Deciding on a wedding gift for a best friend's daughter can be a daunting task. We have traveled to small towns with reputations for having the greatest gift shops around and found nothing. We have ventured to Abbeville, where there was not a gift to be had, but they did have excellent pistachio ice cream and big cups filled with ice and cold Coca-Cola.
Newberry was an eye opener with its Opera House and a fine restaurant, but not an unusual present was offered.
Charlotte and Roanoke were perused, no small effort since we were nearing the $4 mark for gasoline. In fact, it was while the fuel gauge was playing its usual trick of shrinking that a fellow by the name of Mark Cockerille was remembered.
The wheels turned, and suddenly the Museum of York County came to mind. Of course, that is exactly where he weaves his talent for finding arty, delightful things done by local folks.
Straight to Interstate 77 off at the Fort Mill exit and then onto Celanese and bingo there were signs for the museum -- a short fast trip and merciful to the gas gauge.
Mark is a pleasant person, happy and anxious to tell you about all the people whose talent is shown to best advantage in the windows and clever displays of the museum shop.
Here was the very thing that was most important to me in this gift buying adventure, something made by a South Carolina person or at least a person who plies his trade in this fine place. This little shop has marvelous examples of work done by men and women who make their art in York County and the surrounding counties.
One was something that certainly had evolved from the famous "Crazy Quilt" of the 1800s. Plaids were sewn against stripes bound together with a glorious gold-whipped stitch that enhanced the fabric and shouted a release from the stereotypes that have cramped our lives for so long. It is textile art at its best. They are done in large and exciting designs or downsized to smaller pieces made to hang gently in a hall or a small area.
The artist, Brenda Mars, quickly explains that this is "fiber art," which offers many advantages. You can touch it; it does not have to match your couch or the other accouterments that make the room so charming. These creations can honestly reflect the lifestyle and the simple truths of the person for whom it is designed.
A talk with the artist quickly will tell you that her talent reaches into the lives of the people who search out her art. The pieces commemorate birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, graduations and great achievements in life. These hangings are sold, just like an oil on canvas; they are made to last and to be cherished by the owner.
The Potters Wheel has been put to rest by John Myer. He works in slabs of clay, rolled thin and then shaped into round bowls, pitchers, plates and teapots. In fact, the originality of his teapots would astound even the Chinese; they are shaped like turtles, fish and other exotic and never-heard-of animals. His glazes are stunning, bright and clean and then enlivened with delicate shades of green, purple, blue and heavenly violet. The finished pieces are clean in line, simple in design and rich in imagination.
His studio in Hickory Grove is open to visitors, and, if you drop by, he will show you how this elegant conjuring is developed. If you care to listen, he will easily explain the difference of wheel turned and slab designed, both or which are forms of artistic magic. His explanation is filled with facts and a touch of "out west" humor.
However, there are other things in the little shop that will quickly catch the attention of grandparents. A whole section of gifts that will delight their children, all priced with summer holiday shopping in mind and all different from the average run-of-the-mill gift shop souvenirs. These clever and mind-teasing goodies are different, and not costly, making it possible for all waiting little boys and girls to receive a fun, new and different reward from doting "grands."
Charming ladies donate time to the museum, and along with that time, they bring a sweet Southern attitude. So, you can shop, look, compare and enjoy. You will be welcomed, never hurried and always appreciated.
The gift is wending its way to California, and all is well.