Fair in downtown Walla Walla showcases unusual gifts

A Holiday Artisan Fair runs Fridays through Saturdays next to Walla Faces Winery's tasting room.

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Rachelle Bruce of Corvidae Fine Art shows different pieces of jewelry to Lorie More Of Weston Oregon, at the Holiday Artisan Fair next door to WallaFaces Winery tasting room on Main Street. The Holiday Artisan Fair ruins November 26 through December 23 it is open Friday through Sunday at 1:00PM. 11/5/10

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Different pieces of Jewelry from artist Kristi Huffey at the Holiday Artisan Fair. 12/5/10

WALLA WALLA -- Of all the one-of-a-kind gifts at the recently opened Holiday Artisan Fair on Main Street, the most one-of-a-kind might belong to Alexa Palmer. By technicality.

Palmer, one of a dozen or so artists and/or vendors whose products will be featured through Christmas at the Walla Faces Event Center, debuted her vintage necktie wine bags with the opening of the Holiday Artisan Fair.

She gets help picking out the ties from family members, who scour thrift stores and other discount retail spots for the ties that are sewn together to create the bags. And since finding two identical neckties in a thrift store would be like discovering the proverbial needle in a haystack, there's close to no chance that two of her "Tie One On" bags will ever look the same.

Lest their be any confusion over the mission of those participating in the artisan fair, the point is to offer something you won't find at a national chain or box store.

"People are always looking for an unusual gift," said Judy Czyhold of Czyhold Metal Design.

Her husband, Richard, and son, Ben, turn scrap metal and other salvaged materials into everything from sculptures to home-improvement materials. Their items at the Holiday Artisan Fair range from furniture -- tables made from salvaged granite on iron legs to hand-forged dragon-head bottle openers.

As with many of the artists and creators whose works are on display, the Czyholds are regulars at the Walla Walla Valley Farmers Market. The opportunity to offer their inventory through downtown Walla Walla winery Walla Faces was a way to extend their season.

For Walla Faces owner Rick Johnson, the Holiday Artisan Fair was a way to promote business and foot traffic on what he refers to as "uptown Walla Walla" on the east end of Main Street.

But it also serves the artists, too. Johnson's sister, Candice Johnson, whose series of painted faces have been used on the labels at the winery, helped coordinate the fair.

"Most of the vendors had been at the market," she said. "But when the season ends there's no place for the vendors to go."

Johnson, who has had more than 40 exhibitions in France and was named last year by Art Business News as an emerging artist to watch, reached out to other vendors to help fill the Walla Faces Event Center, an adjoining space to the winery's tasting room.

In the case of Carol Flohr, who also serves as the winery's tasting room manager, the artisan fair is a chance to share a talent some may not have realized was a longtime career. Flohr spent years as a full-time weaver, traveling the world and fining inspiration in the Andes, in particular. The colors and materials are reflected in her scarves, shawls, capes and more.

"I love to weave. So I'm weaving for fun now and when people want things," she said.

For other vendors, like Genia Brown, the artisan fair helps to better establish her business in the absence of a permanent space.

Brown, the proprietor of Crazy Cowgirl Trading Post, had launched her retail business specializing in handmade cowboy-themed items and screen printing on Pine Street, but fell victim to the road construction that had been taking place in the area before becoming more established. Her mobile business travels from one craft show to another, as well as along the rodeo circuit and through special orders. But the Holiday Artisan Fair is a chance to build her market locally as well.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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