Exquisite gifts by local artists.
The holiday season is in full swing. You’re decorating, mailing cards, coordinating menus, making your gift lists and checking them twice. It’s a busy time, but one that glows with gratitude and hope.
Before there were malls and online shopping, many people crafted holiday gifts by hand, lovingly made tokens that showed the giver’s affection for the receiver and demonstrated an artistry long perfected. There’s nothing quite as unique or beautiful as something made by hand—carefully, creatively. An object that is one of a kind—or one of a few—not something mass-produced.
Artists all over the Houston area have a selection of beautiful gift ideas. See what they’re making and choose the ones that are perfect for those on your gift list. You’ll be supporting the local economy and giving something uniquely made just for them.
FROM DISASTER, HOPE
“This storefront was vacant after Hurricane Ike,” says Rene Wiley, the painter and entrepreneur behind the eponymous Rene Wiley Gallery in Galveston. “I’d never owned my own gallery, but we thought, why not?”
Wiley opened her space in May of 2008 and she’s been painting ever since. While she concentrates on oils, her husband Ben tends to the gallery’s business affairs.
There’s a tremendous up-from-the-ashes-of-Ike quality to Wiley’s space. In addition to it being something that was vacant after the hurricane slammed though, Wiley has the work of two artists who made items from wood reclaimed from the storm.
Dale Hooks worked at a salvage yard and had always wanted to be an artist. When Ike hit, he was about to retire. After the storm, he gathered up several felled trees and started carving bowls from them. When Ben Wiley saw his work, he told his wife they should be in the gallery.
“It’s wonderful to see something so beautiful come out of such destruction,” says Rene, who adds that the bowls are not only beautiful works of art, but a stunning addition to the space.
James Phillips is responsible for many of the Island’s tree sculptures, the wood carvings created from trees that were snapped in half, broken and otherwise damaged by Ike. In addition to being able to walk around the island and see these for yourself, you can purchase smaller sculptures at Rene Wiley Gallery.
“The storm provided him with a whole new canvas,” Rene says wistfully. “There’s something so unique and so beautifully sentimental about his pieces.”
Rene Wiley Gallery
2128 Postoffice St., Galveston
LOCAL ARTISTS, LOCAL VIEWS
For the last 13 years, The Arts Alliance of Clear Lake has been sharing the joy of art with people throughout the Bay Area. In addition to offering classes and ongoing exhibits, it’s been a space where working artists can showcase and perfect their painting and sculpting and other artistic skills.
Much of that work is available for purchase in TAACL’s gift shop, where ceramics, jewelry and painting are for sale.
“It’s a fantastic way to support local artists,” says Heather Wiederhoeft, TAACL’s public relations coordinator. “These are wonderfully talented individuals who teach classes across the Bay Area and exhibit their work here.”
Gift options include cool wall hangings by Leona Pleasant painted on fabric, clay vases and vessels done in muted colors by Karen Fiscus and jewelry by Annette Kinslow that combines textile work with beading and silver.
The Arts Alliance of Clear Lake
2000 NASA Pkway, Nassau Bay
Cynthia Timpa has been making toffee since she was a little girl. She can remember fondly creating that crunchy candy and how fun it was to taste and share. She used those years of creative experience to power a business with her husbandand and, in 2007, opened Bliss Candy Company.
Her creations are available at the Spec’s on Bay Area Boulevard and the Kroger on Space Center Boulevard, but she’ll ship anywhere from her website. From small bags perfect for stocking stuffers to larger baskets and samplers, she has toffee and candy in a variety of flavors.
“It’s hand made,” she says proudly of her work. “And it looks hand made – you can see it’s not uniform, and it’s all topped by hand right in our kitchens,” which she describes as a hole in the wall off the East Hardy Toll Road.
Bliss Candy will also customize gifts for you, for office parties, for special events, or even just because you want a particular combination. Doing so isn’t a problem, but Cynthia recommends that you call in advance.
