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All wrapped up: Art center, museum treasures your gift-giving solution

Harriet Howard Heithaus
Naples Daily News

Everyone waits until last to open your gifts because they're unique. They're imaginative. They're "wow-where-did-you-get-this?" delightful.

Your shopping secrets — and ours, because we're running back to buy things  — come from the gift shops of museums and art centers throughout Collier and southern Lee County. Whether it's a host/hostess gift or a piece that will always remind that family member of you, treasures abound.

Further, these stores value items that are locally or regionally made, and you're supporting artists and local institutions as well as sweetening your gift recipient's life.

Marco Island Center for the Arts

Year after year we gravitate to The Marco Island Center for the Arts for its local and regional art emphasis. Again this year, you can buy locally created things from calendars to oil lamps to painting to baby clothes and women's bags. 

Two cross-body bags from Barbara Parisi ($80-90) and Michelle Rocheleau ($18) are a double treat. First they showcase Parisi's ink drawings of African wildlife, on contrasting fabric to 100-percent cotton black bags; and Rocheleau's prints of her watercolor birds, florals and still life on canvas bags. Second, they both meet the 14-by-6-by-4-inch limits bag-size limits implemented recently at Artis—Naples and the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

If she could, gift gallery associate Marsha Sherwin would bring Canadian artist Vera Ripley, who winters on Marco, in for a meet-and-greet with her furry silver mouse characters. So far, they grace prints and a three kinds of desk and wall calendars ($15 to $20). There's also a poster calendar for $8.

For now, her sweet-faced mice, decked out in attire appropriate to the month, have become an ambassador to customers.

It makes scents to get the guy in your life James McKay's birch oil lamp ($75), turned from a chunk of wood with rugged character. Add a bottle of woodsy fragrance oils to keep the man-cave fragrant without the Laura Ashley look. McKay has a number of works at the center, all of them with a recent Lincoln penny inset on the bottom, above McKay's name.

"Lincoln was a personal hero to me," explained the artist. "He was a person of great vision and courage who held the nation together at a most difficult time." 

Local artist/artisan Kimberly Bishop thought intergenerationally with her creations for the gift gallery. She offers bars of translucent Mermaid Soap ($8), eventually yield the small embedded figurine as they're used up —  a great way to incentivize bath time for youngsters. Hand-knit baby caps (around $30) are another gift so appealing you start hoping for a newborn in your life soon. 

Marco on the move:Busy arts center month from paintings with a message

Necklaces made with piano wire and black lapis, several styles starting as low as $50, available at The Baker Museum at Artis–Naples

Bishop also created the abstract drink coasters (set of four, $30)  in blues and greens, some with layers of gold as well — another reason for your hosts to be glad you came.

The center's clay guild brings it one-of-a-kind inventory. Elegant tea kettles and kitchen ceramics, such as Judy Becker's meandering mug ($30) with little feet are among its inventory.

There's more where those came from: The clay guild, deprived of its end-of-season sale last year, is staging a holiday sale at the center 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 5, with vases, bowls, platters, plates and more, during the annual "Cars as Art" auto-exoticism show here.

Where: Marco Island Center for the Arts, 1010 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; the gift gallery will also be open Dec. 5 during the clay guild sale

Information:marcoislandart.org or 239-394-4221

Marco Island Historical Museum

This museum has a robust children's section fun for adults to prowl through, too: Stuffed toys, puppets, tees and more. We were totally knocked out by its containers of crayon rocks ($5.99) — crayons in the shapes of pebbles.

But the gift we'd keep for ourselves was one of the U.S.-made knit finger puppets  ($3.99) of various creatures from Florida fact and fancy. A patch-eyed pirate and a mermaid join wooly-winged dragonflies, grinning gators, manatees, herons and even a hammer-head shark. Wonderful for nursery school and kindergarten kids, they would also turn your home office desk into a playground perched atop rulers and those Magic Markers taking up space in your pen mug. 

The Marco museum also carries jewelry made by its own former manager, Nancy Judd: seed-pearl strings and pendants, as well as a romantic coastal silk scarf from Naples artist Paul Arsenault. Marco Island Historical Society President and Executive Director Pat Rutledge says she counts on the water life ceramic condiment/cheese plates ($30 and up) enhanced with critters or seashells, as her never-fail hostess gifts. Turtle-topped wooden spoons for a salt plate or mustard dish are $4.

