Christmas in the Country is a grassroots, homespun approach to celebrating the holidays on Bainbridge Island, a gathering of family and friends to engage in festive fun while shopping for handmade, unique gifts. It began in 1993 in the south end of the Island including the Director's cottage industry, Rose of Sharon's, Bunny Cameron's Bombay House B&B, the shops at Lynwood Center, Priscilla Lange's Christmas decor warehouse, and Countryman Stables offering the free pony rides, an altruistic community service offered now for sixteen years by the Countrymans. Cathy Fraaga's Gazzam House was a smashing hit for several years.
Most all of the venues then were historic some dating back to the 1870s through about the 1930s. Relating the stories of the old mill while entering the homes and buildings that played a significant role in that history, visitors experienced "a Dickens of a Christmas", a bit of Christmases past during the present. Part of the charm of the event is meeting people whose ancestors contributed in significant ways to Bainbridge Island, many whose memory is honored as names of our roads. The country roads themselves, some old and worn from travel, are beautifully tree-lined, winding and hilly adding a vicarious ambience of the experience of a Christmas trip to Grandma's house or the anticipation of fellowship with friends.
In 1996, The Studio Tour changed from its traditional November dates and moved their event to the same weekend as Christmas in the Country, the first Friday, Saturday & Sunday in December. The cumulative effect of the two different tours created an Island-wide art extravaganza that continues to this day. In 1998 the tour expanded to include the entire Island. Bob and Carolee Pedersen's Christmas House, Dottie Pacheski's Willow Brook Farm, and a bit later, Fortner Books (now Sweetlife Farm), Stephens House, (nonprofit home to the Special Needs Foundation), and Hazel Creek Farm joined as venues hosting artists. For about five years, Lucia Olson's Little Yellow Farmhouse represented a quintessential country Christmas and for two years Bart & Dana Berg's Blackberry Hill Farm brought us into the experiential realm of a Norwegian Christmas celebration. Various other venues joined for a year or two including the nonprofit Creativity Center, Blakely House, Duncan House, Port Madison Design, Dolphin Place, 47 West, Finders Keepers, The Children's Museum, Gail Bard's B&B, Teri Cole's Cuckoo for Christmas, and several others.
Every year new artists join the mix of steady participants enticing shoppers to explore a plethora of exciting new arts & crafts. With the joining of Hazel Creek Farm, Santa photos were added along with live music performances.
Every year the event develops it own persona while it grows and grows and grows. Below you will meet the new Director and Owners( Since May, 2010) of Christmas in the Country and see some of the poster art used for marketing over the years and pictures of art and activities from past wonderful years of Christmas in the Country.
Sok Kheng Martz "Soks"
Soks Martz New Director of Christmas in the Country llc
"Bottled energy with an effervescent smile" befits a description of Soks Martz the new Director of Christmas in the Country llc. Soks has been a loyal participant as a vendor in Christmas in the Country for many years. She is well-known for her incredible Santa figures dressed in antique quilts and her snowmen wearing couture from old chenille bedspreads. Soks comes with an impressive history in organizing and managing arts and crafts events. Please read a full biography of Soks on the Artists' Biographies page.
To reach Soks please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206 291-7188
Soks, Retiring Director, Sharon Soames, Tim Martz
Sok Kheng Martz
About the Director Soks Martz
Immigrating to the United States from Cambodia with her family when she was ten, Soks found herself in the land of opportunity in the State of North Carolina. There she learned English and fast-tracked her way to catch up with her undergraduate education. Throughout her life, she has capitalized on the opportunities afforded to her in this fine country. She is a self starter and motivator with lots of energy.
In 1995 while waitressing, she dislocated her shoulder and was unable to continue her job. During convalescence, she tuned into HGTV and watched the process of making covered gift boxes out of cardboard. Using old cereal boxes and used clothing, she created a lovely gift box and took it down to the local craft store. The owner loved it, customers loved it, and soon she was engaged in making 20 boxes a week. Thus began her career in crafting. While shopping at estate and yard sales to get antique lace, silk ties, and unique fabric for the boxes, she discovered and acquired many very torn antique quilts and chenille blankets. It was then she began to create her own Santa and snowmen patterns using the antique quilts and chenille blankets to make their outfits.
Soks was 19 when she married in 1992 and moved to Monterey Bay Language Institute with her husband who was stationed there for Army Intel School. Later after his graduation, they moved to Ft Huachuca, Arizona in 1993. While her then husband was stationed there, she became a member of the Military Wives Crafters Group and helped to organize, acquire sponsorships and help promote their craft shows at the Officer’s Club. In 1998, she moved back to Hendersonville, N.Carolina where she was a member of the Henderson County Crafters and helped with recruiting new vendors, and helping to advertise and organize their craft shows, three a year in the local mall. Starting with 25 vendors, over 120 participated by 2001. While in N.Carolina, Soks was also a member of Dogwood Crafters, an artists’ cooperative that required shared time running the shop, managing and promoting it. It was and still is one of the biggest attractions in Dillsboro, NC.
