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The Art in Gift-Giving

Dabble in the DIY spirit of art this holiday season.
Monday Nov 20, 2006.     By Joanne Hinkel
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

More holiday fun.
Stumped on what to get Dad for Christmas? Our holiday guide is full of plenty of smart gift ideas, plus a few other deal-with-December tips. Skip the holiday hooplah with a little help from Centerstage.

photo: Courtesy of One of a Kind Show.
My mom's Christmas list includes a wastebasket and a scale. At least she gave me some ideas.

But they aren't very inspiring ones, so the challenge to find her a good Christmas gift continues for yet another year. Thankfully, Chicago's crafting and arts communities offer plenty of options between Thanksgiving and Christmas for finding unusual gifts for your hard-to-buy-for loved ones.

Not only are these fairs a chance to find a truly unexpected gift, they're opportunities to counter the commercialism of the holiday season with the more meaningful, and personal, financial support of local artists.

Outfit your sassy sister at Renegade Craft Fair
From punkish, black bracelets made from recycled inner tubes to purses made of revived curtain fabric, Renegade Craft Fair has the rebellious gifts covered. After producing massively successful fairs for DIY-ers Chi-town and in Brooklyn, the organizers are doing their first holiday-oriented event. As if your younger sis wasn't hip enough; you can snag her a vinyl iPod cozy from Miss Allison and an off-kilter, avant-garde shirt from Sew Rad and still keep the tally under $75. Prices range from $1-$60.
When: noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 9-10
Where: Pulaski Park Auditorium, 1419 W. Blackhawk St.
Admission: free

Move over Macy's, Depart-ment's in town
A truly original crafter's show, Depart-ment at Open End Gallery sets up shop as a department store four times a year. Those gift-buyers on a mission to get a particular type of item need not wander aimlessly; sections such as baby clothes, jewelery and accessories are categorized for shopping ease. From felt purses to objects of fetish, these are not your typical department store contents. You'll find overlap with the vendors at Renegade, such as Kiku Handmade, but when the goods are this great and flying out fast, it's worth doing double-duty.
When: 7-11 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 2-3
Where: Open End Gallery (2000 W. Fulton St.)
Admission: free

Make merry at the Handmade Market
If any kind of shopping feels like a hassle to you, you may want to hit up the Handmade Market, where browsing and boozing go hand-in-hand. (It just might be up Dad's alley.) Held at the Empty Bottle, you can browse, booze and reminisce about your favorite rock show. With all items priced between $1 and $60, this smaller version of Renegade Craft Fair exclusively features Midwest artists (mostly Chicagoan) and offers the kind of gifts that are perfect for friends: handmade candles, earthy soaps, woodblock-printed stationary and onesies bearing funky logos and rock band decals.
When: noon–4:30 p.m. Saturdays Nov. 25 and Dec. 16
Where: Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave.)
Admission: free

Find funky trinkets at the HotHouse
Your free-spirited aunt who has traveled the world, followed the Grateful Dead and become a yogi, deserves an unconventional gift. This South Loop center for world music becomes an international market for two Sundays in December. Much like club's music programming, the HotHouse highlights vendors from far-away cultures for this annual event that doubles as a fundraiser. Expect to see jewelry with exotic stones, African masks, sarongs, travel bags and prices hovering between $10 and $1000.
When: 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sundays Dec. 10 and 17
Where: The Hothouse (31 E. Balbo Ave.)
Admission: Free

Dare to dazzle 'em yourself by becoming a seasonal DIYer
Embroidered dish towels and a scrap book of family recipes from my future-aunt-in-law were the most memorable gifts given to me at my wedding shower; they even elicited a few tears. Several area schools and businesses offer up holiday-specific workshops to whip you into an artist for the holidays. From screen-printing and knitting to book-binding and paper-making, our guide to DIY gift-giving has you covered.


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