photos of knitting stitch markers and a blue ceramic pitcher
Photos: Joel Benjamin
Business & Entrepreneurship

A Few of Our Favorite Things
The best holiday giving ideas from Brown alums

By Kerry Lachmann, Pippa Jack, and Louise Sloan ’88 / November–December 2023
November 3rd, 2023

“Kids and pots and sometimes clothes” reads the legend for the Instagram page belonging to Lyn Edelman ’02, and indeed her posts feature those things, in roughly that order of frequency. But while the former fashion designer’s clothing-related posts hew to the topic at hand, the kids and pots are all jumbled in together, because that’s just how life is for Edelman and her husband and New York Stoneware cofounder Will Reardon. Their production studio opened in the Bronx in 2013, bringing master potter Reardon’s handsomely unfussy aesthetic (see an example, above right) to a range of sturdy, classic functional ware; next came a daughter, then a son, muddy hands multiplying along the way. Pots are hand-thrown on the wheel in red stoneware, then glazed using a modest but well chosen palette of monochromatic colors. The line includes plates, bowls, soup mugs, beer steins, pitchers tall and small, even Pooh-worthy honey pots, but we have our eye on the striking berry bowl, which features a star-like pattern of cutouts that allow fruit to drain after rinsing—surely kid-tested, definitely kid-approved.

$285/tall pitcher in denim

These stitch markers (above left) are made from smooth coated metal that won’t snag yarn and come in an adorable sliding-drawer box to help the needleworker in your life knit in the round, count stitches, and mark pattern changes. Another well-designed knitting tool from Kayleigh Butera ’13.

$26/box of 80; 10% off with code BROWNX10

photos of a picture card game and a black leather purse

Nature’s Atelier offers online and in-person classes in R.I. and Mass., workshops, and products that showcase “the rejuvenating impact of mindfulness and the natural world,” says Erika Scilipoti ’11 PhD. These 31 botanical mindfulness cards each feature a guided exercise to help you create moments of tranquility.

$29; 15% off with code BAM23

Launched last year, Lance Pierres Los Angeles—the name is French for slingshot, evoking its founders’ far-flung goals—makes confidently stylish bags like this scuba-glazed calf crossbody, using simplified shapes that mean less waste. Kibwe Chase-Marshall ’10 brings the design chops.

$246; 15% off orders of $150 or more with code BROWN15

photos of a bottle of bourbon and a cell-inspired necklace

The idea came from a tortilla-making friend: use traditional blue corn to make bourbon. Industrious Spirit Company CEO Manya Rubinstein ’01 details the process: organic U.S. indigo corn and a landrace Mexican strain are cooked, fermented, distilled, rested on charred oak, and bottled at 100 proof to preserve the rich mouthfeel.


Caroline Gray Ford ’07 draws on her background as a children’s book artist and love of medical illustration to craft biology-inspired jewelry such as this striking neuron necklace. Living in Cambridge—a major U.K. center for scientific research—“I love watching people geek out over my work.”

$38 approx; 15% off with code BROWNALUMNI

photo of a colorful stack of macarons

The BAM Gift Guide team has seen its share of macarons over the years, ever since the dainty meringue-and-almond-flour sandwich cookies, in all their gluten-free glory, were proclaimed “the new cupcake” by the Atlantic in 2014, launching them into millions of transparent little plastic boxes and overwrought flavor combinations. To be clear, the team is not complaining—someone has to clean up after the photo shoot, after all, and macarons are just the thing to lend courage to photographer Joel Benjamin’s overworked espresso machine. But this year was a standout thanks to Kristin (Stearns) Stewart ’91 and the pandemic pastime she turned into a business, Cape Cod Macarons. “These were the best I’ve ever tasted,” says creative director Lisa Sergi. “The flavors were just so intense.” And, adds Gift Guide producer Kerry Lachmann, the cookies had an impressive ability to maintain their delicate, airy-yet-crunchy texture many days after they were shipped—even, incredibly, after sitting under studio lights for two days. Stewart binge-watched The Great British Baking Show in early 2021 along with the rest of us but actually got off the couch to try her hand at a recipe afterward. Failure only egged her on; she made a batch of macarons every day that long month of March. “Several friends suggested I sell them, and the rest is a whirlwind of markets, fairs, website building, social media, and client building. I have always said I will do this until it isn’t fun anymore. It’s still fun!”

