Austin's Holiday Art Bazaars Are Still Bringing Good Cheer

Who wouldn't love a creative gift by an area artist or artisan? Here's where you can find them.

Blue Genie Art Bazaar (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

"Hark how the bells,

Sweet silver bells,

All seem to say,

Throw cares away"

Really, bells? "Throw cares away"? That may be easy for you to ding-dong, ding-dong. For the rest of us in 2020, cares have piled up like snowdrifts and can't be shoveled away. Which has left many folks unsure what seasonal traditions will still be "bringing good cheer" this December.

While the Chronicle Arts elves can't speak to caroling or office Christmas parties, we do know that Austin's holiday art bazaars will still be here to brighten the Yuletide. Some may be taking a different form than in Christmases past – COVID-19 being the coal in their stocking this year – but they'll be offering the usual array of creative gifts by area artists, artisans, and craftspeople: jewelry, photography, prints, glass art, ceramics, woodworking, and more.

The selection here homes in on bazaars that give more attention to art-oriented items. But you can find a more comprehensive list of local holiday markets – including those that focus on clothing, food, skin care and wellness products, and plants – on our Chron Events Holiday Bazaars page.

Armadillo Art Concierge

At 45 years, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is the granddaddy of Austin's holiday art markets and the one with the most deeply entrenched Yuletide traditions: a featured work of art each year commissioned from a Texas artist; free admission on opening day for all city of Austin employees; food from local restaurants; and music, music, music! Each day would open and close with a rendition of "London Homesick Blues," and in between, shoppers would be serenaded by three different musical acts, both up-and-comers and musical legends. So it was a tough blow having to give all that up when, for safety's sake, the Armadillo canceled its in-person bazaar this year. What it refused to give up, though, was its commitment to the artists it hosts every December. So rather than cancel, the Bazaar moved online, reinventing itself as an art sales portal for more than 160 artists. Using an idea it adopted for the 2019 Christmas Bazaar – having a personal shopper assist customers in finding the right gift or work of art – the new site was dubbed the Armadillo Art Concierge. You can browse the artist profiles page, which shows work by each artist and links to the artists' personal sites for purchasing their art directly; do targeted searches by inputting terms like "lamps," "jewelry," "Willie Nelson art," or "Ruth Bader Ginsburg art" into the site's search engine; or, if you remember a particular artist from a previous year and have a good enough memory to know where in the bazaar that artist set up shop, check out the maps of the show's layouts from 2011 to 2019 and find them that way. Oh yes, there's also the option for which the site is named: contacting an art concierge to find just what you need for you. Though if you want the full 'Dillo Bazaar experience this Christmas, you'll have to sing "London Homesick Blues" yourself.

Blue Genie Art Bazaar

6100 Airport; through Dec. 24

Whether you hope to do your COVID Christmas shopping the old-fashioned in-person way or in newfangled cyber style, your wish is Blue Genie's command. For its 20th year, this mainstay of the Austin holiday art bazaar scene has added an online store with hundreds of the creations in the physical bazaar just a mouse click away. Virtual shoppers may pick up their purchases at the Blue Genie home on Airport or have them shipped anywhere in the U.S. But the bazaar is also open for business as usual – 10am-10pm, seven days a week (and until 6pm on Christmas Eve) – with the standard concessions to these pandemic times: masks required; physical distancing encouraged; bar and lounge area closed; hand sanitizers available throughout the store; number of shoppers limited. That last point means if you should walk up when the bazaar is full, you may have to cool your proverbial heels a bit. However, Blue Genie has also instituted a free reservation system that guarantees you entry for a two-hour block of art-shopping whenever you wish. And if what you really wish is that someone else would do the shopping for you, a rub of Blue Genie's virtual lamp will conjure your own personal shopper, who will consult with you on who you're shopping for and what your budget is, then come up with some ideas for gifts. (Okay, this magical process does require filling out a request form and may take a week to complete. Still ...)

Community First! Village Holiday Market

9301 Hog Eye; Dec. 3-5

Mobile Loaves & Fishes has set up one of the season's most special holiday art markets: It features work by artists and makers living in its Community First! Village in Far East Austin, the 51-acre planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing for people coming out of homelessness. Not only will your purchase give you one-of-a-kind handcrafted items, it will provide some dignified income to the Village residents who made them. The market will be open 10am-8pm, Thursday, Dec. 3, through Saturday, Dec. 5, with space limited, so reservations are required, as are masks. Food and beverages, including hot cocoa, will be available at the village's Goodness Grill. And a little flying reindeer told me that its red-suited boss might drop in for a visit and some socially distant photos in the evenings.

Eastside Pop Up & Far Out Lounge Holiday Market

Far Out Lounge, 8504 S. Congress

Eastside Pop Up takes its itinerant market of locally made artisanal goods and vintage clothing and accessories to deep South Austin for the first Saturday in December, noon-5pm. More than 20 vendors will be on hand, selling such wares as illustrations, Indigenous-inspired art, jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, leather goods, crystals, and oodles and oodles of vintage clothes. The market is spread over 3 acres, so physical distancing shouldn't be an issue, but masks are still required. Food, drink, and live music are promised, though full details were not available at press time.

Windsor Park Backyard Makers Market

Berkshire Dr. & Cameron Rd.; Dec. 5-6

Most holiday art bazaars think big, hosting more vendors than Santa has elves. Windsor Park Backyard Makers Market is the rare exception: Santa has more reindeer than this bazaar has vendors. Just six of them offer goods at this two-day market, which adds to its neighborhood character. Fleming & Cazales' wares range from wooden cutting boards and stash boxes to naturally dyed kitchen towels, bandannas, and stockings. Clare Ware sells ceramic mugs, planters, and serving dishes. Ariel Spiegelman creates prints, cards, stickers, and more using her original art, and My-My Designs makes handcrafted clay jewelry and gifts. Emerald & Alma keep you clean with naturally made soaps and bath salts, while Neighborhood Baking Collective keeps you full with small-batch baked goods that support local neighborhoods. So if you're in a neighborly mood, this might be the holiday art bazaar for you.

Austin Flea Holiday Market

ABGB, 1305 W. Oltorf, Dec. 5-6
Captain Quack's, 5326 Menchaca, Dec. 12
Hold Out/Better Half, 406 Walsh, Dec. 13
Vista Brewing, 13551 FM 150, Driftwood, Dec. 19
Radio Coffee & Beer, 4204 Menchaca, Dec. 20

Austin Flea is as busy as St. Nick this December, setting up holiday markets of locally made artisanal goods and vintage clothing and accessories all over Austin. Each location features different vendors, but shoppers can expect such goods as original art prints and sculptures, jewelry, art T-shirts, botanical goods, CBD treats, and enough vintage clothes to fill a Claus' closet.

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gift guide, Gift Guide 2020, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, Armadillo Art Concierge, Blue Genie Art Bazaar, Community First! Village, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Windsor Park Backyard Makers Market, Eastside Pop Up, Austin Flea

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