A painted flower sculpture

D.I.Y. Art Hop

Welcome to the season of potentially fraught consumption. Our shopping goal? Make it to 2011 without darkening the doorway of a big box store. This weekend, consider diverting some of your holiday spending to southwestern Michigan as area artists deck the halls with their wares. Create your own art hop by visiting these three cities, where we found unusual and lovely items with serious gift potential.

  1. Kalamazoo, Michigan
    During the First Friday of the Month Art Hop from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, December 3rd, more than 50 galleries and shops throughout downtown Kalamazoo will open their doors to offer food, drink, demonstrations, and art. A new exhibit from the West Michigan Glass Society (326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 100; 269-552-9802, wmglass.org) features a trove of sparkly, tree-worthy baubles. These exhibits also piqued our interest: The annual quilt show at the Black Arts & Cultural Center (359 S. Kalamazoo Mall; blackartskalamazoo.org); photographs by Brooke Nicole Klenow (DeVries Gallery at the Richmond Center, Western Michigan University); and the whimsical illustrations of Janie Bynum (157 S. Kalamazoo Mall; janiebynum.com). For a full list of galleries and artists, click here.
    GO Kalamazoo Art Hop; downtown Kalamazoo from 5 to 9 p.m. (some venues close at 8 p.m.) on December 3rd. For more information, go to kalamaznooarts.com, call 269-342-5059, or e-mail info@kalamazooarts.com.
  2. Battle Creek, Michigan
    About 30 miles east, the Art Center of Battle Creek’s Holly Mart showcases works of pottery, painting, jewelry, blown glass, and sculptures by more than 100 artists, priced from $5 to $1,000-plus. Less than a mile away from the Art Center, the CIR ETC Arts Studio (157 Capital Ave. NE; 269-788-6654, cirfun.com) offers one-of-a-kind, locally made items both functional (hand-painted martini glasses) and purely decorative (quirky metal guitar sculptures).
    GO Holly Mart at the Art Center of Battle Creek (265 E. Emmett St.; 269-962-9511, artcenterofbattlecreek.org) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, December 3rd, and Saturday, December 4th.
  3. Marshall, Michigan
    Another 20 miles east, Gallery 105 hosts the works of lapidary artist Thomas Buttrick—paperweights, clocks, and ceremonial pipes, crafted from the raw stuff of geology (minerals, rocks, geodes). We also liked the works by Pepper Pepper, who was born blind, survived multiple surgeries, and creates stunning botanical scapes with a mix of photorealism and painterly impressionism.
    GO Gallery 105 (101 W. Michigan Ave.; 269-789-0717, gallery105.com), from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, e-mail scott@gallery105.com.

Where to eat: Saffron (1710 W. Main St., Kalamazoo; 269-381-9898, saffronkzoo.com) features tasty Indian cuisine and tandoori bread. Also try the Mediterranean fare of Rustica (236 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo; 269-492-0247, rusticakzoo.com). Tip: Rustica is small, popular, and does not take reservations; call ahead to get on a wait list, which will shorten the time waiting for a table.

Where to stay: We recommend Kalamazoo House, a spacious bed and breakfast (447 W. South St., Kalamazoo; 866-310-0880, thekalamazoohouse.com). Rates range from $109 to $169 per night.