$40/dozen, $75/box of 24

photos of a light-sensitive lamp and a card game

Hoping for a sharper mind, more restful sleep, and a better mood? Matthew Hassett ’08 designed the wifi-enabled Loftie Lamp based on sleep science. It wakes you like the rising sun and winds you down with a personal sunset, offers sleep-promoting red light, a reading light, and color settings that evoke places like Bali and Joshua Tree.

$249; 20% off with code BROWNALUMNI

As a child, Nina Mongendre ’04 spent time with Mother Teresa when her mom was volunteering. This ignited a desire to foster healing. Mongendre studied modalities around the world, meeting Inner Child & Beyond oracle deck artist Edie Pijpers at a yoga festival in France where they “bonded over a shared passion for art as a portal to healing and inspiration.” Songs by Porter Singer  ’05, recorded to accompany the deck, are available on streaming platforms.

$45; 15% off with code BROWN

photos of a kids' game and lax-inspired jewelry

When the first-grader son of Jacquelyn Davis ’93 struggled with reading, Davis—who studied with Ted Sizer and founded a high school rated among the best in America—created a reading game based on science. Her son’s teacher was blown away, she says—he learned 200 sight words in a few months. Hundreds of other kids did similarly. Kangaroo Cravings is for ages 4-9.

$29.95, 10% off with code BROWN10

Business owner Julie Meister ’75 married into a seriously lacrosse-oriented family. Husband Rich ’75 and his brothers John ’79, Steve ’76, and Charlie ’81 were all on the Brown team. Sister-in-law Phyllis coaches and designs lax accessories, from earrings to key rings. Here, handcrafted sterling or copper sticks with a sterling ball, on leather wristbands.

$40-$70; 10% off with code lax10

photos of coffee beans and a wooden board game

Kerri Gaffett ’89 was sailing around the globe when she met a woman who’d founded a coffee company on Tortola. Back on her native Block Island, R.I., for the pandemic, Gaffett added coffee entrepreneur to her list of professions, which currently includes psychotherapist and general contractor. She sells Block Island Coffee online and at R.I. Stop & Shops; in summertime you might spot Gaffett serving the brew from her upcycled bike-based coffee cart.

$15/12 oz. bag

Cattlers of Satan is the result of taking a slip of the tongue way too far,” says David Strout ’18. He and his family were playing a classic board game and “settlers” came out as “cattlers.” That game’s name easily morphed to “Satan”and next they were brainstorming ways to combine “cattle ranching” and circles of Hell. Rolling the dice, you summon the elements of fire, blood, bone, iron, and brimstone, “forge sinister alliances,” and “sabotage your rivals” to become the ruling rancher of the herds of Hell. Strout, who got his start at the Brown Design Lab, calls the game “quintessentially Brown—an interdisciplinary fusion of art and engineering, with a dose of subversive humor.”

$255; $66.60 off with code BROWNALUMNI 

photo of a stack of sourdough crackers

Spring 2020—like so many Americans, Melissa Tovin ’12 was holed up in her apartment baking  that Covid cliché, sourdough bread. “When baking sourdough,” Tovin says—a hobby since she’d moved from Boston to San Franciso in 2014 and wanted to try her hand at the local delicacy—“you have to feed and discard the starter each day.” As a result, there was a lot of wasted starter, and with pandemic-lockdown-level time on her hands, she started to experiment. “I tried tons of different recipes and then started making a simple sourdough cracker that I couldn’t stop snacking on,” she remembers. As the pandemic eased, Tovin started to entertain and the crackers were first to disappear, with friends asking where she’d bought them. “With that,” she says, “470 Baking Company was born.” The company is named after Tovin’s first apartment in San Francisco, 470 2nd Ave., a few blocks from Golden Gate Park, where she’d lived with a fellow Brown alum. 470 Baking has since relocated to Philadelphia. Its website calls the crisps “endlessly craveable and shatteringly crispy,” and—editor’s note—our gift guide photo shoot team agrees, raving about how these were more sourdough-y than any sourdough cracker they’d ever tried. Exactly zero crisps made it back to those of us who were stuck at the office. Testimonials on the 470 Baking site include an edgy, unpunctuated review from the presumably Gen Z “Jon S”: “But actually I tried these at my moms... fuck me they are so good.”

