Five Things That Make Perfect Luggage-Sized Gifts From the Austin Studio Tour
Cool stuff that's small enough to wrap
The Austin Studio Tour is a combination of the pre-pandemic West Austin Studio Tour and East Austin Studio Tour, all fomented and presented by Big Medium and their many community partners. The first weekend covered the West; the second weekend covered the West and the East; this final weekend (Sat.-Sun., Nov. 20-21, noon-6pm) wraps up with just the East. (You can pick up a free studio tour map at any Austin Public Library branch while supplies last; but you've got to become a member of Big Medium to earn a copy of the Austin Studio Tour Art Book.) For these final five recommendations, we've focused on studios and galleries that also offer, among their larger art objects, smaller, luggage-carryable items – ideal for gifting to your lucky family or friends, say, when you go visiting around year's end.
He's a past master, as the phrase goes, of the art of pottery. But Ryan McKerley is also, we'll insist, a future master of the same practice: The man's been working his craft in this city since 1995, and whether the pieces are functional or purely aesthetic – or, more often the case, a stunning combination of both – they're sure to be among the loveliest objects in your home. And of course a thing of beauty (thank you, Mr. Keats) is a joy forever. Cups, bowls, saucers, platters – you name it, McKerley's elevated its utility toward a sophisticated style that'll still be valued decades from now. Which, the way things are going, may well be post-apocalyptic; but at least the ragtag survivors will be dining, when possible, on the most refined porcelain around. 1027 Arthur Stiles, ryanmckerley.com.
Brian David Johnson
You'd think everybody and their cousin would be infusing brightly colored resin into panels and discs and natural chunks of reclaimed wood. Surely the process can't be all that arduous, right? But maybe it's just that this Johnson fellow does it so well, which is why his simple flower holders and jewelry trays and exquisite earrings (to say nothing of his more complex, nonfunctional-but-gorgeous-and-intriguing creative expressions) are found in the best homes and gathering places in our rapidly growing city. Regardless, checking out this work is also a good excuse to visit his Cloud Tree studio with its gallery store that features a curated array of unique and giftable goodnesses from other, perhaps equally skilled locals. 3411 E. Fifth, bdj.gallery.
Blackfeather Vintage Works
Jessica Nieri's emporium of wonders, located immediately behind Dimension Gallery on Springdale, is like some miracle junction of time and space where nostalgia meets elegance, where funky is never junky, where you'll find a constellation of old and new creative works that include jewelry, clothing, antique objets d'art, and other stellar items you can't find elsewhere without 1) a time machine and 2) the proper social connections. This place is one of the Austin Studio Tour's business partners, and an artspace in its own right, and it's adjacent to Dimension Gallery and Ghost Pepper Glass – making this a sort of one-stop hat trick for your weekend of seeing and shopping. 979 Springdale #98, blackfeathervintageworks.com.
She's "a storyteller, writer, performer, and creator of self-portraits," this richly talented local. But the selfies she produces aren't of the same person: These are portraits of the diverse array of characters Garza embodies in an ongoing narrative revealed through text and photography, an evocative gallery of performed selves along the lines of what, say, Cindy Sherman might do if Cindy Sherman had been thoroughly marinated in the essence of Frida Kahlo and William Faulkner. But why is this artist's display a good fit for our putatively portable/giftable reco set? Because Garza's long-awaited coffeetable book compilation of her photos and their backstories will also be available this weekend. 5305 Bolm, Bay 2; jannagarza.com.
This woman sculpts creatures – unnervingly lifelike, but unnaturally large creatures – out of recycled cardboard, and the sculpted cardboard is often enhanced with similarly sculpted paper for the more delicate parts. Bonus: Most of the creatures are insects. A wasp, for instance. A dung beetle with its rolling burden. A stag beetle that some collector in Tokyo might pay a month's rent for. A cicada that you'd almost swear you could hear the shrill cry of. A mayfly that would do the likes of Bryn Oh proud. She works in other mediums, too, this Keenan – paintings, stained glass – but it's the recycled cardboard and Our Diversity of Arthropod Friends in her exhibition at Springdale General that currently bring the most joy for the artist and the tour's visitors. 1023 Springdale Bldg. 10-C, kakiikeenan.com.