Holiday Art Market débuts at IMU under new organization

The Holiday Art Market took place this weekend, despite confusion about the future of an annual market after the discontinuation of the Fine Arts Council.


Katina Zentz

Attendees walk along the booths during the Holiday Market at the IMU on Sunday, December 8, 2019. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Naomi Hofferber, Arts Reporter

Prints, pottery, paper crafts and painted plates all filled the Iowa Memorial Union on Dec. 7 as the Holiday Art Market, featuring 106 different artists, made its début.

The market, hosted by the local nonprofit organization Summer of the Arts, was created to replace the Holiday Thieves Market, which was hosted by the now discontinued University of Iowa Fine Arts Council.

Lisa Barnes, the executive director for the Summer of the Arts, said the organization was trying to keep things the same as it was under the Fine Arts Council. She said the quick turnaround was pretty easy for them, as they already have experience producing fine arts shows.

“This is an event I’ve attended for years so happy to see it continue,” Barnes said. “Since our events are all in the summer, this is a fabulous opportunity for ‘off season’ programming.”

The market, which Barnes said will be an annual event, provides artists like Chad Schott an opportunity to sell his wares. Since 1993, Schott has been making gourd drums, rain sticks, and didgeridoos in a rainbow of colors. He started after becoming involved with drum circles.

“I started figuring out ways to build instruments. I started making drums out of hollow logs, I call that my primal status era,” he said. “Then in 1994, I became a ceramicist, and started making ceramic drums. Unfortunately, I went to a ceramic drum funeral.”

After learning how to use a gourd mouthpiece for didgeridoos, he began to make drums out of gourds. He’s been selling in Iowa City for three years, despite living in Illinois.

“It’s a really eclectic town that has really good taste,” he said. “They really know what they like and want. The city is growing and growing every time I come here.”

Gretchen Nothhouse, a ceramic artist, has been at the Holiday Thieves Market for 12 years. Pots and mugs of all shapes and sizes lined her booth, and everything from egg cookers to honey pots were on display.

“My dad was a potter, so I grew up in it,” she said. “I started going to festivals and working on the wheel when I was 21.”

Nothhouse was upset when the Thieves Market was initially canceled in September.

“When they canceled the festival, I cried. I was so heartbroken, because I’d been doing the festival, and it just had such a nice feel,” she said. “I was so thankful when they took it over, because it’s a big time for all of us artists to make some good holiday sales. It was nice to have it happen so quickly, because usually you’re waiting for six months.”

Reiko Uchytil, a UI graduate who has been doing the market for four years, works in ceramics. Her booth was full of rabbits; rabbit heads, rabbit figures, and tiny ceramic animal faces with rabbit ears on. She said she’s inspired by everything, from mythology to children’s books regarding rabbits.

Uchytil said she also upset at the sudden cancelation of the Thieves Market three months ago.

“It was frustrating,” she said. “We put out our schedules anywhere from four to six months in advance, and we really depend on that.”

Tim Schuett, an artist who makes his pieces by electroshocking wood, has been in the Thieves market for the past three years.

When he was still solely a carpenter, Schuett’s friend introduced him to the artwork of creating fractal patterns in the wood. Having studied fractal patterns in nature as an environmental science major, he made it his goal to find out how to recreate it.

Schuett runs between 2,500 and 12,000 volts of electricity through wood to create natural fractal patterns — some deep carvings, others delicate etches.

“I take a lot of precautions with standing on a thick rubber mat, [wearing] gloves, and I use PVC pipes to hold the wires away from me,” he said. “I also have a dead man’s switch, so in case if I ever did do it, it would stop immediately.”

Schuett also found himself frustrated with the quick discontinuation of the Thieves Market.

“The only real complaint I have about it is the Thieves Market should have given us way more time, because we’ve got to sign up for a show like this in March, and it’s right around the time of year where there’s a lot of other shows going on,” he said. “I said no to about six other shows expecting to be in this one, and thought it wasn’t going to happen. It was not too bad, it was just frustrating at first.”