The Art of Gifts

Sun Tzu’s Awesome Tips On Art Gifts

Saranac Lake is a great place to get art of all kinds & prices, for holiday gift giving. The abundance of galleries and the many local crafts in stores offer variety, but there's still one problem. How do we do this particular kind of shopping for the people in our life?

Art just might be the trickiest form of gift, relying as it does on such elusive concepts as another person’s taste and the different forms of art. So a good strategy is crucial. So we should turn to a master of strategy. That would be Sun Tzu, the famous military strategist who is credited with The Art of War, dating back to possibly 500 BC. What does this have to do with buying art gifts? Everything. Let me explain.

Pick up your copy of this classic book at Moose Maple Books & More and follow along. (Do we know someone who would love such a book? Get two!) 

from Chapter One: All warfare is based on deception.

A chief source of gift-giving fun is to surprise the recipient. They must suspect nothing. So we become a noticer of clues. What kinds of art do they use to decorate their home, their office, or themselves?

Tip from Chapter Two: If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

We can easily over-think the task, searching for that perfect gift, even if we do not have the money or time to do this perfectly. Art is subjective. We are going to be going on hunches even with strong clues and considerable choices. If a thing strikes us as “something so-and-so would like,” it’s great to go with that.

At Main Street Exchange, there’s a great variety of one-of-a-kind items that are not very expensive. 

from Chapter Three: If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. 

polished stone nightlights

Since art is so personal, we can feel frustrated if we are drawn to a creative gift, yet do not feel we have the necessary closeness to the receipient to choose with confidence.

The solution is to choose something everyone needs, but give it a special flair. At the Twin Crystal Rock Shop, we can find household items which have been “rocked out.”

from Chapter Four: Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.

This describes a stumbling block to any gift giving.

If we worry too much about choosing the “right” gift, we are losing the fun of giving. We can risk a unique gift, or we can choose something safe, but ordinary.

We cannot do both.

Nori’s Village Market has a number of household items that are also special!

recycled glass in sunny window

From Chapter Five: The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.

If we look at the selection of art gifts as a difficult task, we can be tempted to keep the selection to only a few. But this is not efficient, nor is it probable. We might have many who would like something from a bookstore, and many who would love foodie-related items.

By thinking of many people in whatever shop we find ourselves, we could come up with a totally unexpected direction with our gift giving.

from Chapter Six: Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity.

People often feel constrained from being pro-active about gift preferences. Use conversation, not questions. Do they have a lovely selection of pottery displayed in their home? Exclaim over it, and let them take the lead.

Often, they will say things like “Oh, yes, I don’t know where to put it all,” and we know to cross pottery off our list, despite their obvious liking for it. Or they might say, “I just rotate through the pieces so I never get tired,” and we know we can shop at a Saranac Lake gallery for that special item.

from Chapter Seven: We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.

Something lovely might be out of our budget, but downright reasonable if we form alliances with other gift givers. And they will probably welcome the suggestion!

from Chapter Eight: There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must be not attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.

If we find a line of thought is not working out, we will waste energy trying to pursue it. Something about this gift is not working out, and there are plenty of other options.

from Chapter Nine: Camp in high places, facing the sun.

If we want to cheer up a friend going through a tough time, choose something that will also be helpful in good times.

While some gifts might seem inspirational at a dark time, choosing for positivity will always be welcome. NorthWind Fine Arts has many locally created craft items as well as paintings and photography.

carved wooden art crafts

from Chapter Ten: The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally.

Don't fall into the trap of getting a gift for someone that is too far from who they truly are. If we wish to encourage someone in a certain direction, choose for them on the level only slightly above where they are now. Don't throw them into the deep end just because it is our favorite place.

If they like realism, and we wish to broaden their horizons a bit, choose a photograph or realistic painting with some whimsy to it. Don't get them something that will make them ask, "What is it?"

from Chapter Eleven: It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order.

When we are uncertain of our choice, we often wish to drop hints. But this will simply make things more confusing. Do not give up the element of surprise.

from Chapter Twelve: If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.

While it can be exciting to get everyone a craft or art gift, this might not be the best choice for some people. If the "perfect" gift comes in some other category, be flexible.

from Chapter Thirteen: Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying and thereby they achieve great results.

It is tempting to recruit others in our quest, but asking those close to them to keep secrets is an undue burden.

The gift is between us and them. The gift is to bridge this gap and bring us closer. So we should look within our own relationship for inspiration, because such a connection is unique to the people involved. Whatever we choose should reflect what is special to the two of us.

That is always the best gift of all.

New Years Eve Saranac Lake NY
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About The Author

Pamela Merritt's picture
Pamela Merritt finds a library's reading room as exciting as a hike through the forest. She met the Adirondacks in 1999 and declared it "home." She's been collecting stories ever since. She declares summer's hiking and kayaking blends beautifully into winter's snowshoeing and reading to create four great seasons of enjoyment. Her published works display her eclectic range, from How-To cat care manuals to literary short fiction.

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