How to Give Great Holiday Gifts While Being an Exemplary Human
Do you like to give (and receive) amazing gifts? Ho Ho Hof course you do!
Do you like to live in a city, rich with art, vibrant streets, and interesting people? RING TING TING-A LING!
No one wants a cold steel artless robot future. But what are we actually doing to ensure this doesn’t happen? Sometimes it can feel like we are powerless to make our cities better, but I’ve got a genius idea on how we can do just this by giving (or requesting) great gifts. That’s right, get/give something schweet AND support the people that actively make our communities better!
The way I see it, you’re gonna spend money on presents no matter what—and that’s totally fine*—SO WHY NOT SUPPORT A LOCAL ARTIST WHILE YOU’RE AT IT? This way, the money you spend once serves two wonderful purposes! That rare, coveted, financial double-victory! Get something awesome for yourself or a friend and quite literally feed the families of your neighbors who enrich the place you live.
*Don’t go into debt over presents. It’s not worth it. Stick to a plan and stay calm with your money, you’re not 13-year-old me at Spencer’s Gifts, okay?
Some of you are out there slurping up those Black Friday deals, and that’s okay. But there are a million person finance bloggers out there who will tell you how to score the best deals, and I’m not one of them. I want to give you an alternative way to look at holiday spending.
I often hear people speak fondly of their town’s diverse artist or artisan community. But what are we doing to support these human beings, ensuring they can make a real living and stay right where they are? It’s no secret that new money displaces artists—I witnessed it happen in San Francisco and I desperately don’t want it to happen in Portland (I mean, it’s happening). When I sit down at a local bar for a beer + a chat with a stranger (my favorite pairing), I want there to at least be a chance that the person sitting next to me is an artist.
When you buy that mass-produced cherry blossoms “painting” from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, the original artist makes very little, if any, of that money. It’s 50 of your dollars that some exec will use to wipe his ass. When you support a local artist, it’s a direct investment in the well-being of that person and your city’s social and cultural fabric. And the great news is, it’s easier than ever to find affordable art! I used to think art shopping meant buying a shitty $4,000 Thomas Kinkade painting at the mall, but nope!! There’s so much out there!
I encourage you to dig deeper still, and specifically seek out women artists and artists of color to support. This will come as a shock to exactly no one, but rampant discrimination still exists within the art community, with women artists earning less (81 cents to the male artist’s dollar), experiencing significantly less representation in museums (women constitute between 3 and 5% of art in major permanent exhibitions) and galleries (30%, despite being producing over 50% of MFA graduates), less opportunity, and fewer leadership positions. The top three museums in the world—the British Museum, the Louvre, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art—have never had female directors. You guys, the British Museum was established before the United States of America. You’re telling me that not one lady was qualified for the job during that time??! In 2009, an art critic famously put the MoMA (we’re talking MODERN F*CKING ART, PEOPLE) on blast because just 4% of its nearly 400 permanent exhibitions were by women.
And of course, gender inequity is just the first bitty bite of the shit sandwich. If you look at numbers of people of color, disabled artists, LGBTQ artists, older artists, the biases are even worse. Luckily, we can do something about this, by supporting the work of these groups in our communities!!
Look for holiday craft fairs, bazaars, and artist showcases around your town. Even if you can’t make it, they’ll publicize their line-up of vendors. Ask community and cultural centers. Actually look at the art on cafe walls. Also, Instagram is a wonderful discovery tool! Use those hashtags, yo. Admittedly, even prints done by *real, live* artists will be more expensive than the faux-rustic wood Live, Laugh, Love garbage you can buy at Target. That’s okay! Combine forces with family members or friends, all chipping in to get something really fantastic. Have conversations with your family about what they want, and shop together. I’m so sick of buying shit for people that they don’t really love. It’s a waste.
Next, I’m going to showcase some local artists here in Portland and the Pacific Northwest. My list focuses on visual art because I think people like to give and receive physical gifts during the holidays, but hey—don’t limit yourself if you’d prefer to support a writer, chef, musician, or any other type of maker. Ideas? Take your boo to eat at Güero or your friends to see The Last Artful, Dodgr’s show on December 2nd.
Project Object is a PDX store that carries art by local women, LGBTQ artists, and artists of color. They are having a Black Friday sale.
The Portland Bazaar is December 8th through 10th in Northeast Portland.
The Big 500 Art Show is 500 artists each with ten pieces of art for $40 a pop!! December 9th at Pioneer Courthouse Mall.
