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Have a holly jolly Kentucky Christmas

Elf rules:
1. Treat every day like Christmas
2. There’s room for everybody on the nice list
And most importantly, #3:
giphyI love Christmas music. The yuletide tunes help spark the fire of the holiday spirit in your belly every time (especially if some of the holiday spirit in your belly is also eggnog). However, if you’re like me, you may also become tired of the same songs over and over. Let me help you switch things up a bit. Artists from our Performing Arts Directory offer their own take on Christmas through a wide range of genres, and we’ve put together a list for you.


For more music from Kentucky artists and ways to purchase albums, visit our Performing Artist page, or our Give the Gift of Music site. You can also check out our schedule of performances by Performing Arts Directory artists and at Kentucky Arts Partners performing arts venues from our Give the Gift of Performance site.

Feel free to play your new tunes in the background of Christmas parties. I’m sure your guests have heard the classics. Now, you can give them the gift of a Kentucky Christmas.

Heed a little warning from me: Switching up your seasonal songs could make you nostalgic for the classic Christmas carols of yore. It makes sense. I know I can’t leave behind the tradition of my dad yelling “BURL IVES!” at the end of every sentence the crooner sings. It may be a good idea to slowly incorporate these new goodies into your already-extensive stockpile of oldies.

by Megan Williamson Fields, KAC communications assistant

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O (Kentucky Crafted) Christmas tree!

Each Christmas tree is special. There’s so much love shared around it. They help light up the season and put an extra twinkle in our eyes.

When I think of Christmas trees, I’m reminded by the one my family would put up year after year, adorned with what seemed like hundreds of ornaments. See, my mom is a teacher in southern Kentucky, and receives dozens of ornaments before each Christmas break. No branch is without a treasure from a past student. It seems like she kept every single one of them and they all carry a special message, picture or memory. We would always put up the tree while Elvis, Nat King Cole or Amy Grant serenaded us in the background. We would tell crazy stories, re-ignited by each ornament, of my mother’s tenure, like the time a kid came to school with a living, breathing bat in his backpack. Yeah. That happened.

One of my favorite things about Christmas trees is they hold different meaning for every family. Hopefully, each ornament is as unique and memorable as some of the stories shared around it.

I also remember having the privilege of putting my own ornament on the tree each year. The ornament was of Gus, the goofy mouse from Disney’s Cinderella. It was such an honor for me, especially being somewhat shy and suffering severely from what can only be described as middle child syndrome.

Gus

Everyone say hi to Gus.

We have a wonderfully witty blog series here at the Kentucky Arts Council by the talented Sarah Schmitt called Good Food Deserves Better. She talks about serving food on better-than-average dinnerware like Kentucky Crafted items for the kitchen and dining room. Your Christmas tree deserves better than generic pieces many of us buy on impulse, usually because they’re marked down. Your tree is a centerpiece for Christmastime and the season’s traditions.

To help you out, below are just some handcrafted ornaments from here in Kentucky. I urge you to start your own traditions with them. For instance, you could buy one each year and give it to a specific person, like the matriarch of the family, or a new member you’d like to welcome. You could even do an annual ornament exchange, like a Secret Santa where everyone buys an ornament. Make these new traditions your own.

Gourdament from SnP CraftsReImagined ornamentJudyGeagley owl ornament

There’s more where those came from…literally. We have a directory for holiday decor on our Give a Gift Kentucky holiday décor site, which includes more ornaments to start (or continue) your collection. I challenge ya’ll to find some one-of-a-kind ornaments made in Kentucky this Christmas and to carry on that tradition year after year, filling up each and every branch on your tree.

I would love to see what you find! If you don’t mind, post a picture of you and your handcrafted ornaments new and old on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and tag us in the picture. Don’t forget to use #giveagiftky. Your pictures would absolutely make our hearts sparkle here at the Arts Council.

Megan Williamson Fields, communications assistant

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Don’t duke it out for discounts

You may have seen the countless memes about trampling others for deals merely hours after saying thanks for what we already have.
black-friday-meme

Yes, Black Friday can become an addiction. Yes, the deals are alluring. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to spend hours with my aunt, whom I rarely see, in the wee minutes of the morning dressed in tactical gear on a hunt for the greatest deal of all time. Trust me. I’ve hidden on Kmart shelves, perched like a jungle cat, about to pounce on the next person that cuts me in line. I don’t care if it is my Kindergarten teacher.

Now that I’ve seen the light of shopping small, however, I’m reminded of the Cars.com commercials where the buyers miss the drama in car-buying, so the salesmen create it for them. Let me lead you down the path of not just shopping small, but shopping simple. Sit back, take your time, sip some coffee from a Main Street store. Relax.

