In most places in America, the approach to the holiday season signals a race to the big box stores to grab the latest electronics, toys, and other mass produced items. Here, for many, the kick off to gift shopping begins with the opening of the Featherstone Center for the Arts Holiday Gift Show, where shoppers can find a selection of Island-made gifts as varied as the range of artists and artisans that the Vineyard can boast.
This weekend the gift show, in its ninth year, opens with a preview party on Friday evening, Nov. 18. Starting on Saturday the show will be open every day from 12 noon to 4 pm until December 18. The holiday show has expanded every season since its inception. Last year 63 artists participated, and this year a similar number are expected.
Prices of items run from $5 to $250. Those involved range from well-known Island artists to a few part time artisans who are offering the fruits of their labors for the first time. Among the established artists participating are Wendy Weldon, Marston Clough, and Fae Kontje Gibbs. Washington Ledesma will feature his fantastical ceramics, along with a handful of other ceramicists. The glass bead jewelry from Stephanie Wolf will be among a variety of selections ranging from enamel pieces to pearl and silver creations. There will be hand-knit scarves and sweaters, hand-sewn bags, wreaths, ornaments, and lots of handmade cards.
The gift show is a great place to discover new artists. Among some of the unique offerings are those by part time artists and hobbyists who only show their work occasionally or sell from their homes or online.
Small paintings by bird-lover Genevieve Jacobs were the hot seller last year. “They literally tend to fly off the walls,” she said. Ms. Jacobs executes realistic paintings of a variety of birds on bright colored backgrounds. The little 4×4 prints are done on freestanding canvas blocks and can be propped up on a shelf for a little splash of color.
Deirdre DeCarion notes that her canes, walking sticks, and staffs were very popular with men last year. She is always on the lookout for interesting branches and saplings, which she treats, sands, and polishes to create natural wooden gifts. She also makes unusual coat hanger hooks and something called “talking sticks.” Aboriginal tribes introduced the idea of using a stick to indicate the speaker who had the floor at the moment and many Native American tribes have used the sticks in tribal meetings. Ms. DeCarion notes that the talking sticks are popular among therapists and teachers.
First time participant Fred Hancock also makes good use of the natural beauty and diversity of wood. Using a lathe, he hand-turns beautiful wooden bowls, vases, candy dishes, and candlestick holders. Utilizing a variety of interesting woods and incorporating worm holes and other inconsistencies into his designs, he creates unique pieces, some rustic, some more polished looking, all striking works of art.
There are two artists who use vintage fabrics for their work. Jo Maxwell has created a line of pillows crafted from old chenille bedspreads and bark cloth, a sturdy cotton fabric characterized by retro designs. Her most popular line is made from illustrated grain, seed, feed, and flour sacks. The decorative pillows are finished in French cotton ticking material and are lined and stuffed with organic cotton. Ms. Maxwell, who owns Chesca’s in Edgartown, has been collecting the fabrics for years and she makes three trips to different parts of the country in the off-season to purchase more materials. She was inspired to start the project by her own search for pillows. She says, “I’m so disillusioned with all the things from China and all the toxic materials.” She finds that quality of the old fabrics is superior to new ones and she is also happy to be repurposing and updating her finds.
Designer Minor Knight has found another way to recycle beautiful old fabrics. She will be offering her sensuous scarves made from silk kimonos backed with velvet. Ms. Knight will also feature other items from her line, including striking Mongolian lamb vests and retro coat dresses made from vintage look fabrics, some with fur collars and cuffs.
The show attracts a lot of loyal shoppers, some of whom manage to take care of the bulk of their shopping in one day. Anne Grandin of Vineyard Haven has attended every year. She notes that last year she bought a painting, jewelry, a print, a little book of prayers, and a talking stick as gifts. However, the temptation to gift oneself can be irresistible. Ms. Grandin confesses that she indulged herself with one purchase last year. “I bought a little painting by John Holladay which I was going to give to somebody else but I fell in love with it.”
9th Annual Holiday Gift Show Preview Party, Friday, Nov. 18, 7 to 9 pm, Featherstone, Oak Bluffs. Champagne and chocolate will be served.
Gift Show continues daily through Dec. 18, 12 noon to 4 pm. 508-693-1850; featherstoneart.org.