Charitable Gift Giving

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Unique Gift Idea: Beautiful Artwork of the Stars the Night They Were Born

November 1st, 2010 · No Comments · Children's Charities

unique gift of a starry night portraitThis past month, Jupiter made its first closest approach to earth since 1963. The next time it’ll be this close is in 2022. Jupiter is in opposition, meaning that the planet has been nearly exactly opposite the sun. If you noticed what you thought was an unusually bright star in the sky, that’s what it was.

I took out my trusty Meade teleescope for the first time in about 10 years and focused it on that point in the sky. Now I live less than 20 miles from New York City, so there’s always light pollution in the sky–I’m usually lucky to see any stars at all. But when I focused on Jupiter, I literally gasped. I could see the sphere of Jupiter very clearly, surrounded by five specks of light neatly aligned in a row. I realized that those were five of Jupiter’s moons, also in opposition to the sun. One of the days in September there’s was another rare treat this week: Uranus was also in opposition and could be seen in the same part of the sky as Jupiter. It’s a rare treat that may not be seen again in our lifetimes.

If you missed the show, don’t despair. Since the earth is constantly rotating, it means that the night sky is always giving us treats like this. Every millisecond of every day and night, the planet and stars line up to give us a spectacular show, and no millisecond is the same.

Why am I mentioning this on Charitable Gift Giving? A few months ago I was contacted by David, the co-founder of a great company called Vapor Sky, LLC. They produce something called Stellar Portraits, which is artwork that, having seen it for myself, I can tell you is nothing less than stunning.

Specifically, it’s a portrait of the stars and planets overhead anywhere on the earth at any moment in time. The portrait is stylized so that brighter and larger objects in the sky appear more luminescent than smaller ones. The result is a portrait that’s both accurate (they include information on the stars, planets, and constellations in your unique portrait so you can identify them), as well as stunningly beautiful.

Since the alignment of the stars and planets are constantly moving, no two portraits are exactly the same. And in addition to that, they allow you to customize your portrait from 36 different styles of colors (you can also request custom colors).

I asked them if they could send me a portrait to write about, and they asked me to give them a date and a geographical location. I knew right away I wanted to surprise my girlfriend Lisa, so I told them her birthday, down to the year, date and time. Since her favorite color is blue, I chose a stunning deep blue color on black. Stellar Portraits usually asks for a city and state in the United States, but I thought I’d challenge them by giving them the longitude and latitude of the city in Taiwan that Lisa was born.

The portrait arrived in a sturdy box a few days later. When I took it out of the protective wrapping, I literally gasped. It was a beautiful large (20 inches by 30 inches) canvas. The canvas is matted (like a painting canvas), and about half an inch thick.

Here’s a picture of Lisa and me with the Stellar Portrait of what the stars looked like directly over the hospital in a city in Taiwan the exact minute she was born!

Unique gift for Lisa - a picture of the stars the night she was born

I wanted to take a couple pictures to show you how stunning the production quality of this piece is. This is a close-up of the canvas (click on the picture to further zoom in on the detail).

detailed texture of the stellar portrait

As you can see, it is literally museum-quality artwork. And because you can customize the colors, you can order a portrait that can fit into any decor or style. It fits into modern room design just as well as it does into a traditional one. Here’s another view of the canvas so you can see how vibrant the colors are, as well as the thickness of the canvas:

side view of unique gift portrait

These portraits do cost what you’d expect to pay for high quality artwork (a 24″ x 18″ portrait like the one Lisa and I are holding costs $199, and you can get sizes up to 60″ x 40″). But when you think about how unique and individual this gift is, as well as its stunningly high quality, it’s well worth it. After all, anyone can give someone an iPod or a Kindle or a Wii for around the same price. But those things break down or fall into obsolescence quickly. People can send flowers or gifts from stores like Red Envelope or UncommonGoods, but at the end of the day gifts from those places aren’t really unique (ironically, it’s just the opposite–those companies make their money when thousands and thousands of people buy the same thing).

I can think of a lot of occasions where this portrait would make a perfect gift. It makes a fantastic wedding present–they offer the option of putting TWO star portraits on one canvas, so the sky the night the groom was born can be on one side and the sky the night the bride was born can be on the other side, each in a different color.  Similarly, it makes a phenomenal anniversary gift, especially for a “milestone” anniversary like the 10th, 20th, 25th or 50th. I wish Vapor Sky had been around years ago when my brother, my sister, and I came up with the brilliant idea of pooling together our money to buy our parents a silver platter for their 25th anniversary (unbeknownst to us at the time, the Brady kids had already thought of it years before, although thankfully my siblings and I didn’t have to don track suits and go on TV).

unique gift for familiesAnd of course, it makes a great birthday gift. What better way to celebrate the day of their birth by giving them a portrait of the night of their birth? It also makes an absolutely wonderful gift for parents to commemorate the moment their children were born (the image pictured to the right is of three star patterns together).

It can also be used to commemorate any event associated with a specific date and place. Get a picture of the night sky on someone’s graduation day. Or the day they finished the New York Marathon. Or the day they passed the bar. Or the day they retired. Get a picture for your company founder to hang in his office to show the sky the night the company began. Or if you know a history buff, get a picture of the night sky on July 4, 1776 under Philadelphia. 🙂 You get the idea.

And of course, this makes a fantastic Christmas gift, especially for couples and families who could use great quality artwork in their homes.

Aside from having a stunningly beautiful and high-quality product, the company donates a portion of their profits each month to the charitable foundation A World Fit For Kids! (

a world fit for kids logoA World Fit For Kids is a non-profit organization which helps underprivileged kids in inner city Los Angeles. If you read their Web site, you’ll see that both the program and its results have been phenomenal. They work with kids, many in high-crime or high-poverty areas who may not have many positive role models in their lives, providing them with positive physical activities such as sports, dance, and cultural enrichment, which helps build their self-esteem and a positive attitude, as well as prevent childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

In addition, they provide leadership training, mentoring and academic support, which has resulted in higher graduation rates and kids who can succeed and prosper in the work world, breaking the cycle of despair. Public funding for programs like this is woefully lacking, which means that it’s great charities like this which need your direct help to save lives. I’d definitely encourage you to look into this organization and to provide direct donations.

A World Fit For Kids’ spokesperson is good old Kevin Sorbo, TV’s Hercules and all around good guy! Here’s a short video that talks in more details of the great work this organization is doing:

My thanks to David and to Vapor Sky for contacting me and for a fantastic product!


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