Thursday, December 1, 2011


Santa Claus has his elves. Here in Santa Cruz, we have artists and craftpersons, many of whom have been working as feverishly as their North Pole counterparts to create unique, original handmade gifts for all your holiday shopping emergencies.

Black Friday is SO last week. But this weekend, festive holiday sales of locally produced art and crafts are popping up like bubbles in a flute of holiday champagne, in venues all over town. (And you don't have to line up at midnight outside the mall with the rest of the sheep to participate.)

Kick off the weekend on First Friday (Dec 2) at Artisan's Gallery downtown. Their current group show, "Home For the Holidays," features a dozen local artists whose work reflects local places and scenes. To commemorate this show, Artisans has compiled a 2012 calendar featuring an image from each artist, on sale at the gallery. (Check out the thumbnails, below.) Reception for the artists 6 to 8 pm, Friday. Click here for more info, or visit Artisan's Facebook page.

Btw, while you're downtown for First Friday this week, check out the Open House at the new offices of the Cultural Council, in the building formerly occupied by University Extension (above Bike Dojo; where Ford's used to be, for all you old-timers). Art Boy and I got the sneak preview tour a couple of weeks ago, when everything was still in boxes; can't wait to see this enormous space all moved-into and decorated for the holidays. The charming, whimsical bird paintings of Chris Miroyan will be decking the halls as well, along with student artwork from the SPECTRA and Mariposa Art programs. Open House/Reception hours are 5 to 8 pm, Friday night.

Speaking of checking out new spaces, bop over to The Tannery on First Friday for a preview of the "Art Hang" weekend holiday exhibit and sale. D. Hooker curated the show, in the new co-op studio she shares with Stephanie Heit and Anita Elliot. 20 local artists—from Faye Augustine to Laamie Young—will be showing gift-worthy pieces in the newly opened Tannery Studio, space # 110. Reception hours are 5 to 9 p.m., Friday. Holiday exhibit continues 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday.

One of the county's most venerable holiday art gift shows, Bargetto's "Art in the Wine Cellars," in Soquel, returns for its 20th anniversary this weekend. Art Boy and I had a booth together at this show years ago (back when I was making my fabric art dolls, called "Weird Sisters," like the one at the top of this post), and it is quite the celebration of art, wine and the holiday season, complete with twinkling lights and strolling carolers. It can get nippy in the wine cellar, but nothing that an extra layer of warm clothes and a couple of tots of Chaucer's Mead at the tasting bar won't fix. Here are the 30 artists involved. Hours are 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday (Dec 3 and 4). Wine tasting available with the purchase of a $10 Festival Glass.

The Aptos Saturday Farmer's Market at Cabrillo College is also getting into the spirit. Their Home and Hearth Holiday Fair features a rotating group of local artists and craftspeople exhibiting at the market every Saturday through Dec 17. Market hours are 8 am to noon, so plan to pick up something fun and gifty while shopping for your holiday meals.

The 4th Annual Local Artisans Hand-Made Gift Sale features work guaranteed to ring up at $25 or less. It's a moveable holiday feast this year, Saturday only at the old Velvet Underground building, downtown Santa Cruz, and Sunday only at the Art Factory in Aptos' Redwood Village. Hours both days are 10 am to 5 pm.

And on Sunday only, the 17th Avenue Studios collective in Live Oak presents its Winter Show of artwork and gifts. Seven resident artists and four guests will be showing their work; here's who they are. Exhibit hours are 11 am to 5 pm, Sunday only, Dec 4.

Whew! Still standing? I don't advise anyone to shop til they drop, especially during the holidays. After all, this is the season to pause and reflect; it was never meant to be an endurance marathon. But if you want to treat someone you love to some special, hand-made memento, consider any of these venues as a fine way to shop locally AND support the arts in one grand holiday gesture.

("Yule Columbina," Weird Sisters doll by Lisa Jensen. "Decorating With Style" by Liz Lyons Friedman, who will be showing at both Bargetto's (Dec 3 and 4) and the Aptos Farmers Market (Dec 10 and 17).)

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