In my recent quest to become the ultimate shopping small guru, I’ve heard many an excuse as to why it just can’t be done. Excuse me, while I scream into a pillow.

Excuse #1:
“It takes too much time”
You spend hours around a table after eating your turkey, searching, documenting, planning and mapping your quest for the best discounts, right? So why can’t you visit one or two stores that may be a few miles away? What if we spent that much time and effort thanking the people and small business owners of our communities?

That brings me to the next excuse I often hear.

Excuse #2:
“There aren’t any stores near me”
Don’t give me that. But, for your sake, let’s say there really aren’t. There are way too many online options nowadays. To start, take a look at our Pinterest page and see what you like. There’s links to order from artists on our pins. If you find an artist you like, email them, visit their Etsy sites. It’s way simpler than getting in a punching match with a soccer mom on Black Friday for the last 5 percent off stuffed bear at a mega-chain.
Below is a handy directory to help you find some small businesses near you.
Excuse2
Season’s Greetings at Kentucky Crafted Stores and Galleries
Make your shopping fun by attending special events at retailers known for carrying gifts handmade in Kentucky.

Excuse #3:
“Black Friday is a family tradition”
As I said before, much fun and memorable experiences were had back in my Black Friday dealin’ days. However, there are exceptional happenings across Kentucky for Small Business Saturday (and on into January) that the entire family can enjoy. Several retailers are hosting special events and promotions throughout the holiday season throughout our state. Here’s some new traditions for ya’ll:
excuse 3
Artists’ Open Studios and Holiday Shows

Kentucky artists adjudicated into Kentucky Arts Council programs will be hosting art tours and open studios as well as participating in exhibits and shows during the holiday season.
special events at artisan center
Special Events at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea
In addition to being a cornucopia for gifts handmade in Kentucky, the Artisan Center will have a busy schedule of artist demonstrations, book signings and musical performances throughout the season.
performances
Celebrating the Season in Performance
Taking a break from the shopping holidaze might be the perfect therapy for getting in the spirit of the season. Check out this schedule of performances by Performing Arts Directory artists and at Kentucky Arts Partners performing arts venues.

Excuse #4:
“Items at small businesses cost too much”
Use your time wisely this week. Start calling retailers (listed above) and ask about their holiday and Small Business Saturday specials. Chances are they’ll cut ya a deal. You just have to search them out, much like you would in a sales paper. Below is another way we’ve laid out a gift giving shopping guide to get you started.
gifts
Great Gift Ideas
Paintings, prints, books and craft by distinguished Kentucky artists who have received the Kentucky Arts Council’s Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship Award make the perfect gift for the art lover on your list.

Remember, if when you find timeless treasures from a small shop, post it to Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, and use #giveagiftky to show us what you found. Chances are we’ll re-post on our social networking sites.

Megan Williamson Fields, communications assistant

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Buying local for the holidays: It’s personal

For the past three years, it’s been my priority to buy local for Christmas. It really was hard at first, but now it’s relatively easy. Starting a new job at the Kentucky Arts Council hasn’t hurt, either, because it is currently my job to promote Kentucky artists and businesses for the holiday buying season. Not a bad gig, eh?

When you buy from a local artist, it’s not only personal for you and the person you’re buying for, but also for the artist who puts their heart and soul into each and every unique piece. Artwork brings character to the world around you. Each piece created by a local artist helps you embrace what makes your community home.

Chances are you know why to buy local, but do you know how? Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Start early
    I usually start around October brainstorming, making lists and asking my family what they want. It’s not until November that I start buying. This also helps you budget and find meaningful gifts, instead of absentmindedly throwing things in a shopping buggy because it’s on sale.
  2. Do your research
    Look around your town. Browse the Internet. You can start by taking advantage of the arts council’s online artist directories. Simply go to http://artscouncil.ky.gov/, click Find An Artist at the top of the page, and search based on the artist’s medium. Know someone who seems to have everything? Use this to your advantage! Done and done.
  1. Talk to business owners
    I can’t stress this enough. Have fun making connections with local shop owners. Get to know them. They have a wealth of knowledge of what’s available. They know where to find more unique items. As an added bonus, they’ll be able to share a personal story that goes along with the pieces. How cool is it to pass that story along? It’s like two gifts in one!
    To help start your journey, we have more than 20 businesses designated as Kentucky Crafted Retailers. These businesses carry items made in Kentucky by Kentucky artists. This includes those in the arts council’s Kentucky Crafted Program, Architectural Artists Directory and Performing Arts Directory. Many retailers also have special events, promotions and discounts throughout the holiday season. Basically, we’ve done a lot of the hard work for you! You’re welcome. http://artscouncil.ky.gov/KentuckyArt/retailers.htm.
  1. Follow the trends
    You can get a lot of inspiration from social media. Look for certain hashtags, turn on the Google machine, search through Facebook, etc. Tip: Keep it simple! This will help you find shops that have Facebook pages and events. For example, during our Give A Gift Made in Kentucky campaign, the arts council is tagging local artists, experiences and items using #giveagiftky on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our Give a Gift Pinterest board for even more “Pinspiration.”

