Kelsey D. agrees: “The fact that we had 12 Hallmark artists and everybody’s contribution was completely unique and different than anyone else’s was what made it so much fun.” Tobe R. adds: “Invite people that don’t know each other! If you’re an independent maker, it’s a great way to expose others to your business and foster collaboration.”
- Plan your contribution. Hannah C. has questions to get you started: “Is what you want to make simple or complex? How much time do you have? What’s your budget? Are you going to make multiples of the same thing or individual pieces? If you’re shaky on your crafting abilities, food, recipes, and spa products (check for allergies first!) are always winners.”
Lisa’s embroidered necklaces and Leslie’s wrapped keychains.
Pro tips: Choosing your craft
- Em B.: “I like to give things that I would really love if I got as a gift.”
- Hannah C.: “I wanted to make something that was bright and springy that would be a sweet, unique, displayable gift. It’s been freezing in KC this April so having something cheerful to work on was a happy contrast.”
- Kelsey D.: “I tend to try and make things that serve a purpose (other than just being aesthetically pleasing), and I’m a sucker for a well-designed calendar.”
- Lisa H.: “I thought making necklaces would be a good way to make it a gift, as well as try out some new embroidery stitches! It’s a great opportunity to try making something you have always wanted to because creating something in multiples is such a great way to practice. “
- Ashley H.: “I had taken the Shibori workshop for #My5Days and had a lot of beautiful fabric just sitting around. I decided I wanted to use it in some way, so I landed on zipper pouches.”
- Madison L.: “Choose something to make that you wouldn’t mind making over and over. I definitely wanted to make something functional that a wide range of people could use. I had tried making some of these trinket dishes in the past and wanted to make a series where I explored my two favorite things: color and florals! “
- Tobe R.: “I was so excited about the Easter basket keychains we posted on Think.Make.Share that I had to make a version for the swap! They’re so fun and versatile.”
Megan’s block prints
More pro-tips for choosing your craft
- Marcos R.: “I went to an art supply store to look for surfaces and materials to inspire me. I found the perfect bundle of wooden panels and that kind of informed my collection. I ended up making collage portraits using some of my Gelli plate mono prints and a stack of public domain Victorian Images from the library. They were really fun to make and now I want to make more!”
- Megan R.: “I had been holding on to a piece of linoleum for almost a year, so I knew this was the perfect chance for me to finally sit down and carve something. I wanted to do something fun and widely relatable so everyone in the exchange could benefit. Kelsey did some research for me, rattled off some ideas, I picked one, and went to town.” (Find out how to make your own block prints here.)
- Leslie S.: “My list of things I want to make is long at any given time. To narrow the options down, I let my heart as well as what materials I already had on hand guide my decision. I’ve been wanting to make some wrapped rope keychains with some fun color palettes. And since my embroidery thread stash is always abundant, and I had rope on hand for macramé projects, all I had to pick up was the hardware.”
Haley’s weavings, Em’s necklaces, and Felicia’s feathers
What to do at your handmade gift exchange
Once everyone has arrived, it’s time to start sharing.
- If you can, gather everyone around a big table—or circle up in a room and give everyone a surface to display their crafts.
- Start by going around the room and talking about what you’ve made.
- Time to get up! Everyone moves one place to the right to pick out your gift. Then keep moving, clockwise, until everyone has one of everything!
Haley’s weavings (find out how to make your own here)
Madison’s trinket dishes
Marcos’ collage paintings
Lisa’s embroidered pendants
Hannah’s felt mushrooms
Bring a box or tray to collect your goodies.
Marcos’ collage painting
“This was my first maker exchange and it felt like we had our own mini pop-up craft fair,” Marcos told us. “Definitely the best part was getting 11 unique pieces at the end—so much talent and so many amazing goods.”
Photography by Ty H.