While big-box stores have remained an American staple when it comes to purchasing holiday gifts, it’s often more satisfying to buy unique items chosen expressly for family members and loved ones.
Those in the Spa City area can make their Christmastime shopping far more personal by visiting the Handmade Holiday Shop — an annual pop-up store filled with wares and artwork made exclusively by local artisans.
This will be the fifth year organizers have offered the shop, and each has
arisen in a different location around town. For 2016, Handmade will occupy the lobby floor of the downtown Bank of America building, 528 Central Ave., for only 20 days, beginning Nov. 21 and through Dec. 11.
Four women who had become close while working together at craft shows dreamed up the idea. Amelia Houser, Allison Eastman Britt, Briana Moore and Heather Montgomery joined forces to create the temporary co-op. Montgomery since moved out of state, but the remaining founders and artists Carol Gorman and Corina Fedorowicz make up the core group contributing to its continuance.
Britt said, “There wasn’t a craft or art show in Hot Springs at the time for winter and Christmas,” and since she makes a living solely through sales of her custom metal jewelry, having income during the final months of the
calendar was essential.
Items this year span a diverse range and include alcohol ink art, personalized boxes and cases, hand-dyed silk scarves, beaded jewelry, silver work, steampunk accessories, usable and sculptural pottery, collage, and locally roasted coffees.
Functional, wearable and decorative pieces abound, allowing for customers to buy uncommon presents for practically anyone. And since price points range from $1 to $2,000, everything from stocking stuffers to high-end original art is represented.
Moore has been operating Larkmartin Soaps since 2006, and creates a variety of cold-process bars with scents like Frankincense and Myrrh, Muscadine Wine, Milk and Sugar, or Honeysuckle. She also makes an unscented soap for more sensitive noses, and several body creams and additional bath goods.
Britt has been making and selling jewelry since she was 8 years old, and now travels to art shows almost every weekend of the year with her latest creations.
Houser has been creating for decades in various mediums, but only began attaching price tags to her work a few years ago.
Money isn’t where these ladies get their main drive, though. The founders agreed — it’s the camaraderie that keeps Handmade popping up year after year.
The shop had nine artists its first year, and has since grown to include some 20 participants. Britt said, “Every year we’ve added someone — and it really has built lifelong friendships.”
Without hesitation, Houser said, “My favorite part is the fact that we get together, because we’re all so tied up in our lives,” adding, “We love each other.”
Of course, as with any business, there is plenty of hard work to be done.
Britt said, “Each year has had different challenges,” adding, “It’s been like operating five different stores.”
Their biggest challenge has been finding a space to lease for a short time. The ladies are in complete agreement that the BOA building will be the best location yet, both for its visibility and large space.
Contributing artists man the shop, and are able to meet and speak with the public as their work is perused. From her years of experience with
the HHS, Moore said, “People really want things with a story. They love to meet the artists — they can connect with the person that has created it. And supporting an artist resonates with a lot of people.”
She also pointed out that there are always new items each time the shop opens, so even if people visited in years prior, they’ll be able to see different pieces than before.
Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving, when the shop will be closed.
Additionally, there will be extended hours until 9 p.m. for Gallery Walk on Dec. 2, and at a customer appreciation party on Dec. 10.
During each special event, more artists than usual will be in the shop to meet customers and talk about their work. There will also be refreshments and prizes on those days. And on Dec. 3, there will be an event featuring one-day artists, who will have their pieces in just that day — making a pop-up within a pop-up.
Both cash and credit or debit cards will be accepted.
The Facebook and Instagram pages will be active while the store is open, and both can be found by searching for “Handmade Holiday Shop.” Any promotions or showcased items will be announced on social media.