Monday, December 3, 2007

The Art of Giving


Nothing makes me crazier than seeing Christmas displays and hearing Christmas music the day after Halloween. Somehow we have managed to pretty much warp the festive season by racing around driving ourselves loony trying to find things to buy for people who really don’t need anything. Bah humbug! (not really)

I’ve been pretty much a gift maker for as long as I can remember. My long-suffering family will attest to home-made clothing sewn by a 12-year old who really was in a hurry to get things made – perhaps overlooking a few of the finishing details required to make something last.

Luckily, over the years, I have gotten better. But my family still gets a knit something or a hooked something or a painted something nearly every year. And what I can’t make myself, I try to purchase from someone else who has. That’s why, starting in the middle of November, I am in heaven as the holiday artisan shows begin. There are large shows like One of a Kind, small shows in people’s homes and medium-sized shows in all sorts of venues – schools, churches, galleries.

The one thing these shows have in common - artisans. Artisans who are brimming with talent, originality and passion. Artisans who create works of art that people can choose to give as gifts instead of the mass merchandise that is flogged from November 1st every year. Artisans who put themselves out there, seeking people who will admire their efforts and reinforce their commitment to their art form.

Over the years, I have gotten to know quite a few of these extremely talented people. And this year, at a show at my son’s alma mater – the Sterling Hall School –I got to meet someone with whom I have had an Internet relationship for nearly a year. I’m so pleased to have finally had a chance to meet her face to face. She’s as lovely as her wares. We hugged like old friends as soon as I told her who I was. It’s amazing how well I felt I already knew her. I guess being connected by a love and appreciation of the craftsperson in both of us formed an instant bond.

The beautiful belt buckle featured in the picture with this blog is one of her creations. Karen has a company called Bijoux Belts and she makes incredible belt buckles. Each one is different. She combines beads and bling and silver and treasures to create very special, original accessories for the fanciest outfit or the comfiest jeans. Her buckles fit on snap belts, which fasten around the buckle so that you can interchange your belt to match your outfit or your mood.

Her website is fantastic. You can buy online, since her photography shows the buckles at their best. I will warn you now that the hardest part is choosing. Actually, seeing them on display was even more magical, because you could instantly see how different they all were, even ones with the same colour scheme. You could see how much time and talent went into the placement of every piece in the buckle.

By the time I met Karen at the show, she had been there for nearly 12 hours. She had another show the next day and the next and was then heading off to Ottawa for 10 days for their version of One of a Kind. I’m sure she will do amazingly well there.

Last nite, my husband and I went to One of a Kind, which we do every winter show. The vendors looked whooped – after 9 days of record crowds it’s no wonder. I have done two-day shows in my past and I can tell you that even that was exhausting. I can’t imagine multiplying that by five.

I salute these brave, talented folks who bring their artistic spirit to town at a time when I think we need it most. They remind us how wonderful it is to find a gift that is the perfect, unique item for someone special.

Unfortunately, this year I don’t have a theme for my gifts as I have in past years. Everyone already has a pair of my socks and a hooked ornament for their tree, so I’m choosing well-crafted things that others have made.

Maybe I’ll have an epiphany in the next week or so - that's happened before. But for now, I’ll just thank those artisans who continue to create year in and year out, so that I can come and admire their wares and be inspired to create some small token to put under the tree.

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