A gift from the heart
Gallery owners say original artwork is the most personal holiday present

By Hannah Weikel - Freeman Staff

November 25, 2017

 The Gallori in Oconomowoc sells handcrafts and artwork during the holiday season to customers looking for a personal and one-of-a-kind gift that can't be found in a big box store.
Photo courtesy of Lori Boldig

WAUKESHA - For those searching for a gift that is unique, personal and lasts a long time, local art gallery owners say holiday shoppers need look no further than handcrafted and oneof- a-kind artwork.

Shoppers who aren’t avid art junkies may not immediately think to give a piece of art as a gift, though, and others may shy away from artwork because of widely varying tastes, not realizing the right piece can be had if enough time is spent hunting.

“Art is more personal; it’s not a generic gift,” said Lori Boldig, owner of The Gallori in Oconomowoc. “Art truly lasts forever and I think giving something unique and personal is the spirit of gift-giving.”

The Gallori and other art galleries in Waukesha County experience their busiest season around Christmas time as customers search for the perfect gift. Gallery owners prepare by making sure there’s something for everyone in every price range. They separate themselves from big box stores by providing customers with original gifts that cannot be found anywhere else. “The fact that it’s an original piece of art, it’s made in the U.S., it’s usually made locally, sets it apart from things you’d find at any big box store,” said Lynn Gaffey, owner of Almont Gallery in downtown Waukesha. “There’s more meaning behind it.”

Christmas wish lists are often full of items that can be ordered online or found in a big box store, Boldig said, but the true spirit of giving is to present a family member or friend with something they wouldn’t otherwise buy for themselves.

“I think it’s always nice to give a gift that they didn’t know they wanted until they got it and saw it,” Boldig said, adding that a gift of art doesn’t have to be a big painting — it could be a handmade coffee mug, painted salt and pepper shakers or a woven blanket.

The biggest thing is not to be afraid to walk into an art gallery looking for a gift, said Joan Skimmons, owner of River’s End Gallery with locations in Elm Grove and Waukesha.

Skimmons said people may shy away from galleries because of varying tastes in artwork and the high costs associated with original pieces, but her gallery works with artists to get prices down to the cost of a duplicate print.

For those unsure where to begin when picking out artwork for someone else, Skimmons said she starts by asking questions about the recipient — what their interests are, if they like lots of color or a certain medium.

Boldig said selecting a piece of wall art for someone else can be a little more tricky because the gift-giver must know the exact style and taste of the recipient.

“Other handcrafts are easier because you can givethem something that speaks to their personality,” she said. “Wood bowls, blown glass and picture frames are still one-of-a-kind, but they are easier than a painting and can be equally sentimental.”

And in case a gift of art misses its mark, many galleries are adopting return policies similar to those of big box stores, Skimmons said, whose gallery offers returns, loans and even layaway for the holidays.