The Art of Holiday Shopping
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, and for those who don’t know me, the proof will be in the pudding when Asha and I take a BYOB painting class next month and I post the pictures of my finished product <preemptive cringe>. But just because a four-year-old would beat me in a drawing contest doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate real artistic skills when I see them.
There was plenty to appreciate when I stopped by the 44th Annual Celebration of American Crafts, an event showcasing and selling “fine, contemporary crafts” by roughly 300 artists from across the country. Held in a two-story gallery in downtown New Haven, the Celebration is an annual fundraiser in support of Creative Arts Workshop (CAW), a non-profit community art school. Best of all, the event runs from October 27 to December 24, so it’s perfectly timed to coincide with the holiday shopping period.
When I arrived at the gallery, I spent the first fifteen or so minutes just perusing the various displays – which included jewelry, ceramics, colorful blown glass, wood carvings, housewares, clothing, winter accessories, handbags, wallets, toys, and locally made furniture – on my own.
While there were many conventionally beautiful and well-made pieces (like those pictured above), there were also some wacky standouts – like this necklace made out of a combination of soda tabs, Thai beer bottle caps, and creepy cat buttons:
I’d swear that those cat images came from the ornamental plates in Dolores Umbridge’s office. Some of the other unconventional/fun items were this intricate duck necklace:
these funky felt coasters:
this set of metal figurines (I guess they’re the perfect gift for the optometrist in everyone’s life?):
these mounted hamster heads (which I was told one shopper bought and placed as a trophy above her cat’s bed):
and my personal favorite, Smokey the Ottoman (I would SO buy this if I had money to burn):
After walking around the gallery aimlessly, I figured it was about time that I educated myself about these crafts, so I grabbed a few minutes with Susan Smith, Executive Director of CAW. Susan was kind enough to give me some background on the event as well as a brief guided tour of the exhibition.
The 280 artists represented at this year’s Celebration were either invited or “juried.” Many were discovered at national craft shows attended by representatives of CAW in search of talent. CAW also receives submissions from its own instructors and students, who are subject to the same selection process as the juried artists. Many of the artists are invited back from year to year (the Celebration turns over about a third of its artists), and the focus of the exhibition may change depending on the strengths and trends that CAW sees in the world of craft (not to be confused with the World of Warcraft). This year, fashion, jewelry, and ceramics were particularly strong and were prominently and abundantly featured in the Celebration.
Susan also informed me that, of all things, felt is becoming very popular now. That’s right. Felt. That stuff you cut up and glued googly eyes and pom poms to in elementary school. So that explained all of the felt coasters (which I actually came very close to buying), felt jewelry, felt scarves, and felt sweaters that I saw at the Celebration. Another big trend that was also on display was the recycling of old materials to make crafts – for example, the use of old sweaters to make festive wreaths and adorable stuffed animals:
The Celebration of American Crafts ended up being a lot of fun – part art exhibition, part holiday gift shopping adventure. There is something for everyone (from your favorite cat to your favorite cat lady) and a wide enough price range (from $6 toys to $35 handbags and scarves to $300+ ceramics) to satisfy every budget.
And the best part (in my opinion)? If you make a purchase at the Celebration, you can take the receipt to Katalina’s, just down the street from the CAW, and get a free sweet treat! So check out the Celebration of American Crafts to enjoy a free art show, get your holiday shopping done, support a great cause, and refuel with a tasty cupcake. After all, calories don’t count around the holidays, right?