20 new local artists

Insider's guide to the Winter Holiday Art Market: Don't miss shopping picks


WHAM, photo essay, November 2012
Photo by Pin Lim/Forest Photography
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Julie Newton, Hardware Couture, River Oaks, purse, handbag
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Melanie Loew
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Jennifer Wagner, Orange is the Sun, bracelets
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Tony Parana
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Flippy Baby, Versailles, baby shoes
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Piyali Dasgupta
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Valerie Burkes
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Julie Zarate
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Kristy Rae Wilson, tea infuser, earrings
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Jeremy Keas, Beneath the Surface
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Janet Roe
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Leslie Shershow, necklace
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Allison Johnston, Fuzzy grapefruit
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Erin Sansoucy, bracelet
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, David Webb
Photo courtesy of the artist
WHAM, photo essay, November 2012, Billy Miller, Stretching Summer
Photo courtesy of the artist

Year after year, Fresh Arts (formerly Spacetaker) organizes the Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM), the juried shopping binge at Winter Street Studios that amasses creatives from all shapes and sizes to offer consumers Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and whatever-your-fete-due-jour may be a solution to a finding an alternative to massively produced gifts anyone with cash or a credit can purchase.

A committee of community volunteers pores over more than 150 submissions and accepted 60 artists to participate in this seventh annual three-day spree. Moreover, 20 of those are brand new to WHAM this year, so longtime fans of the event can expect to find something new and fresh.

WHAM begins with a preview party on Friday (tickets are $10) and continues through Saturday and Sunday (admission is free). Though for best selection, shop early.

Flip through this photo essay to view a sampling of new, recent participants and longtime favorites, so you can better plan as you embark on 2012's gift giving season.

Julie Newton, Hardware Couture, River Oaks, purse, handbag

It all begun with a lipstick smudge.

Julie Newton ruined her favorite haute handbag. The search for a new personal reticule failed: She couldn’t locate a sassy carryall that was fashionable, indestructible and easy to care for.

So this resourceful dame made her own.

A first time participant at Fresh Arts’ Winter Holiday Art Market, Newton’s accessories can be best described as avant garde, chic and whimsical.

Most of her materials are sourced from hardware stores. But you wouldn’t know it. These bags are overflowing with chic poise.

Art by Melanie Loew

What appears to be a lovely and decorative geometric pattern, upon further examination, unveils intimate human figures that exert friction between that which is purely decorative, soft and dreamy with surrealist-esque crassness that’s disturbing and uncomfortable.

Yet all those opposing forces work in harmony amid a cottony narrative aura in Melanie Loew's style.

Rather than asking the artist for her inspiration, try drawing your own conclusions. You may discover that much of her leitmotifs inspire introspective thought.

Jennifer Wagner, Orange is the Sun, bracelets

The varicolored bracelets, jewelry and accessories from Orange is the Sun finds patterns in the logic of mathematics, stable rhythms and harmonic equilibrium.

When designing her pieces, Jennifer Wagner pays close attention to texture, color and size — all of which together release energy.

Wagner decided to shift her journey when she became a mom. She left her career, but then she came to realize she needed a creative outlet. Orange in the Sun all started with one bracelet.

Influenced by her background in merchandising and interior design, Wagner's art is friendly, approachable and adaptable.

Art by Tony Parana

If you ask Tony Parana to describe his home in the state of Bahia, Brazil, he paints a landscape that’s colorful, beautiful and eclectically rich in its music and cuisine.

The essence of the region's spirit suffuses his oils, mixed media, sculptures and mosaics. Community festivals, celebrations and lively mise-en-scènes make up a major segment of his artistic opus.

As a second year entrant at WHAM, Parana loves nothing more than connecting with the locals and finding something in an object that links one person to another — across cultures, cities and traditions.

FlippyBaby, Versailles, baby shoes

In response to the lurid affect of the Baroque period, Rococo artists aimed for a creamier, more frilly approach to lighten their elegant, pastoral themes.

In response to a dearth of fabric shoes for her baby, Maria Tiscareno hunkered down and decided to make them herself. 

That’s when she gave birth to FlippyBaby, her company that sells shoes for babies and toddlers crafted out of delicate fabrics, decorations, 100 percent cotton linings, felt and fleece — in decorative Rococo flair.

If only she also made them for adults.

Textile by Piyali Dasgupta

There’s no mistaking Piyali Dasgupta’s provenance. She holds a fine arts degree from Vishwa-Bharati University in Santiniketan, India and focuses on printmaking.

Dasgupta has been a staple of WHAM since nearly the event’s inception, and her textiles — shawls, scarves, sarongs, original prints — have become a major attraction for those seeking unique, high quality, handcrafted personal items.