Marco Doug Johnson's silky shapings of exotic hardwoods have made his bottle openers ($49) a classy men's gift staple of both the museum's and the Marco Island Center for the Arts gift stores. But the museum has a number of his special interest inlaid wood pens (up to $90) as well, with everything from angler dreams and tennis rackets to two with insignias for doctors and nurses, an impressive gift for their desks. 

Mermaid soap by Kimberly Bishop goes for $8 at the Marco Island Center for the Arts gift shop.

No visit to the Marco museum would be complete without seeing one of Marco's oldest natives, the wooden Key Marco cat on loan there from the Smithsonian Institute. The seated human-cat hybrid is available as a silver-look pendant charm, in two sizes, for $15 and $18, part of the store's sizable selection of jewelry.

There are ball caps, ornaments, mugs, puzzles and more celebrating the famous cat's return. Even during the pandemic it has been drawing a socially distanced crowd.

Where: Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 Heathwood Drive, Marco Island

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

Information: themihs.info or 239-389-6447

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Center for the Arts Bonita Springs

The shop at the Visual Center for the Arts Bonita Springs has always been a haven for artists, with its sales of stretched canvases, paints and brushes. The gift shop here also suggests gifts of education: Right at the entry are suggestions and dates for one-night workshops ($65 to $75) in everything from cut glass mosaics and raku to charm or wired jewelry. Buy two so you can go with your gift recipient.

Some of the instructors' art is already on hand and for sale: a stained-glass Christmas tree trio and one-of-a-kind baskets are part of the inventory.

This is the place to find those small paintings for the powder room and kitchen corner as well. And the back wall is abundantly covered with pendants, earrings and pins that are perfect stocking stuffers. 

Where: Center for Visual Arts Bonita Springs, 26100 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

Information: artcenterbonita.org or 239-495-8989

The Baker Museum

Its renovation and re-opening have moved the gift store in The Baker Museum in Naples to quarters immediately off its lobby, so arrive early and wait for your friends inside. Later, you and your friends can stop in a second store, the boutique from Chihuly Studios on the third floor of the museum. 

Chihuly's here:Baker Museum re-opens with full floor of glass art

On the first floor, it won't take long to get pulled in by the caseful of delicate wire jewelry (around $50) in muted silver shades, with accoutrements like black lapiz. The necklace material turns out to be piano wire, which is softly springy when it's not being held taut over a sounding board. Necklaces become successively more colorful as you advance toward the back where look-at-me mesh and fired-bead pendant necklaces in primaries ($130)  by Christina Brampti star in the case. 

The Baker Museum has always had a soft spot for kids, with sets of black-and-white building blocks you can color yourself; a bright set of shapes and undulating wires a la Calder; and, on the third floor, a Chihuly art kit.

Michelle Erwin pulls out an Enso Budda board ($35) that will definitely offer your road trip zen; the kids can paint on it with a water-filled market and the drawing slowly fades away as it dries. To memorialize your child's enroute masterpiece you'll have to snap a photo fast, but you won't have ink mess all over the car. 

For a perfect party gift, buy a box of  Design Ideas soap leaves ($11.50): fragrant single-use resin soap as the coating on dried and cured leaves. 

There's a temptation to spend all your gift money here, but don't miss the chance to wander the Chihuly store. The higher-end gift giver can find works here from Chihuly Studios, sculptures up to and around $5,000. But you can have a Chihuly on a tiny budget, as a 6¼-inch-tall white paper tree ($16.95) or popup flame sculpture card ($9.95). There are an assortment of gifts for the slender wallet, such as the glass-print shopping bag ($24), which packs into its own envelope.

A Chihuly-print umbrella ($36) gives the outer world a sedate black presence, while the inside gives the carrier an instantly sunny day with its print of a brilliant glass form Chihuly ceiling. There are posters, books, puzzles, playing cards and even book of 12 decorative papers ($24.95) that will cover gifts and books or turn your origami psychedelic.

Where: The Baker Museum, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples 

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays

Information: artisnaples.org or 239-597-1111

Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com. Reach her at 239-213-6091.