I haven’t been making a list, and definitely have not been checking it twice. All my friends are definitely more naughty than nice and this gentle balance makes it a little harder to shop for them.
I am not much of a shopper as I tend to over think gift giving. Although I always appreciate the gesture myself, it is the search for something meaningful that makes me throw my hands in the air, make on overdramatic gesture and sigh an "Oy-vei," the kind my strict (but nurturing) German grandmother performed to stylistic Fiddler on the Roof perfection.
Am I the only one who self imposes this sort of pressure?
Yes. We can surrender and gift the obligatory bottle of wine, champagne, or pink prosecco as everyone appreciates a little help in reaching the perfect holiday buzz. And for some, achieving this state is a matter of familial survival.
But as I see those close around me embrace more creative pursuits (Daniel H. Pink says so) valuing the unique, the local, the one-of-a-kind, the handmade and the eco-friendly, turning to traditional shopping sources seems jejune.
What is WHAM?
WHAM initially conjured up thoughts of Batman and Robin kicking evil butt in the imperative fighting sequence, followed by a need to wake someone up before they go-go. I was naive. My first experience with WHAM was last year.
I saw the light. So let me shed some.
Spacetaker’s Winter Holiday Arts Market (WHAM) is a juried weekend art sale with related celebratory festivities including DJs, live music, beverages and food. Put it on your schedule. The fifth annual market will take place this weekend beginning with a preview party on Friday ($10 general admission) followed by the free market on Saturday and Sunday at Winter Street Studios.
Yes, Nancy Wozny, there will be beer.
Imagine seemingly endless hallways of groovy personalities showcasing and sharing their creative best. A cornucopia of paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, jewelry, clothes, toys, bath and body items and curiosities, all original, one-of-a-kind and by local artists, WHAM simplified my shopping technique and encouraged me to come home with additional items for yours truly.
The most difficult decision? Cash or charge.
What used to take place at the Glassell School of Art has now survived under the auspice of an organization that supports local artists. This year, WHAM will host 60 artists helping them generate income in a still sluggish but hopefully recovering economy. A special vendor breakfast will encourage extending income opportunities beyond the three-day event.
And when it comes to supporting the local economy, what goes around comes around.
“We have had an explosion in our submissions this year, over twice as many as years past,” Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, executive director of Spacetaker, says.
Some of the most interesting participants include Bill Davenport of Glasstire, Brian Piana whose work was shown at FotoFest and Chuck Ivy, who we met at Lawndale. But it's three WHAM first-timers that caught my eye.
“Sixty six percent of artists hold at least one job in addition to their artistic practice, while twenty one percent hold two or more additional jobs,” Stephenson, who regularly geeks out at stats, explains.
It’s not surprising that a decline in sales of work would result in practicing artists seeking income through traditional sources. But can the opposite be true? Those in traditional careers whose income has been negatively affected could also be looking to supplement their revenue by participating in the creative economy.
A kind of alter ego per se. This sort of duality is becoming increasingly accepted.
Michelle AKA The Stitch Witch of SINched
A crime scene investigator moonlighting as a seamstress specializing in corsetry and fine couture, I was almost tempted to interrogate The Stitch Witch with my impressive CSI, Law and Order and NCIS experience. She reminded me that television sensationalizes everything though her work is fascinating at times.
“At WHAM, I will have hats, some small handbags and a brand new creation of mine,” Michelle says. “I have been making large neck pieces out of fabric calla lilies and glass beads. I will have a few corsets on display but they are custom orders.”
Her pieces will range in price from $5 to $500.
Using a wide variety of materials from leather, steel, satins and silk, beads, leaded crystals, feathers, wires, bones and the occasionally shiny dead bug, The Stitch Witch is inspired by historical clothing silhouettes, the female form and anything dark and spooky.
From bullet proof vests to wedding gowns, her work began in her early twenties. Upon receiving a hideous corset from a past boyfriend, Michelle took it apart in hopes of making a better fitting one. She also worked at a leather shop (dungeon) where she crafted leather corsets and other naughty pieces.
“I generally only sell my pieces online on Etsy and Facebook so thought it might be fun to try a juried show,” Michelle says. “My partner and I also really like to try and promote different things in Houston to show that it is a city with a lot to offer. People always seem to skip over Houston when they think about art and fashion and we would love to help show that there is plenty to offer here.”
“WHAM seems like a great way to showcase my work as well as check out what else other creative types in Houston can do.”
Valerie Burkes, The Union Leader
Supporting non-instructional employees in the Houston Independent School District, Valerie Burkes represents members during any disciplinary meetings while fighting for fair pay and better working conditions. Naturally, a union organizer is bound to pick up painting chops.
“As a child, art was my escape,” explains. “It was my way of communicating with the rest of the world. When I became an adult, art became my passion. In 2008, I took that passion and turned art into a career.”
Passion career changes are risky but have the highest satisfaction potential.
What started with a paint-by-numbers set, that formative experience translated into her aesthetic philosophy today.
Burkes’ works combine realism with abstract techniques to capture minute moments with a keen sense of narrative while creating memory points. Her work is stylized and strongly contrasts fore, middle and background while sometimes blurring the lines of negative space.
“I love the ability to speak to people without saying a word,” Burkes says. “WHAM seems like a fun and exciting event.”
Inspired by gospel and jazz music, Burkes will offer original paintings and collages for from $40 to $400.
Valerie G’s Cultured Critter Collective
Growing up surrounded by visual art and music, Valerie G has successfully combined her life as an oboist and her love of slightly odd creatures in bright colors.
From one creative genre to another “my inspiration comes from a combination of things,” Valerie G explains. “Pop culture, television, animals and monsters in general, Asian culture, teeny tiny pom poms, and often the newest vinyl toy platform.”
Valerie gives each critter a well thought out character and background story, some which are born during music rehearsals.
“I love working with vinyl because the possibilities are endless,” Valerie says. “Sometimes I treat the vinyl strictly as a canvas, and choose to just paint it. Other times, I sculpt onto it with any combination of plastic polymer clay, modeling clay or an epoxy substance.”
Her creations are always whimsical. Her most recent work includes hand-sewn plush critters inspired by the South Park “Manbearpig” episode, where Al Gore fabricates a menacing half-man, half-bear, half-pig (do the math). Her own Manbearpigs are designed in three styles: Original, Punk and Yeti.
At WHAM, Cultured Critter Collective will have sparkly snowflake ornaments and desserts, custom vinyl and ceramic critters, hand-sewn custom plush, critter photography, acrylic paintings and 3D collages ranging from $5 to $375.
“I know several artists who have participated in WHAM during previous years and it sounded like lots of fun and a fantastic opportunity,” Valerie explains. “Spacetaker has done so much for the Houston arts community.”
Editor's note: Don't miss Joel Luks' photo essay on WHAM Friday.
Joel Luks giving you the video scoop on Spacetaker's 5th Annual Winter Holiday Art Market: