Stuck for a gift? Museum stores to the rescue

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Stuck for a gift? Don't overlook gift stores at area museums and galleries, which often boast marvelously curated collections of the odd and charming.

And this year more than ever, venerable nonprofits like the Detroit Historical Museum or Detroit Artists Market could use the financial boost.

The offerings at those two as well as the Cranbrook Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts and The Henry Ford cover a broad range — from authentic craft work by Greenfield Village artisans to guaranteed avant-garde from Cranbrook.

The gift-worthy catalog from the DIA's current show on auto design, "Detroit Style," is available for $40.

We surveyed the offerings, and offer the following suggestions in the hope that they lift a little weight off the shoulders of beleaguered shoppers. Note that all require face masks and other Covid precautions.

And note — you don't have to pay admission at any of the following museums to hit their gift store. Just explain you're there to shop.

With its small army of Greenfield Village artists producing authentic replicas of housewares and other items from the 18th and 19th centuries, the gift store at The Henry Ford is a natural for anyone desperate for ideas.

Artisans working in pottery and glass, said Joshua Wojick, craft and trades program manager, "usually produce about 8-10,000 pieces a year, each. Weaving is a much-more time-consuming craft," he added, "so the number of pieces we can produce are a little more limited."

This salt-glazed bread cloche goes for $80 at The Henry Ford, and creates a light, airy bread.

Got a cook on your list? The store's got a redware ceramic pudding dish for $50, or a salt-glazed stoneware bread cloche — a historically accurate, lidded bread baking vessel for $80 — said to yield a particularly light, airy product.

For something more contemporary and sleek, check out The Henry Ford's brand-new line of Matassa glassware that, Wojick said, employs "a really interesting way of coiling white glass threads and melting them into the glass surface to create patterns."

Cooking or decorative glass not your thing? The store has a ton of other possibilities, from books to model cars.

The Detroit Institute of Arts gift shop is the other huge operation in town, with a sparkling array of tempting possibilities from artistic glass to kids' toys to a veritable warehouse of Frida Kahlo-related products.

You can even arrange for curbside pickup to avoid going inside.

Director of Retail Operations Eric Huck said hot items this year include boxer shorts featuring Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" murals ($24.95), and pajama lounging pants emblazoned with Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night" ($39.95).

Strut your stuff in Diego Rivera boxer shorts, $24.95, from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Additionally, there's a pop-up gift shop attached to the "Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City" exhibition. Serious auto enthusiasts on your list would likely treasure the striking, coffee-table catalog produced for the show, available for $40.

You do not have to make a reservation to visit the store.

Across Woodward Avenue at the Detroit Historical Museum gift shop you'll find a completely different, entertaining array of goods. New this year is a way-cool Stroh's beer t-shirt for $29.99, produced to accompany the museum's new exhibition, "Detroit's Brewing Heritage."

Timed with the exhibit "Detroit's Brewing Heritage," the Detroit Historical Museum is selling this t-shirt for $29.99.

Looking for a hostess gift for a small Christmas party (hopefully held outdoors)? Check out the new Christmas ornament featuring the Cadillac Tower ($14.99), where the museum had its first home — or new coffee cups honoring Great Lakes freighters ($10.99).

The Cranbrook Art Museum has a gift shop right at the entrance on the main level, as well as a pop-up store downstairs featuring work by Art Academy alumni. Both are worth a careful look-see.

Stylish adults and kids alike will be delighted with "Color Me Modern: A Ruth Adler Schnee Coloring Book" ($10), featuring designs by the Detroit designer who was a towering figure in post-war contemporary textiles.

The pioneering modernist textiles of Ruth Adler Schnee are  now a coloring book -- $10 at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Or, if you're trying to encourage that artistic bent in your teenager (or yourself), check out the boxed "Art Kit: Loom Weaving" set ($32) highlighting the work of Cranbrook alum Robert David Sailors that will let you create your own artistic textiles.

A number of galleries around town also have gift shops, including the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and Simone DeSousa's Edition in midtown Detroit.

One of the largest and most-varied, however, is the store at Detroit Artists Market. On sale currently is a handsome, small pitcher by Presque Isle artist Debra Burr for $38.

Or, if your tree's feeling a little under-decorated, there's a lavender Christmas-tree glass ball by Pontiac  artist George Bochnig.

Need comfort? Consider Piglet from Ann Arbor artist Joelle Medici, $34 at Detroit Artists Market.

Perhaps this year of all years, what you and your friends and relatives really need is comfort -- readily available from "Piglet" by Joelle Medici, a squeezable pink fabric friend guaranteed to help you or that person on your list get through the long, cold winter.

(313) 815-6410

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

Museum & gallery gift stores

The Henry Ford

20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn

9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sun. (closed Christmas day)

(313) 982-6001

Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward, Detroit

9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Fri; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun

(313) 833-7900

Detroit Historical Museum

5401 Woodward, Detroit

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thurs.-Sat; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun.

(313) 833-1805

Cranbrook Art Museum

39221 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills

Noon-5 p.m. Wed; noon-8 p.m. Thurs; noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sun.

(248) 645-3323

Detroit Artists Market

4719 Woodward, Detroit

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

(313) 832-8540