Tuesday, Aug. 27 — The felted soap is nice, but the marshmallow catapults from a couple of years ago were awesome.
The Lansing Art Gallery put a call out today for new artists to join one of its biggest events of the year, an annual holiday exhibition. The downtown gallery has a year-round gift section, but come each November, the entire gallery turns into a shop full of stuff you would never find anywhere else.
Lansing Art Gallery director Catherine Babcock said patrons come to the sale from far and wide each year.
“Some of them bring a list and get them all here,” she said. There they find unique stuff, from arty to whimsical, that’s locally made instead of going to malls or buying schlock from China.
Each year brings a new hit gift. Two years ago, a local artist created “CATs,” or Cubicle Attack Trebuchets (catapults), for office workers to fling marshmallows at their co-workers. The catapults came in two calibers: regular and mini-marshmallow.
The devices sold out fast, owing largely to the broad exposure the sale offers to participating artists. Babcock pointed out that 47,000 downtown employees work within a few blocks of the gallery, and tens of thousands of people throng the area on Silver Bells in the City.
Just as holiday sales boost the retail world, revenue from the big art sale helps Michigan artists — and the Lansing Art Gallery — weather the slow months of January through March that follow.
“It’s a win-win,” Babcock said. “To make a purchase here during the holidays helps many artists have a better year. Patrons feel good supporting local artists and the money stays here.”
Babcock said the sale “gives some people justification for buying gifts for themselves” as well. There is also a certain amount of artist-on-artist action, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The gallery promotes the sale in a statewide marketing campaign that includes mail invitations, Web announcements, Twitter and Pinterest.
Babcock said there is “no limit” to the number of new artists than can participate.
“Our goal is to have a variety, so the more artists the better,” she said. Selected artists may get a chance to keep their work in the gallery gift shop year round.
When choosing whether to accept an artist’s work for the sale, Babcock said, she looks for “hands-on involvement.”
“If an artist buys beads and a piece of string, and puts the beads on the string, then there’s limited artist involvement,” she said. If the artist weaves the beads or varies the pattern in a creative way, that’s a bit better. “And if the artist made the beads — now you’re talking.”
That’s not to say the holiday show is a fine arts showcase. Babcock doesn’t expect an artist to pour days of her life into a piece and sell it for $25, but she likes to see the human touch.
Her favorite example is hand-made soap covered in multi-colored felt to create a fuzzy-wet loofah feel in the bath.
“She had her hands on each bar of soap as she was creating the cover,” Babcock said. “It’s more interesting than pouring the soap mixture into a loaf can, slicing it and you’re done.” At $8 a bar, they were priced in the stocking-stuffer range.
One of Babcock’s favorites was an Italian good luck charm made of hand-blown glass with a light inside. She bought one for herself and tied it to the end of the chain that turns on her fan, so she can pull the chain in the dark.
This year, Babcock is interested in showing more toys and art for children.
“We want something for every age group,” she said.
For more information on eligibility and entry details please see Lansing Art Gallery's website, www.lansingartgallery.org, or contact Sara Pulver, Gallery Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 374-6400 ext 3.