Handcrafted holidays

Shop ‘til you drop at Featherstone Center for the Arts’ Holiday Gift Show.


You know it must be getting near to that time of year for festive celebrations when the Featherstone Center for the Arts’ annual Holiday Gift Show opens. Now through Dec. 18 from 12 to 4 pm, you can shop ‘til you drop.

Walking into the high-vaulted ceilings of the Francine Kelly Gallery is like entering a candy shop — one filled with virtually every imaginable art or artisan expression possible. You’re sure to find something for everyone on your holiday list — and it will be hard to leave without a little something for yourself.

Gallery assistant Isabella Morais, who has gone to nearly every show since 2009, was thrilled to be asked to curate this year’s extraordinary exhibit. Given the broad range of gifts — from material to size and function, she faced the challenge of figuring out how to arrange everything so that each piece has a starring role. 

She describes her inspiration, saying, “My dad is an artist and I realized it would be great for the artists to come in and be able to arrange their own space. They created the work so they probably had a vision as to what it would be like and how their tables should feel.” And come they did, setting up their stations while holiday tunes played over the speakers.

The layout creates the feeling of wandering through a wonderland. Rather than grouping everything in a category together, she alternates the types of works to set one another off. As Morais says, “There’s a ton of Island potters and in order to give each artist the space they deserved, we needed to figure out how to separate them.” It’s the same for those who made textiles and jewelry. “We tried to set it up so that when you walk through, you’re not just seeing one sort of art,” she says. “No matter which side of the table you are on or what side of the room you are looking from, you’re not seeing only one type of art but a collection of everything that’s in the show.”

Over a hundred people submitted pieces for the show. “We wanted to highlight Island artists and Island art in general,” Morais says. There is a plethora of choices such as notecards, prints, photographs, paintings, frames, artwork screen-printed on items such as bags, and fine art on the walls. Ceramics in all shapes, colors, sizes, and functions sit on each long table. You will find alluring necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings made with semi-precious stones, beads, leather, or enamel. There are fashionable hats, scarves, funky socks, dress jackets, and bandanas as well as needlepoint, blankets, quilts, and pillows. There are books, candles, elegant to humorous ornaments, origami, sachets, embellished dish towels and knick-knacks like decoupage shells, bookmarks, and even books by Island authors. Just outside the gallery are mouth-watering sea salt, jams, and jelly stocking stuffers.

As a fundraiser, the artists and Featherstone split the proceeds 50-50, although some decide to donate their portion. 

Featherstone executive director Ann Smith says about the Holiday Gift Show’s origins, “I’ve got to give credit to my mother, Francine Kelly. Back in those days, she was looking to extend Featherstone’s revenue-generating season with specific events.” Today, the show, now in its 20th year, starts two weeks before Thanksgiving and extends for multiple weeks, offering that much more time to go enjoy buying those special gifts.

“I’ve already done my shopping,” Morais says. For anyone who hasn’t already begun their gift buying, now is the chance to start. 

The Holiday Gift Show at Featherstone Center for the Arts, open daily from 12 to 4 pm, through Dec. 18.