The Gift of Art

Thanksgiving is near and after its festive celebration with the family, comes the horrible onslaught of pressure to buy gifts for the Christmas holiday. Ads on television, radio and the web tell us of the savings we’ll have if we buy wares from this store or that. “Spend, spend, spend!” is the holiday jingle that echoes like an earworm in my head and it makes me wonder, if my generation is the last to recall a time when gifts for the holidays were hand-made instead of purchased; a custom that seems to have slowly died away.

Holidays were a simpler time. People purchased art or crafts for their loved ones if they didn’t make the items themselves. Craft fairs were abundant after Thanksgiving, people selling one-of-a-kind, hand-made items. I recall spending afternoons, walking the fair, eating holiday cookies and drinking eggnog or cider and looking for special gifts for family and friends. Now, there’s hardly a craft fair to be found; another custom that has gradually become extinct.

People don’t want hand-made items. They want electronics and designer names; products that are mass-produced in countries where slave-labor is cheap and the profit margins are high. They’re not interested in one-of-a-kind items, lovingly created especially for them. Or are they? Is this just an illusion created by marketeers to get people to shop ‘til they drop each year? Every time I’ve ever given my art or a hand-crafted item, I’ve had great response. Not only was the receiver delighted with the item, but those around asked if they could have one as well.

The holidays have, and will always be a time when I make gifts for those I love. As an artist, this is a no-brainer. But if I weren’t talented in this area, if I couldn’t draw, or knit, or sew, or cook to save my life, then I would find those who could and buy their wares, because I not only would be getting an item of quality and value, I would be supporting the arts. I don’t want to fill the world with plastic devices that are obsolete in a year’s time because something faster or better has come along to surpass it. I want to give something that lasts through the years, generation to generation if possible, because I feel my loved ones deserve quality.

So here’s my holiday advice to anyone dreading Black Friday or the hoards of harried holiday shoppers from now until December 25th; give the gift of art. If you can’t make your own presents, then let me suggest buying music, hand-made crafts from local crafters or tickets to the local theater’s plays. Bake breads or cookies, or make jams or jellies if that’s where your talent lies. Create a book of poetry, or recipes, or memories to give to your family and friends. Go to your local fabric, craft or yarn shop and ask if they know of people who sell their creations, if there are no craft fairs to be found. Employ the talent of the artists, crafters,  musicians, and writers in your own personal network and purchase what they have to sell. Your gift will be two-fold. It will delight the person you’re giving it to as well as employ a local artist who needs the income. Buy the gift of art.