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Books, jewelry and more: A local angle on picking this year's holiday gifts

Charlotte Monroe checks out items for sale at the Gallery of Gifts at the Carroll County Arts Center in Westminster Thursday.
Charlotte Monroe checks out items for sale at the Gallery of Gifts at the Carroll County Arts Center in Westminster Thursday. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Shopping for friends and loved ones during the holiday season can be stressful, but local talks and events are doing their best to make it easier to find a perfect gift for everyone.

Thursday was the first day for the Carroll County Arts Council's Gallery of Gifts, which runs through Dec. 23 and gives people the opportunity to purchase items made by local artisans. On the same day, McDaniel College held a talk called "Books Sandwiched In: Books for Holiday Gifts," led by former college librarian Jane Sharpe, which gave the community ideas on book gift-giving.

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Gallery of Gifts
Just one hour into its opening day, several shoppers were already buying gifts on display in the Tevis Gallery of the Arts Council.
Items for sale include mugs, scarves, jewelry, lamps, clay crabs, hats, pottery, baskets and framed artwork.
Beverly Wladkowski, owner of b Creations Jewelry, was putting some last-minute touches on her display Thursday. It's her fourth year selling her creations at the Gallery of Gifts.
Wladkowski works full-time and said she makes her whimsical, cowgirl-chic jewelry on the side.
"It's nice to have this opportunity where they take care of things for you," she said.
The Gallery of Gifts is her biggest money maker each year for her jewelry. The organizers make sure the event stays current and fresh.
"There's always new things, plus old favorites," Wladkowski said. "It's a good way to support local artists and handmade gifts are wonderful."
Arts Council Director Sandy Oxx said the fifth-annual Gallery of Gifts features the work of 35 artists. Several volunteers are always at the event to assist shoppers and wrap the merchandise.
The vendors appreciate that they can sell their work and don't have to stand with their goods the whole time, since for many the artwork is their second job, Oxx said. Last year, the event brought in $22,000.
"We're really behind this whole shop local movement," she said.
The biggest change to the event this year is it will going on at the same time as the Festival of Wreaths, which will be held upstairs at the Arts Council starting Nov. 30.
Kiki Stellakis, of Westminster, said this was her second year at the event, but her first time attending it on opening day.
"I found some really great stuff," she said. "Things go really fast so I want to see what they have before it's all gone."
The variety is greater this year, which made it harder for Stellakis because she's indecisive.
"I'll come again with my fiance next week," she said. "He might find some stuff and give him his opinions."
This time of year is a high-traffic time at the Arts Council, which Oxx hopes will benefit more than just her organization.
"We want to bring more people downtown," she said. "We tried to select merchandise that's different than what's at other local stores."

"Books Sandwiched In"
Retired McDaniel College librarian Jane Sharpe's book suggestions spanned different genres and age groups at her midday talk Thursday.
Sharpe provided advice on the best books to give as holiday gifts at the 22nd annual Books Sandwiched In Thursday in the college's McDaniel Lounge. Types of books included fiction, nonfiction, biographies, children's books and cookbooks.
The way she approaches making her list of books each year is thinking about what she's going to get for the people on her holiday gift list.
"Hopefully, what I buy for my friends and family will be of interest to you all," she said.
Books are one of the best items to give as gifts, whether in print or e-book format, because they can be picked up any time, taken any place and shared with a friend.
Sharpe quickly went through 32 books, explaining their plots, surprising intrigue she found despite initial skepticism and sometimes reading passages to the audience.
One of the books on her list this year was "A Key to Love," written by Westminster-based author Mary Jane Buettner. Sharpe said the book is historical fiction inspired by the former building and artifacts of St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster. Buettner was in the audience Thursday and even answered one of Sharpe's questions.
Another fiction novel recommended was "The Wedding Gift," a book about three women's experiences with plantation life before the Civil War.
"I think what stood out to me was the resilience of the female characters," Sharpe said.
She also talked about how enthralled she was by the biographies of Robert "Believe It or Not" Ripley and Jim Henson. Sharpe was interested by "40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World" by Howard G. Buffett, and how he has chosen to spend his fortune by giving back to the world.
Her children's book recommendations included one that discussed toys throughout different decades, a book written from the perspective of crayons, and a book about Santa coming to Maryland.
Westminster resident and retired teacher Sally Stair said it was the first year she attended the talk and enjoyed hearing the suggested books -- both for her own reading and for her to buy as gifts.
She is in two book groups, one that is associated with the college, and plans to take the list back to her one book group.
"I love books and I read all the time," she said.
Stair is happy when others, including friends and family, share her passion for literature.
"I just think it's so important to always be reading," she said.

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