The Gifting Muse

Museum shops yield inspired holiday gifts.

If you prefer your shopping with a side-order of art and history, museum gifts shops around the state yield some great giftable home-decor finds. From local art to tableware to historic reproductions, we’ve scoured Virginia’s museums and historic sites to bring you a few of our favorites.

Wise Choise:

Alabaster has been prized by artists through the centuries for its translucence and softness, which lends itself to intricate carving. With gold leaf detailing and glass eyes, these Alabaster Owls from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts make striking additions to any decor and are made by a family who have been working in alabaster for generations. $88-$225.


Candle snuffers kept wax from dripping on 18th-century dining tables—and they’re just as handy today. This one from Mount Vernon is adorned with the “flying griffin”—a winged lion with an eagle’s head—from George Washington’s family coat-of-arms. The handle on the Classic Pewter Flying Griffin Candle Snuffer is marked with “MV”(for Mount Vernon) and measures 5. inches. Made in the U.S.A. by Salisbury Pewter. $39.95.


Add a twist to your holiday decor with this shimmering sequined Mermaid Tail Stocking from the Mariner’s Museum in Norfolk. With fake fur trim, a quilted fin and flannel lining, this unique take on a Christmas tradition also features reversible, metallic sequins that change color. Available in Green, Royal Blue, or Light Blue. $19.95 each.


Thomas Jefferson so favored this low-slung Campeachy Chair, he called it “that kind of easy chair.” With its leather seat, x-frame, generous arm rests, and serpentine crest rail, the Campeachy looks just as stylish today. Find it at the Monticello Shop. $2,025


Celebrate Virginia with Cat Studio’s hand-emboidered pillow featuring the state’s cities, historic figures, and landmarks. It’s available from The Valentine’s museum store, which offers a Richmond version, too. Made of 100% organic cotton and finished with a three-button colsure, each 20×20-inch pillow can take up to a week to embroider and is signed by the artisan on the tag. $196.


From Dolley Madison to Alexander Hamilton, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass, eight historical figures are represented in hand-embroidered ornaments available from James Madison’s Montpelier Museum Shop. Each six-inch-high ornament features charming handmade detailing and embellishments. $14.99 each.


Fashioned after a pattern inspired by the dining room chairs in the Governor’s Palace, this oval Bamboo Trellis Planter, in bright meadow green-on-cream porcelain, is perfect for showcasing fresh flowers or multiple plants. Available from the Colonial Williamsburg shop Brick & Trellis and reminiscent of the Chippendale style, this handsome vessel is equally at home on a sideboard or table. $399.99.


This Bumblebee Door Knocker from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond is cast in solid brass and hand finished. A charming addition to any door, it guarantees a hearty welcome. $145. Shop.


Brighten your table with the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Brushstrokes table runner ($50) and coordinating dinner napkins ($25, set of 2) inspired by the exuberant abstract paintings of artist Alma Thomas. These artful table linens are handcrafted in Norfolk of 100% cotton.


Crafted of steel, this Bird Sculpture from artist Sally Myers was inspired by folk art, African art, and the nature surrounding Myers on her Shenandoah Valley farm. “Though the steel is now rigid,” she says, “I hope you have a feeling that you might suddenly see one of these birds turning its head or taking flight.” Find it at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester. $135.


Hand-Stitched Leather Fire Buckets held water or sand at the ready in 18th-century homes and remained a crucial firefighting implement for three centuries. This reproduction from George Washington’s Mount Vernon shop is handcrafted in Virginia and neatly emblazoned with Washington’s name. Perfect for storing kindling by the fire. $475.


Modern wildlife artist Charley Harper’s colorful geometric illustrations often turned up on the cover of Ford Times, the Ford Motor Company magazine. This Set of Four Glasses, from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, features Harper’s conic cardinal with berries, blue jay, green jay, and Western tanager. $60.

This article originally appeared in the December 2021issue.

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