December 1, 2005
by KATHERINE ALMY
I'M NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO HATES CHRISTMAS (I'm going to try to be multicultural here, but my own background is primarily Christmasian), but I don't really like to get people gifts just out of obligation. I want the gifts to be special, thoughtful, just the thing so-and-so's been wanting. But it's hard to find that perfect gift, especially since most of the folks on my shopping list, my family, I only see once or twice a year.
Sometimes my brothers send out wish lists. I hate that. They tell me what they want and I buy it for them? Where's the magic in that? Besides, they're both fanatics about the latest technology -- iPods? X-Boxes? -- and I don't even have a television set or a cell phone.
So I try to look for things that are unique and very Humboldt County. The answer is obvious: Art! Yes, I can give art over the holidays, and so can you. Locally made, handcrafted items you can even have a great time while shopping. There are several craft fairs and sales around town where you can get all kinds of unusual items, and each fair has its own flavor.
Probably the one that's best known is the Humboldt Artisans Craft Fair at Redwood Acres. This one is happening this weekend, Dec. 2-4 (check the Calendar for times). It has vendors in all of the buildings and musicians continually playing on the all four stages. You can also get something to eat there to keep you going while you shop. This is the one that I usually go to, although I've been trying to branch out more and check out other places. They have all kinds of things, all locally made. Some of my favorites are wheat weavings very unusual and attractive -- handmade wooden puzzles for kids, and beautiful floral wreaths and garlic braids. Everybody needs a garlic braid! They're decorative and you can use the garlic. You should eat a lot of garlic; it's good for you.
The Arcata Community Center Craft Fair has only been in the game for a few years, but it's a very nice fair. It's the second weekend of December, the 10th and 11th. It too offers food and music as well as locally handcrafted gifts.
On the same weekend, the Ink People has it annual Holiday Gift Fair. Like everything else the Ink People do, it's just a little bit different -- more on the artsy side as opposed to craftsy. Ink People members make everything at that fair, including jewelry, woven fabrics, photography, paintings, serigraphs, ceramics, spirit dolls, beading, tree ornaments, hand-painted silk scarves and delicious home-cooked desserts. They also have food, and when you buy lunch there you support the Ink People's programs.
The Fire Arts Center has been doing a holiday sale every year for the past few, if your interest is focused on pottery and glass. It has a variety of beautiful utilitarian and decorative items made of clay or slumped and fused glass. The sale -- in Arcata at 520 S. G Street -- coincides with Arts Arcata! on Friday, Dec. 9, extending to Saturday, Dec. 10.
If you live down Southern Humboldt way, or even if you don't, you may want to check out the Mateel Community Center's 29th Annual Winter Arts Fair, that same weekend, Dec. 10-11. This "multi-cultural holiday celebration" features crafts from more than 60 local artisans, international holiday cuisine, continuous live entertainment and multicultural children's storytelling. There will also be a visit from Santa on both days.
In the other direction is the Westhaven Center for the Arts. Again, this gig is a bit different. The center has a small works exhibit up through the first half of the month with everything in the show priced under $200. You can find watercolors, monoprints, ceramics, mosaics, sculpture, one-of-a-kind jewelry and blown glass, to name a few mediums, all at reasonable prices. Thirty to 40 northern Humboldt artists will be represented. The opening is Dec. 4 from 1- 4 p.m. and there will be music and refreshments. An open house is scheduled for Dec. 11, and you can find more craftsy things there.
Don't forget this Saturday during Arts Alive! is the Humboldt Arts Council's 3rd Annual Small Works Benefit Drawing beginning at 7 p.m. at the Morris Graves Museum of Art. It's not exactly shopping -- more like gambling. But the idea is to purchase raffle tickets and stuff them all in the coffee can below the Floyd Bettiga or Jim McVicker art work of your choice. Many of the artists will be there to draw the winning ticket for each of 30 works. You may get lucky!
So, you don't need to go to the mall this year -- or ever again, for that matter. The things you can find at these fairs and sales are far more intriguing then anything you can buy at the big box. You support the local economy, and you'll have more fun shopping. You'll hear music, eat good food, see your neighbors and find things you didn't even know existed!
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