Every December, the downtown Harrisonburg business collective Friendly City Merchants transforms the city center into Winter Wonderfest, a family-friendly holiday spectacular with treats for the eyes and stomach all around. Without Winter Wonderfest scheduled this year, OASIS Fine Art & Craft has taken the sleigh’s reins into its own hands to spread Christmas cheer.
Whether shopping for presents or taking photos with Santa, OASIS elves have crafted an assortment of things to see and do leading up to the New Year.
Past the shimmering windowfront of crafts, up the jolly staircase and under the peppermint arch of OASIS lies Santa’s Attic, a holiday-themed market of handmade gifts designed with the holidays in mind. Santa’s Attic is located in the mezzanine with a variety of artisan goods curated at lower price points compared to the shop standard of goods for sale on the main floor.
The holiday pop-up originated three years ago as a one-day affair for children to shop for loved ones. After a successful debut, the event was extended to encompass all of December and extended an invitation to shoppers of all ages.
Inside Santa’s Attic is an assortment of novel goodies, including ornaments, bookmarks and jewelry. OASIS member Barbara Camph has several custom glasswork pieces available in Santa’s Attic and in previous years organized the event. She said the holiday shopping space is a unique experience from what customers can typically expect from a trip to OASIS.
“People have certain things they make to display downstairs, make to display and sell, and it just seems like there’s a different mix of things upstairs in Santa’s Attic,” Camph said. “For all its horribleness, COVID gave us time to try new techniques and experience.”
Santa’s Attic opened on Nov. 28 for Small Business Saturday with a live elf, played by the spouse of OASIS member Ian Henry, who encouraged visitors to pose and “take an elfie.”
Today, OASIS is partnering with The Making Space for a free holiday mask-making workshop at 7 p.m. Reserved parties can expect to create clamshell-style masks using funky holiday fabrics, with all materials provided.
Harrisonburg resident Carole Nash stopped by Santa’s Attic last Saturday and purchased several small gifts in time for the holidays. She said its design feels the same as perusing through a true attic and uncovering a treasure trove of wonderful keepsakes. But her favorite find inside the attic is unique to the time of year.
“The Christmas ornaments,” Nash said were her favorite part of the attic. “They’re made of different materials — some metal, some paper, some ceramic — and each reflects the artist.”
Down the street in front of the courthouse, a crafted cutout of Santa, Rudolph and an elf greet passersby at the Court Square springhouse, created by OASIS members Sarah Lock and Anna Stegmeier.
Because Santa’s lap is off limits this year due to pandemic concerns, kids are welcome to pose for photos with the downtown Christmas crew. Camph said it’s a small gift to the community, but one she hopes can bring a couple of smiles to families strolling through.
“I wanted some joy and to show joy and give joy because that’s what the season is sort of about. … We did it for the kids, and happy kids make happy parents, and that’s what the season’s about,” she said. “I hope it brings a lot of smiles to people’s faces, and we will have accomplished our goal.”
Rebecca Brydge of BrydgeWorks Glass is a customer and former member of OASIS, but she has spent her days “admiring from afar” and enjoying the offerings of OASIS virtually this year, staying home when she can. Still, she said she supports and admires the dedication of OASIS artists to promote a spread of creative holiday engagements for children during a troubling year.
“I like the opportunity for kids to have access to local art for the holidays,” she said. “It encourages them to find what speaks to them and share that with someone else.”
Santa’s Attic will be open until Dec. 31.