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The Unique Boutique is back and better than ever. Now in its 39th year, the arts and crafts festival held annually at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department at 24801 Three Notch Road in Hollywood will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 10 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 11.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate that in the past 39 years it’s been supported by local artists,” said potter Sarah Houde of Hollywood. “We were cool before it was fashionable to be so.”

Forty to forty-five artists from all over Southern Maryand — Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties — will participate in the event. Money raised will go to local hospice.

“We like to sell our art, but we like to do something good for the community as well,” Houde said. “In recent years, Unique Boutique has become a fundraiser for hospice. We’ve been able to donate between $1,500 and $3,000 a year.

“Liz Printz was one of our original members,” she added. “A lot of the old timers who participated have passed on. There’s still a few.”

Houde said she probably does 10 or 12 new works for the event.

“Some small pieces I can do in one day,” she said. “Many are of a deep spiritual connection.”

She often uses nature in her art.

“I love to fish,” she said. “Many of my works include what’s in the river. I make the white perch and crab and apply them to the finished piece.”

She said her pieces are fired in a kiln at 2,000 to 2,040 degrees.

“By the time they’re done, I have some really hard, durable stoneware,” she noted.

Houde said she makes “a lot of fish platters.

“I started out to be a marine biologist,” she added. “I took a clay class while I was in college and got hooked. I worked in Delaware at a clay studio four nights a week. I came to Southern Maryland and worked at Chesapeake Biological Lab in Solomons and I didn’t do clay for three years.

“When I was getting my master’s degree at the University of Maryland, I started spending all of my free time in a pottery class. After a while I said ‘I think I want to home and make pots.’”

Since 1987, that’s what she’s been doing.

“I never pictured myself as a potter,” Houde said. “I’m been lucky that I’ve been able to let it evolve. It’s a hard way to make a living, but I do okay.”

Houde said there are four clay artists involved in the Unique Boutique.

“Everyone does something totally different,” she said. “We have a couple of people who work in wood, we have a few painters, some jewelers, fine metal work... we’re trying to get younger artists to get involved. There are not too many making their living as craftspeople.”

Houde noted that when the Unique Boutiguq first started, it was held in someone’s house.

“We probably started with a dozen people,” she noted. “It wasn’t long before we grew beyond having it in someone’s house. It seems like everyone likes the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department. It’s centrally located and that helps.”

Various media will be represented in the form of fine wildlife painting, seriography, colored pencil drawings, photography, precious metal, beaded and woven jewelery, wooden pens, sculptural wood home décor, functional and decorative pottery in many styles, wall hangings, stuffed animals and dolls for children, warm shawls, woven and sown goods and stained glass.

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