As the holidays draw near, local artists are as busy as North Pole elves in basement studios and wood shops across the area.
Christmas is a time of gift giving, and thus, according to the art agent Janet Tanguay, a productive few weeks for creators of beautiful things. Tanguay handles sales and marketing for 150 artists all the way to New York City through her Amsterdam-based business, Art N Soul. She said the holidays can be a great opportunity for her many clients.
“There are so many people who already have everything,” she said. “You can’t get someone an iPad if they already have an iPad. You can always get art because each piece is one of a kind.”
From Tanguay’s point of view, a gift purchased from a retail store is just one of thousands of identical items given to people across the country. There is no narrative. The work of an individual artist on the other hand comes with a backstory, adding to the sentiment of the gift.
“Often you even get to meet the artist and get a look into the process,” she said.
St. Johnsville nature photographer Terry Potoczny is a prime example of art with a story.
He sells the majority of his work over the Christmas season. And it’s just one image.
He was out looking for deer to photograph when he saw an owl in a tree by the side of the road.
“He let me get close and get five of six shots,” he said. That photo turned out to be one of the most popular he’s ever taken.
Potoczny’s photos are a quick buy. Based on the type of frame requested, he can have the thing ready in a few days. For much of the art world, a bit more foresight is required.
The majority of Tanguay’s clients are painters, and while they do get more orders than usual over Christmas, it’s not necessarily a time for high art. Most of their commissions are for pet portraits and other custom jobs, even artistic renderings of favorite muscle cars.
“If they can’t afford their dream car,” she said, “at least they can have a picture of it on their wall.”
The problem is, paintings do take some time to create. So few husbands think far enough ahead to order that life-sized portrait of Daisy, the wife’s favorite cat, in time to actually get it wrapped before Dec. 25.
For that reason, art on the more crafty end of the spectrum more often makes it under the tree.
By the nature of their work, quilters, carvers and jewelry makers have work in stock, ready to be bought on a moment’s notice. Tanguay said by far the most popular artistic Christmas gifts are handmade bracelets and necklaces. She named a handful of boutiques in Schenectady alone that carry selections of locally made jewelry.
“Some of it sells for as little as $15,” she said, which is much less than the average painting.
She’s got glass
Squarely established in the local craft world is Scotia resident Cheryl Gutmaker of The Lady’s Got Glass. She’s been making blown and fused glass works since 2007 and while the business does well all year, there is a perceptible boost over the holiday season. Specifically, her glass ornaments are developing a local following.
“A lot of people are downsizing their Christmas displays,” she said, explaining that with less room for decorations, holiday lovers can afford quality ornaments.
Each of Gutmaker’s bright ornaments starts out as a molten blob of glass. She blows each one individually, adding color along the way, and finally a small glass loop so it can be hung on a tree.
“I couldn’t make two the same if I wanted to,” she said. “Each one is unique.”
Depending on the size, her ornaments run from $15 to $20 and make perfect stocking stuffers.
For those still looking for an artistic gift in the closing hours of Christmas Eve, there is always one solid fall-back idea: the theater.
“It’s a notoriously utilized last-minute gift,” Marketing Director Richard Lovrich said of Proctors gift certificates. “The week before Christmas, we get a huge rush.”
He doesn’t recommend buying actual tickets, but rather gift certificates. They don’t expire, can be used on any show, and “are a last resort you don’t have to feel bad about,” he said.
In the months after the holidays, he listed “Les Misérables,” “American Idiot” and “Traces” as ideal holiday shows.
“You’re giving someone a vacation from their lives,” he said, “and they will always remember you as part of that great experience.”
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