For the Love of Wisconsin
A Locally-Themed Gift Guide
Whether you’re giving gifts to loved ones who have moved from the great state of Wisconsin or you simply want to show the pride you have in your home, our locally-themed gift guide hits all the marks:
James Steeno Gallery, LLC A
Wisconsin native and full-time independent artist and illustrator for 12 years, James Steeno was a part-time artist for much longer.
“I’ve lived my whole life in Wisconsin, and love the landscape and beauty of this area,” he says. “I feel a calling to reflect that Wisco-charm in my watercolors and illustrations. A local theme is simply a byproduct of creating art reflecting places and things I find nearby.
“I only take part in art shows and events in Wisconsin, so it makes total sense to have Wisconsin themed art offerings.”
The owner and artist of James Steeno Gallery, LLC, Steeno offers art prints, art maps, original watercolors, notecards, coloring books, calendars, ornaments, flour sack towels and art decals within his online Etsy store. Each holiday season, Steeno creates a Wisconsin watercolor calendar and a keepsake Wisconsin ornament.
“My process starts with simply soaking in my surroundings and spotting the unique aspects in everything,” Steeno explains. “I carry around ideas for art and illustrations in my head sometimes for years. When I have a free moment in my studio, I attempt to get down on paper in watercolor, or pen and ink, as many of these ideas as I can before my studio time comes to an end.
“Sometimes I can’t believe I actually get to be creative every day and produce art and make a living doing it. It is a lifelong dream come true and I hope my work can be appreciated by others for many years to come.”
Price range: $5 to $250, with most under $50.
Where to find: www.etsy.com/shop/jsteeno and Blue Moon Emporium in Appleton. Other in-person art fairs and events are listed on www.jamessteeno.com.
Pearly Grey, LLC
Nearly 18 years ago when Jennifer Nowak, owner of Pearly Grey, LLC, first launched her business she focused on baby accessories like bibs, burp cloths, blankets and onesies (of which she still offers), but her strong state pride shifted her small business.
“On my… journey, I was inspired by the love of Wisconsin,” she says. “So I started appliquéing the state of Wisconsin image on clothing in children and adult sizes.
“… Everything is done by hand including tracing, hand cutting and free motion, with machine stitching done around each Wisconsin-shaped piece of fabric. My technique creates custom, high-quality clothing pieces that are as unique as they are beautiful and durable.”
Pearly Grey now includes sweatshirts and t-shirts (sizes 2t to adult), reusable tote bags, kitchen towels, hot pads and aprons.
“Over the past two years the sweatshirts have been the most popular selling item, made of stylish and ultra soft fabric that turns my customers into fans who return for my collections.
I predict that this holiday season’s gifts will have a practical theme, as this past summer showed this very trend,” she says. “A great gift suggestion for the hard-to-shop-for or the perfect hostess is a matching dish towel and hot pad combo… I do accept special requests and can ship anywhere in the U.S.”
Price range: $9 to $48.
Where to find: www.pearlygrey.me, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok @pearlygrey and Blue Moon Emporium in Appleton.
SJ Imaginations LLC
A relatively new business on the scene, SJ Imaginations LLC was officially started by owner Sandra Phelan in March 2022, but celebrating Wisconsin has been nurtured her whole life.
“I was born and raised in Wisconsin,” she says. “Personally, I love the looks of maps and map art. However, it usually revolves around big cities, such as New York or Chicago. I thought it would be nice to offer these types of works, that can be customized so that everyone can enjoy something beautiful, but that also has a more local meaning.”
Her most popular laser engraved items include lake-themed cribbage boards and maps. Lake Winnebago is popular, as are requests for specific lakes and locations with a special connection to the buyer.
“I have done cribbage boards and maps for many of our beautiful Wisconsin lakes, as well as many lakes outside of our state. The cribbage boards and maps are not limited to be lake-themed only. I have a popular cribbage board that has a big red Wisconsin on it with a heart.
“I also make accent lights that include seasonal graphics and maps. One of my more popular accent lights is of the state of Wisconsin and all of our counties listed in it. More recently I have been doing lights with local high school logos, like the Fond du Lac Cardinals and the St. Mary Springs Ledgers.”
SJ Imaginations also sells a variety of Wisconsin-themed coasters, ornaments and magnets.
Price range: $8 to $60
Where to find: www.etsy.com/shop/SJImaginations; on Instagram @SJ_Imaginations and Facebook @SJImaginations; and at Red Door Mercantile in Neenah; Gathered Roots in downtown Fond du Lac and The Plaid Bear in downtown St. Germain.
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