Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Are you in search of the perfect present? Consider this Mississippi-made gift list, curated by local gift-giver extraordinaire, Mary Kate Whelan.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
If Mary Kate Whelan could have her dream job, she’d be a personal shopper. At the moment, she’s a speech therapist and mother of three who joyfully accepted the task of sharing a holiday gift guide with Invitation Magazines.
“I love gift giving,” said the University of Mississippi graduate and Oxford resident. “It’s definitely my love language. And if I’m being honest, gift receiving, too.”
Whelan has always found great delight in seeking — and finding — the perfect gift. She wants to give someone a gift she knows will make them cry, move them to tears.
“Some people hate to shop,” she said. “I love it. Sometimes when I am going shopping, a friend will ask what I’m looking for and this is what I tell them: ‘I’m not looking for anything; I’ll know when I see it.’
“I’m sure sometimes my husband wishes I did not like to shop as much, but I will say he is a great gift giver. I have trained him well.”
Whelan credits her mom for passing on her powers of observation and appreciation of shopping.
“She can do anything — flowers, calligraphy — and she notices things,” Whelan said. “And we both will search for and find the best price for things.”
Whelan’s advice: Make it personal; give it some thought.
“It means a lot to someone to know that you thought of them before December 24,” she said. “And to the men, especially, a gift does not have to be practical: Your wife doesn’t want a blender; she needs it. Give her something she wouldn’t buy herself and something she knows you thought of before the last minute.”
1. ML Provisions
Mary Landrum Pyron, an Ole Miss graduate living in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, makes and designs felt hats. In fact, Pyron’s hats are the only felt ones made in the state. “She lived out west for a while,” Whelan said. “And that’s where she got her inspiration for these hats.”
2. Turkey Calls
Direct from the Delta are custom-made turkey calls by John Eddleman of Greenville. “These would be great gifts for the hunters in your life,” Whelan said. “And a great way to support a Mississippi craftsman.”
Facebook: search “John Eddleman”
3. Janie Davis Art
Working mostly in watercolor, artist Janie Davis of Jackson does paintings of people’s homes, Wolfe birds and more. “I have several of her small square paintings of Wolfe birds and everyone always asks where I got them,” Whelan said. “Janie is very talented.” For more info on her Jackson shop, contact: email@example.com
4. Mississippi-Made Liqour
For someone who has everything, try a bottle of Cathead Vodka, made in Gluckstadt, or Wonderbird Gin, made in Taylor. “Put together a great gift basket with Mississippi-made vodka and gin, as well as some fun mixers,” Whelan said.
5. Wolfe Studio
“This place is near and dear to me,” said Whelan, a native of Jackson. “Of course, they are well known for their Wolfe birds, but they also have beautiful and very reasonably priced prints.”
6. Properly Tied
Purveyors of great clothing and accessory gifts (such as the tote bag pictured) for boys, girls, men and women since Properly Tied launched in 2013 in northeast Mississippi. “My son has several Properly Tied pullovers,” Whelan said. “Very good quality clothing.”
7. Truckn’ Trends
A relatively new business started by an Ole Miss graduate from Madison. “She has trucker hats that can be personalized and also winter beanie hats,” Whelan said. “Good gifts for elementary school girls, teens and women. And very reasonably priced.”
8. Cross Candles
Made in Oxford by the Caudill family, these scented candles and bar soaps are reasonably priced and make perfect gifts for those who won’t buy themselves a candle. “These candles smell delicious,” Whelan said.
9. Eden Flora Art
Oxford artist Eden Flora creates scripturally based art, including beautiful prints, ornaments, kids’ placemats and more. “Thoughtful gifts at good prices,” Whelan said.
10. Blue Delta Jeans
A great gift for women and men who like jeans that fit like a glove. “These would definitely be a splurge item,” Whelan said. “But these jeans are totally customized for one’s body shape. Friends I know who have Blue Delta Jeans keep going back for more.” Gift cards are also available.
11. Embellish Oxford
Kathryn Lance personalizes gifts such as tumblers, backpacks, bags and more. “These gifts are personalized and functional,” Whelan said. In fact, she’s ordered gifts from Embellish Oxford for her two daughters.
12. “125 Years of Ole Miss Football”
This book makes a great gift for any football lover; it’s also a good coffee table book. “I have given as a gift to my father-in-law,” Whelan said. “I love books that mean something to someone.”
13. Rachel Walker
Rachel Walker creates designs for paper gifts including stationery, notepads and gift enclosure cards. Reasonably priced.