Bliss Candy Company
Mark and Arricka Harrison have six daughters and one son. Five of their six girls have eczema and the parents tried virtually everything out there to help keep their daughters’ skin soft and clear—but nothing worked.
“Then we read about how helpful olive oil and other oils are,” Mark says. “And my wife started making homemade soaps and lotions for the girls. And the difference in their skin was amazing.”
The couple started selling Arricka’s homemade goods six years ago. Today, they manage an online business and sell their products in stores like Central Market and Rice Epicurian. They also handle private labels for several Houston-area boutiques.
Their soaps, lotions, bath salts and “bath bombs,” candles and laundry detergent are all natural, featuring ingredients such as olive oil, black sea salt, sugar and shea and cocoa butter. For the holidays, Arricka is making up gift baskets that will be available online and at the festivals and shows she frequents (check the Black Kettle Soap Company Facebook or webpage for listings).
“We can also do custom gift baskets,” Arricka says. “If people want something special or specific. Just call and let us know what you need.”
Black Kettle Soap Company
10232 Forrest Glade Ct., Conroe
BOOKS OF LIFE
Deborah Karchmer has always been interested in art. “Oh, I’d paint the whole house,” she laughs. “Tables, walls, chairs. My husband is so happy now that I’m doing this.”
By “this,” she means Bella Becho, her book-creation and binding business where she handcrafts memory books, photo albums, scrap books and book covers. She started about seven years ago and since then has moved from her kitchen table to the garage to a 3,500-square-foot showroom and print bindery up in Houston’s Heights area. Her work is available at stores throughout the region and she sells at fairs and festivals.
You can also order online and her books promise to be an exquisite addition to anyone’s home. She says these are the books that hold your memories, the stories of your favorite times and people. They are also beautiful works of art.
“You might stick and old leather photo album in a drawer or on a shelf,” she says. “But these, you display. You put them out on your coffee table and they become conversation pieces.”
404 Arlington, Houston (Showroom)
713.880.8293 or 866.235.5223
JEWELRY WITH A STORY
Amber Johnson started making jewelry when she was 16, concentrating on working with turquoise and making chains. She sold her pieces at local craft fairs and festivals. Then, when she was helping a friend who sold Native American hand-crafted pieces, she loved their textures and artistry.
In 2004, she opened A Outlet in La Porte and now offers her own creations alongside the Native American rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings she’s so fond of.
“They’re beautiful,” she says of the designs, which come from Navajo and Hopi tribe members. “A lot of turquoise, silver, onyx and opal.”
Amber will have some of these on display Dec. 11 at the Pasadena Fair Grounds, part of the annual Toys for Tots Drive. But she’ll happily show you individual items that suit your taste and gift list if you call and make an appointment. She is also available for jewelry repairs and has a selection of jeweled-accent leather goods.
200 W. Main St., La Porte (By Appointment Only)
In its most basic form, decoupage means to decorate the surface of an object with paper cutouts. At Marye-Kelley, decoupage is elevated to elegant beauty. Melinda Marye-Kelley and her husband Bill visited Block Island, a summer spot just off the coast of Rhode Island, and Melinda fell so in love with the scenery and how she felt being there that she quit her job and stayed there. Until winter weather set in.
That’s when she returned to Houston and found herself with a dilemma: Christmas was coming and she needed gifts. Always an artistic type, she made up decoupage plates and gave them to friends and family, each design a theme of something special about her relationship with each of them.
“People started asking for them,” says Bill. “That’s how the business was born.”
Now, Melinda and Bill run their design studio together and Melinda still supervises each hand-made design. But the decoupage line has expanded to include plates, paperweights, picture frames and other household decorations. The items are offered at gift shops and boutiques around Houston, as well as on their website.
All of the items have a timeless quality about them. Decoupage itself dates to 12th century China and moved forward through the ages across Asia, Europe and the Americas. Marye-Kelley’s 21st century designs pay delightful homage to this age-old art form while impeccably updated for modern tastes.
Marye-Kelley 2515 Morse St., Houston
713.524.0459 or 866.524.0459