Museum of Folk Art Shop

Neighborhood: West 50s
Type of Place: Museums Gift Shops

So we all love the MOMA, shiny and exciting, known far and wide. But on
the very same block, just doors down from the MOMA in fact, is a
lesser-known treasure. The Museum of Folk Art, true to its name, is folksy
in its displays and also, refreshingly, in its overall vibe--the
exhibits have wit and warmth, and the staff is laid-back and unpretentious.
Right now there's a fascinating exhibit on the artisans who, at the turn
of the century, carved artwork and embellishments for Jewish temples
and, simultaneously, various materials for carnivals, including some
stunning carousel animals (seriously, who knew there was this revered and
long-standing link?).

Charmed by the art and the feel of the place, I wondered if its shop
would also be likable. In exploring, I found a lovely, well-stocked spot
and an answer to the question, "Where can you find a unique and
affordable gift in Midtown?"

My fondness for all things repurposed and recycled had me especially
gratified by things like the clocks made from scratched-up vinyl records
($32); the meant-to-be-heirloom kitchen supplies from Beehive
Kitchenware "made with rebuilt sheetmetal tools rescued from the junk pile" (the
measuring spoons, $45, are especially beautiful); the handmade
paper-rose pins ($5); and the cloth sculptures of Wizard of Oz characters from
SewBeeIt, made with scrap fabric (from $41).

What baby would not benefit from Audubon Society plush-toy birds? Press
a button and a genuine bird-call recording that matches the toy's
species plays from within the plush--no fake quacking or chirping here (a
steal at $8). Kids will also love (but I did too!) the
plastic dishes with cute word/image combinations: "funky" and a picture
of a monkey, "hippie" and a picture of a baby chick, "sweet" and a
picture of a pea (cuuute! $8 each). A clever city-subway-map-covered
baseball is $20; and a working-harmonica necklace, including a small book of
songs and a total bargain at $5, will keep kids entertained for quite a
while--though how to handle the parents' complaints that their child
will not stop playing is gonna be up to you.

As we freeze our tushies off, a creative and warm-looking assortment of
socks, gloves, scarves, and hats looked very appealing. And a wide
assortment of books on folk-art creation, artists, and collections will
satisfy a broad range of interests in the field.

Heirloom measuring spoons? Real-bird-call toys? Unique and beautiful
gifts in the land of the skyscrapers for as little as $5? Again I have to
ask, who knew? Consider this one our secret.

  - Pamela Grossman; Jan 21, 2008

Museum of Folk Art Shop
45 West 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 265-1040

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