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Explorations and Curiosities

Creative Gifts

Greater Boston’s thriving seasonal art markets

November-December 2018

The Harvard Ceramics Program show and sale draws about 4,000 people.

Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Ceramics Program


The Harvard Ceramics Program show and sale draws about 4,000 people.

Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Ceramics Program

Hundreds of unique pieces are on display at the Harvard Ceramics Program show and sale.

Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Ceramics Program


Hundreds of unique pieces are on display at the Harvard Ceramics Program show and sale.

Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Ceramics Program

Vases at the Harvard Ceramics Program sale

Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Ceramics Program


Vases at the Harvard Ceramics Program sale

Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Ceramics Program

The Allston-Brighton Winter Market offers local art, music, and food.

Photograph courtesy of the Allston-Brighton Winter Market/Harvard Arts


The Allston-Brighton Winter Market offers local art, music, and food.

Photograph courtesy of the Allston-Brighton Winter Market/Harvard Arts

Allston-Brighton Winter Market shoppers

Photograph courtesy of the Allston-Brighton Winter Market/Harvard Arts


Allston-Brighton Winter Market shoppers

Photograph courtesy of the Allston-Brighton Winter Market/Harvard Arts

Check out works by new and established artists at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts Art Sale.

Photograph courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts


Check out works by new and established artists at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts Art Sale.

Photograph courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts

The SoWa Winter Festival includes hundreds of artists and crafters, along with food trucks, drinks, and activities.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Anderson, CDA Media/SoWa


The SoWa Winter Festival includes hundreds of artists and crafters, along with food trucks, drinks, and activities.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Anderson, CDA Media/SoWa

Enjoy Boston's art scene at the SoWa Winter Festival.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Anderson, CDA Media/SoWa


Enjoy Boston's art scene at the SoWa Winter Festival.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Anderson, CDA Media/SoWa

The Society of Arts + Crafts organizes CraftBoston Holiday, featuring artists chosen from across the country.

Photograph courtesy of The Society of Arts and Crafts


The Society of Arts + Crafts organizes CraftBoston Holiday, featuring artists chosen from across the country.

Photograph courtesy of The Society of Arts and Crafts

The Brickbottom Artists Association, in Somerville, has hosted an open studios show and sale since 1987.

Photograph courtesy of Brickbottom Artists Association


The Brickbottom Artists Association, in Somerville, has hosted an open studios show and sale since 1987.

Photograph courtesy of Brickbottom Artists Association

Visitors can meet with artists at The Brickbottom Artists Association, in Somerville.

Photograph courtesy of Brickbottom Artists Association


Visitors can meet with artists at The Brickbottom Artists Association, in Somerville.

Photograph courtesy of Brickbottom Artists Association

Each year, organizers of the Harvard Ceramics Program Holiday Show and Sale hide the potters’ wheels and buckets of clay to hang pine boughs and stock up on apple cider, transforming the studios into a showplace for hundreds of objects made by program ceramicists. Some 4,000 people turn up to see and buy items ranging from fanciful soap dishes, mugs, and vases to jewelry, dinnerware, and sculptures.

The sale (December 6-9) is not only a chance to holiday-shop for unique gifts; it also bolsters the local economy and furthers the cause of creativity: Artists earn 65 percent of the sale price; the balance is funneled back into the program. Perhaps even more important, the event, and others like it across Greater Boston this season, offer a meaningful, intangible exchange. Artists can exhibit work that might not otherwise be seen, says program director of education Kathy King, and “There’s something about that connection for the buyer—to know where a piece came from, and that they are supporting an individual’s artistic endeavors—that’s really wonderful.”


The Allston-Brighton Winter Market offers local art, music, and food.
Photograph courtesy of the Allston Brighton Winter Market/Harvard Arts

Once you’ve admired enough pottery, head next door to the festive Allston-Brighton Winter Market (December 6-9), sponsored by the Harvard Ed Portal. Now in its second year, the event celebrates local artisans and entrepreneurs and features about 25 vendors, like sisters Letisha and Zeena Brown, founders of the plant-based skin-care products company Brown + Coconut, and Lindsay Miller, who creates and sells hats and scarves through her business, Wo-He-Lo Knitwear (short for “Work, Health, Love”).

Art plus food trucks, live music, and a beer garden featuring micro-brews by Somerville’s Remnant Brewing give the market more of a party feel, and nicely complement the ceramics sale. “You can come browse the wares, listen to live music, sip on a beer, enjoy a meal, and make your holiday-gift purchases from a curated selection of local vendors,” says Eva Rosenberg, assistant director for arts at Harvard Public Affairs and Communications.

Later in the month, across the Charles River, at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, the Mistletow Art Fair (December 15-16) offers other artful gifts by more than two dozen artisans. Items range from eclectic jewelry, winter wear, fiber art, and photographs to chocolates and home-made dog treats. 

The SoWa Winter Festival in Boston’s South End (November 30-December 2 and December 7-9)  proved so popular last year that organizers added a second weekend for this dynamic event. 


