Our criteria are simple: each winner and runner-up must be authentic (discovered in the North), validated (meeting the highest standards) and coveted (longed for and in demand).
We couldn’t have said it better: “Along the way, I came to realize that art is not just what we hang on our walls but also the objects we use every day,” muses Peter Sowinski. He handcrafts each piece in his Northeast Minneapolis studio using materials from independent neighborhood businesses. His Sidecar bar cart is the perfect balance of beauty and function, featuring stainless-steel shelves, teak joinery and a hand-rubbed oil finish.
A Makers Knack
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin
This beautiful, natural-edged cherry wood bowl illustrates the love that artist John Dempsey has for woodworking and turning. He combines woods and metals to create intriguing artwork and utilitarian pieces, such as a walnut end-grain turned box with slip front lid and vases both turned and with natural edges.
Starting at $80
Louise Gray quilts are handcrafted by local artisans using 100% cotton materials. The combined vision of partners Alexandra Gray Bennett and Jocelin Johnson, the brand utilizes contemporary design as a means of keeping the time-honored tradition of quilt making alive. Each piece enhances the living space of the modern, the detail-oriented and the socially conscience.
Starting at $395
Ben Fiess’s utilitarian ceramics caught our eye for their color, glaze and texture. We were equally delighted to find them as functional as they are beautiful. The artist’s fascination with ceramic chemistry led him to develop an online glaze and clay body database. These beautiful jars are perfect for any room of the house. The difficulty lies in choosing just one!
Starting at $80
Kate Marie Anderson
Kate Marie Anderson’s aesthetic is best described as raw, honest and intricate. She was inspired by the contrast of nature and industry in her native North. Educated at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona, she moved to New York to work with 3.1 Phillip Lim and Zero + Maria Cornejo. We simply can’t get enough of the luxe outerwear from her A/W 2015 Capsule Coat Collection, such as this cream weave coat.
Starting at $429
Lauren Shoff’s jewelry career began while studying fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her talent has been recognized nationally, and she is working toward her graduate gemology degree. Her current collection combines the simplicity of natural elements with the complexity of baroque architecture. L. Shoff jewelry is perfect on its own or layered together.
Starting at $55
Parlour Von Kopp
Founder Zachary Kopp’s signature red beard and its upkeep were the impetus behind this line of all-natural, handcrafted men’s apothecary products. Employing argan and avocado oils, the Wunder Bart Beard Oil has become a go-to for well-groomed gents with a preference for premier beard care. Even the fairer sex has adopted it as a pre-blowout smoothing aid.
Starting at $15
Trained as an architect, Martha McQuade works and teaches across various creative fields, including textiles, clothing design and photography. We are especially fond of her small-batch, kettle-dyed scarves available in organic cotton, sheer knit and wool. Our pick? The sheer knit, made on a vintage machine from fine merino wool or baby alpaca.
Starting at $30
5 Infused Vodka
A couple friends balancing life, family and work decided to slow things down and share a drink — and the rest, as they say, is history. That drink inspired them to create a new business. The founders of 5 Infused Vodka believe that great vodka should be made by cooks, not chemists. Their spirits are crafted using natural ingredients, such as Wisconsin cranberries and California oranges.
Starting at $24
Fergus Falls, Minnesota
The cacao beans that make up Terroir Chocolate confections are hand sorted, small-batch roasted and stone ground for days. Each organic, single-origin dark-chocolate bar has a unique taste profile due to the influence of the soil, the climate and the vegetation grown around the cacao tree. The founders’ advice? While enjoying Terroir Chocolate, let it linger on the tongue — if it lasts that long!
Starting at $7
Quince & Apple
Clare and Matt Stoner Fehsenfeld of Quince & Apple really believe in handcrafted artisan foods and syrups. They actually slice, dice and caramelize into the wee hours of the morning, seven days a week. Their creations are carefully tested and tasted at each step of the process to meet their exacting standards. This artisan-centered approach allows the duo to use the highest quality produce, adjusting for differences in season and variety.
Starting at $9
Little place, big flavor. The Trinko family recipe is still the same as it was 60 years ago. The signature pepperoni is made from beef and pork paired with all-natural seasonings. Other cult favorites include jerky, salami, bacon, bratwurst, Polish sausage and our favorite, maplewurst, made with pure maple syrup.
Starting at $18 per pound
Winchester Boat Works
Presque Isle, Wisconsin
Winchester Boat Works crafts a wooden boat like no other — literally. The product of more than 50 years of experience of master mariners, these vessels are painstakingly handcrafted from raw wood. The company’s 14-foot and 17-foot guide boats can be personally outfitted, making them perfect for trolling the waters for the big catch or simply spending time with family and friends.
Starting at $9,600
Northern Toboggan & Sled
Northern Toboggan & Sled’s creations are crafted in the same tradition originally used in the 1800s. The design of the company’s top-selling wooden snow sleds, perfect for family and function, is centered on durability and practicality. Each piece can be customized with pads, sliders and personalized engraving.
Starting at $370
Many outdoor enthusiasts recommend spending at least one night in a tipi. Consider setting up an authentic one crafted by one of the country’s best, NorthWest Tipis. Owner and craftsman Randy Bendt will recommend the right size and construction to meet your needs. Recognized around the world for their functional and aesthetic qualities, tipis are becoming mainstays for backyard playdates and weekend wilderness getaways alike.
Starting at $298
With every Annex baseball bat, brothers Matt and Tony Ingle bring their love of the game into their products. Crafted from the same sugar maple that the big leaguers use, they come in 10-plus styles, complete with hand-burned custom lettering. The brothers have the worthiest of goals: to have a handcrafted bat in the hands of every little league team in the country.
Starting at $60