Something that keeps most people centered throughout the year is the concept of looking forward to the holiday season. Whether they hold out for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, New Year’s Eve or Festivus, most people can find some wintertime event around which to enjoy hot beverages, feasts, decorations, family time, giving/receiving gifts, time off of work, and/or all-purpose bacchanalia.

One of Irvine’s more wholesome, annual, winter traditions takes place at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. This year marks the 37th annual instance of the center’s Holiday Faire. On Friday through Saturday, November 8-9, the arts center will showcase a variety of handmade arts and crafts from local artists that guests can purchase for themselves or as holiday gifts. The wares will include holiday decorations, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, hand-blown glass and more. Additionally, there will be live musical performances and select food items served in collectible ceramic bowls, which have been made by the volunteers of the Irvine Fine Arts Center. In advance of the Holiday Faire, Irvine Weekly spoke with Laura Murphy, the center’s new supervisor, to learn a bit more about the fair’s history and present.

(City of Irvine Fine Arts Center staff)

The event started organically. It was the brainchild of the center’s artists who first got it running.

“It actually began as just participants of the community center wanting to share their art right before the holidays,” Murphy explained. “And over the years, it has grown exponentially into over a hundred artists.”

Murphy pointed out that in addition to some of the center’s instructors routinely selling their work at the event, there are also exhibitors who have cultivated their goods through the center’s open studio programs, which allow artists of all levels to rent space to work on their projects, so some of the goods have been developed using the center’s jewelry, printmaking, photography lab and ceramics spaces.

“[This year,] we have an instructor that will be sharing her work; we have, I think, three different participants that regularly attend classes here at the fine arts studio, and then it’s supplemented by their own open studio use where they work independently on their projects.” She added, “And a lot of artisans that are here also have individual Etsy shops or have their own social media accounts, where they’re selling [their work]. So this is just another venue [through which] they’re able to reach out to the community and hopefully draw a new audience.”

Beyond that, Murphy pointed out that there will be plenty of new exhibitors who will be showcasing their stuff at the center for the first time. Not just anyone can exhibit though. Murphy explained that the exhibitors, who principally come from throughout Orange County, have to be selected.

“It is a juried event, so you have to jury in to attend,” Murphy said. “We do select fine quality, artisan, handmade work only. We don’t like anything prefabricated or mass-produced in that way … it’s really items that kind of catch your eye that maybe [are] not trending necessarily but [demonstrate] a skill or a craft that’s unique to a gift that people might be purchasing for one another leading up to the holidays.”

She added that while the center doesn’t especially enforce a price limit, most of the goods hover around a reasonable rate for attendees at a community event. She then pointed out that while the center had received more than 170 applicants; the final exhibitor list is somewhere just over 100.

(City of Irvine Fine Arts Center staff)

Given that many of the goods being vended are of the variety that would typically be produced at the arts center, the Weekly inquired about what some of the hotter items tend to be. “Ceramics are always very popular,” she explained. “The handmade bowls, eclectic toys … not toys, but the pieces and items that someone could use around the house. We also have amazing leatherwork this year as well as woodwork that will be a part of the show, and things such as quilling; that’s the paper filigree – strips of paper – rolled and shaped into different pieces of work. Gord art is another, and then we have the traditional jewelry and painting items.”

As for the musical accompaniment of the event, Murphy pointed out that there will be two official event musicians and one guest singer. On Friday evening, the event will be open from 5 – 9 p.m., and Charlie Millikin will perform. On Saturday, the event will run from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Jesse Macht will perform. Both musicians are singer/guitar players and will perform in the lounge area of the event, where guests can take a load off their feet in between swoops down the aisles.

Also performing will be a middle school volunteer named Tessa Sukhu, who will sing on both days. Joining Sukhu, Murphy explained, will be around 10 volunteers that routinely support the ceramics studio and become involved in the annual Holiday Faire to produce the special gift bowls that will be filled with a variety of holiday treats as part of the gift package. The event menu will feature chili, taco salad, pumpkin pie and apple pie. Unfortunately, due to health codes, no grandma’s special recipes will be showcased; however, that’s okay. You’ve got to keep some family traditions in-house, right? 

The cost of admission is $2 per person. There is no charge for children ages 12 or younger. Irvine Fine Arts Center is located at 14321 Yale Ave., and parking is free. For more information about the event, visit cityofirvine.org/holidayfaire or call 949-724-6880. 

Schedule of musicians:

Friday, November 8: Tessa Sukhu, 5 – 5:30 p.m.; Charlie Millikin, 6 – 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 9: Tessa Sukhu, 9:30-10 a.m.; Jesse Macht, 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.