One of a kind from the heart; A Handmade Christmas is in its 5th year of bringing uniqueness to Austin

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

The scene is reminiscent of the 1950s. Guests dressed for a night on the town, with glasses of wine in hand, mingle among the displays of paintings, pottery, scarves, candles, home decorations and more. They snack on hors d’oeuvres. It’s an experience orchestrated to be unique in this southern Minnesota industrial town surrounded by a sea of farms.

“You see that in movies … you don’t see that a lot in town,” said Kristy Rooney, who is running the Handmade Christmas arts and crafts show in Austin. “So we really wanted to give — from every level — something that people weren’t getting anywhere else in town.”

“Every level” includes the atmosphere of opening night, the variety of vendors and the one-of-a-kind items that make their buyers part of an artist’s life’s work.

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“We wanted to create an event, not just like a market, but really something that people would find more of a tradition,” she said.

Handmade Christmas is a two-day event at the Historic Hormel House. Friday Dec. 8, from 4-9 p.m. is the Christmas party, Rooney said. Saturday, Dec. 9, from 9 a.m .to 4 p.m. is the more low-key shopping day.

“This year we’re celebrating our fifth anniversary (in Austin),” Rooney said. “So, we’re going to have anniversary treats and the first 75 shoppers through the door will get an anniversary bag with different coupons and goodies.”

The show has come a long way, at least in miles, since it began in a church basement in St. Paul. A major change this year, however, is Rooney is organizing it without the woman who convinced the Austin native to move the concept back home.

This story and more can be found in the November-December edition of Austin Living magazine.

Anna Otto, who makes a type of scarf that has been very popular at Handmade Christmas, has moved out of state. She encouraged Rooney to do a show.

“She said, ‘I will help you co-run this if you bring it down here,’” Rooney said.

After four years of co-running the show, Otto has moved to the East Coast and Rooney is flying solo.

Rooney’s day job is as a coordinator/navigator for Austin Adult Education’s GED program and its advanced English learner program. She is a 1998 graduate Austin High School who earned a bachelor’s degree in cross cultural ministry at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul. She began putting on shows in 2011 in the basement of a St. Paul church, which was just one of many in the Twin Cities.

Handmade Christmas is a type of show that is common in the Twin Cities, but special in Austin, Rooney said.

She expects the Handmade Christmas to have 30 vendors — artisans and crafters who are chosen by a show jury. The jury considers quality and variety in choosing who can be in the show, Rooney said. Their aim is to give the community “really well-made, hand-made goods that they could really be attracted to, really be like proud to own, really kind of feel like they got a piece of this artist,” Rooney said.

“We are really looking for the shopper who appreciates the hand-made,” she said. “They like the idea of getting something that not everybody has and they like supporting the art maker community. There’s kind of something special about finding something that is really well-done that’s almost like their little secret their special thing.”

Tickets will be available in November. Go to