Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Holidays 2018 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Ingrid Brophy likes to get a jump on her holiday shopping while supporting local artisans and craftsmen.
So Brophy welcomes the barrage of bazaars and juried art and craft shows in the region.
The gifty goldmines kick off in October and run nearly every weekend right up until Christmas. Located in museums, schools, town halls, churches and more, they offer handmade and unique arts and crafts in nearly every medium and at every price point.
Brophy has been a regular shopper at these pop-up shows for years. Her favorite is the Dennos Museum Holiday Art Fair, where she also volunteers. The annual three-day event is one of the first of the season and showcases the fine arts and crafts of 50 artisans, from jewelry, to handcrafted apparel, to handblown ornaments.
Brophy has been a volunteer at the Dennos Museum for nearly 30 years and looks forward to the art fair where she has not only found gifts for friends and family but a few for herself.
“I think you’re always looking for some cute item to add to your stocking or a gift for a teacher or a girlfriend,” she said.
For many years she and a friend also frequented Thistle and Thread and the Dickens’ Christmas Bazaar at First Congregational Church, two of the area’s longest-running holiday shows, which were held on the same weekend.
“Back in the day we went to those two and ended up at the Congregational Church for their luncheon, which was great,” she recalled. “I’d usually find a few Christmas gifts that were unique and not necessarily expensive.”
Past outings include hunts for feline-theme gifts for a friend who is a “cat person” and for color-particular pottery or handmade scarves for a sister and another friend who like blue.
These days she attends other markets on more of a whim rather than on a gift-buying mission.
“I discovered the Glen Arbor show one year and took my sister, who was visiting from Seattle,” she said of the show that features handcrafted locally-made goods from more than 30 artisans, plus a variety of greenery.
Brophy’s first craft show was decades ago in Ohio.
“I bought a lot of handmade Christmas ornaments, things like that,” she said. “A lot of them were stuffed because I had a small child and for years I put them on the bottom of my tree because then any child could touch it.” Those ornaments hung on her tree for years until her grandchildren grew up.
Jewelry is a mainstay at many of the shows and Brophy has found her fair share of pieces.
“I have bought a lot of jewelry over the years. Here at the museum show we have a lot of beautiful, unique jewelry,” she said.
One of her favorite holiday show discoveries was a potter who made one-of-a-kind fairy houses. Brophy was buying the artist’s unique vases and jewelry dishes when she turned around, saw the little houses and was immediately smitten.
“They’re very unique and unlike anything you’d find in a store,” she said. Over the years she has collected several, which she displays year-round.
Nowadays Brophy doesn’t shop for gifts like she used to since she and her husband don’t buy for extended family anymore. But that won’t stop her from popping in to check out a few holiday markets this season.
Near the top of her list is the second annual Merry Makers Marketplace in Traverse City hosted by Crooked Tree Arts Center, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Other upcoming holiday shows include the Frankfort Holiday Market Nov. 16-18 at the Oliver Art Center and the Glen Arbor Holiday Marketplace Nov. 23-24 at the Glen Arbor Township Hall.
It’s not surprising that Brophy gravitates to these unique venues because she’s been an art aficionado since she was a child.
She grew up in a Detroit brownstone and her parents took her to museums, which would ultimately instruct her lifelong appreciation of the arts.
“When we were children we went to Cranbrook and I went to Europe when I was 19 and visited art museums. We were not culturally deprived,” she said.
“I also lived in Chicago for four years and went to the art museums there and was influenced by different sculptures.”
She likes to joke that she’s a wannabe artist so for her these shows are an opportunity to see a sampling of local works of art.
“Even though I don’t buy like I used to, I really like to go see what people are doing,” she said.