Though her designs slant toward contemporary fashion — think elegant, sophisticated, fancy — they are strongly rooted in the organic life, vegetation and terrain of Assam and the Brahmaputra Valley, where she spent many of her formative years as a child.

Painting by Valerie Burkes

Union leader by day, artist by night — but not quite as clear cut by what the tolling of a clock may say.

As a child, art became Valerie Burkes escape, beginning with paint by numbers and carrying over to her narrative musings on canvass today.

There’s keen sense of internal realism in her images — a combination of a guarded secret whose details remain concealed. Yet it’s the emotion that radiates from the figurative shapes to the viewer, who often loses his or her sense of time while looking for clues.

It’s her way of speaking to her collectors without saying a word — much like music.

Art by Julie Zarate

Choosing one work of Julie Zarate that would reveal her style was implausible. Influenced by zeitgeist of the Renaissance — think Michelangelo — to contemporary Venezuelan Neo-pop painter and sculptor Carlos Yepes, Zarate’s own two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects fringe the boundaries of what’s iconic, timeless, fresh and radical.

As a founder of the art group Las Chingonas, Zarate is no stranger to aesthetic risk taking. And that’s evident in her work and her collectors, who seek her art for its infinite interpretations.

Kristy Rae Wilson, tea infuser, earrings

As a member of the Houston Metal Arts Guild and as former artist-in- residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Crafts, Kristy Rae Wilson is recognized for translating daily objects into thoughtful conversation pieces that delve into how everyday things affect the psyche.

Whether that’s through questioning gender roles, history, family heirlooms and collectibles that carry a legacy, Rae Wilson reconstructs reality only to shine a different story — a story that’s then crafted, forged and imagined in the mind of the beholder.

This is her second year at WHAM.

Jeremy Keas, Beneath the Surface

To describe the style of Jeremy Keas is akin to opening a box of chocolates: Keas is full of surprises — and so is his photography.

Embedded in strong geometric composition is an electric sensitivity that takes the onlooker on a visual journey in, about and outside of the image. Elements collocate to render sophisticated, artistic sketches that are both aesthetically rich, yet pleasing to the eye.

Janet Roe, photography

Maybe it's a result of her background in the practice of law but Janet Roe has an eye for what’s hidden beneath a simple background, image or setting.

In her portrait photography, influenced strongly by her work in photojournalism, she’s tickled by the raw emotion that’s often disguised by words, yet evident in expressions.

The same can be said for her figurative and abstracted works. By juxtaposing textures and patterns on urban images of Houston life, she tells a different truth about vibrant city surroundings — and creates a visual language to portray the personality of the Bayou City.

Leslie Shershow, necklace

A WHAM first-timer, Lesie Shershow isn’t new to the arts and crafts business. With training in metals at the Massachusetts College of Art, she landed and finished a seven-month residency at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.

Shershow’s metalwork dialogues about the nature of ownership — Do items have value? How do we assign such value? — without deviating from an object that’s charming, alluring and familiar.

Her jewelry often combines unexpected materials.

Art by Allison Johnston, Fuzzy Grapefruit

Go ahead, chuckle. Anyone would at something named Fuzzy Grapefruit, especially alongside this Bacon Loves Egg note card.

That would be the work of Allison Johnston, whose studies in graphic design, music and bookbinding fuse for mischievous stationary and paper goods that smile outwardly at their recipients.

About the name: It combines two things that Johnston loves — citrus fruits and fuzzy creatures. Don’t be surprised to come across boxing kangaroos, flying elephants, goats and other friendly critters in her creations.

Erin Sansoucy, bracelet

Chiyogami is traditional Japanese block-printed paper typically used for origami applications. The patterns are zestful, joyful and, more often than not, their repeating shapes are drawn from the nature world.

Erin Sansoucy’s GamiWorks transcribes these brilliant ornaments into modern glass jewelry, bracelets, belt buckles, accessories and candles. Each bead is one of a kind.

Print t-shirt by David Webb

To think that there's creativity in scientific processes isn’t rare — anymore. Though once the fields were considered disparate form each other, their study wasn’t exclusive in the land of yesteryear.

David Webb stems from that tradition. His studies in genetics, ecology, evolution, genealogy and living systems tangibly manifest themselves in his block prints, mono prints and photo prints, using materials like Tibetan papers made from plants and grasses.

This sunny T-shirt would make anyone smile. Agree?

Billy Miller, Stretching Summer

Like the chicken and the egg, it’s difficult to discern whether Billy Miller’s tech prowess or artistic skills came first. And it actually doesn’t matter, really.

In Miller's work, digital imaging and flamboyant colorful brushstrokes mingle to emerge as a cornucopia of playful movement that jumps from its modern canvass.

Miller challenged himself to create a work of iPhone art per day. Much of his output is as varied as a day exploring Houston’s art scene.