‘Tis the season to shop until your bank account is cleared out. We’ve all been told it’s not about what you spend on a gift, but the thought that goes into it. Yet, as the deadline approaches, I find myself buying a gift certificate for a box store, from the grocery store, knowing all the while I’ll probably get a similar gift certificate in return.

Oh, how the magic drains out of the season as you’re sitting in a giant parking lot, listening to the same 100 Christmas classics on the radio, looking into the eyes of a soulless retail clerk, buying items that, by next year, will probably end up in the overflowing landfill and that were made by a seven-year-old in a third world country working for pennies a day to avoid the slave trade. Warms your heart, doesn’t it? One solution to pull me from the depths of shopping hell is to scrap the whole thing, stay at home and make my loved ones handmade gifts. Gifts covered in little bloody fingerprints from sticking my fingers with sewing needles. I’ll pass. Thank God for the talented artists and crafters and the art galleries and craft market organizers who know that no one needs the hot-glue-gunned, burning-flesh-still-attached gifts that I would be forced to give.

If you are like me and yearn for a shopping alternative, but don’t have time to alter your DNA to become a craft diva, you may find this list of holiday craft boutiques helpful to maintaining your sanity throughout the holiday frenzy.

The Holiday Craft Exhibit & Sale at the Art Barn has been a long-standing tradition for the Finch Lane Gallery.  This year, the show will be presented in the main gallery.  This space offers better accessibility and a more inviting layout than the overstuffed lower level gallery where it’s traditionally held. Over 60 local artists will present their handmade wares. Some of the artists you may recognize, but new ones are being added every year and the show is always evolving and feels fresh as the artists experiment with new techniques and branch out to new merchandise.  You can always count on a variety of items and high quality work from this group.  The 2010 Holiday Craft Exhibit & Sale will begin with a Holiday Gallery Stroll reception on Friday, Dec. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m., and will be open daily through Sunday, Dec. 19. The Art Barn at Finch Lane is located at 54 Finch Lane in Reservoir Park by the University of Utah Campus.

You can imagine that the organizers of the Utah Arts Festival have a slew of artists in every art medium banging down their door to show at their year-round art gallery. Naturally, then, the Holiday Show at Gallery UAF will be a special treat for those craving the arts festival experience in November and December.  Gallery UAF will host artists Bruce Larrabee, Hai Gilbert, Patricia Street, Amber DeBirk, Harold Wallace, Kaye Wankier, Marian McDevitt, Julie Shipman, Stephanie Swift and Sandra Seifert. The show/shop opened Nov. 19 and remains on display until Dec. 17. Gallery UAF located at 230 S. 500 W., Suite 120 in Artspace.

Right next door, also in the Artspace complex, is Art Access. Always a warm and pleasant gallery to visit, this time of year they have so much holiday cheer it can’t help but put you in the mood for the holidays. Featuring artists Barton Moody, Susan Kirby, Bill James, Marcee Blackerby, Jared Nielsen, Vicki Acoba, Paul Alusa, Kevin Frazier, Angela Fife, Julie Eide, Sheri Walker Gibb, Laurel Casjens, Susan Gallacher, Marta Albee, Jeff Archibald, Sue Valentine, Cassandria Parsons, Sharon Brown Mikkelson, Darryl Erdmann, Aaron Bushnell, Anne Maak, Jodie McDougal, Erin W. Berrett, Izrael Szuchay, Cassandra Barney, David Meikle, Emily McPhie, Sheryl Gillilan and Joe Carter.  The public is invited to a special Holiday Show artist reception on Friday, Dec. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. during Salt Lake City Holiday Stroll. The show is open through Dec. 18.

Craft Sabbath, the hip and edgy, “not your grandma’s craft market,” recently moved to a larger market space at the Salt Lake Library Square located 210 E. 400 S.  The larger indoor venue was imperative for their annual holiday boutique. This year, 50 local vendors will participate in the two-day Craft Sabbath Holiday event on Sunday Dec. 5 and Sunday Dec. 12 from 1 to 5 p.m. All the fashionable merchandise you’ve come to expect, plus prizes, library vendors and holiday flare.

Done with your shopping? Kick back and enjoy a show. Salt Lake Art Center presents a free screening of Exit Through The Gift Shop a film by Banksy—a hit at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival.  This film documents retailer-turned-filmmaker-turned-artist Thierry Guetta as he injects himself into the underground world of graffiti art and eventually into the universally known but never seen Banksy. The Salt Lake Art Center is located at 20 S. West Temple. Art Center members get free parking in the Marriott. The film is being shown one night only on. Dec. 10, screening begins at 7 p.m.

I can’t make all the holiday blues go away, but at least you can walk a little taller knowing you supported local artists and the local economy. Isn’t doing something good for someone else the whole purpose?  You have your route, now make your list and let the festivities begin!