Fine Art Museum fundraiser brings together WCU community just in time for the holidays


Jazz guitar instructor Steve Wohlrab and student Tyson Bittle perform at the Handmade Holiday Sale. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

The sweet scent of shortbread accompanied the sounds of warm jazz and friendly chatter floated through the long lobby of the Bardo Arts Center on Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Handmade Holiday Sale.

The Handmade Holiday Sale is an early holiday celebration that takes place the week before Thanksgiving each year at the BAC, where WCU students, faculty and alumni set up stations to sell arts, crafts and treats. According to creator and manager, Dawn Behling, the sale has been an annual tradition at the Arts Center since 2010.

“It was an idea we had to create a place for art students and others to come together and sell their work,” said Behling.

She explained that the vendors manage their sales and make a 10% donation at the end of the day to benefit the WCU Fine Art Museum. “It’s fundraising, it’s sharing people’s work and it brings the community together.”

Below are some short profiles of a handful of booths at the Handmade Holiday Sale and links to their online presences in case you missed them.


Stonehouse Pottery

Stonehouse Pottery is a local pottery business and a community workspace run by local artisans like Ann Suggs.

Ann Suggs and Kevin McNiff of Stonehouse Pottery. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

“It’s community pottery,” explained Kevin McNiff, a stoneware potter at Stonehouse Pottery and Masters of Fine Arts graduate from WCU.

“We have a bunch of different artists working there and community studio space to allow potters who are just getting out of school, or who work in the area and can’t afford their own studio space, to make their art.”

The shelves at the Stonehouse setup were at least 6 feet tall and filled with standard cups, mugs, and molds, as well as some alternative-fired pieces, like raku and horsehair pottery.


Perry Farms Savories & Confections

Ellen Perry of Perry Farms Savories & Confections, and her mother, Mimi. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

Ellen Perry runs Perry Farms Savories & Confections, a local sweets and treats business, and this was her first time at the Handmade Holiday Sale.

“I’m here today with my mother, Mimi. She does all the crafts and I do the baking,” explained Perry, who is also the executive assistant to the dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts at WCU.

The pair gleamed happily from behind tables covered in ornaments, pictures, fudge, cookies and truffles, among many other things.

“When I was growing up, I had the privilege of making gingerbread with my great-grandmother and my grandmother and my mother, and I’ve noticed that many people don’t do that anymore,” said Perry. “So I’ve made a gingerbread-making kit!”

Perry’s kit comes with her grandmother’s recipe, some ingredients, sprinkles, and cookie-cutters, so others can experience a tradition she loves.

“This is my hobby, my passion – this is Perry Farms Confections!”


Beaded jewelry by Gabrielle Beam of Twisted Element Designs. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

Twisted Element Designs

Gabrielle Beam and Ben Hiatt make alternative jewelry under the title of Twisted Element Designs. The couple collects stones and pieces through gem shops and personal experiences, and they combine their skills to make a unique kind of craft.

“My boyfriend does a lot of the wire-wrapping, and I do a lot of the beading, so we collaborate and it works,” said Beam.

Beam, a secondary education math and sociology major at WCU, and Hiatt, a graduate from local Southwestern Community College, formed Twisted Element designs about one and a half years ago.

“Both of us had been making jewelry on our own for several years prior,” says Beam. “Actually after we met, we realized that our two hobbies coincided beautifully, so we decided to create a business incorporating that collaboration.”


Javier Fox and Olivia Collins of the WCU Mud Cats. Photo by Yustin Riopko.

Mud Cats

The WCU Mud Cats are a campus organization of about 20 graduate and undergraduate students involved in the ceramics program at WCU.

According to member and WCU Master of Fine Arts student, Javier Fox, the WCU Mud Cats help to promote and educate people about ceramic work, material, and art. They have open demos and presentations from visiting artists and take trips to museums and conferences.

The Mud Cats were raising money by selling member-made pottery. Most of the money per item sold went to the potter/creator of the piece, while the rest went toward scholarships for club members.

Other booths at the Handmade Holiday Sale included crafts by members of the WCU Art Education Club; handmade fabric wreathes by WCU math major Brennan Burke; dyed and screen-printed scarves by museum attendant and event organizer Dawn Behling, and much more.

See more photos from the event below, and if you missed it: there’s always next year!

Handmade Holiday Sale 2016