Remember trying to pick out a Christmas gift for your parents when you were little? If you actually asked what they wanted, chances are good you heard, “Oh, just make me something.” And although you probably didn’t believe them at the time, that’s likely what they really wanted.
Now you’re a time-strapped adult and, to make matters worse, you may actually kind of suck at making stuff. But the fun of giving a handmade gift never really goes away.
For Julie Rosvall, program coordinator for the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council (NSDCC), art or craft is always a great way to go when choosing a gift.
“You can’t go wrong, because when you take the time to buy something handmade from someone, particularly someone in your local community, it has a lot more meaning than if you go to a big box store,” says Rosvall. “If you
go to Argyle Fine Art, or the Designer Craft Shop, or a Halifax Crafters show, and you have a feeling that someone will love a particular piece, it’s going to have much more meaning than something that’s mass-produced.”
Halifax has plenty to offer in terms of one-of-a-kind art. And it doesn’t have to blow your budget. For example, Teichert Gallery features high quality art by student artists from NSCAD, which can be affordable because they artists don’t have big reputations yet. “Sometimes you can buy original art for what you would pay for a print in a décor store,” says executive director Andrea Smith.
And Argyle Fine Arts has plenty of options no matter how much you hope to spend. In addition to the art and craft that adorns the ever-changing walls and shelves of the gallery, it also offers an art subscription program called Creative Editions.
“People always give gift certificates, which is great because art is very personal,” says gallery owner Adriana Afford. “But with our art subscription service, people can sign up for six months or a year, and they receive one original signed print each month, with lots of information on the artist on the back.”
In addition to the fun of getting a new surprise piece of art every month, subscribers also get the added benefit of knowing that their new print is limited to a small print run of only 100. The gallery offers prints in many
different styles, from traditional to contemporary. Over the past couple of years, subscribers have received prints by artists like Gordon MacDonald, Brianne Williams, and Jane Rovers.
Pre-Shrunk vouchers are another unique gift option offered by the gallery. The Pre-Shrunk Show is an annual event that features a number of small pieces measuring just 4” by 5”. Normally, each piece is priced at $175, but if you purchase a Pre-Shrunk voucher in advance, the price is only $150.
“In a way, it’s also like a VIP pass,” says Afford. “We have a reception for people with vouchers in advance of the regular reception, and the number of their voucher denotes when they get to pick their piece. So, basically, they get first dibs. A lot of people give that as a gift because they’re not just giving a gift certificate, they’re also creating an experience because the evening is a lot of fun.”
Lately, Afford’s noticed more people giving art in general. She thinks it’s because of art’s timeless quality. Over the last few years, Argyle Fine Arts has started to see families come in every year to pick out a new piece of art for their homes.
“It’s a really nice new tradition starting with some of our people,” she says. “The whole family treats themselves to a special piece of artwork. And it’s fun to see the kids interact with a piece of artwork, because they do give their absolute honest feedback.”
According to Julie Rosvall, Halifax is awash in local art this month. In addition to the Halifax Crafters Market, held at the Olympic Centre from December 4 to 6, you can also find the work of NSDCC artists at other craft shows, and many local galleries (particularly the NSDCC’s own Designer Craft Shop).
So, now you know where to get that perfect creative gift. But how do you know the right thing when you see it? Rosvall recommends spending time thinking about the other person, and choosing something that fits in with their life.
“Definitely think about their personality and what they’re going to love,” she says. “Are they the type of person who gets up every morning and has a huge cup of coffee and wanders through the newspaper for 45 minutes? Maybe they need a new mug made by someone in Dartmouth. Is he a guy who takes a bunch of time shaving every morning? Consider getting him a new locally made shaving kit. Just take time to think about the person and what they love.”
At Teichert Gallery, you have the option of renting a piece of art for someone, and if they decide they’d like to buy it, the rental fee comes off the purchase price.
“You also ask whoever you’re purchasing for to sign up for our gift registry,” says Smith. “They can choose a few different pieces so it’s still a surprise, but you minimize the risk.”
At the very least, Smith recommends chatting with the person you’re buying for, so that you have a good idea of their taste. Because we all know someone who owns a piece of art that only goes up on the wall when the person who gave it to them is visiting.
But no matter how you go about buying your gifts, don’t do this. “Don’t buy your gift for someone else,” says Rosvall. “Don’t say, ‘I’m going to buy this for my husband so it will be in my home.’ If it’s really for you, just buy it for yourself. And then find something else that they’re going to love instead.”
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