For the 12th year in a row, the Boston Comedy Festival is pitting a diverse lineup of side splitters against each other for a $10,000 grand prize and the chance to coax giggles from top managers, agents and talent scouts. Laughter-packed preliminary rounds spotlight at least 10 comics who were carefully harvested from across the globe, either through an arduous audition process or pie fights with stern anti-humor magistrates. An assortment of comedic styles helps maintain a healthy concord of cackles, and special guest appearances during select rounds add celebrity fuel to an already roaring fire of revelry. Additionally, many past finalists and winners have landed on national television, granting festival audiences sneak peaks at budding jokesters before they become famous or sign lucrative contracts to perform in outer space.
Jewelry made from twigs. Surrealist birdhouses. Old bike parts retrofitted into robot statues. These items are just a taste of the unique goods popping up on––and flying off of––Magpie's shelves. But don’t fret—there’s plenty more where they came from. Indeed, impermanence is part of the charm at Magpie, an eclectic bazaar of indie and locally made crafts that are as aesthetically beautiful as they are stunningly unique. What began as a booth at the annual Bazaar Bizarre craft fair transformed into a brick-and-mortar shop when Magpie’s owners recognized the public’s taste for one-of-a-kind items that weren’t manufactured in a factory or built by creepy elves. So they tapped local artists and crafters and filled their shelves with quirky, handmade, and entirely original items that run the gamut from hand-bound journals, to t-shirts, to Queen Bee vinyl handbags. A true champion of local artists, Magpie not only sells artists’ work, but also displays it on its walls, and the shop hosts a regular artist-of-the-month promotion to help promote some of their favorite local designers.
Experienced framers Barry Stahl and Bob Clayton built Big Picture Framing from scratch in 2000, holding meetings around an old card table as construction roared around them. Today, framers at 15 area locations craft custom frames to display artwork, photographs, and record sleeves, and shadow boxes protect three-dimensional items such as ballet slippers, macaroni art, or a swarm of wasps. Patrons can dictate all design choices, choosing from metal and wooden frames in a multitude of colors and styles, or ask for recommendations from one of Big Picture Framing's resident experts. Big Picture Framing also stocks pre-framed art, prints, and posters to spruce up bare-walled homes or a drab doghouse.
Since Clay Dreams opened in 1999, studio owner and ceramics specialist Rose Mary Ardagna has placed one penny in every single piggy bank her guests take home. It helps get kids' savings started, she explains, but this isn't the only lasting impression she hopes to leave on their lives; at Clay Dreams, she shares her passion with anyone brave enough to pick up a brush, inspiring the creativity in every guest.
Rows upon rows of piggy banks, figurines, and dishes beckon brushes, and after a guest thoroughly slathers a piece in color, Ardagna dips it in glaze and fires it in the kiln. The kiln makes colors brighter, creates a glossy look, and melts any snowflakes obscuring the design. Walk-ins are welcome, as are appointments and parties.
Blue Cloud Gallery has a focus on local art. That’s the principle laid out by owner Betsy Lenora, an art aficionado and photographer who has been curating New England’s best local art for some time. She currently oversees the influx of art from more than 100 local artists at Blue Cloud Gallery. The walls, shelves, and tables are covered with unique crafts including ceramics, jewelry, glass, woodwork, fiber, and graphics. Resident artist Marshall injects some modern art methods into the gallery, as well. Using digital techniques to add depth, color, and tone to original photographs, Marshall produces digital paintings that are collected by clients from all over the world.
Renaissance Framing Gallery revivifies worn art and frames using careful, artisanal restoration techniques. Employ skilled framesmiths to enshrine a memory-encrusted jersey ($250) or diploma ($115), or have them carefully restore an 8"x10" oil painting ($150) or the gold-leaf frame surrounding it ($85 per hour including materials). Before and after photos show how restoration services make the Dark Ages skies brighter, Victorian skin alabastier, and dramatic gilds more dramatically gilt.