By Randi Bjornstad
Step inside the Eugene Saturday Market’s Holiday Market on any weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and the definition of art immediately takes on a whole new meaning.
Like the outdoor Saturday Market, of which it is an offshoot, everything sold at the Holiday Market has to be handcrafted by the artisan who is selling it, and that includes a range of creations from brilliantly colored stuffed mermaids to ceramics to paintings to non-stop entertainment on the stage next to the food court with its eclectic culinary offerings.
It’s a cacophony of sound, color, smell and visual overload.
Mao Vang and her husband, Vamyis Xiong, who live in Salem, have been selling their textile wares at Eugene’s Holiday Market for 25 years.
“We were immigrants from Laos after the Vietnam War,” Vang said. “We took traditional Laotian patterns and adapted them to American ways.”
And how. Her booth at the market, called Needlecraft & Creatures, is jam-packed with fabric bags, wallets and purses adorned with panels of Asian-style stitchery, plus hair scrunchies and whimsical dragons, mermaids, frogs, snakes and other creatures, all skillfully sewn from bright and often glittery fabrics.
“Every culture has mermaids and Cinderellas and things like that,” she said. “The dragons are very popular here and in Asia. But when people come in and ask for something different that we don’t already have, we try to add it.”
Brand new to the market this year, Bret Pendlebury put up a gallery of mostly small portraits that he creates by painting and mounting images from old yearbooks and photographs.
“I went to school for art, but I did really abstract stuff then,” said Pendlebury, who lives in Eugene but grew up in Miami. “When my grandmother died, I got all her photos and her yearbook, from the 1930s.”
One day he started painting his grandmother’s portrait from her yearbook picture, and he discovered he really enjoyed immortalizing old photographs in the form of paintings, which he sells — originals or giclée prints, framed or unframed — through his website at bretpendlebury.com. He also accepts commissions.
Tucked into the northwest corner of the main exhibit hall, artist Terry McIlrath of Joule Fine Art sat amidst his colorful, light-hearted creations making a sketch for yet another.
He’s lived in Eugene since 1978 and has the distinction of having made a living by his art for more than 40 years.
“I have a master’s of fine arts in ceramics from Michigan State, and I taught in eastern Montana for years, “McIlrath said. “I started out in jewelry and metalwork, and then I worked into collages and then paintings. It took me a long time to figure out that I could actually make a living at it.”
His subjects vary widely, from long thin strips of stacked black-and-white mini-portraits and reclining figures to freeform still lives and Picasso-esque treatments.
“One of the problems with creativity is that I come up with so any ideas that I can’t do them all,” McIlrath said. “I go from one thing to another, and then it’s on to something else.”
Removed from the hustle and bustle of the exhibit halls, performance artists take their turns in the entrance hallway, as patrons of the market walk by and occasionally stop to watch and listen.
As he has for years, actor Rickie Birran — he performs under the name Man of Words Theatre Company — put on his top hat and took to his custom-made portable stage to act out his recitation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Down the hallway a bit, violinist Julia Daniels, 15, and 14-year-old cellist Daviel Michels who are longtime friends and neighbors, wore Santa hats as they played familiar Christmas carols.
Eugene Saturday Market’s Holiday Market
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 10-11, 17-18 and 22-23; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 24
Where: Lane Events Center, 796 W. 13th Ave., Eugene
Information: 541-686-8885 or holidaymarket.org