The SoWa Winter Festival includes hundreds of artists and crafters, along with food trucks, drinks, and activities.
Photograph courtesy of Chris Anderson, CDA Media/SoWa

“It’s the time of year that people are ready to come and shop and drink hot chocolate and stroll around,” says Aida Villarreal-Licona, SoWa director of community arts and events. “The festival is a fun thing to do, and it’s got the ‘winter wonderland tent,’ with lots of lights and that nice, warm holiday vibe people are looking for.” In addition to that pop-up tent on Thayer Street, which has live music, drinks, and hands-on art activities, an adjacent building (a former power station) will house 105 artisans, she reports, including 25 specialty food-makers selling “jams, cider vinegars, spices, pesto sauces, honeys, and other gift-able food.” Look also for felted hats and booties, body lotions, candles, clothing, jewelry, mini-terrariums, wooden bowls, and seasonal decorative items.

Moreover, dozens of art galleries and shops in the neighborhood will also be open, along with the studios of some 200 artists who live and work in and around that section of the South End, which Villarreal-Licona calls The SoWa Art and Design District (SoWa stands for “South of Washington,” an area bounded by Berkeley and Albany Streets, with Massachusetts Avenue to the west). For more elaborate drinks and food nearby, try: Southern Proper, Gaslight Brassiere, Cinquecento Roman Trattoria, or Myers + Chang. (Taking public transportation to the festival is strongly encouraged, as parking is limited.)

Those eager to get a jump on the holiday season, might head to the Lydia Pinkham Open Studios (November 17-18), in Lynn—just north of Boston. More than 40 artists working in this city's burgeoning arts-and-culture hub open their doors to visitors, talk about their work, and demonstrate techniques. The studios' endeavors reflect a range of materials—leather, paint, clay, metal, and glass—as well as dynamic businesses, like customized bicycles.  

That same weekend, members of Somerville’s Brickbottom Artists Association and nearby Joy Street Studios open their live-work studios for the thirty-first annual pre-Thanksgiving art fête (November 17-18). Food and drinks are available, as visitors roam Brickbottom, a former industrial building, learning about art and the creative processes at work. Objects in every medium, format, and price range are available, from textiles, photographs, metalwork, and pottery to paintings, jewelry, and sculptures.

To meet more than 175 leading fine-craft artists, check out the CraftBoston Holiday Show, at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay (December 14-16). Expect to see diverse, ingenious objects by makers working with materials like leather, paper, wood, metal, and fiber, including urban-chic satchels and clothing (by Canadian designer Annie Thompson), jewelry featuring preserved fruit (from Brooklyn artist Debbie Tuch), and glassware resembling spun silk (by R. Jason Howard, of upstate New York).

The juried show, organized by the Society of Arts + Crafts, aims for a balance of styles, materials, and functionality, according to April L. Ranck ’75, director of community and strategic partnerships. Along with clothing and “millinery, woven silks and batiks,” she says, is “furniture, lighting, kitchenware. It’s a good place for gifts—and apartment and house décor.”

Also planned are afternoon talks and demonstrations, as well as a fashion show. Incorporated in 1897, the Society both supports the work of and fosters appreciation for contemporary craft artists. It’s based in Boston’s Seaport District, with a large, airy gallery space. Two new exhibits open November 8: “Adorning Boston and Beyond: Contemporary Studio Jewelry Then + Now” and “Our Cups Runneth Over,” the Society’s sixth biennial show and sale touting creative drinking vessels.


Check out works by new and established artists at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts Art Sale.
Photograph courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts

Thousands of works by emerging and established visual artists are on display at the annual SMFA Art Sale (The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, in Boston; November 15-18). This popular, four-day event offers paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and even video—as well as jewelry; all objects are made by students, alumni, faculty, and others affiliated with the school. Prices range widely, from $15 to $30,000; artists receive 50 percent of the sale price of their work; the other half supports financial aid and other resources for SMFA students. The sale is fun and stimulating no matter when you go, but for an especially lively evening out, attend the opening reception on November 15, which includes light fare and a cash bar, along with music and performances.

New England winters are a good time to hunker down and create art—or at least get out and be inspired by others’ art-making. Kathy King, of Harvard’s ceramics program, has seen an “explosion of interest” among those who want to engage with art and “work with their hands.” “The majority of our classes fill up within minutes” of registration information appearing online, she adds. “People are at the point now that they are mainly staring at screens, glued to technology,” she suggests, and they’re learning that they want more tactile, less passive engagement with activities. “Giving themselves the time to be creative is almost like an act of activism! To take that one night and sit down and make art? It’s great for one’s psyche and health.” That interest also translates, she says, into wanting to see and buy more artful, handmade objects. “People are getting more creative about what they surround themselves with at home because they see that it adds to the experience” of living, she reports. “Even those not making the art want to participate somehow—and open studios and arts-and-craft sales offer prime opportunities for that inspiring engagement.”  

Seasonal Art and Craft Events

SMFA Art Sale (Boston)
https://smfa.tufts.edu/events-exhibits/art-sale
November 15-18 

Lydia Pinkham Open Studios (Lynn, Massachusetts)
www.lydiapinkhamopenstudios.com
November 17-18 

Brickbottom and Joy
Street Open Studios (Somerville)
www.brickbottom.org
www.joystreetstudios.com
November 17-18

The SoWa Winter Festival (Boston)
www.sowaboston.com
November 30-December 2 and December 7-9

Harvard Ceramics Program Holiday Show and Sale (Boston)
https://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/show-and-sale
December 6-9

Allston-Brighton Winter Market (Boston)
https://edportal.harvard.edu/allston-brighton-winter-market
December 6-9

CraftBoston Holiday (Boston)
www.societyofcrafts.org
December 14-16 

Mistletoe Art Fair  (Cambridge)
www.mistletoeartfair.com
December 15-16

 

 

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