The light smell of pine-scented soaps and candles permeated the venue as people explored arts and crafts amongst twinkling lights.
At 1530 Cornwall Ave., the Holiday Festival of the Arts began on Friday, Nov. 16, inside of the formerly known Terra Public Market.
Kelly Hart, executive director of local nonprofit Allied Arts, was in the building a week prior to help organize the venue. She said Allied Arts was founded by a group of local artists, and the Holiday Festival of the Arts was the first event they planned 39 years ago.
According to the Allied Arts website, part of their mission is to empower local artists through organized festivals and events, while enriching the surrounding community with creativity.
Hart said she enjoys seeing families who have made attending the festival every year part of their holiday tradition.
“It’s a really neat opportunity for people on limited budgets to buy original artwork and handmade objects,” Hart said.
Hart said 100 vendors at the event sell their crafts and artwork until the very last day, Dec. 24. She said last year they sold a total of 25,000 objects and over 70 percent of the proceeds went straight to the artists.
“[The proceeds are] actually my favorite thing. The day after we close, it’s all taken down in two days after Christmas and I sign 100 checks before Jan. 1,” Hart said.
Sharing the building with the festival is a Toys for Tots center that distributes toys for children in need during the holidays.
Alice Eis, a Toys for Tots employee, said she has been working for the organization for nine years. She said she started as a route driver and now shops for toys.
“Any parent that can’t afford toys for their children can come to us, fill out a form and discuss what kind of toy they think their child would like,” Eis said.
She said anyone can donate to Toys for Tots beginning Nov. 30 to Dec. 15 on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Holiday Festival of the Arts and Toys for Tots are in a new, separate location every year. According to Hart, this is the first year they are in the same building together. She said they never know where the festival is going to be because they need at least 10,000 square feet.
Hart said all of the participating artists are from around the area, mostly from Whatcom County, and are all members of Allied Arts. She said they sign up for the event in April, giving them at least six months to plan and create enough of their products.
Graham Schodda, an artist who helped Hart set up, said he’s been selling his artwork at the festival for about eight years. According to his booth’s label, his artwork consists of fish he grinds into reclaimed stainless steel and copper panels.
“The variety of stuff here is pretty fantastic,” Schodda said.
On opening day, watercolor artist Virginia Baker was finishing up her last organizational touches on her displays.
Baker said she began selling her watercolor paintings at the Holiday Festival of the Arts in 2006 because it gave her an opportunity to get her art out into the community.
“There aren’t that many [local] places to display your art,” Baker said.
Plus, going out of town to sell artwork can be expensive, she added.
“It’s hard enough making money on your art,” she said.
Baker’s paintings capture the natural light of the daytime. Each person or object in her work was lit up by what looked like real rays of sun, that contrasted against shaded colors.
Baker said she loves when her paintings find new homes. She said it feeds her soul when her customers tell her that her paintings bring them joy every time they look at them.
Amongst the different booths of hand-crafted soaps, jewelry, food, decorations and other art were people shopping, examining which products they might buy.
Angie Burrell and her daughter Bailey were there to look at holiday gifts and buy a few things for themselves.
“Everything is very affordable. It’s exciting to see all of these things where you can support local artists during the holidays,” Angie Burrell said.
Bailey Burrell said as a vegan, she appreciates the booth called Le Gourmet Girl, that offers a variety of packaged vegan food. She pointed at her new necklace she was about to buy – a tiny vial with living plants inside of it.
“It’s hard to find things like this,” she said.
The jewelry Burrell purchased was made by Becca Weathers of Inherent Handmade Goods, who also makes ornaments with plants inside of them. Weathers’ booth was decorated with images of the Pacific Northwest, connecting the idea of wearing bits of local nature in jewelry through mini-terrarium necklaces.
Hart said the diversity of art and crafts at the festival makes it so there’s something for everyone.
“It’s great shopping especially for students who want to get something locally made to take home,” she said.
Hart said the organizers can always use extra help and if people want to volunteer for the festival, they can help with youth activities like Christmas ornament and gift card making or help the cashiers bag purchased items.
Holiday Festival of the Arts will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m and until 3 p.m. on Dec. 24. Volunteer applications and additional information about the event and its artists can be found at www.alliedarts.com.