In 2001 Soks moved to Bainbridge Island and debuted her antique quilted Santas at the BI Chamber of Commerce 4th of July celebration in Winslow as an adjunct to her online store, Crafty Designs. It was there that Sharon Soames-the former Owner and Director of Christmas in the Country, discovered Soks’ skill and unique craft and invited her to participate as a vendor in Christmas in the Country at Sharon’s home-based floral design studio, Rose of Sharon’s. Unfortunately, because of her husband’s job and the tragic incidents of 911, Soks had tomoveagain all over the United States. Finally in 2005 they moved back to Bainbridge Island and eventually settled in Kingston in 2005. Since returning to the NW, she has been a constant favorite crafter in Christmas in the Country to date, as well as the NK Festival in Poulsbo, the Kitsap Fair, Hansville Crafters, Port Gamble Art Show, and Kingston Arts and Crafts Festival where was the Vendor Coordinator for two years. She has also filmed a craft show segment on HGTV's, That's Clever.
In 2009, Soks remarried to Timothy Martz who was born and raised in Bremerton, WA. Together, they make a fabulous team and run a 77 acre, self sustaining farm in Shelton and a 10 acre sustainalbe farm in Kingston with many animals from cows to pigs, chickens, rabbits and many types of exotic pheasants and other birds, and micro mini pigs.
Individually Tim is a tile setter and handyman and is owner and operator of TM Services. Tim focuses his business on a referral base only. He started the business in 2012 and have been thriving since. He strives for perfection in his work and farm.
Soks was formerly an Office Administrator at Edward Jones and later transitioned to Morgan Stanley. She has worked with the Poulsbo Chamber and the the Poulsbo Marketing Coalition as the Digital Marketing Coordinator for www.visitpoulsbo.com. She is also an Ambassador for the Poulsbo Chamber.
Soks and Tim are full time farmers who plan to continue building their sustainable 77 acre farm and they plan to keep Christmas in the Country a thriving part of Bainbridge Island’s sustainable culture for many years to come.
You can will find Soks at the St Barnabas Church for Christmas in the Country.
Antique quilt Santas
Concrete birdbath by Soks
Sharon Soames, Retiring Director, Christmas in the Country
Born of Swedish descent second in line in a passel of six children to a Presbyterian minister and his Southern belle, Sharon lived in California; Edinburgh, Scotland; Shawnee & Johnstown, Pennsylvania; West Seattle, Washington; and for the last thirty-seven years in an historic home on Blakely Harbor, Bainbridge Island, Washington. There with her husband, Steve, they raised three venerable children, Alicia, Dylan and Garrett.
Being born two days before Christmas imprinted a propensity for Sharon to focus on the holiday for much of her creative, productive activities. Nearly fifty years ago she began by selling Christmas cards during primary school. After graduating from the University of Washington in Nursing where she whole-heartedly cheered on the football and basketball teams as a Husky Songleader, she married Steve and moved to Bainbridge Island. As a young married woman she created Christmas fund-raisers and programs at Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church on Bainbridge. A creative adjunct to this early event planning was her own talent in growing and drying flowers and foliage, collecting fallen bits of nature and shells or discarded historical refuse from the beach (remnants from the old mill that operated at Port Blakely) to create pinecone, herb & flower, or shell wreaths in a line she named “Artyfacts & Trashures”, now often referred to as “trash to treasure”. The motto for her home-based business, “Preserving and Designing Nature’s Art”, described the crafting of floral wreaths and arrangements and the teaching of wreath-making classes that occurred at her cottage industry, Rose of Sharon’s, up until 2005. In 1993 as an off-shoot of Rose of Sharon’s, Christmas in the Country was born. For twelve years, her floral design studio was a stop on the tour featuring her Christmas wreaths and Christmas décor handmade by local artists.
“It has been my privilege these last sixteen years as creative director of Christmas in the Country to represent many, many talented artists and their incredible handmade work and to provide for Bainbridge Islanders and visitors to the Island a grassroots, homespun approach to the celebration of Christmas. Many individuals and families over a decade and a half have come to make Christmas in the Country a tradition, to value the community connection, and to honor and support the efforts of individuals engaging their creative spirit and talent. Christmas in the Country has nurtured young budding artists just in their teens, supported the professionals whose art is their income, encouraged the hobbyist, and helped the artist so inspired to continue creating that even arthritis can’t thwart his dedication to crafting as a true labor of love. It is my greatest pleasure now to pass the baton to Sok Kheng Martz as new Director of Christmas in the Country. Thanks for your many years of support for Christmas in the Country.”
Dickens of a Christmas
Map by Jon Quanrud
Christmas in the Country 2000
Christmas in the Country 2001 - Pamela Fermanis artist