Just for him or her

Personalized gifts they have to keep
By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  December 10, 2007

Take a moment to think about how many things in your daily life are personalized. From your iTunes playlists to your coffee order, everything these days is calculated to fit your very own wants and needs. So, it seems completely archaic for holiday gifts to not be personalized. This goes well beyond engraved pen sets and monogrammed napkins.

First off, if you’ve got a photo — even just one photo, even a blurry one of your Aunt Edna’s Scottish Terrier — you can customize pretty much anything. Photo-enhanced personalized gifts range from the traditional — a picture in an engraved frame — to the elaborate — a family portrait emblazoned on marble. If marble’s not quite your thing, there are other more gift-able options. The crew over at DESIGN A MOSAIC will create a large print of a photo of your choice by carefully adjusting the color and tone of an amalgam of your submitted pictures. In other words, they make one big “mosaic” picture out of a lot of modified little pictures. The Georgia-based company has been around since 2005, and prices mosaics from $19.99 to $49.99, depending on size. It’s the artistically and technologically amped-up version of a photo album.

PAINT YOUR LIFE, based in Oregon and the United Kingdom, will create custom prints or paintings in oil, charcoal, or pastels from any photo you upload to their Web site. Prices range from $99 to more than $800, although they ask for only 20 percent up front. The rest is owed, we assume, after you view your photograph reimagined as fine art.

Personalized mosaics and paintings can be aesthetically inventive gifts (here’s hoping you don’t order a wall-size mosaic of your naked baby photos), but photo-personalized gifts take a turn for the odd at personalized pillows, blankets, and bedding. VISION BEDDING transfers photos and photo collages onto pillows and bedspreads. Even at $59 to $250, the comic value may be tempting, but the thought of waking up drooling on a portrait of, say, Grandma, may outweigh the gag-gift factor.

Heading away from the comic and toward the cosmic, Web sites such as STAR WISHING and STAR DEED allow you to give the gift of the universe — or at least a very tiny chunk of it. For about $39.95, on either of these sites, buyers can name and purchase the deed to a star. On one level this is sweet, and possibly romantic — sole or dual ownership of one star in the sky — but on another it’s a bit megalomaniacal. What great power granted these companies ownership of the stars? Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates — among others on the long list of celeb supporters — according to the Star Wishing Web site.

But in terms of the most technologically advanced personalized gifts, celestial proprietorship isn’t the absolute tops. That title belongs to the personalized font. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about type-face design companies such as VLETTERFONT GOD, and FONT SHOP, which analyze and manipulate anyone’s handwriting into a personal computer-printing font. The companies provide said font on a CD so that the customer (or your recipient) can add it to his or her word-processing program. The cost ranges from about $49.95 to $179, depending on the company, and how quickly you need it delivered. Gift-wise, this could be tricky. After all, no one wants someone else’s handwriting as a gift, and since most of these companies require that extensive forms be filled out, to lend a valid sample of handwriting, you may need to sneak around, stealing grocery-list Post-Its, or find some way to trick your loved one into writing the alphabet. It’s a challenge, but totally worth it for such an innovatory gift concept.

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