Arts Center of Saint Peter Column Photo

Studio Manager Juana Arias’ “leaf me alone” tumblers from her Requiem Collection are among the 300+ pieces of pottery for sale at the Arts Center through Dec. 23.

You know the crisis: You have to bring a gift, and it has to be impressive. But you don’t know the person well at all. You only know that the stakes are high, and you’ve got to give something that shows you’re a quality giver who can walk the line between “meaningful” and “way too personal” or “misses the mark completely.”

At the Arts Center of Saint Peter, we take great pride in helping panicked gift-seekers fulfill their mission. Right now, we’re doing that by matching buyers with the perfect token of appreciation, or love, or humor, or gratitude, or name-your-sentiment-we’ve-got-pottery-to-match, during Pot Luck: A Buy-and-Take Exhibition of Functional Pottery for sale now through December 23.

“Functional,” as in, things you can use. Plates, mugs, teapots, etc. Usability lays the foundation for a great gift, because a plate says “we are both humans who consume nourishment, we have this in common,” in a way that’s far more trust-building than if you were, say, to give an elaborate fruit basket which guilts the recipient with more produce than they normally consume in a week; a whole lot of excess cellophane; and a basket they’d like to think they’ll use again but they probably won’t and after a few seasons it’ll end up in the “free” pile outside St. Peter Thrift.

No, there’ll be no fruit basket in tow as you enter your first gift exchange with in-laws. Because you’ll have shopped Pot Luck at the Arts Center, where a friendly docent will have matched you with an incredibly thoughtful-seeming gift, like so:

GIFT CRISIS: “I need a gift for my brother-in-law. He hunts. I don’t. That’s all I know.”

SOLUTION: Platter by Thomas Prahl (Mankato), marked with impressions of leaves gathered from around the Minnesota River Valley. Or a set of plates by Alvaro Jose (AJ) Aburto Gadea (St. Peter), in shades, forms, and patterns inspired by nearby nature and wildlife. Because you, too, appreciate the outdoors and a good plate of locally sourced meat.

GIFT CRISIS: “How do I say ‘happy holidays’ but also ‘I know you’re living through hell right now?’”

SOLUTION: Anything at all from the “Requiem Collection” by Juana Arias (St. Peter), including the charming yet unflinchingly direct “leaf me alone” tumbler line.

GIFT CRISIS: “There is literally no subject we can discuss without a fight. I drew their name in the gift exchange. Help.”

SOLUTION: Any ocean-inspired cup, bowl, platter, or planter by Stephanie Bové (St. Peter). Any sun-themed plate by Rachel James (St. Peter). Any swirly mid-Century-looking tumbler by Jan Waller (St. Peter), as suitable for early-morning morning orange juice as late-night Scotch. We’ll load you up with information on the piece and the artist, so that when you give your gift, you’re guaranteed a few comfortable minutes of chit-chatting about something that feels civil and gracious and good.

In these divisive times, it’s our honor and duty to provide peace at as many holiday gatherings as possible, one disarming gift at a time. Come shop. The gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 24-Jan. 6).

Ann Rosenquist Fee is the executive director of the Arts Center of Saint Peter.

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