Out of the Box

By Kerry Lachmann & Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 / November/December 2011
November 28th, 2011

The holidays come early at the BAM, where the mail in late summer brings taped-up boxes in all shapes and sizes, each containing evidence of the creative zeal that seems to drive so many Brown alumni. This year, one package revealed hand-hewn wooden objects whose lineage can be traced to storm-damaged branches an alumnus collected on his Vermont farm. An alumna sent tote bags made in Brooklyn and another contributed area rugs she'd hand-braided in Maine, both from recycled cloth. One of the more ephemeral gift ideas came from a California chef: pasture-raised black-pig bacon cured with brown sugar and smoked with apple wood. The most technologically sophisticated may be the iPad sleeves made of a substance that changes as it hits the ground, absorbing more impact than just about any affordable material out there. It's so effective that the company also manufactures athletic padding out of the stuff, in an attempt to ease the worries of soccer and football parents everywhere. Again and again, such products demonstrate the innovative and entrepreneurial ways of Brown graduates. A few of their stories are featured in the following pages, reminding us that creativity is not just about making things; it's about an approach to life. Have a product you'd like to box up and show us next year? Let us know.


1 Stir Things Up John Robohm '64 whittles these handsome spoons from trees felled on his farm in Vermont. $40–$50. www.livewirefarm.com (802) 368-2353

2 On the Rocks Taryn Leavitt '81 handcrafts these knockout cocktail rings in 22-karat gold. Clockwise from the top: watermelon tourmaline with red and green tourmaline stones, aquamarine, white topaz, blue topaz, and aquamarine surrounded by black diamonds. $2,600–$7,500. www.tarynleavitt.com (212) 834-4445

3 Instant Classics These porcelain dinner plates, by Sheila Bridges '86, lampoon African American stereotypes. They're based on her Harlem Toile De Jouy wallpaper, which is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Set of six: $82.50. Mention code Brn10 for a 10% discount. www.sheilabridges.com (212) 678-6872

4 Contemporary Tradition In Germany Sandy Lee '97 fell in love with the traditional Bavarian cookies called lebkuchen—moist, dense gingerbread rounds made with ground hazelnuts and almonds, and candied citron and orange peel. She's now manufacturing them in New York City and packaging them in traditional tins. One-pound tin: $28. www.leckerlee.com


1 Puppy Love Kate Holmes '86 hand crafts sterling silver promise rings for dogs and their human parents. $130–$180. Mention code BAM123 for a 10% discount. www.pawspromise.com (310) 295-2520

2 Get Wired Geri Lemoi Williams '70 wires lampwork glass and semiprecious gemstone beads into necklaces and earrings. $40–$60/set. Mention code BAM 2011 for a 10% discount. www.etsy.com/shop/GeriDesigns (508) 833-4355

3 Pooh Bear This sweet little beeswax bear candle comes in a gift set with two hand-dipped tapers and a 12-ounce honey bear (see page 32). Julia Gehring '09 and her family produce them on their farm in Ohio. $22.50. (419) 531-0507

4 Pillow Talk Jane Fried Sheinfeld '82 custom designs the fabric for these personalized pillows and adds a touch of whimsy with pompom fringe. $75. www.thepiecedpalette.com (914) 420-1746

5 Jas-mania Ken Jones '02 creates unforgettable lotions and room sprays in small batches from all-natural ingredients. Lotion: $12; spray: $10. www.mercantilehome.com (610) 258-4046

6 Money Savers Erika Sanders '96 upcycles inner tubes from the bike shop owned by her husband, Nicholas Tucker Sanders '93. She stitches the rubber into funky wallets and tote bags. Wallets: $20–$25; totes: $65. www.westcountybags.com (707) 508-7430

7 Piggy Pops Star chef Duskie Estes '90 hand-dips toffee-and- bacon lollipops in chocolate. Yum. Four for $27; shipping included. www.blackpigmeatco.com (707) 523-4814

8 Sippin' Pretty Zachary Robinson '91 continues a family tradition, making estate-bottled wines at Husch Vineyards, the oldest winery in northern California's Anderson Valley. Sauvignon blanc: $14; pinot noir: $23. Mention Brown for a free gift. www.huschvineyards.com (800) 554-8724

9 Anatomically Correct Biology dean Marjorie Thompson '74, '79 PhD makes these polymer clay pins inspired by macrophages, neurons, and epithelial and plant cells. $15.http://cellularfunjewelry.blogspot.com (401) 749-1729


1 Carry On Alexandra Bell '02 and Shira Entis '02 fashion handsome, eco-friendly bags from organic and repurposed materials. The Saratoga Weekender is made of waterproof waxed canvas with leather details. $485. Mention code BrownFlea for a 25% discount. www.fleabg.com (646) 383-7959

2 The Eyes Have It Darren Rosenberg '92 and his brother launched Kaenon Polarized ten years ago to produce lightweight, impact-resistant sunglasses that come in thirty frame styles. $204–$339. Mention code brownalumni for a 20% discount. Expires 1/13/12. www.kaenon.com (866) KAENON-1