    Let your gift-giving experience be a journey. Have fun! It shouldn’t be a chore. Here’s some items I’ve found so far: (*Spoiler alert for my family!*)

For the children (or animal lovers) in your family, Judy & Gordon Geagley make precious stuffed critters. They’re made from upcycled clothes and quilts. If your family is like mine, your cup probably runneth over with children. These gifts are safe, adorable and affordable.

For the children (or animal lovers) in your family, Judy & Gordon Geagley make precious stuffed critters. They’re made from up-cycled clothes and quilts. If your family is like mine, your cup probably runneth over with children. These gifts are safe, adorable and affordable.

For the author or reader, take a look at these Memory Book Ornaments by ReImagined by Luna. The mini-books can be used for writing little notes or memories. They are made from reclaimed leather and recycled, acid-free paper and are available in many colors.

For the author or reader, take a look at these Memory Book Ornaments by ReImagined by Luna. The mini-books can be used for writing little notes or memories. They are made from reclaimed leather and recycled, acid-free paper and are available in many colors.

I've fallen in love with the work of Melisa Beth Zimmerman. Her ceramic ornaments are only $8. They’re hand stamped, then painted with bright colors. They come in snowflakes, peace doves and stars.

I’ve fallen in love with the work of Melisa Beth Zimmerman. Her ceramic ornaments are only $8. They’re hand stamped, then painted with bright colors. They come in snowflakes, peace doves and stars.

This is the first time in years I’ve been able to truly enjoy the spirit the holiday season brings. I can actually take the time to search and browse for the perfect item they need and deserve. To say I’m excited is an understatement. Knowing I’ll be showing off the talent of Kentucky artists is only fueling that re-born childlike holiday spirit.

Megan Williamson Fields, communications assistant

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Good food deserves better: revenge of the ramekin

This post has nothing to with ramekins. It’s just that this is the fourth in a series of musings about artful dinnerware, and I’m running out of clever sequel titles.

If you’ve read the other three posts, you know the gist. If you’re going to entertain this holiday season – or anytime around the calendar – don’t serve your wonderful food on trash (i.e., disposable plates and aluminum pans). Conversely, if all you have time to prepare is a “pack of Nabs,” at least unwrap them and place them on a tea towel in a lovely basket. Make bad food look edible, and good food look superb by serving on Kentucky Crafted items for the kitchen and dinning room.

I’ve covered the basics like plates, mugs and casserole dishes, and now I’d like to get fancy. The following are not things that everyone needs. What you are about to experience covers two things important to holiday entertaining: wowing the cream cheese out of the people who come to your house and finding gift items for the gourmand who thinks he or she already has everything.

Haley_Doug

For example, you’re never going to impress your wine aficionado friend with a bottle of wine, unless you’re a sommelier. Stop trying, and buy this fine wine caddy by Doug Haley. Made from maple, cherry or exotic woods, the caddy will hold bottles, glasses and even cheese and crackers or desserts.

Wolff_Fritz05

I know it’s not practical to buy kitchen gadgets that only do one thing, but sometimes a uni-tasker’s unique nature is a good conversation starter (i.e., guest impresser). Besides, Stone Fence Pottery’s garlic grater works up garlic and artfully presents oil emulsions for dipping – that’s one more task than a regular, old garlic press.

3 chip and dip final_1

Matthew Gaddie is a skilled ceramicist, but — I’m embarrassed to admit — I had no idea what this was when I first saw it at Kentucky Crafted: The Market.  I sort of thought it was a bird bath, maybe? That’s why these things are best left to the artists; this is actually a genius chip and dip or salad bowl, equipped to serve three different dressings or dips. This is the reason he was best of show in 2014, and I’m merely writing an article about his creations. Amazing, impressive, and no one else you know has one. Furthermore, you can get the ugly Wishbone and Ken’s Steakhouse dressing bottles off of your gorgeous table.

So that’s how you dazzle even the most ennui-ridden epicurean. Oh! I almost forgot; here’s an assortment of ramekins from Tater Knob Pottery in case you were feeling cheated by the title.

84fc3dac46f1b83a758913f6ca10ce8e

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director 

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