This Christmas season, look no further than Lowcountry art community for gifts

lisa@beaufortcountyarts.comNovember 29, 2013 

"Ballet Dancer" in pastels, by Dorneisha Batson

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Artist Dorneisha Batson has a tradition of giving expectant friends "baby's first piece of art." She is currently working on two paintings to give to friends with due dates around Christmastime.

"One family is Pakistani, Indian and Kenyan, so I'm thinking a sunset scene in Kenya would be awesome," said Batson, who has a degree in fashion design from Savannah College of Art and Design and is the office manager at ARTworks. The other will be for a little girl: "Her mother likes Tinker Bell, so I'm doing fairies, but in my abstract style."

Beaufort is full of crafty people with the "Shop Local" ethic, so after daydreaming about stockings hanging from my nonexistent fireplace mantel, I decided to ask around: Who has some artful gift ideas?

"Each year I go to the Beaufort Bookstore," said Bruce Doneff, an art collector and community advocate. "In addition to books, I buy each member of the family a Beaufort County calendar, dedicated to critical lands preservation. For the boys who've moved away, what better way to remind them every day of where they come from and of the place that is always waiting for their visit?"

In Beaufort Town Center, ARTworks has local shops like the bookstore as neighbors. For the first three Saturdays of December, we're setting up "Santa's art workshops," so holiday shoppers and families can create gifts. The projects are affordable (single digit even) and artists will guide you through the creative process like Rudolph leading the sled team-- and, best yet, they do the prep and cleanup.

One block away in City Hall, the Beaufort History Museum offers free admission in December to everyone who lives in Beaufort County. "Thanks to a wonderful group of docents," said Katherine Lang, museum president.

Benjamin Morgan, the music educator at Red Cedar Elementary School, likes to make Ojo de Dios (Eye of God) as gifts. "I choose colors that have meaning for that person and pray over it as I am making it. These types of gifts come directly from the heart."

Actor Erika Pyle makes talismanic gifts too. "The person gives me their old jewelry or broken pieces or earrings that lost their mate. Then I design a necklace or a bracelet. I think most women have a little spot where they keep these type of things. I bring it together for a new and useful purpose." That ability is why Erika's on her way to directing too.

Scientist and jewelry-maker Samantha Campbell is researching recipes for suet. "I want to make birdseed ornaments to hang outside, with red and green ribbons. I plan to shape them like eggs and present them in egg cartons." Campbell sells her jewelry at Lulu Burgess, Hunting Island and the Island Wellness Shop.

Jan Horan said she found "the coolest pen and ink notecards by Ethelyn Morrison at the Beaufort Art Association" while helping her husband, Eric, hang his photo exhibition. "I was attracted to the sea turtles, being one of the turtle patrollers at Harbor Island." Wendy Goller's "Lowcountry Reindeers" made from palm fronds are also at the BAA, which is on Bay Street. "Support our gifted community of artists, writers and musicians," Goller said, "because we are a mecca for talent and inspiration."

Middle schooler Marielle van Vulpen bought sketchbooks from Coastal Art Supply and monogrammed the covers (an idea now high on my list). Novelist Kami Kinard and her daughter Corrinne are making Cheerwine picture frames. "My husband's grandfather was the accountant for that company, so we have a lot of fans in the family," she said. Chris and Jack Nietert make oyster shell creches and dapper wooden bow ties, respectively, and are the Healing Arts Program coordinator at the hospital and a sometimes-retired Episcopal priest, respectively. "Chris' work often brings tears to people's eyes, and my work brings smiles," Nietert said.

ARTworks curator Deanna Bowdish pointed out that she shops locally year round. "Whether it's a great pair of Julie Mills earrings for my sister from Lulu Burgess, a new ceramic piece for my mom from The Craftseller or a great book by a local author for my dad, I always find what I'm looking for right here at home, the key is to get out and support all those amazing creators."

Lisa Annelouise Rentz works at ARTworks and makes excellent gravy.

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