Woman enjoying custom playlist

Nothing says “I was thinking of you” better than a customized gift — check out these one-of-a-kind ideas.

The Gift of Music

Are you still trying to find the perfect gift for those impossible-to-buy-for people on your list? Consider a custom playlist created by longtime music aficionado Julie Zorn. Through her company Melody Makers, Zorn uses her vast knowledge of music to compile individualized collections of songs geared to specific listeners or situations.

For example, when a friend was going through chemotherapy, Zorn made a playlist of inspirational songs to provide hope and encouragement during that difficult experience. She has also compiled playlists of high-energy music for exercise instructors or individuals to use during classes or workouts.

“Each playlist has its own energy,” Zorn says. “The songs may be peaceful, energizing or uplifting — and music can be very therapeutic.”

Zorn has curated songs for new parents to listen to during nighttime feedings and created playlists to ease the boredom of long automobile or airplane trips. Party playlists are another popular category. To celebrate a major birthday, one client requested a playlist of the No. 1 hit songs from the last 55 years.

“Before there were playlists, I used to make mix tapes for people,” says Zorn, a retired social worker. “I’ve always loved curating, putting the music together to bring people joy and peace and good energy.”

Zorn cultivated her knowledge of musical artists and genres during the 10 years she worked for the former Harmony House chain. She gained additional experience as a DJ for local parties and events.

Before creating a playlist, Zorn sets up a phone interview with the client to learn about their musical tastes, favorite artists and how they plan to use the finished product.

“As we talk, I get a sense of what songs and musicians they might enjoy,” she says.

After a thorough research and selection process, Zorn shares a link to the finished playlist via text, email or messenger. Recipients can listen to the music on a cell phone, computer or tablet. The cost varies according to the length and complexity of the playlist.

Custom Paintings

Courtesy of Vee Rose Art

Looking for a gift that stands out? Imagine your sister’s face when she unwraps a painting of her all-time favorite Beatles album. Or perhaps your kids would love a pop art version of their graduation photo.

Using acrylic paints on canvas, Olivia “Vee” Rose creates original wall art in a variety of shapes, sizes and themes that include movies, books, music, pets, yoga, sports, love and friendship. She can work from a photograph, illustration, book or album cover, or any visual or verbal inspiration.

“Just give me a concept, and I’ll roll with it,” she says.

Her canvases generally range in size from 8 x 8 to 18 x 36, but she will make smaller or larger paintings to accommodate wall space or subject matter. Prices start at $15-$20 and vary according to the size and intricacy of the piece.

Contact her at Oliviagrose96@gmail.com or through the Vee Rose Art Facebook page.

Cop a New “Hattitude”

Courtesy of Elaine Astrein

After 30 years as an art teacher in the Detroit school system, Elayne Astrein was ready for a new endeavor. Determined to find something she was passionate about, hat-making was a natural choice. Several years ago, Astrein had begun making hats for herself using a variety of techniques that included crocheting, weaving, felting and embellishing.

“Whenever I wore one of my hats, people would stop and ask me where I got it,” she says. “I finally realized this is what I should be doing.”

Astrein, whose hats can be found at local craft and art shows, credits her late mother, Faye Katz, for inspiring her creations.

“My mom always wore hats; she told me they were elegant,” Astrein says. “She taught me about fabric and the importance of quality materials.”

Today, Astrein has more than 250 different hats in her inventory; no two are alike.

Styles range from fedoras to floppy sun hats to embellished baseball caps in a variety of fabrics that include suede and leather. Some reflect current fashion trends, such as animal prints, while others have a vintage look.

“I use good fabrics and buttons and trims — no chintzy lace,” says Astrein, who also welcomes custom orders.

Prices range from $30-$180, depending on the fabric and complexity of the design.

Contact Astrein at AHat4me@yahoo.com for purchase information and a list of her upcoming shows.

Read more: Janice Ungar’s Galaxy Puzzles


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