For every Mother’s Day that I can remember, my mother always asked for the same thing: a poem. The tradition started when my two siblings and I were too young to earn money on our own. It stuck because my mother, like others I’ve met, always preferred sentimental gifts to extravagant ones, even though my stanzas could never compare to Keats or Ginsberg.
Second to poetry, my mother’s favorite thing to receive would probably be a photo. This is another trait she shares with many moms I know. These days, most of the photos she receives are sent straight to her digital frame to join the carousel of images from past weddings, vacations, and karaoke birthday parties. But the shelves, mantels and walls of her home are still littered with “framers,” those images of moments so memorable that each is printed and kept in its own physical sanctuary.
Of course, a photo as a Mother’s Day gift seems like an obvious choice. But after two years that didn’t go the way most people wanted, why not give mom something you know she’ll want?
If yours is anything like mine, she probably spent more time with her puzzles, comfy clothes, and air fryer during the pandemic than with her kids and grandkids. Another photo obviously won’t make up for that. But it could make mom feel closer to her loved ones — and it would take up less space than a smart garden, a set of watercolors, or most other things she’ll grow tired of.
While the gift of a photo might be obvious, that doesn’t mean it can’t be surprising. At the very least, she’ll certainly be thrilled by the nostalgia she evokes at first sight. If you have the budget, presenting it in a frame will only impress it more. And if you know where to look, there are options as unique as mom herself. (If she or you don’t like photos, a frame can be used to show off art, printed keepsakes, or, of course, a handwritten poem.)
For trendy mums, metallic Kate Spade’s South Street Wave Frame ($65) has curves reminiscent of Ettore Sottsass’ Ultrafragola mirror. Those who seriously appreciate design may prefer the Chassis KP01 designed by Kuno Prey for Alessi ($65). Mixing glass, birch and especially a clipboard, the piece is decorative whether or not it contains a photo.
Also made of mixed materials, but more traditional in appearance, is the tone-on-tone wood and bone frame ($25) from Society Social, a brand I first heard about from SuChin Pak, a journalist, podcast host, and mom herself. It would go well – in a not too matching way – with white marble Clara frame from Magnolia ($22), a line co-founded by fellow mom Joanna Gaines, co-star of the makeover show “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home.”
Few things are more classic than silver from Tiffany & Company. Small but elegant, the brand’s sterling silver jewelry travel frame designed by Elsa Peretti ($200) has room for two small photos and is the type of timeless item Mom might possibly give you one day if you’re lucky. Equally coveted: a Pléiade frame from Hermès ($760), which is mahogany and, like many accessories in the house, saddle-stitched leather.
If mom is a maximalist, consider Jay Strongwater Jeweled frame ($1,050), adorned with a dazzling array of colorful Swarovski crystals. More affordable but no less captivating is the Murrina Light Blu frame from Original Murano Glass in Venice (from $94), which is studded with tiny glass beads, some of which look like little eyeballs.
Is she a regular at museums? The dark flowers of Peeters flower bouquet frame ($42), from the shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, are inspired by the still life of the same name by painter Clara Peeters. Maybe mom is more loyal to MacKenzie-Childs, another New York institution. To complete a collection of the brand’s black and white checkered pieces, try the Vintage Button Frame ($45), which has a dark green palette. If its taste skewed British, the blue and white magnolia flower frame by English porcelain maker Wedgwood ($145), established in 1759, is perhaps more his style.
About a century and a half later, Cavallini began producing handcrafted wooden frames in Florence in 1901. His Pavoni frame (from $55) features silver leaf and a subtle painted pattern that could be mistaken for a natural patina developed over decades. Equally ancient is iron and glass Frame Liliana ($175) by Jan Barboglio. Handmade in Mexico, it comes with netting that can be placed over a photo to give it an older look.
Finally, Aura Mason digital frame ($199), a Wirecutter top pick sold by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is suitable for moms, like mine, who will never tire of staring at photos — and deserve a more beautifully designed gadget with which to do so. .