Illustrated landscape image with yellow tree and red water tower
Painting by Frank Fulton

It’s time to officially jump into Dogwood’s 2021 Virginia-made Holiday Gift Guide featuring artisans making meaningful items throughout the Southside and Southwest regions. 

There’s a chill in the air, festive music on the radio and lights going up throughout Virginia neighborhoods. Yes, it’s nearly Christmastime. 

If your tree isn’t already up, chances are it will be soon. And under that tree, there will likely be festively wrapped gifts by Christmas Eve. 

Maybe they’re already there! According to Statista, 43% of Americans start their holiday shopping before October ends, followed by 25% before Thanksgiving. If you’re in the 19% that start their holiday shopping on or after Thanksgiving, in the 12% who wait until December, or just looking for that perfect gift for that hard-to-please relative, we’ve got some ideas for you. 

Maybe you’d like to start with something that will fill a holiday home with an aroma of Christmas. That’s certainly possible, thanks to Haley Ritchie’s business, Chatham Wax Co LLC. She started the business in 2018 and recently opened a physical storefront in Chatham. There, she sells hand poured wax melts, wax tarts, and snap bars, which are also available for shipping through her website. 

So now that we’re all in the holiday mood, have our houses smelling like cinnamon, and wrapped a festive wax melt for a friend, it’s time to officially jump into Dogwood’s 2021 Virginia-made Holiday Gift Guide featuring artisans making meaningful items throughout the Southside and Southwest regions. 

Tasty Treats 

They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. If that’s the case, then 16-year-old Mallori Lowe has the market on the perfect gift this holiday season. 

While sitting at home during the start of the pandemic, the Martinsville resident started watching videos online about sweets and treats. 

“One day while visiting my grandma, I decided to take a chance at making something,” Lowe said. “My mom posted it on Facebook. From there, I haven’t stopped.”

The days prior to holiday celebrations are typically the busiest time for Lowe, who operates MALicious. During the week before the event, she typically spends upwards of 20 hours baking. This year, the teen confectionist is selling cocoa bombs in addition to baked goods. The trend gained popularity on TikTok in 2020, where consumers drop a chocolate ball into a cup and pour hot milk onto it, and then watch it explode with everything from plain hot chocolate mix to marshmallows and festive sprinkles.

“They come in two different sizes and various flavors,” Lowe said. “They are also available as gift sets.”

If you’re interested in learning more about her products, head on over to her Facebook where you can see the creations and place an order. 

Crafting Experience 

You’ve probably seen it on Instagram and Facebook. There’s a post making its rounds where folks ask friends and family members to gift them experiences in place of physical presents. 

That’s exactly what Amanda Broome, a Martinsville resident, offers through her crafting classes. Starting at just $15 and going up to $25, each class includes all of the materials the creator will need to make a work of art to either keep for themselves or give away to a friend or loved one.

“I have been dabbling in arts and crafts since I was a very young girl. I’ve just grown up loving to create,” Broome said. “Over these years, I’ve discovered two things. First, the joy of crafting grows exponentially when you do it with friends. Two, I absolutely adore ‘the reveal’—when I share a crafting tip or a cool art trick that is super simple and easy but makes something gorgeous. Being a crafting instructor feels a lot like sharing a secret recipe or something like that. I love it.”

Before she stands in front of a class, Broome first learns about the techniques herself. That experience allows her to discover what works—and what doesn’t—before she helps others craft similar projects. She also helps her classroom artists customize pieces to their liking in an environment that encourages creativity and companionship.

“For me, the final product that you create in a craft class is nice, but it’s really the hanging out with my friends and learning new techniques and the feeling of accomplishment I get when I’m creating something from scratch,” Broome said. “When you buy a crafted item for someone, they get an item. When you get a crafting class for someone, you gift them fun, memories, an opportunity to learn, a chance to feel accomplished, and a chance to hang out with friends. It’s the gift I would want.”

Broome will host a full paper crafting series every other Wednesday evening in February and March, each beginning at 6:30 p.m. Options include rubber stamps, ink creations, embossing and “just-add-water.” Also in February, she’ll lead out in two drip painting classes, which begin at 6:30 p.m.

To learn more about class dates, specific hours and prices, call (276) 656-5461 or send her an email. In the email, you can also ask to receive crafting and personal enrichment notices for future events.

Original Painting

If you’ve got an art lover on your list, then do we ever have a great gift idea for you. Danville resident Frank Fulton, Jr. is an international educator and athletic coach in the sports of baseball and American football, but his talents extend beyond the field.

Fulton had a knack for colors and a skill with a brush, but he seldom shared his creations with others. That all changed after a comment from his wife’s father.

“My father-in-law told me one day, ‘Frank, you missed your calling. You should paint and create,’” Fulton said. “He passed away the next year and I said, ‘I must let others see what I do.’ I have had so much fun sharing from the heart the things that I see.”

Over the years, he’s published 15 illustrated books. Now, he shares his artwork on social media where he also sells his original paintings. 

As far as his process goes, it’s all about the specific painting. Sometimes, an idea takes a few minutes. More detailed works take a few hours. And he does it all—from action-driven sports scenes to local sights around town. 

Fulton paints scenes that he enjoys, but also creates custom art for clients. In addition to original paintings, Fulton also offers his artwork on coffee mugs, postcards, and other options. 

An original painting could make the perfect gift this holiday season “because it is personal, one of a kind, and usually tells a story that creates lifelong memories,” Fulton said.

To see more artwork and learn about pricing and commissions, connect with Fulton through email or on social media

Locally Made

Venena Preston, a graduate of Martinsville High School, knew early on that she wanted to use her creative talents. 

“I started sewing with my grandmother and quickly realized that this was my passion,” Preston said. 

Fueled by creativity and skill, Preston attended Hampton University, where she studied Fashion Design. The Martinsville resident started creating unique designs over 40 years ago. Over the decades, she’s designed shirts, tote bags, wedding decor, curtains, home decor items, and even face masks. 

To see Preston’s work in person and purchase her creative pieces, be sure to mark your calendar for the First Fridays event at the Uptown Martinsville Farmers’ Market. The event will feature local vendors from 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 3 at 65 W Main St in Martinsville.