by Natalie Berry
With finals ending later than ever, it is easy to get wrapped up in studying, stressing, and packing for home. For many of us, finals consume most of our thoughts and energy, leaving us scrambling to buy holiday gifts at the last second.
In an effort to help all you last-minute-gifters, I traversed South and East Austin, anxiously parallel parking too many times to attend these four holiday art markets. At each market, I chose to highlight one or two artisans whose creations are unique and fashion-forward. On top of that, these vendors are all local with focuses on creating products that are organic, sustainable, and fair trade. Even if your gift list is already checked off, don’t feel ashamed to treat yourself to an ethical present this holiday season.
Starting off my gifting adventure, I attended the 16th annual Cherrywood Art Fair at Maplewood Elementary. This event is hosted by the Chula League, and proceeds benefit Little Artist BIG ARTIST, a creative mentorship program. Relative to other markets, Cherrywood is more of an experience, with bands and food trucks, and it definitely appeals to families more so than millennial pseudo-hipsters. The location and longevity of the event means that there are far more vendors there than any other market I went to, so it was only felt fair to feature more than one.
Brian David Johnson’s BDJ Craft Works, a six-time Cherrywood vendor, caught my eye first. His booth features vases, planters, wall art, and earrings from his Eastwood collection, all made out of wood and epoxy resin mixed with bright paint. Brian’s foray into woodworking has been a “long, fruitful journey” that began 19 years ago with furniture and cabinetry. According to Brian, “the inspiration comes from following my own creative impulses and curiosity as well as exploring the work of others.” For gifting, Brian recommends his petite wall vases or Eastwood earrings. Brian’s work can always be found at his studio, Cloud Tree, and he will also be attending the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar until Dec. 24.
Next up on the gift hunt: OH LITTLE FOXES, a minimalist, hand-crafted jewelry vendor. Owner and artisan, Rachel, started her business just over a year ago and treats it as a side-hustle to her full-time job. Rachel’s design philosophy, “creating simple statements,” really comes across through her work. Her favorite earrings are the Swift Chandeliers because they can be dressed up or down. She recommends the Threader earrings as a great gift-giving prospect since they are “cross-generational.” Her pieces can be appreciated and purchased online and occasionally at other pop-up markets across Texas.
On the same day I attended Cherrywood, I also went to Hotel San José’s Holiday Pop Up Market and experienced a bit of a culture shock. The event, held in the cramped courtyard of the boutique hotel on South Congress, drew an entirely different crowd of vendors and shoppers. A “cool girl” vibe pulsated around the space, and honestly, I was intimidated. It was definitely a place to see and be seen – all while lounging poolside and enjoying a Matcha Cactus Cookie.
Speaking of cool girl vibes, Paige Russell’s ELOI could be your best gifting bet for “that friend who loves Fettuccine Alfredo and is constantly losing their belongings.” Paige uses construction paper cutouts to make the patterns that eventually become fabulous pure silk or silk-blend scarves, bandanas, or leggings. Looking for an incomparably quirky gift? The leggings are currently 40% off. ELOI can always be purchased online, and there are several patterns available at Olive and the Austin Motel bodega.
In an effort to find a happy medium, I visited the Eastside Holiday Market, held in the REVELRY event space. From tarot card readers to food trucks to a full DJ, this market knows just how to entertain. Eastside also features a larger variety of vendors than some of the other markets. The inside of the space feels more curated, yet the vendors on the surrounding streets are more diverse.
Located just inside the coveted indoor space, the Sam Wish booth was offering up natural and organic bath and body items. Founder Samantha Wishlinski makes the products in small batches in her Austin home, and she also does the art and branding for the every item. While the Bath Soaks, specifically in the scent Floral Tea, tend to be the most popular with all crowds, Sam Wish is known for its deodorant. For the man in your life, check out the Beard Oil Sampler Kit. Sam Wish can be purchased on the online storefront and at several boutiques across Austin, including Southern Hippie and Blue Elephant.
For those intent on socially-conscious gifts, The Allies Market delivers 50+ vendors, all focused on fair trade and direct trade goods. The event was hosted by Allies Against Slavery, an Austin-based non-profit with a mission to “create solutions to human trafficking and modern slavery.” Set up in Fair Market, this event rivaled the hygge quality of the Eastside Holiday Market. The cozy physical nature of the space in combination with the warm feeling I got from knowing I was supporting a good cause made this market one of my favorites.
Purse & Clutch stood out to me as one of the most stylish vendors at Allies, featuring sleek bag silhouettes and intriguing patterns. All items sold by Purse & Clutch are made by artisans in Guatemala and Ethiopia and created under fair trade guidelines. Janelle, their Market Rep, says the brand, “knows the names and hurts behind the people who work for [Purse & Clutch]” which really helps to reshape the way consumers think about how their clothing is made. Ranging from $14 to $199, all of the pieces are crafted using vegetable dye and real leather, sourced from animals that were already slaughtered for meat. One of the most versatile and popular items available is the asymmetrical large black clutch, priced at $99. To purchase Purse & Clutch pieces, visit their website or the storefront in Sunset Valley. •
Natalie Berry is a third year Advertising major from Cypress, Texas. This is her second semester with Spark, but her first semester being a dedicated blog writer.