Put down the credit card. Step away from Target.com. This holiday season, instead of giving your loved ones mass-produced plastic crap that's only going to enrich the faraway shareholders of some big box store, you should check out the wares being offered by your friendly neighborhood artists. From one-of-a-kind drawings to screen prints of concert posters to jewelry made out of rice, there's something for everyone — and you don't have to look far to find it. By shopping for art locally, you'll support local businesses and get that special cool-kid glow that comes from giving the most original gifts under the tree (or menorah).
Get started this weekend with two big shows featuring local artists and crafters. Saturday, December 15, is the third-annual Travulous & Friends Spread Cosmic Cheer Holiday Market & Musical at the Bubble (810 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale). More than 20 vendors will sell unique handmade items, from recycled wool crochet wearables to one-of-a-kind metal jewelry pieces — and prices start as low as $10. Take, for instance, customized pieces from the Greenacres writer known as Jenny Writes on Rice (Facebook.com/JennyWritesOnRice). She'll put your message on a tiny piece of rice, drop it into a handblown glass vial, and turn it into a necklace, key chain, or earrings ($10 to $30). While you're at the festival, you might also hop into the FUNbooth concept photo booth, grab a bite from a food truck, stay for a local band, or take home a batch of rose petal loose-leaf tea.
Also this Saturday, up at still-new Ink N Pistons tattoo shop, which doubles as a gallery called Slushbox (2716 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach), 20 artists and crafters will join forces for the Holiday Trunk Show, an art and handmade goods event that, according to organizer Amanda Linton, brings together groups of crafters who are usually more self-contained. Especially giftable items at the show include the edgy jewelry of West Palm-based designer Amy Lou. For $56, you can pick up a necklace that's made with metallic beads, gunmetal skulls, and a brass chain. Lake Worth-based Pique Studios (etsy.com/shop/piquestudios) will offer ink-and-watercolor prints by Pam Kwarchak. These calming and fantastical drawings have themes of mermaids, trees, elephants, and waves,and go for $10 to $90.
Every year, the Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery, which is located on the second floor of Tate's Comics (4566 N. University Drive, Lauderhill), hosts a salon-style cash-and-carry exhibition called Small Stuff 6. This sixth-annual edition opened on November 25, and everything on display — small works by local, national, and international artists — is for sale. Particularly lovable are the crocheted potted cacti by California-based Toshwerks. One killer piece still waiting for an owner is a 3-by-3.5-inch silkscreen on wood by Jinx Remover. The piece, called Easy Rider, is a magenta-colored mug shot. The selection of pop culture novelties like graphic novels at Tate's downstairs is also worthy of a browse. Small Stuff 6 runs through January 12. Eyeball some of the works online at bearandbird.com.
If you're shopping for a music fan, check out screenprints from Fort Lauderdale-based Iron Forge Press, the shop responsible for an impressive portfolio of truly artful concert posters for acts as varied as Surfer Blood and the Wiggles. Andrew W.K., Matisyahu, and even Woody Allen have all been immortalized by Iron Forge artists. These sell for just $20 a pop. Visit ironforgepress.com.
If your budget goes into the three-digit range, South Florida-based Francesco LoCastro offers limited-edition prints from his colorful "Geometry" series for sale on his web store (francescolocastro.com). A 12-by-12 inch limited-edition print of his trippy but fascinating Gamete goes for $325. Distinguished pastel artist Jacqueline Roch's (jrochfineart.com) tropical realist paintings are available to view and purchase by appointment through the Brush Strokes studio space, located within the parking complex at the Galleria Mall. Brush Strokes will also host an open house Saturday, December 22.
If picking out art is simply not your forte, a museum membership is a quick way to an art lover's heart and a great reason to get out of the house for a dose of culture. The Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale, the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the Young at Art Children's Museum, and the Miami Art Museum all offer individual annual memberships starting around $50.