Local art a quirky alternative to prepackaged gifts

Givers and receivers like the uniqueness and the fact they’re supporting the community.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:05 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The day after Thanksgiving avid shoppers rushed to malls and department stores to find the perfect gift for the perfect price.

Vendors in downtown Columbia suggest there is an alternate route for these holiday shoppers.

Columbia has many artists who create appealing crafts with the priceless feeling behind a homemade gift. These crafts can be found in an assortment of original sculptures and paintings sold at various gift shops in town.

Jennifer Perlow, co-owner of Poppy gifts, decided to start a store full of unique and beautiful gifts for the early bird or the last-minute Christmas shopper. For the past two years, she has helped shoppers find the closest-to-perfect gift for their friends and family.

“I am a believer that there is no such thing as a perfect gift,” Perlow said. “For somebody, glass is perfect, for others not. To me, the key to the perfect gift is to know who you are buying for and what the person is like.”

Perlow said the skill and hard work invested in the crafts make the gift much more meaningful.

“Part of what is so important about these gifts is the emotion behind it,’’ Perlow said. “Someone put a lot of time and energy into each piece they made, which materializes the artist to the recipient.”

Robert Friedman, an adjunct professor and gallery director at Stephen’s College, is a ceramic artist who sells his work at Bluestem Crafts and Arsenic Leopard in Columbia.

“People will have a more one-on-one connection with the gift, and because of this, people are prone to keeping it longer,” Friedman said.

Friedman said there is a certain feeling to a handcrafted item and a special part is knowing there is nothing else like it in the world.

“It’s one human being to the next, not just a record of a person, but their personality and a distinct moment in time,’’ Friedman said. “This is something you don’t get from a commercially produced object.”

Lisa Bartlett, an artist and owner of the Vintage Shop, said vintage-style crafts are popular. Her work is often made from a mix of genuine vintage jewelry, glass, and sometimes wood. She creates a collage out of the media and frames the finished product. The price range of the crafts is usually $40-$125.

“These aren’t your typical gifts,” she said.

Bartlett said this local artwork is not only a bargain as a gift but also helps support the Columbia art community.

“People who are supporting themselves with art are beating the streets and working so hard,” she said. “It’s important to me that the handmade work I buy and sell is usually helping local sales and going towards the local economy, versus the corporate. I like that the sales and profit stay in the area.”

In addition to the economic boost of buying local artwork, Bartlett also said the receivers of the gifts love to make connections with what they are given.

Bartlett said she believes customers appreciate the creativity and meaning behind her homemade gifts.

“I think they like the fact that there are older items they can relate to, like, ‘Oh, my grandma used to wear a watch like that,’’’ Bartlett said.

“It seems to create a tangible connection to the past and people like that.”

These original gifts are far more personal than your typical teddy bear or bottle of wine.

“When you buy these local pieces of artwork, there’s only gonna be one,’’ Bartlett said. “When you’re at the mall, there is going to be 10 more of the gift you buy; that takes the uniqueness out of giving.”

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