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Allied Arts Holiday Festival of the Arts a must-stop for unique gifts

Any last-minute shopping to do? Want to find some lovely gifts for upcoming birthdays and special events in 2015?

The Allied Arts Holiday Festival of the Arts offers a plethora of arts and crafts, everything from Owen Carter’s custom crossword puzzles to a delicious assortment of hazelnuts (including chocolate-covered ones) from Holmquist Orchards, to Robert Goforth’s Down to Earth Woodworks resplendent cutting boards.

The festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at 4145 Meridian St., next to the new Burlington Store.

There will be two bonus days: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 22 and 23. The festival will close at 3 p.m. Dec. 24.

Among the longtime participants in the festival is Dorita Gray. In 1983 she became the administrator at Allied Arts of Whatcom County, and held the position until Miriam Barnett was hired as the organization’s first executive director in 1987. Gray was involved with the holiday festival when it was called Christmas In Fairhaven, and has been in the festival all but one year since then. She and her husband, Bob, have lived in Ferndale since 1994. Bob is in his 34th year teaching music in Blaine.

Though Gray creates mainly jewelry, she considers herself a potter. She uses different colors of porcelain and stoneware clay to create patterns she cuts and shapes by hand, and then fires the finished work to 2,200 degrees. She has been creating ceramic jewelry and hand-built pottery since 1982.

Music, water and nature inspire her, Gray says, so Whatcom County seems a good fit. She studied ceramics at Western Washington University with Mary McIntyre and Pat McCormick and at Whatcom Community College with Katherine Roe. She came to Western to study industrial design with Marvin Southcott in 1976.

Gray says she enjoys learning to do something new or challenging, and clay has always been a great teacher for her. Here’s her view on the arts:

“I believe the arts are the communicator of the human experience and the arts are the tools we give ourselves to communicate tradition and culture with each other.”

“I am proud to be a part of a rich arts community here in Whatcom County and believe in sharing what I have learned with others.”

Festival details:, 360-676-8548.

SpeakEasy poetry salon offers hopeful words for new year

Luther Allen, a Sumas Mountain writer who has hosted the SpeakEasy poetry salons for several years, sent an email out recently to his “likely suspects” — that is, those willing and able to contribute to the next SpeakEasy event. Here’s what he said:

“I’ve had several conversations with friends recently when the same question arises: ‘Don’t you think the state of the world is really bad right now, maybe the worst in our lifetime?’

“Well, maybe. There seems to be a long and growing list. As an outgrowth of this perception, SpeakEasy 15 will be dedicated to poems and prayers for the new year — giving voice to hopes, beseechments and visions, both personal and global.”

Allen questions whether those words will “make a difference and change the course of human events.” But he does believe “there is power in words and poetry assembles and focuses that power,” and hopes the poetry salon will bring some transformation to our world.

If you’d like to participate, email one to three pieces for consideration by Dec. 31 in some sort of Word format to Original works are preferred, but Allen says if there is an extraordinary piece by another author, it will be given consideration; however, overtly religious work is not recommended.

A list of selections will be provided by Jan. 10. If you submit work, it is hoped that you will be able to read at the event and are willing to have your work displayed during the reading.

SpeakEasy 15: Poems and Prayers for the New Year, will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18, at Mount Baker Theatre’s Encore Room. Details: