BY MALEA MARTIN
During the winter season, fine art gallery Studios on the Park transforms into a holiday gift shop. Gallerygoers and holiday shoppers alike can find handmade art pieces at accessible price points between the art-lined walls.
The annual Handcrafted for the Holidays is back and bigger than ever. Featuring 21 California craftspeople, many of whom are locals, this year's selection is fuller than ever before, Studios on the Park Sales Manager Elaina Stangle told New Times.
Each year, Stangle said, the event "becomes more sophisticated. It gets better and better."
Stangle said the show strives to bring more public attention to the art of fine craft, and allows people to purchase artistic goods at an affordable and accessible price.
"We have a price range for the holiday show because we want people to be able to afford to shop," Stangle said. "We specify [to the artists], we don't want you to go over a certain dollar amount. It does sometimes eliminate some of the things they do, but then they'll make things specifically for the show."
With products ranging from woodworked platters and cutting boards to silk scarves, jewelry, and candles, there are options for every person on a holiday shopping list. And for the little ones, Stangle emphasized that Studios' smaller, year-round shop called the Upfront Gift Store features a fully stocked children's section with sock monkeys, books, games, baby swaddles, and more.
Not only does Handcrafted for the Holidays highlight local artisans and offer unique gift options, but it also raises funds for a good cause, Stangle said.
"They're getting one-of-a-kind type of gifts, something unique that you can't find in a department store," she said. "One of our biggest things is that they are helping support our Kids Art Smart program. So the percentage that Studios gets for the sale goes to [the] program. ... That's a big thing for us because that's what keeps us going."
Kids Art Smart is a Monday-through-Friday program that serves all North County elementary schools, Stangle said.
"We have a school bus that comes in and it alternates with the schools. It drops off a bus full of children, and we have a classroom in the back of the gallery that we do the art classes in," she said. "We have volunteer artists that volunteer to teach, and then we also have parents from the schools volunteer, as well as our own set of volunteers."
Twice a year, the kids' artwork is displayed at an open house held at Studios.
"It's so rewarding when you see these children bringing in their parents and saying, 'Come and see my art, in my art gallery,'" Stangle said. "They're so excited to show their parents their work. We have display panels—it's pretty important stuff."
In addition to supporting the Kids Art Smart program, holiday buyers can expect a shopping experience that they won't find in a traditional store.
"Because we're small, it's more personal," Stangle said about the customer experience. "It's just a more intimate feeling. It's like a big family here. ... These are quality items that you can't just buy anywhere."
Stangle said Studios on the Park intends to incorporate original, wall-hung art at accessible prices into future shows.
"We're already projecting for next year's holiday show," she said. "We are going to try to incorporate art pieces in the holiday show on the walls, because we have never done that here."
Whether someone leaves this year's exhibition with a purchase or not, everybody will walk away from Handcrafted for the Holidays with a new perspective on art-making.
"I think it inspires our community. ... They look at [art] in a whole different way," Stangle said. "Art isn't just what's hung on the wall but it's a piece of jewelry, or scarf, or a ceramic piece. [The artists have] all put their talent into that piece."
Arts Writer Malea Martin is shopping at Handcrafted for the Holidays. Send arts story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.