Favorite Local Artists Offering Affordable Art
Lindsey Fox uses the grand outdoors as her muse. I love seeing her interpretations of some of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful wilderness areas—and even more than that, I love that she has affordable prints!
Renée Lopez is the artist behind Miss Lopez Media, photographing Portland through the lenses of music, activism, and women of color and the LGBTQ community. You can hire her for a shoot, or buy a print of her stunning images.
I’ve long been eyeing one of Stacey Rozich’s prints, which she tells me will go on sale sometime this winter. Her mix of talent and creepy imagination make her the ideal artist, IMHO. (She’s not a Portlandian, but has PNW roots.)
In Portland via Chile, Camila Araya and Daniela Ragan founded Letra Chueca, an independent Latinx-run press. They do great work, and I don’t only think that because I absolutely need this raccoon print:
I would drink the shit out of some herbal tea that comes in this mug, by Minu Oh of Clay Factor Ceramics. Also, her descriptions make me lol: “Staring at this cup will transport you to Jupiter. Plain and simple.” (Not obsessed w/ rainbow, like me? Check out her vases!!)
Ka’ila Farrell-Smith is a contemporary Klamath Modoc visual artist based out of Portland. I first learned about her on OPB’s Art Beat, which is another great artist discovery tool. She sells prints on her website!
L.A. Caldwell and the team behind Minnie + George sew by hand!! all of their leather goods, so they pretty much count as works of art.
Ana Eugenia is jewelry made by artist Annie Hinkes in her garage in Portland. (It’s cold. I’ve been in there.) She’s also hilarious, an activist, and a pretty fabulous friend. (Yep, this post is pretty much just a real elaborate ploy to promote my friends.)
Here’s a necklace my brother, sister, and I bought for our mom! Our initials are stamped on the back. Which BTW, this is a great strategy for buying or requesting art. Have the whole family go in on one gift, so you can actually afford something legit!
Yas Imamura of Quill and Fox makes some of the best greeting cards in Portland. (And has prints on sale for ten doll hairs!)
Alison O’Donogue makes art for brains like mine that reject minimalism and order. She makes affordable prints available in her Etsy shop!
Kelli MacConnell does fabulous woodblock printing of Pacific Northwest landscapes, but I’m partial to her trees.
Jessica Astrella of J.Ro.Cro is an ultra-talented lettering artist and illustrator who IS ALSO MY FRIEND!! While she specializes in paper goods for weddings, she also does prints and will paint an adorable portrait of your pooch. (She’s doing one of my mom’s dog now!!)
Looking to wear some art? Art that says I’m a badass bitch and take me as I am (and whoops here’s a little bit of nipple)? Santa Maria‘s 70s-inspired jumpsuits are designed by Stephanie Sartori, who is my dear Brazilian friend from college. So no, she’s not a Portlandian either, which is fine because if you want clothes that aren’t flannel or Gore-Tex, you’re gonna have to look somewhere else.
Don’t be fooled by Santa Maria’s gorgeous, effortless Instagram feed; what goes on behind closed doors is some ridiculously hard work. I think Stephanie has the talent to make it big, but until then—it’s sewing and slangin’, piece by piece by piece.
And truly, it has been my conversations with Stephanie that compelled me to write this post. As a person who quit corporate to embark on a creative journey herself, I’m feeling extra-sensie to the plight of artist. Guys, it’s a fucking hustle. People want entertainment for free—I’m guilty of this!!—but this ALWAYS comes at the cost of the people doing the creating.
Also, just FOLLOWING artists/makers on Instagram or signing up for their newsletters HELPS. This shouldn’t be rocket science, but the bigger following one has, the more opportunity that comes a-knockin’. In this way, you don’t even have to buy to support your local creator 🙂
(Wanna support me? As you know, I blog for free—no ads, no weird pushing of products you don’t need. Well, except red rubber jumpsuits made by my friend. But I’m not paid for that!! Sign up for my pleasant and infrequent newsletter.)
***The above list is by no means all-inclusive. These are simply local artists I’ve been following and love. Could this list be more diverse? HELL YES!! If you know an artist—of any gender, color, age, sexual orientation, or ability—who you think should be featured on my next list, send me their information! Even better, post it in the comments below so everyone reading can discover their work. **
Happy Thanksgiving, doggies!! I am grateful to YOU and all of the support you’ve given me this last year. Xo