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Local artists and artisans offering new ways to shop for the perfect Christmas gift

For many, the Christmas season filled with artisan and craft markets is the perfect way to spend an afternoon shopping for gifts to give loved ones over the holidays, while also supporting local creators and businesses.

For many, the Christmas season filled with artisan and craft markets is the perfect way to spend an afternoon shopping for gifts to give loved ones over the holidays, while also supporting local creators and businesses.

With COVID-19 in the mix this year, many of the staple Christmas markets have been cancelled because they are so popular, they create a concern with respect to how many people are gathered in one place at the same time.

But do not dismay, as the creative energy behind these traditional events have found a way to continue the tradition of creating space for artists and artisans to connect with holiday shoppers – just in a different way.

The Canmore Preschool Society's annual Christmas market is the perfect example. Held in the past at the local high school, where dozens of vendors offer a selection of festive gift ideas, this year it has transformed into the Bow Valley Artisan Studio Tour.

"The artisan market the way that is has normally been held is cancelled," said Madeleine Williams with the preschool society. "It is important to us that people know it is only cancelled this year and we do intend for it to be back in its usual format in years to come." 

A major fundraiser for the local preschool, the annual market also provided artists and artisans with a venue to sell their products. They have also been hit hard with the economic fallout of the pandemic. 

"We thought that maybe if we could get people coming around to various studios, or those with home-based studios, if we could find some space for them ... we decided to go with that," Williams said. "I think the most important thing is that community organizations are trying to help each other out and help out local artists and artisans – and hopefully give people a good place to go Christmas shopping."

Discover the artisans participating in the Studio Tour Nov. 28-29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at bowvalleystudiotour.com – including pottery, paintings, fashion and jewelry, glassworks and woodcrafters to name just a few. The website includes an interactive map that will guide shoppers to the various studio locations. 

With COVID in the mix, consider a stylish and functional gift from Canmore Mask Makers or Blue Eyes Studio artist Kathryn Cooke – who's masks are a fashion statement in and of themselves. Another great option is a handmade piece of pottery – with several artisans offering a variety of options like of Cabbages and Kings, Rayne Maker Pottery and Karen Atrobus. 

The Canmore Art Guild Gallery in Elevation Place is included in the studio tour, and will be open Thursdays to Sundays until Dec. 23 with its annual Christmas Show featuring work by its members.

Guild director Sue Hayduk said with 15 artist members participating in the show, the gallery will open its doors on Nov. 28, having been closed since March due to the pandemic. 

From craft pieces, fabric art, wall art, pottery and paperwork all represented – those looking for a one of a kind gift for someone special will be guaranteed plenty of options. 

"I think overall it is really exciting to have our little Canmore Art Guild community coming together again to try and put something forward," Hayduk said. "We think this is one way we can contribute towards the Christmas spirit." 

This year, the guild celebrated its 40th anniversary as an organization, but unfortunately had to cancel its planned event to mark the important anniversary. It has provided a venue for Canmore artists to promote their work since 1980 and intends to continue that work into the future for many years to come. 

"We know this is a challenging time, but this might be the best way we can serve our community," she said. 

Shoppers are asked to take a moment before entering the gallery to review the COVID-19 protocols in place. 

While the Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables has become a classic holiday experience in the mountains, this year the event is taking a pause and expects to return in 2021.

Banff Lake Louise Tourism organized a Christmas Artisan Trail, however cancelled the event after additional COVID-19 restrictions were introduced by the provincial government. 

Finally, if there is a local business, artisan or maker that shoppers would like to support, but they are not comfortable visiting a studio or local venue, keep in mind that over the past eight months almost every small business in the valley has established e-commerce sites to make this possible and easy.

It is recommended that you check out their website and order early to ensure it is shipped and delivered to you in time to be nestled under the Christmas tree by Dec. 24.