"In Pilsen there's a very strong community sense," says Heather Burkart, who lives there. That's what first led artists in the neighborhood to organize the Pilsen East Artists' Open House, an annual walking tour of studios that last September included more than 150 stops.
The open house has been happening for 30 years. For the past four or five there's also been a loosely organized December sale: "Artists were pretty much coordinating their holiday gatherings on the same night," says Burkart. This year's slightly more unified event--the Pilsen Artists Holiday Show--was organized by a group of volunteers that included Burkart, who does mostly works on fabric.
Like the Pilsen open house, the juried Bucktown Art Fair--that granddaddy of artists' markets that takes place every August--originally came together because there were "just a lot of artists in the neighborhood," says Maria Mariottini, cochair of the Bucktown Holiday ArtShow. Like the Pilsen artists, the Bucktown organizers are finally capitalizing on what seems like an increasing public demand for artisanal, handmade products. This is Bucktown's third holiday show, and next year the organizers would like to do both a spring event in Humboldt Park and additional December sales in other parts of town.
Buying goods directly from the creator can be an educational experience, says Mariottini: "When you look at four jewelers in a row, you develop a better eye. It teaches you to look."
"Something that's made by an artist is a lot more personal," says Burkart. "It can have a lot more attached to it than just a price tag."
What follows is a list of some places to find one-of-a-kind gifts between now and the end of the year. Events are listed in chronological order and are free unless otherwise indicated. Please note: though many retail stores carry artisanal products, this list doesn't include them.
Ceramics, porcelain, acrylic paintings, watercolors, and drawings at the studio of Ed Hinkley, Eric Jensen, and Aaron Nelson, 4052 N. Western. Friday, November 30, 5-9 PM; Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2, noon to 5 PM. Call 773-539-6047.
Pottery, sculpture, jewelry, glass, scarves, and ornaments at the Lill Street Art Center, 1021 W. Lill. Opening celebration Friday, November 30, 5 to 9 PM. Through December 31. Call 773-477-6185.
Glassware, ceramics, dinnerware, jewelry, scarves, and hand-painted furniture, boxes, and birdhouses at August House Studio, 2113 W. Roscoe. Friday, November 30, 6 to 10 PM; Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2, noon to 5 PM. Call 773-327-5644.
Fine art, clothing, photography, jewelry, and more at the Pilsen Artists Holiday Show, 1700-1900 S. Halsted, 600-800 W. 18th, and 1914 S. Jefferson. Friday, November 30, 6 to 10 PM; Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2, noon to 6 PM. Call 312-455-8976.
Toys, children's craft kits, baby quilts, soaps, specialty foods, hats, clothing, and folk art at the Chicago Waldorf School, 1300 W. Loyola. Saturday, December 1, 9 AM to 5 PM. Entrance fee $1; call 773-465-2662.
Work by more than 50 artists at the Cornelia Arts Building, 1800 W. Cornelia. Saturdays and Sundays, December 1, 2, 8, and 9, 11 AM to 5 PM. Call 773-935-1854.
Jewelry, ceramics, wearable art, and fine art at Art Encounter's annual holiday market, at Chiaravalle Montessori School, 425 Dempster in Evanston. Saturday, December 1, 11 AM to 5 PM; Sunday, December 2, noon to 4 PM. Call 847-328-9222.
Handicrafts, glogg spices, Christmas cards, books, and specialty items at the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark (as part of the neighborhood-wide Julmarknad celebration). Saturday, December 1, 10 AM to 5 PM; Sunday, December 2, 11 AM to 4 PM. Call 773-728-8111.
Cards, books, boxes, and photo albums at Ardour Bookbinding/Springtide Press, 2119 W. Roscoe. Saturday, December 1, noon to 7 PM; Sunday, December 2, noon to 4 PM. Call 773-549-2887.
Ties and scarves by Rachel Park and candles by Waxy Buildup at Mac University, 2440 W. Hubbard. Saturday, December 1, 5 to 10 PM; Sunday, December 2, noon to 6 PM. Call 773-454-7038 or 312-433-9999.
Furniture, home accessories, toys, fine art, jewelry, and more from 400 artists at the juried One of a Kind Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart. Thursday and Friday, December 6 and 7, 11 AM to 8 PM; Saturday, December 8, 10 AM to 8 PM; Sunday, December 9, 10 AM to 5 PM. Adult admission $10, seniors and students $7, children 12 and under free. Call 800-677-6278.
Books, boxes, frames, cards, hats, jewelry, and more at the Small Prints Show at Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, 4642 N. Western. Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9, noon to 7 PM. Call 773-293-2070.
Sculpture, dolls, jewelry, dishware, and more at the Evanston Art Center's fair of faculty and student work, 2603 Sheridan in Evanston. Saturday, December 15, 10 AM to 4 PM; Sunday, December 16, 11 AM to 4 PM. Call 847-475-5300.
Work by approximately 80 artists at the Bucktown Holiday ArtShow, in the Holstein Park Fieldhouse, 2200 N. Oakley. Saturday and Sunday, December 15 and 16, 11 AM to 5 PM. Call 312-409-4658.
Jewelry, ceramics, textiles, prints, and more at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo. Saturday and Sunday, December 15 and 16, 11 AM to 6 PM. Call 312-362-9707.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dorothy Perry.