For many holiday shoppers, supporting local artists and artisans has become an important tradition.
For 40-plus years Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair at Reid Park lets people find creative items from more than 145 local vendors. This year, it’s Saturday, Nov. 26, and Sunday, Nov. 27.
The vendors’ mediums include photographers, pottery makers, metal and glass artists, painters, jewelers, mixed-media artists and fiber and graphic artists.
Attendees can peruse fine artwork as well as handmade items such as pet accessories and treats, soaps, walking sticks, jams, quilts, totes, lotions, windchimes and baked goods such as fudge and baklava.
Vendors will have holiday-themed decorations and gifts for sale.
Food trucks will sell quesadillas, breakfast burritos, burgers, smoothies, kettle corn, Sonoran hotdogs or vegan items.
Susan Orrico, fair coordinator since 2007, said the market offers an alternative shopping experience to Black Friday.
The market was closed in 2020 due to COVID-19. Orrico said shoppers were eager to come back last year, and she expects the same this week.
“We had a strong shopping year last year, and we expect a good year this year as well,” Orrico said.
The items are for sale at various price points. Orrico said shoppers can often find affordable items for their family members for the holidays.
“One thing we keep in mind is kids are coming through, and they are shopping for mom, dad and the grandparents. They want to be able to pick something up that is really economical,” Orrico said.
During the event, Lillian “Miss Lilly” Gainous sells free make-and-take crafts for children—including glue and glitter. She has been part of the arts fair for around 40 years.
“The kids that she introduced to arts and crafts are now bringing their kids,” Orrico said. “The kids absolutely adore her… Kids come running up and melt right into her.”
Some of the vendors have been doing the market for up to 25 years.
“Our vendors have been very loyal to us,” Orrico said.
“They are just a delightful group of people to work with. It’s a fair where they have to park on the pavement and cart everything in. It can be a long weekend, and our vendors have never failed to be so courteous and polite all the way through.”
Sometimes, attendees will come looking for specific vendors.
“We have someone who does a fantastic peanut brittle. We have people arrive and say, ‘Where’s the peanut brittle?’” Orrico said.
During the fair, shoppers can discuss with vendors their work and processes.
The show is juried, so artists have to apply. This year, there were more than 200 applicants. Orrico said during the juried process, they look for artists who are different, who will add something unique to the market. She said this helps to offer a diverse shopping experience for guests.
“Each tent that shoppers travel to is different,” Orrico said.
Some vendors make it a family event. Sisters Sue and Jean Riley and Sue’s daughter Jillian Riley will have a tent during the fair. They all make birdfeeders using teacups and saucers.
Although they all do the same type of artwork, they create their own pieces separately. Sue said their finished products turn out very different.
They will often incorporate beads from gem shows; pieces taken off necklaces and teacups they find at estate sales, secondhand stores and garage sales.
Shoppers often bring cups and saucers to them to use. Sue said many people don’t know what to do with teacups and saucers passed down in their families. The bird feeders let them decorate their homes with these heirlooms.
“Nobody likes the hand-me-down grandma collections anymore. So, they will have us make them so that they have a memory without having to stuff it into the cupboard,” Sue said.
Sue and Jillian started together 10 years ago, and they brought Jean into the fold a little later.
Jean takes care of their parents, so making teacup birdfeeders gives her something to do to keep busy.
Sue said it started as a way to make gifts for friends and family members, but soon turned into a bigger endeavor.
“People started to see them, got interested and wanted to buy them,” Sue said.
When she first started, Sue was surprised how sturdy the teacups and saucers can be.
“It’s amazing how well they hold up out in the storms,” Sue said.
Sue and her sister hadn’t previously created artwork with found objects. Their parents, however, stressed the importance of recycling.
“I’ve never considered myself to be an artist. I’m a stick-figure type of person. That opened us up. It’s really quite fun to do,” Sue said.
The three women use a process for the teacup birdfeeders that is different from other artists.
“We had seen a lot of them where people make them where they set the teacup on the side and put a string on it. We actually do three to four strings per plate and bedazzle them up with crystals.”
The feeders hold birdseed on the plates and water in the cups. Some people find alternate uses for the feeders.
“We have had people buy them to put candy in or bath salts,” Sue said.
Patrons sometimes buy bird feeders because they feel connected to a specific design, such a whale or the U.S. Navy.
“Somebody will say, ‘My grandma had that exact set,’ and they will buy it for that memory,” Sue said. “It’s fun to see the smile it brings to people’s faces, whether they buy it or not. It makes people happy to look at them.”
Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, and Sunday, Nov. 27
WHERE: Reid Park, 920 S. Concert Place, Tucson
Cost: Free admission