Why you should shop local at the Detroit Artists Market

The art of gifting art, made easy

Buying art as a gift can be a risky gambit. With the holidays a few days away, the pressure is on to buy something for everyone in your life, and it's easy to get your holiday blinders on and start buying atrocities no one really wants. But there's also an opportunity to be bold and search out one-of-a-kind gifts as unique as the people for whom you're shopping. Luckily, Detroit Artists Market's annual Art for the Holidays show is the perfect place to find something for everyone on your list, all the while supporting local artists.

"Some people may shy away from buying art as gifts because it can be challenging to match another person's tastes," says Becki Kenderes, the market's exhibitions and events manager. "Others may assume that original art will be too expensive. However, at the Detroit Artists Market, art comes in all shapes and sizes and at all price points. We feature hundreds of artists each year, both emerging and established."

But what to give? If you're used to handing out holiday standards like gift cards or tins of flavored popcorn, plunging into the world of art buying can be intimidating. Here are a few tips for searching out unique gifts, with examples from the 200-plus artists displaying works for sale at the Detroit Artists Market this season.

Subject matter

The easiest thing to do is to find something thematic your giftee is into. This is why you should never let anyone know that you like, say, cows because you will receive cow-branded objects for the rest of your existence, until you have to fake your own death and start a new, cow-free life elsewhere.

But if someone you love has made the mistake of mentioning they like something, you can easily find beautiful artistic takes on that subject, and give them a gift that will fit in with their existing motifs. Among the many possibilities presented by the holiday market: wildlife, Asian-themed ceramics, old-time toys, and everyone's favorite, Detroit.

Useful objects

For the practical-minded giftee on your list, add sparkle to items that hold some practical value. While you're probably loathe to stuff stockings with generic magnets from the dollar store, a couple of Jodi Lynn's laser-cut stars of Motown and country music are sure to bring a smile, as they affix coupons to the fridge. And who wouldn't enjoy their morning coffee a little bit more, drinking it out of one of Emily Jane Wood's mugs adorned with hand-painted streetscapes of Hamtramck? (Only a real Grinch, that's who.)

From glass and ceramic serving dishes, incense burners, leather journal covers, and an entire wall of glass Christmas ornaments, Detroit Artists Market has boundless options to add some flair to the everyday.

Media mavens

If you haven't had a chance to check out Things I Do in Detroit by local writer, photographer, and confirmed oddball Dave Krieger, there are copies on hand at the market to meet your needs. This visual survey of Detroit follows a character dressed as the Nain Rouge, a scheming red devil, who, according to legend, has caused all of Detroit's many problems — and who is cast out in the annual Marche Du Nain Rouge celebration and parade through the Cass Corridor.

Demonstrating familiarity with some of Detroit's hidden gems and with a sharp eye for detail, Krieger's book humorously unfolds Detroit for your delighted giftee.

Decorative arts

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is what makes it so challenging to buy jewelry, clothing, or objets d'art for people, unless you know their taste well. The advantage to major craft fairs like the Detroit Urban Craft Fair or the holiday market is that they bring together a huge cross-section of different artists.

Wander long enough, and you'll find something for everyone. Would your giftee like a necklace featuring a tiny gnome trapped in a glass dome? Or are they more the type to go for a necklace made of salvaged and intricately beaded sari pieces? Either way, Detroit Artists Market has you covered.

Go weird or go home

Let's face it, no matter how hard we try, we don't always get it right. But sometimes taking a swing with something odd shows you put some thought in, rather than just dialing in the same old fruitcake — and it's the thought that counts, right?

Plus, giving someone a truly odd gift is a nice way to let them know you think they're strange in a special kind of way, and love them for it. "On the receiving end, it's always meaningful to get art as gifts because you know that a lot of care went into the crafting of the item, and even into the shopping for the item," Kenderes says.

No matter what you gift, if you buy from the Detroit Artists Market, you're helping to support local artists, who struggle to put beauty and critical thought into a world increasingly designed to squash individuality and hands-on production. And by shopping at the Detroit Artists Market, you're also supporting the oldest nonprofit gallery in the Midwest, founded in 1932.

Sometimes the greatest gift is the gift of culture.

Art for the Holidays runs through Dec. 30 at Detroit Artists Market; 4719 Woodward Ave, Detroit; 313-832-8540; detroitartistsmarket.org.

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