On the walls in my office hang three signed limited edition Judi Rideout prints, one signed limited edition Jon Van Zyle print and an original watercolor by an artist who shares my last name. Guess which one I love the most. If you guessed the water color on construction paper, double matted in peach and black, you are right. That five year old budding artist was so proud of her creation and even a dozen years later, I know she takes pride in the fact that it hangs on my wall. It’s special and not just because I love the artist but because I know the amount of thought and effort she put into it. She told me all about it in that animated way only a five year old can speak- so fast that the words pelt you. I reveled in every detail of the story. Artists are like that whether they are 5 or 85. Ask them about their work and they light up. They live their inspiration and when they speak it gives such a depth to their work. It helps you to connect with it. A piece that drew you in initially, now has you mesmerized.
Every year, I take a trip with my sisters. Along the way, we have to stop and take a picture with the World’s Largest Frying Pan or the motel shaped like a dog or Carhenge – you get the idea. It’s silly but it gets us laughing and out of the car. While we are out posing in front of the World’s Largest Wine Bottle (which, by the way, is not filled with wine- disappointing!), we invariably find a shop to explore. We gravitate to places you probably aren’t going to find through Google that carry things made by hand. In Arizona, we stopped at a roadside pottery shop that had the most beautiful garden art. I bought handsewn worry dolls for a friend. Incidentally it also had a handmade “Warning: It’s Scorpion Season” sign which helped me to really focus on the fine details of the pottery. In San Diego, we found hand embroidered shirts and watched aritsans hammer metal into jewelry. I like the idea of finding the ‘just perfect’ gift that few other people – maybe even no one else- will have.
I also like the added benefit of supporting artists and artisans. It is difficult to make a living as an artist. Even the most naturally talented artists and artisans take years to develop their craft and find their unique style. If I have a choice between handmade and mass produced, I choose handmade. I visited the Schack Art Center in Everett recently. It was incredible to watch Nancy Callan and the other glass blowers as they patiently drew out the shapes and colors. What an amazing place to view art of so many mediums! They have a great shop where you can purchase original works. These places are everywhere! Whether it is your local museum, art center, or street fair, stop and see what artists and artisans are creating. Look around your local restaurant or hair salon. Businesses are supporting artists work and it’s on display. Before you buy the World’s Greatest Mom mug, remember how happy she was to get your mis-shapened but utterly gorgeous sculpture of a puppy. Support an artist and give her that just perfect, one of a kind, handmade gift. She’ll love it and so will the artists.