Ruth Spencer on ways to put originality into your gift-giving.

With Christmas looming and people inconveniently having birthdays every year, you may wish you had a go-to source of original gifts. Perhaps you're a crafter or would like to be, and you're keen to turn your hand to making heartfelt and charming presents. However, nothing strikes fear into the hearts of friends and relatives like hearing that you've taken up ornamental pottery. If you're looking for a hobby, consider something more unusual and, along the way, produce gifts someone might actually want. Here are some suggestions.

Attractive fireside logs

Take your time choosing, cutting and arranging a pile of whimsical, natural fireside logs. Slender silver birch for texture, pine for its rustic scent, and a cluster of twisted willow for kindling. An ideal gift for young men who dress as lumberjacks, or for anyone whose decor leans towards Scandi, because there are lots of forests in Scandinavia - or there would be if they hadn't all been turned into flat-pack furniture. This gift is perfect: you'll get lots of exercise on your collecting walks, the earthy wood tones go with everything, and if the recipient hates it and its occasional bonus spider, they can burn it without guilt.

Hand-blown glasses

Everyone needs a glass, whether sampling IPA or Adam's Ale. Take up glass-blowing and never be short of a vessel, unless it's the blood vessel you burst blowing into the tube. A challenging and skilled hobby, this will stretch your creative talents while producing a great deal of interestingly wobbly glassware. It's the gift that keeps on giving: the inbuilt instability makes sure it breaks before it becomes the tragic ugly duckling of the glass cabinet; they'll still be picking shards out of the bottom of the dishwasher when you give them more next year. Bottoms up! Actually if the bottom is up, you might want to start over.

Wax bananas

You may think that baking is a wonderful gift. It is, when it comes from a commercial kitchen with an A certificate. Before you inflict your gingerbread on someone ask yourself whether they've ever seen your kitchen, the one with the smelly chux cloth hanging over the tap and the ant nest behind the oven clock. Is your soap dispenser out of soap? Be honest, is your soap dispenser a cracked bar of Sunlight in the laundry? Giving up baking might be the safest thing you ever did. Instead, consider carving food out of wax. We'd all love a fruit bowl that always looks perfect, with no blueish powder gathering at the bottom. Once the pride of the dining table, wax fruit has become increasingly rare. Try not to worry about whether there's a reason for that while you resurrect this traditional heritage art. It's not like anyone eats fruit anyway, that's what smoothies are for.


Traditionally crafted soaps

Another of life's great disposable items, if the recipient doesn't want it they can banish it to the undies drawer or leave it in the bottom of the shower to waste away like a Weight Watchers celebrity. The melt-and-pour kind of soap is for amateurs; get some satisfaction out of your hobby by combining ash and lard, which you probably had lying around anyway if your kitchen is any indication. People always need soap, so gift your handcrafted bars year after year. Ignore the nostalgic tears in their eyes as you tell them how much they're saving now they don't have to go to Lush.

Dandelion wine

What could be more artisanal and Pinterest-worthy than bottles of your home-harvested, organic dandelion wine? It's weed alcohol, although don't tell your friends that in case you get their hopes up. This gift is mostly appreciated by the recipient's teenage children when they raid the liquor cabinet for whatever their parents wouldn't drink even when they were out of actual wine. Some of your friends and relatives might suddenly claim to be teetotal. Be suspicious of anyone claiming to be doing Dry December, which is beyond the realms of human ability.


The sea holds many treasures. Unfortunately as we're outside of the major shipping routes, most of them don't wash up on our shores and beachcombing isn't the lucrative adventure it is in other countries. But booty is in the eye of the beholder.

While you might not find any ambergris or pirate doubloons cast on the Pt Chev sands, you're sure to discover the odd interesting bit of driftwood, mangrove pod or little plastic soy sauce fish from someone's sushi. You're only a hot-glue gun away from seafaring souvenir craft! Give away to any wistful oceangazers you know, especially to parents of boy babies, who often make a hopeful attempt at a nautical nursery before Batman obliterates their whimsy forever. The sea's bounty is endless, so set up a stall near the icecream shop with any extras and make some spare sea change.