$24/3-pack; 15% off with code BAM2023

photos of a ceramic fire bowl and a heart-embossed cropped sweatshirt

Donna Rabiner ’82 loved art at Brown but chose a research and social work career, with pottery as hobby “to balance my very cerebral life.” Now retired, the full-time potter and husband David ’80 wanted a firebowl for their porch, so she made one with ceramic bowls, sand, and cobalt river stones. Assemble the kit, add rubbing alcohol, light, and enjoy!


“There’s just too much negativity out there,” says  Aimee Vorhaus ’96 AM. With her online shop, Peace Heart, she aims to inspire a little more peace and love. “To me, the peace heart perfectly conveys a joyful optimism. And a spirit of kindness and goodwill.” In addition to this organic cropped hoodie, Vorhaus offers T-shirts, tote bags, art prints, cards, and stickers.

Boho Hoodie, $45

photos of a bright, round purple purse and several crocheted chokers

Designer, writer, and “tireless advocate for authentic inclusivity” Kibwe Chase-Marshall ’10  and business partner Joseph Roh met in 2015 and the creative synergy was undeniable.

Oroma saddle bag in “glam slam” pebble calf, $370; 15% off orders of $150 or more with code BROWN15

Jenny Knuth ’89 fashions these “minimalist necklaces” in Boulder, Colo.

From top: Itty bitty purple with flower, $39; Blue beads with beach glass clasp, $52; Shiny silver and brown in lace pattern, $37; Tiny glass circle fringe in blue on brown strand, $37.

photos of three bottles of spirits and a t-bone steak

Industrious Spirit Company’s Manya Rubinstein ’01 just keeps pulling off amazing ideas: Ostreida, umami-bomb vodka made with oysters (make mine a Bloody Mary please); Patina, gin rested in former bourbon barrels for both botanical and toasty notes; and Gemma, a refreshingly low-ABV vodka distilled through New England quartz crystals.


A breed of Angus-cross cattle selected to thrive grazing open pastures, the cows at Holy Cow Better Beef are handled “using the low stress connections among cattle, horses, and humans,” says Megan George Herold ’02, whose family joined with a second to pursue their faith-based ranching venture in the temperate Palouse River Valley, Wash.


photo of a handheld loom

The problem with weaving, Lauren Puchowski ’95 says, was that “the technical challenge...distracted me from whatever artistic flow I could muster.” So the artist and maker came up with her own innovative loom design. She figured out a way to embed a device called a heddle—long used in large looms to separate the warp threads so the weaver doesn’t have to zig and zag the weft yarn through them—into a more manageable handheld version. “Things might have ended there if it weren’t for the pandemic,” but Puchowski suddenly had time for home-bound projects. Today, thanks in no small part to help from her RISD-industrial-
design-trained brother, her patented, portable Boomloom—perfect for beginner weavers—can be found at the Whitney and Cooper Hewitt museum stores. The business “stays at a scale I can manage,” she says—she (and her kids) assemble each loom and fill orders from a backyard shed. “I lived in Carberry during my sophomore and junior years,” Puchowski says, “and that was really the first time I understood creativity as a way of living. We painted murals in the stairwell, wrote poetry on the bathroom walls, baked pies at midnight because the berries were fresh. I hadn’t expected it, but sharing that ethos has been the best part of this whole project.”

$48/mini (pictured), $62/medium, $16/starter kit; 20% off through Jan. 6 with code CARBERRY.

photos of a set of gold mugs and a fabric beach chair

Inspired by Civil War era tin cups, these mugs from Lyn Edelman ’02 and her husband, master potter Will Reardon, are light but strong and boast an understated take on traditional details such as a rolled rim. Pick your glaze when you order—there’s this glowy amber or orange, ivory, charcoal, denim (see pitcher at top), and seafoam.

