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Home / Articles / Special Sections / Holiday Gift Guide /  From Boulder County's artists comes something for everyone
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Thursday, November 19,2009

From Boulder County's artists comes something for everyone

By Jefferson Dodge

Art is sometimes overlooked as a popular holiday gift, but a variety of locally produced creations are available in Boulder County shops, exhibits and galleries — and not just paintings that cost thousands of dollars.

Donna Gartenmann, arts and cultural programs manager for the Boulder Public Library and the Boulder Arts Commission, says the annual holiday arts show in the library’s Canyon Gallery will be held Dec. 5–20, concluding with an art sale Dec. 19–20. More than 40 local artists are featured, and the artists attend the sale in person. Last year, the artists donated a percentage of their sales toward improvements to the gallery, Gartenmann says.

“Last year was so much fun, to have that much creativity in one room, with the artists,” she says, adding that in the past, pieces have included sculptures, glassware, pottery, tote bags and jewelry.

“There’s something for everybody.”

Judy McDonald, co-owner of Red Canyon Art Co. in Lyons, says all of the pieces she sells were made by Colorado artists, and at least half hail from Boulder County. With prices that range from $5 to $1,000, there are some good bargains to be found in a down economy, she says. The gallery, which opened as a co-op in 1994, now has only two owners but still sells other artists’ work on consignment.

Highlights of those pieces include slate art (everything from light switches to outdoor thermometers) and woodwork (lamp bases made out of aspen, for instance). McDonald makes dichroic jewelry, and her business partner, Mary Johnson of Boulder, is a glass artist whose creations range from coasters to suncatchers.

“It’s not just flat artwork by any means,” she says.

“And nothing’s from China.”

One business that is still a co-op is the Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery on the Pearl Street Mall. Store Manager Kristen Law says 47 of the 200 artists represented at the 37-year-old shop are members of the co-op, and all of them pitch in either by working in the store or paying to have their hours covered by someone else.

She guesses that about 40 percent of the stock is produced by Boulder County artists, with another 30 percent coming from elsewhere in Colorado.

According to Law, there are many possible holiday gifts in the gallery, such as pottery that is “functional yet artistic and handmade,” including the work of one potter who uses local clay from Clear Creek County. The co-op also carries the work of Nederland resident Heather English, who uses recycled materials like rubber inner tubes to make products such as purses and belts, and Phil Lewis, who often chooses local subjects for his meticulous pen-and-ink drawings. Law says another gift idea with local roots is the work of Boulder-based company Dohm-Icebox, which has a line of “upcycled” hats and other accessories made from recycled wool sweaters and jackets.

The sheer size of the co-op ensures that there is something for everyone, Law says.

“If you can’t find something here, then something’s wrong.”

Jocelyn Hunter, manager and coowner of another co-op, pARTiculars in Lafayette, says she and 21 other ownerartists opened the gallery in August 2008 because there was no other outlet for local artists to sell their handmade work in Lafayette without going through a gallery, which takes a cut of the profits.

“It’s not going through a middle man; it’s buying directly from the artist,” she says of pARTiculars.

Hunter, who is a silversmith, says the artists in the co-op keep their numbers at 21, only adding an owner when one leaves, because the founders agreed that splitting the rent 21 ways was a reasonable and affordable amount for each member to pay. The co-op also shows other artists’ work on consignment.

Hunter says good gift ideas at pARTiculars include handmade jewelry, hand-bound books, lampwork beads, fused glass, woodwork, fabric artwork like quilts and handbags, pottery, and holiday ornaments made from various materials.

The gallery also offers art classes for everyone from first-timers to experienced artists, and gift certificates for those lessons make good presents as well, Hunter says.

Debbie Klein, owner of Art & Soul Gallery, estimates that about half of the artwork in her business hails from Boulder County artists, with another 30 percent coming from the greater Denver area.

Most of the local pieces in Art & Soul are paintings, but not all are conventional. In one series, for instance, artist Mike McClung creates three-dimensional effects by burning intricate patterns through vellum and onto paper. Klein says another artist, Ethan Jantzer, creates photograms. He does not use a camera; he exposes his subjects to light filtered through various liquid color sources, like Windex and Gatorade.

The Muse Gallery in Longmont is showing an exhibition of its resident artists’ work through Dec. 23, and it’s being billed as a good source of holiday gifts starting as low as $25.

Pieces include miniature paintings, unframed photographs, handmade jewelry, purses, Celtic crosses and handmade port glasses.

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