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Eye Exam: Handmade Art for the Holidaze

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By Jason Foumberg

I’m a fan of skipping the line at Old Navy and buying from local artists for the holidays. Even atheists can partake.

For the Kitchen

Placemat by Karolina Gnatowski

ThreeWalls, one of Chicago’s best showcases of local emerging artists, offers a chance to creatively dress up your dining-room table while supporting its dynamic programming. The holiday edition of their Community Supported Art series includes a placemat, a bowl, a cup and a plate, all created by Chicago-based artists in a limited edition of thirty. Karolina Gnatowski’s placemat humorously takes into account the role of “place,” with arms and hands that reach toward the floor, thereby completing the circle among diner, dinner and home. Mindy Rose Schwartz’s dribble cup cheekily pokes a hole in the concept of “functional objects,” whereas a bowl by reclaimed-wood worker John Preus and a plate by noted sculptor Christine Tarkowski are so visually stylized they may end up on a collector’s shelf rather than a kitchen cabinet. In 2004, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum produced an exhibition titled “Design(does not equal) Art: Functional Objects from Donald Judd to Rachel Whiteread.” ThreeWalls’ current CSA adds a chapter to that alternative history of contemporary art/design. Try out your new place-setting at a ThreeWalls holiday meal on December 15 at the Stew Supper Club. $400 for the complete place-setting, and $100 for the holiday meal, at

Lillstreet’s thirty-seventh annual holiday exhibition focuses on ceramic objects and sculptures by more than twenty-five artists, ranging from traditional to experimental takes on classics like plates, mugs and teakettles. Through December 31 at Lillstreet, 4401 North Ravenswood.

For the Library

from Half Letter Press

Public spaces are becoming increasingly privatized, so how are individuals co-opting and adapting “public space” for real public use? This is the question investigated by Temporary Services in their booklets “Mobile Phenomena” and “Public Phenomena,” for their publishing imprint Half Letter Press. Published this year, “Mobile Phenomena” is the sequel to 2008’s “Public Phenomena,” and both feature a curated selection of photographs detailing how people impose makeshift order upon an ever-shifting world, with a focus on Chicago interventions but also with images from around the world. These are excellent additions to the library of anyone interested in handmade artifacts and contemporary urban archaeology. $25 for the pair at

Martin Creed’s vinyl record for Chicago

Commemorate UK-based artist Martin Creed’s year-long residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art with his newly released vinyl record. Titled “Work No. 1370, Chicago,” the record contains four tracks and hand-painted album art. Creed’s simplistic, absurdly funny music may be more appropriate for the children in your life, but the cover art is surely worth the few hundred bucks. $320 or $256 for MCA members, at

For the Walls

Sonnenzimmer’s two-sided poster

Sonnenzimmer (the screenprinting duo Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi) continue to challenge the conventions of wall art with a new, double-sided gig poster for the band Why? Typically, Sonnenzimmer prints are multi-colored and look more like paintings than screenprints, but the new print for Why? is just a single color, yet printed on both sides. This adventurous format is a two-fer, and collectors will get a chance to switch up their art just by turning it around. $40 at

The 23rd Annual International Small Print Show features more than sixty artists selling etchings, monotypes, screenprints, linocuts and more—many under $100—representing Chicago, the UK, Lithuania, France, China and more. If you’re not ready to make a fine art purchase, many of the available artworks are printed on t-shirts, cards and posters, as well as handmade books and other DIY gifts. December 1-2, 11am-7pm, at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, 4642 North Western.

For the Body

In the fashion world, women reap all the benefits of creative work—compare the footprint of any department store’s men’s and women’s sections, for example. But Richard’s Fabulous Finds attempts to remedy the problem with handmade accessories for men. Richard constructs bowties, lapel pins, pocket squares, and wrist cuffs from vintage ties and buttons. The masculine patterns are just enough to dress up any old, or new, outfit. Each of the “up-cycled” accessories are one-of-a-kind. Various prices, at

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