Next-level Gift Shopping

Laser light shows, retro NES, light-up apparel, and Dirty Santa at Nicholson File

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For unique holiday gifts and a kickoff party that's unlike anything else citywide, be sure to stop by the week-long Nicholson File Artist Studio's 14th Annual Thirsty Holiday Sale, where more than 50 local artists and makers, ranging from Frog and Toad to Pretty Snake, will be selling handmade products that are quintessentially Providence.

At the Thirsty Holiday Sale, shoppers will find a wide array of craft items at every price point, including off-beat gift cards, printed apparel and accessories, and colorful ceramics, with most gifts falling in the $20-$40 range. There will also be high-end art showcased in a studio setting for those with more expensive tastes and generous budgets.

The event takes place at the historic Nicholson File manufacturing building (converted into artist studios in recent years) in Olneyville, just up the street from the Steel Yard. The sale's indisputable yearly highlight is the kickoff party on December 13, which will feature an insane laser light show by Thirsty Productions; aura photography from Bright Future, or a quirky holiday photo booth option designed by Jess Brown; resident DJs spinning rare 33s and 45s; and the return of the notorious, beloved Dirty Santa.

“Dirty” describes Santa's attire more than his personality, assures David Allyn, Nicholson File ceramics artist and the mastermind behind Thirsty Productions, who spearheads the sale with assistance from Nidal Fakhouri, Amanda Soule, and various volunteers. “'Dirty' actually just refers to the somewhat well-loved suit Santa wears,” says Allyn. “The kids love him, and the adults do, too.”

More party highlights: Dirty Santa will also be hosting a brand-new “old-school” Nintendo tournament this year but be sure to dole out the free advice he has given in years past: “Careful, ya get what ya pay for,” warns Allyn. Artist Phoenix Avery will debut and model a light-responsive interactive dress that she designed, built, and programmed; it's sure to de-light fellow guests. An “enormous” selection of “fresh” Thirsty handmade porcelain cups will also be available for purchase.

The Thirsty Holiday Sale's origins were humble, starting with just a few artists in a more traditional one-day table sale. Each year, it gets “slightly bigger and somewhat weirder,” says Allyn, thanks to a growing network of artists and a more open-yet-structured format. The structure has allowed Nicholson File artists to “build the sale into more of an art experience, or installation.” Growth was slow to start, and previous host spaces included Firehouse 13 and Monohasset Mill.

Now, part of the fun of visiting Nicholson File is getting to peek inside some of the 20+ professional artist and small business incubator studios in the beautiful old mill, and to experience the oddest vending machine you've probably ever seen (that's all we're going to say for now!).

Allyn shares that at 14, “being an awkward teenager is not easy for any holiday sale,” but 2018 promises to be “bigger and badder than any year in the past.” Last year, roughly 200 shoppers visited, averaging 20-40 per day and with most leaving with a purchase. So, if you have those people on your list who are impossible to shop for because they already have everything, odds are good you'll find something weird and wonderful for them at the Thirsty Holiday Sale.

Thirsty Holiday Sale
5-9pm weekdays and 1-5pm Saturday and Sunday. Kickoff party Thursday, December 13 from 6-9pm. Sale runs through Thursday, December 20 at 350 Kinsley Avenue, Building #38.