Special/Signature Issues » 2012 Holiday Almanac

Put a Bird on It

Unique gifts abound at the Bizarre Market gallery.

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Terrarium ornaments. Hand-quilted wool animals. Crocheted zombie bunnies.

Since 2004, the Bizarre Market — upstairs in a gallery at Chop Suey Books — has offered unique handmade gifts from local artists.

Bookstore owner Ward Tefft and Anna Virginia started the popular artists' market in 2004. Writer Bird Cox, program director of Richmond Young Writers, took it over the following year. Cox says this year's market will feature 65 artists, almost entirely from Central Virginia. It runs from Black Friday through Christmas Eve.

"We are constantly restocking and replenishing the work as it runs out — right up until the end." Hear that, last-minute shoppers? This is your spot. "It always blows my mind that people really do shop on Christmas Eve," Cox says.

In addition to the regular selection, there will be an auction of one-of-a-kind gifts made by artists in the show, with proceeds going to Richmond Young Writers scholarship fund. The auction runs Nov. 23 through Dec. 9. "Those gifts are really unique because you really can't get them anywhere else," Cox says.

Another gift you can find are votive candle holders (pictured), hand-decorated by homeless residents living at the Daily Planet's Safe Haven program.

"We use a layered-paper process that the residents helped develop," says Susan Sekerke, advancement coordinator at the Daily Planet and one of Style's 2012 Top 40 Under 40 recipients. "To date we've sold about 200 [at First Fridays Art Walks and farmers' markets]. These are great gifts for the holidays, especially for those hard-to-buy-for individuals. The residents make and sign each votive candle holder they make." She notes that proceeds help pay for innovative programs to help the homeless.

Cox says that that many Bizarre Market regulars are really looking for that homemade feel. It's enough to make you wonder why local craftspeople and artists can't do this all year long. "Definitely," Cox says. "The No. 1 comment we get every year is, 'Why isn't this available all year?'"

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