3 Que Syrah Sera Winemaker Lise Pfau Ciolino '85 produces organic Syrah in her Sonoma County vineyards. $35–$45/bottle. www.montemaggiore.com (707) 433-9499

4 Extreme Protection At G-Form, in Providence, a handful of alums are inventing flexible protective gear for all types of athletes. Knee pads: $49.95. Mention code BRUNO76 for a $10 discount. www.g-form.com (401) 250-5555


1 Unbreakable The Extreme Portfolio, by G-Form, will protect your tablet computer from just about any impact. You can even drop it from an airplane—should you be so inclined. $89.95 www.g-form.com (401) 250-5555

2 Dynamic Duo Taryn Leavitt '81 frames blue topaz and yellow and mandarine citrine stones in 22-karat gold, and hangs them in pairs on cords. $1,450. www.tarynleavitt.com (917) 834-4445

3 Climbing the Walls? This sassy squirrel, by Ken Jones '02, has holes in his feet so you can hang him wherever you like. $45. Allow two weeks for manufacturing. www.mercantilehome.com (610) 258-4046

4 Carpet Diem When not teaching high school, Lisa Bird Scofield '77 braids and weaves custom rugs from remnant and recycled wool and cotton. $18-$75/square foot. (207) 706-6948


1 Tea Time As students, Dan MacCombie '08 and Tyler Gage '08 started Runa, which imports guayusa leaves from Ecuador. It makes a mellow, caffeinated tea—without the coffee jitters. $6.99/box. Mention code RunaBruno2011 for a 15% discount. www.runa.org (800) 485-3803

2 Ear Candy Taryn Leavitt '81 alloys her own 22-carat gold, and uses green amethyst, pink topaz, and aquamarine gemstones to create these danglers. She pulls the wire by hand, and encrusts the delicate chains with raw diamonds. $1,350—$1,650. www.tarynleavitt.com (917) 834-4445

3 Sleek Sleeves Beth Levine '67 uses super-soft calfskin to make stylish covers for mobile devices. $45—$365. (212) 691-1087

4 Color Block Ken Jones '02 pairs vintage striped fabric with raw linen for this cheery tote. $28. www.mercantilehome.com (610) 258-4046

5 Wake Up and Smell the ... San Francisco barista Eileen Hassi '99 buys her beans directly from growers. From $16/lb; mention code Brown for 10% off subscriptions www.ritualroasters.com (415) 641-1024

6 Harlem Fantasy Each of these drinking glasses by Sheila Bridges '86 is printed with a different vignette from her classic Harlem Toile De Jouy wallpaper design. Set of six: $62.50. www.sheilabridges.com (212) 678-6872

7 By Gum! Kids will love making gum, gummies, and chocolate with these fun kits by Deborah Shimberg '79, and adults will like her Glee Gum, made the old-fashioned way with Guatemalan chicle, or tree sap. Kits: $13 each. www.gleegum.com (401) 351-6415

8 Amber Art Joann Marie Ruckman '99 draws on her travels and her visual arts and anthropology classes to inspire her jewelry designs. Amber necklace: $45. www.safiatudesigns.weebly.com (510) 414-9983

9 Makin' Bacon Duskie Estes '90 dry cures her black pig bacon in brown sugar and smokes it over apple wood. $13/12 ounce package. www.blackpigmeatco.com (707) 523-4814


1 Sweet Chic Gregory Roth '90 decorates these shortbread cookies with vibrant patterns and colors. He packages them just as stylishly. Gift boxes: $30—$110. www.modernbite.com (888) 600-5760

2 Bead-Decked Vicky Seelen '79, '82 MAT began crafting these colorful glass beads and jewelry while on sabbatical from teaching. $50—$475. www.seelenbeads.com (617) 276-6004

3 Hooked Up John Robohm '64 cuts these handy hooks from tree branches he collects on his Vermont farm. $40. www.livewirefarm.com (802) 368-2353

4 Blanket Policy Alexandra Bell '02 and Shira Entis '02 make this Normandy Market Tote out of surplus wool army blankets, with black leather handles. $125. Mention code BrownFlea for a 25% discount. www.fleabg.com (646) 383-7959

5 Hipster Julie Sygiel '09 makes these cute undies from leak-resistant fabric so women can feel safe and sexy any time of the month. $32—$44. www.sexyperiod.com (401) 264-0425


1 Bit-O-Honey Gift sets from Julia Gehring '09, at Gehring Beekeepers, include this 12 oz. honey bear as well as beeswax tapers and a bear candle. $22.50. (419) 531-0507

2 Cricket Anyone? Kent Stetson '01 makes one-of-a-kind handbags. He calls this gem Cricket. It's made from Swiss silk jacquard. $200. www.kentstetson.com (401) 225-3141 

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November/December 2011