Three years after starting up her business, Rag and Stone, Whitefish metalsmith Erin Hawley applied to sell her jewelry at Missoula’s Holiday Made Fair alongside dozens of other artists and craftspeople at one of the state’s largest annual fairs.
She was rejected.
“This is going to sound terrible and I don’t know if I want to tell this story,” Hawley said with a laugh in her Whitefish studio. “I didn’t get into the Made Fair and I was like, ‘I know artist friends, I’ll do it myself … I’ll make my own damn show!”
Seven years later, Hawley and two co-organizers are still hosting their own show, Handmade Holiday, a showcase of 16 local creators who will hawk their wares on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Bohemian Hall in Whitefish.
Hawley, Heidi Haugen and Callie Hulslander-Cooper have been putting on Handmade Holiday from the beginning, and the three artists all credit the show’s intimacy — something that’s hard to find at, say, the Missoula Made Fair — for its lasting success. The 16 participating vendors max out the available space at the Bohemian Hall, a converted farmhouse located behind the Montana Coffee Traders Roastery off U.S. Highway 93, and the show’s been valuable enough for the artists that most of the makers return year after year, leaving space available by invite only.
“That’s the hard part with it,” Haugen said. “We get a lot of interest but we don’t have openings because we ask everybody back.”
Haugen has been creating pottery for 20 years and recently opened a retail space in Whitefish. Hulslander-Cooper, who sells her jewelry at the show, is the co-owner of Persimmon Gallery in Bigfork, and over the years that gallery has been a valuable resource to the trio of organizers. Almost every artist represented at this year’s Handmade Holiday also has work on display at Persimmon.
The event itself does not profit from any of the sales, but for the artists involved Handmade Holiday represents one of their best opportunities to fill their coffers before the slower winter months arrive in full.
“For a lot of the artists there, it’s the only show that they do for the holidays,” Hawley said. “This year it’s the only show I’m doing … we’re putting our energy into one show.”
The Bohemian Hall has hosted Handmade Holiday every year, and the three organizers will spend the days before the show decorating the “funky little farmhouse” before opening the doors on Friday night. Since it began seven years ago, the show has grown increasingly popular, organizers said, and Friday night is particularly busy despite overlapping with the Whitefish Holiday Stroll, Kalispell Art Walk and Columbia Falls’ Night of Lights.
“For Christmas shows in Whitefish or Kalispell there’s not a venue or a show quite like what we have,” Hawley said. “I felt like, when I tried to get everybody together, that we were sort of filling a niche. There wasn’t something that already existed like it.”
Artists this year come from a broad array of mediums, including ceramics, photography, illustration, botanicals, leatherwork, baking and much more, and all 16 are from Northwest Montana. The range of products available also means items are on sale at myriad different price points, from as little as $5 to as much as several hundred. Represented at this year’s event are: Tile by Fire, Motherbird Art, Callie Jewelry, Corvidae Drawings and Designs, RWX Metalwerx, Rag and Stone, Heidi Haugen Pottery, Fleur Bakery, One Loose Thread, Stay Warm, Field Guide Designs, Simply Josephine, TDS by Design, Sean Tribble Pottery, Good Stuff Botanicals and Beargrass Leather.
Attendees to Handmade Holiday will be able to do more than just peruse the work on display as free food and drinks are handed out both days. During Friday’s evening show, 5-9 p.m., beer and wine will be served, and during Saturday’s opening, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., coffee and cookies will be available.
For more information, check out Handmade Holiday on Facebook.