IS YOUR FRIEND a day hiker? Do they like to read a good book at the beach? Whatever outdoor activity your friends or family like, Lyn Collins of Bristol can find a way to commemorate it.
Collins, owner of White Mountain Smile Makers, creates one-of-a-kind ornaments, mini Adirondack chairs, and other decorative gifts for outdoor enthusiasts, like decorative cake toppers and corporate or wedding gifts.
Collins began making her signature mini Adirondack chairs about 20 years ago using pieces of hand-cut birch chopsticks.
“I make the chairs on a jig so that they all come out consistently. And I do them for all kinds of different things,” she said.
One item, titled “Get Outdoors,” is a mini Adirondack chair that features a tiny bag of marshmallows, a cozy-looking blue and pink blanket, and a little stack of wood.
To celebrate completing a difficult hike, she might make an Adirondack with a mini backpack, tiny water bottle and fishing pole, a tiny sprig of evergreen, and a small notebook to represent a hiking or fishing diary. The book can include specific dates to commemorate special accomplishments.
“The great outdoors are my favorite themes, so I tend to do lots of mini backpack ornaments. Bird-watcher, porch time, beach, horse and rider, motorcycle, baby, camping, garden — just about any interest,” she added in an email.
Other tiny decorations might include skis, mittens or a bed roll for a backcountry camping-themed ornament. She also makes an ice fishing shanty with fake snow and a few cans of beer clustered below it.
For birdwatchers, Collins can make a small white or blue chair with the sign “Bird Nerd” with small birding books, meadow flowers, and a little plate of nuts and seeds.
“I also do a backpack for fishermen. And I go as far as even making the fishing pole (as) opposed to buying something. I prefer being self-sufficient.”
Collins worked for a Meredith doll company for more than 15 years before starting her own business.
“I make as much as I can myself. Each piece should tell the story. And in order to tell the story, sometimes you have to buy some accessories to complete the story.”
A recent popular item has been a cake topper — a double Adirondack chair with a small bouquet of flowers and wine glasses. “They sold really well. Everything is made as it’s ordered. And I personalize when I can,” she said.
She also creates her own graphics, and customizes signs to go with the items.
One ornament features a small snowman with a sign that says “Will work for freezer space.”
“They say do what you like and call it work. I just enjoy doing it,” Collins said.
She’s gotten some work through word of mouth, but also through people who climb the 4,000-footers – the 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are at least 4,000 feet in elevation.
“There’s a few people that hike with several other friends, and every time they go out, they get each other little backpacks or that sort of thing,” she said.
State park ornaments
Her knack for recreating outdoor memories has paid off. Recently, Collins was tapped to collaborate with New Hampshire State Parks to create a series of ornaments that celebrate the state’s various parks.
For them, she’s made mini replicas of state park entrance signs, called gallows, that are found at every state park here. Gallows she’s created so far represent Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, Wellington State Park in Bristol, and White Lake State Park in Tamworth. State parks at Franconia Notch and Pawtuckaway may be other options in the future.
“I’ll do the signpost and put a little backpack and a walking stick and a water bottle to kind of commemorate your adventure,” she said.
Her items have been sold at state park gift shops at the top of Mount Washington, Franconia, and the Flume.
“It’s been a blast to take on a new project.”
Grant Goulet of Allenstown, a retail manager with N.H. State Parks, has been pleased with the public’s reception of Collins’ work.
“Lynn had previously done some ornaments for us over at our gift shops; she does some other outdoor-themed stuff. And so that intrigued me,” Goulet said.
The initial ornaments she supplied them sold out quick.
“We had about 100 of them made up. We put them online, and they sold out in about, I’d say, about 12 hours,” he said.
Goulet said the signs are emblematic of outdoor recreational activities throughout the state.
“We’ve always been so passionate about these signs. They’re literally the front door to our state parks. It’s how people recognize a state park,” Goulet said.
“Anything and everything she’s produced so far has just been exceptional. Her attention to detail is second to none,” he added.
Goulet said they’ll offer a few select state park ornaments this season, but they’re hoping for more next year. “By next holiday season, I’d like to have them all available via e commerce.”
While it’s common to shop for souvenirs after an adventure, Goulet said Collins’ items offer a little something special.
“We sell a ton of firewood, we sell a lot of inflatables, we sell a lot of ice cream, we sell a lot of apparel. But when you get into these souvenirs, these mementos that mean something to somebody that really speaks to them about the state park that they love ... we always say we’re in the business of making memories. They really strike a chord, I think, with people, and that’s the kind of stuff we’re looking for,” Goulet said.
Collins does much of her work inside the studio workshop at her farm in New Hampton, where she also takes care of a pony, a donkey and a few goats.
Some of her items, like her miniature log cabins, are sold through Adirondack Life magazine.
Collins is available to work with customers on their orders, including items on her website or at her Etsy page.
“If they see anything on there, and they have a question or they want it personalized, they can send me a note. And I will work with them,” she said.
Search for “WhiteMountainSmileMakers” on Etsy, check the NH state parks website for the most up to date offerings, or visit White Mountain Smile Makers at whitemtnsmilemakers.com.