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Denise Handwerker is one of the artists who will be selling her work the Out of the Box Artists’ Holiday Gift Market, this month. And although this fiber artist and feltmaker isn’t a starving artist, neither is she remotely close to joining the 1 percent.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Handwerker, describing her work process. Handwerker, who makes her home in Elmwood Park, works primarily with wool. That is, she’ll buy a wool sweater and shrink it in her wash machine. This, she explained, changes the wool into a felt-like material, which she then “repurposes” into items like scarves, cat toys and Christmas wreathes.   

Handwerker’s art, along with the work of other’s, will be on display and for sale at 7401 Madison St. (the former Two Fish Art Glass space) until Dec. 18, as part of the Out of the Box market.

There are about 10-15 artists in this collaborative of rotating participants. Most of the work that is for sale is affordable, with some items selling for as low as $5. However, there are pricier works, too: a pastel landscape by Oak Park artist Mel Thompson was priced at $800, last weekend.

Jamie McClellan, one of the show’s organizers, said that Out of the Box is an attempt to give local artists a chance to gain exposure and make some money during the holiday shopping season. It also aims to provide affordable art to customers.

On the day that Out of the Box opened (Dec. 3) there was also another holiday-themed arts fair going on in town. 

First United Church of Christ, 1000 Elgin Ave., held an arts and crafts sale at its annual one-day holiday bazaar, last Saturday.  Handmade items included a crocheted afghan, tree ornaments and hand-knit scarves.  The bazaar also included baked goods and a rummage sale, where tables offered such treasures as a dusty VHS of an old Eddie Murphy movie.

The bazaar is as much a labor of love for First United members as is the work of the Out of the Box artists – it’s also essential to the church’s bottom line.

“It’s one of our biggest fundraisers, bringing in between $700 and $1,000,” said Sheryl Marinier, congregation president.  “We like many churches are struggling financially, even though we are growing and are reaching out to the community with ministries like our Monday soup kitchen.”

She added that the event “is also a great time for fellowship.”

The Out of the Box gallery is open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., on Saturdays; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays, until Dec. 18, and has a wide variety of items for sale, which, in some cases will be sold by the artists themselves.

Last Saturday liz kantorski (she prefers lowercased letters in her first and last names) was selling her handmade, balance-board, seesaw like creations, which span some four and a half feet long.

Also featured was pottery by Oak Parker John Putnam; crocheted earrings by Susan Jakobsen, of Elmwood Park; and handcrafted glass jewelry by Jan and Mike Gussin, who live in Kildeer.   

The Out of the Box gallery opened on Harrison Street in Oak Park nine years ago. And the seasonal art show has been at various locations on Madison Street in Forest Park for the last four years.