An array of artsy gifts

Creative Alliance's Merry Mart in Highlandtown offers a smorgasbord of creations

November 30, 2006|By Taya Flores | Taya Flores,sun reporter

Avoid the crowded malls on Sunday and opt for an artsy gift instead. The Creative Alliance's holiday-shopping alternative, Merry Mart, is an art lover's haven filled with clothing, jewelry and hand-painted brie-box clocks. All the gifts are original works of art crafted by 35 area artists.

"The idea is to buy something unique and unusual, something you can't buy somewhere else, something special," says artist Kini Collins, the event's organizer.

Collins and Creative Alliance directors Megan Hamilton and Kristen Anchor joined forces to give craft artists a venue at the Patterson in Highlandtown. They sent invitations to artists and received a creative smorgasbord of art for the mart.

Jed Dodds, the artistic director for Creative Alliance, anticipates that people will take to these one-of-a kind gifts.

"I think that people know that when they come to Creative Alliance they will have a unique experience," he says. "We have artists that will intrigue and amaze at the same time."

The bazaar displays innovative crafts that are both unique and functional. Laurie Flannery twisted wires and metals into contemporary and elegant jewelry. The husband-and-wife team behind ArtWorks Clothing, from Harrisburg, Pa., hand-stenciled fleece, shirts, pants, scarfs and hats. Designs include animal images, geometric shapes and figurative images.

Six artists from Artist Housing Inc., a local artist cooperative, showcase their work. Judith Bair created small, handmade, oil-bar holiday cards. Trudy Babchak crafted ornaments using an encaustic style of painting, with wax and pigment. Collins also resides in the co-op and made brie-box clocks for the mart. She painted the boxes, painted them again and then simply carved a "bird in the sunshine" into the clocks.

Merry Mart also has a fine-art component, the Holiday Edition exhibit, which sells cash-and-carry original artwork in the Amalie Rothschild Gallery at the Patterson. People can buy and take the works of art without waiting for the exhibit to end. The exhibit encompasses several artists, including prints by Megan O'Brien Gold, Christmas ornaments by Joyce Scott and soft sculptures by Jennifer Strunge. The pieces cost $50 to $200.

Dodds hopes the experience will make art accessible to the public. "People sometimes think of art as being inaccessible or not approachable," he says. "We're trying to set up an environment where it's easy for people to pick art up and just have fun with it."

Merry Mart is free and runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The Holiday Edition exhibit runs Tuesday to Dec. 16 and has a reception from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The Creative Alliance is at 3134 Eastern Ave. Call 410-276-1651 or go to

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