A lace bonnet for bonbons: I’ve wanted this doily holder for years. It is the ultimate frivolity, and embodies the spirit of the brand that made it: Gohar, based in New York and founded by sisters Laila and Nadia Gohar in 2020. The brand focuses on homeware and tableware, described as “playfully enlivening tradition with humour and surrealism, Gohar world reimagines everyday rituals for the present”.
I’d describe it as practical absurdity – things that serve a functional purpose, in an extreme whimsical way. Think of an egg chandelier, a bag for a baguette, a tiny bowel with trompe l’oeil bean, a lace apron for a wine bottle (ok that last one has no practical purpose; it’s just fun). Useful things that offer a thrill of silliness – and we all need a bit of silliness, at this time of year especially.
But… Gohar is expensive, and the shipping from New York to New Zealand, equally so. I’ve shopped its online store many, many times before abandoning cart when I get to the shipping stage. But there are ways to replicate the Gohar aesthetic, if you look hard enough; they make thoughtful gifts too.
For our first extremely niche Ensemble Christmas gift guides for 2023, some practical and playful gift ideas from local stores and makers – to channel the vibe, without the costs. But sorry, we couldn't find a local version of the lace bonnet forbon bons...
Ice cream scoop with hand turned pōhutukawa handle, $55, from Frances Nation
This hand crafted version is now sold out, but look for kitchen utensil makers at your local markets - or Alessi has a very fancy stainless steel version ($148).
Bordallo Pinheiro artichoke pasta plate, $79
Gohar actually sold versions of this from the Portuguese brand, writing that the trompe l'oeil artichoke plates “add a touch of surrealism to your table”. Several local stores stock the brand, which is famous for its playful fruit and vegetable ceramics.
Gabebes ‘seaweed’ earrings, $28
These glass bead earrings with 18k gold plated hoops are reminiscent of both seaweed and bows, and absolutely give off Gohar energy. And they're handmade in Tāmaki Makaurau! Sadly they're now sold out, but this maker has lots of other delightful pieces including oyster-with-pearl earrings and some great necklaces.
Absolutely anything by Eleventeen Ceramics
Auckland-based ceramicist Denise Porter-Howland makes resting swan dishes, a “banana as a cigarette”, cigarette butts (and used matches), bluff oysters, trippy mushrooms, wishbones: all which also capture the surrealist and slightly twisted wit of Gohar. "Every piece is a celebration of handmade uniqueness, the intention is to encourage conversation and to transform an occupied space."
She just launched her online store too! The most Gohar-esque? Probably the ceramic lobster serving for one.
Kaitaia Fire dried cayenne chilli flakes, $7; Apostle Hot Sauce Saint Valentine Lavender & Rosemary Hot Honey, $19
Niche food from a local maker is a simple gift that people will actually use. And here in Aotearoa we’re spoiled for choice! Give these to your hottest friend.
Hōhepa beeswax dinner candles, $18 for two
A local business with a lovely story and years of heritage (it launched in the early 1980s): this ticks every box of Gohar’s manifesto (craft, time, tradition). And they’re really good candles! Available in a range of colour combos, they’re made from Beeswax from Takapau Kintail Honey. Make it even more Gohar by tying each candle with an oversized ribbon and lace bow.
Carter Were x Ryder Jones peas, sheep’s feta and herbs on toast hand screen printed T-shirt, $130
Sisters Carter and Harriet Were are probably the closest we have, locally, to the Gohar spirit; both with a deep appreciation for craft and the unexpected. These T-shirts are a collaboration between the food writer and creative Ryder Jones (he does Lorde’s merch, too) and feature her recipe on the back, and his hand painted pea, flower and lemon illustrations on the front.
Harry’s self-described “tiny shop” is worth a peruse too, though most of it sells out quickly.
Claybird Ceramics orange candle, $28 (on sale); Nonna’s Grocer lemon candle, $47
A candle in the form of food is Gohar in its most basic form, and also, they’re pretty bloody cute. The pinnacle are candles from Italian brand Cereria Introna, which Gohar sells; locally, Penny Sage has some including a baguette, banana split and salami; while Garden Objects has grapes.
Vintage carrot and pea salt and pepper shakers, $35
“Found dishes” – that’s design (and Gohar) speak for vintage – make unique and thoughtful gifts. Plus, vintage homewares were often quite cooked! The best way to find something that’s truly special, and a little off-the-wall, is to just walk into a vintage store and rifle through the trinkets (try Flotsam and Jetsam, Antique Alley, Vintage Treasure, but most towns have their own version). The key to this aesthetic is to not get too twee, or kitschy (it’s a fine line).
Other very Gohar things to look for in vintage stores? A Mother of Pearl butter knife, a ceramic tureen in the shape of something kitsch, Battenberg or Bobbin lace and linens (then get them embroidered with something sentimental), an antique metal duck wine bottle corkscrew. Basically, the more delightfully random, the better.
Everyday Wine tavern wine glass, $15 each
Gohar has a fascination with glassware, and while these aren’t as delicate as their offering (the tulip stem goblet: dreamy), they are cool. Squat and solid, they’re described as “almost brutalist” and reminiscent of the “workhorse of good-time drinking”. Perfect for your wine-loving loved, paired with a nice bottle of wine.
Exhibit A and Gidon Bing Studio solid brass martini picks, $130
Very few people have any real need for a martini pick, but if you're going to do it, why not a very fancy version? These are made from solid untreated brass, which will oxidise; they also make a chic swizzle stick.