- Michael Barnes American-Statesman Staff
From humble church bazaars scattered across the region to the giant Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at the Palmer Events Center, there are plenty of arts, crafts, books, clothes, music and other items available to give as gifts or to upgrade your living circumstances.
To give the holiday shopper a better sense of the variety at the eclectic Armadillo, where live musical acts keep the browsers in the spirit, we offer a sampling of five artists who ably represent our city’s creative class.
A former tech worker and founding member of the Austin Center for Photography, Davis has traveled the world taking pictures and making movies. He has been designated a National Geographic Creative Photographer.
After attending Kumbh Mela, a mass spiritual pilgrimage in India, he made a film titled “Cloth Paper Dreams.” After the 2016 Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, he went back to India on a quest to find a holy man he had photographed years before during Kumbh Mela. He documented that journey with photography and a new film, “The Man from Mathura” (not yet released).
Davis first began visiting Austin in 1969, the year that he first greeted the world.
“I was born and raised behind the pine curtain in Livingston but moved here as soon as I could in 1995,” he says. “My dad’s sister owned Camp Craft in the West Lake Hills area in the 1960s and ’70s, when West Lake was just the Hill Country. We spent many a holiday in the hills and it’s felt like home ever since.”
Davis thinks the Armadillo — as it is known for short, along with its original home, the long-gone Armadillo World Headquarters — is one of the best shows of its kind in the country.
“It’s finely juried,” he says. “The selection of both the visual artists and musical artists are all top bill. I know there are a lot of new people moving in town, and all I gotta say is that you can’t really say you are from Austin until you’ve visited the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.” (gregdavisphotography.com)
Howard studied traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking in Tokyo under master Hodaka Yoshida. A member of the Boston Printmakers, she applies the centuries-old Japanese art form with mixed media to modern subjects, say, tulips in the Netherlands, bluebonnets in Texas or landscapes in Portugal.
“I moved here in June of 1975 from Tokyo and never left,” Howard says. “Austin is the only place I want to live and produce my work. It’s energetic, creative, mindful, friendly.”
To Howard, the Armadillo is an essential tradition.
“I have participated for more than 30 years, and I continue to be amazed how this show has evolved and changed with the culture of Austin,” she says. “It has all levels of art. … I have clients now who came from all over the world to this event, as well as the newcomers to Austin and, of course, the ones who have made this event part of their family holiday tradition that they never miss.” (darylhoward.com)
Widely known known for his sports-, music- and Western-themed art, Hurst works with bright acrylic paints. He created the featured art for the 2017 Bazaar, an armadillo rendered in cool colors tiptoeing across piano keys.
Born and raised in Houston, Hurst studied medical illustration at multiple colleges and he attended the Art Institute of Houston. But’s he’s mostly self-taught. Early on, he worked with artist Bill Narum to create album covers and music posters for Antone’s Records and Go-Go Studios.
“My uncles lived here when I was a kid, so I got to experience much of the hippieness of old Austin,” he says. “Throughout high school during spring breaks I would come to Austin. I participated in the motorcycle races during the Austin Aqua Fest. I jumped off the cliff at Hamilton Pool while I was in college. Camped out at City Park. Hung out at Hippie Hollow. Austin always had that natural energy and creativity that I craved. I came here permanently in 1985, and it’s still the best move I ever made. I belong here.”
He’s shown art at the Armadillo for more than 20 years.
“It had a different feeling than other shows,” he says. “Very familial and friendly. The artists were always who I admired.” (adamnfineartist.com)
Rita Marie Ross
Ross shares an Armadillo booth as well as a creative link to another of our featured artists, Jacob Colburn. Both worked for years with late sculptor Daryl G. Colburn, Jacob’s father. Ross makes woven metal sculpture and fine art jewelry. She has shown all over the area while also executing private commissions.
“I came to Austin from a small town in northern Ohio to escape the cold and maybe find a way to make a living doing art,” Ross says. “That was back in 1982. I found warmth — OK, hot! — and an incredible community of creative people that not only encourage me, but taught me the ins and outs of being an artist. I also have found Austin a city that appreciates and buys art.”
Her mentor, Daryl Colburn, participated for years in the Armadillo.
“He basically introduced me to the event and (producer) Bruce (Willenzik),” Ross says. “It is a family, from being with the returning artists and musicians, to visiting with old clients and friends, as well as meeting new people. Jacob and I inherited the booth when Daryl passed six years ago. This for me is a family affair now more than ever.” (ritamarieross.com)
Trained by his father, Colburn creates metal sculpture painted with acid patinas. He also is a regular guest artist at the Thornton Road Studios.
“I was born in Austin on a cold morning in 1976 at St David’s Hospital,” he says. “I moved around some after, but came back here during middle school and graduated from Travis High School. I have watched Austin change and grow huge. Austin has always had a wonderful laid-back feel. It’s my hometown and I love it, traffic and all.”
From an early age, Colburn tagged along with his father to art shows far and wide.
“My whole young life was setting up shows, meeting other artists and trying to trade my dad’s work to them for things that I liked,” he recalls. “I remember my dad showing at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar when it was at the old Austin Opera House. I was a kid, and I remember running all around there and thinking how wonderful it was.”
He joined his father’s booth with his own work for four years at the Austin Convention Center before his father’s death.
“Rita Marie Ross and I decided to honor my father and would still do the show that year,” Colburn says. “Since then, I have been back every year, and the ’Dillo has become my family. I get to come back every year to see them for Christmas.” (jacobgcolburn.com)