$220/4 or $60 each

“Three years ago I was looking for a new beach chair, something with nicely designed fabric and quality materials,” recalls Kristin Gladney ’04. “It did not exist.” Now it does—lightweight and in gorgeous UV- and mold-resistant fabric—thanks to Mode, the travel photographer and visual arts concentrator’s new “beach company.”

$198; 10% off with code BROWN

On the Wall
Spruce up your space—or a friend’s—with prints by Brown-alum artists. We’ve got more visual-artist alums than we could possibly feature in our gift guide, and many create one-of-a-kind pieces that take weeks or years to produce. So we’ve winnowed it down to those who offer prints of their originals. Some of this year’s picks are Brown-themed: Check out the Brunonian pop art by Atabey Sánchez-Haiman ’95 and campus subway map by Rajiv Raman ’99, both below.

drawing of the Hay in pop colors

When university curator Nicole Wholean saw the “quintessentially Rhode Island” pop art of Puerto Rican artist Atabey Sánchez-Haiman ’95, she knew she had to acquire some for the University’s permanent collection—and where better to display it than the Blue Room? Sánchez-Haiman was initially a planetary geology concentrator, hoping to work for NASA. She then switched to bio and neuroscience but RISD friends immersed her in the art world. Art won, but science stuck around: Sánchez-Haiman incorporates findings from neuroscience and mindfulness in her art. For instance, according to a UC Berkeley experiment, looking up calms your body and releases physical stress, so her work is hung quite high on the walls of the Blue Room. The glowing reds, oranges, and yellows are meant to bolster confidence, strength, and happiness. The colorful representations of Brown’s architecture (here, the Hay library) take Sánchez-Haiman back to her  undergrad days. Her Sayles Hall illustration, for example, reminds her of one of her first courses: a planetary geology class in the auditorium.—Jade Hardwick ’26 

18x24” prints, $200; 24x36” prints, $240

illustrated poster featuring animals of NYC

“I originally created this piece for a fellow Brown alum’s baby,” says artist Perrin Ireland ’08, “and turned it into a print by popular demand after I shared it online. That’s been the case for all of my products,” she adds. “I made them first for the offspring of Brown alumni, and then started taking orders from enthusiastic responses on Instagram.”


graphic portrait of Queen Elizabeth

This 100x80 cm limited-edition silkscreen hand print by Michel Hosszù of a 2019 cut-paper collage by Matthew Rose ’81 features Queen Elizabeth’s “unmistakeable silhouette” over a background  that hints at both the Union Jack and Old Glory. Rose says of Hosszù, who died in 2020, “This was possibly the last art work edition he printed.”

$750; 25% off for Brown alums; Message to purchase.

painted portrait of a black dog

“This is a fine art, giclée print of a Labrador retriever from my original oil portrait,” says artist Tanya Napier ’91 . “It depicts a soulful black Lab wearing a collar made from autumn leaves (one magically blue).” Napier specializes in animal portraits and says at first “I was able to hone my craft thanks to a crew of most patient portrait-sitters”—stuffed animals!

$28, framing available; $4 off with code BROWN

illustrated portrait of Bob Marley

The portrait print gallery for artist Yasmin Dixon ’79—who got her start as winner of the children’s art competition aboard the final voyage of the QE 1—features “disruptors, innovators, upsetters, or true originals,” she says—Marcus Garvey, Angela Davis, and, here, Bob Marley. Sheer matte metal print of a graphite on paper portrait, on ¾” inset frame w/cleat.

$126; 20% off with newsletter signup.

subway map style print of the Brown environs

“On those winter days, ever wish for a subway to whisk you from class to class? This digital print depicts a massive transit system connecting all of the buildings on campus,” says graphic designer and sculptor Rajiv Raman ’99. He says he’s always been fascinated by the way subway maps “distill complexity down to a simple bold geometry.”

$15; $5 off custom subway maps with code BROWN 

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Related Issue
November–December 2023