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The Art of Giving

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As holiday shopping's egregious consumerism plays out in malls across the country, seek out truly unique and enlightening gifts in the galleries of local artists and artisans, without whose work we would be pressed to accept Hollywood and Target as major cultural outlets.Casing the artworks on display in the Bay area, meeting some of the artists, learning various things about their work, searching for a piece perfectly suited to the taste and living space of a loved one and maybe finding a thing or two for yourself — that's the hard part — the fun, interesting, rewarding hard part.

For a list of the Bay area's galleries and current exhibits, see The List. The following are a couple of recommended stops.

Well removed from traffic and parking dilemmas, San Antonio Pottery is the workshop and store of Jack Boyle, known for richly glazed hand-thrown creations that are as functional as they are decorative. The shelves of his shop hold such standbys as handsome mugs, bowls, vases and pots. Boyle is a master, and as such the lids on all of his oven and microwave-safe cookware fit snuggly, a trademark of his craftsmanship. Newer, popular items include fish sculptures and splendid sushi sets (flat plates, soy bowls, saki cups, a saki bottle and napkin rings), all you need to dress up your take-out or homemade sushi rolls.

Boyle hosts his annual Holiday Open House party from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, featuring work by his pottery students, refreshments and live music by three-piece, acoustic jazz combo Gadjo. San Antonio Pottery is located at 11903 Curley Road, San Antonio (352-588-4228). It's about a half hour north of Tampa: Take Interstate 75 north to Exit 59; take State Road 52 east; Curley Road intersects SR-52 at the first traffic light you come to; take a right; the pottery is 100 yards ahead on the right side of the road.

Celebrations 2003, the featured exhibit of the Arts Center in downtown St. Petersburg, includes pieces by more than 300 member artists who tailored creations toward the holiday season. The array of new work includes paintings by Elizabeth Clement, Jack Barrett, Nan Griffin and Bask; jewelry by Josette Urso; ornaments by Mary Klein; and one-of-a-kind holiday cards by Rebecca Skelton. The show runs through Dec. 31. The Arts Center is located at 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg (727-822-7872).

Just down Central Avenue, Florida Craftsmen also has a holiday show of members' work. All manner of fine crafts are here, with especially fine glasswork and jewelry. Florida Craftsman is located at 501 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg (727-821-7391).

To get the best look at all of the offerings of St. Petersburg's downtown galleries, attend the December art walk, from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 13. Many of the galleries offer refreshments and often have artists on hand to discuss their work. For more info on the downtown galleries, including a locator map, visit www.stpetearts.com.

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