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Shopping for Arts & Crafts

The essence of Nelson province is found in its abundance of top-quality arts and crafts - by far the best concentration anywhere in New Zealand. There are over 300 practicing artists and 40 galleries and studios. Start by purchasing a copy of Nelson Art Guide Book, which is a terrific take-home, ring-bound volume available at the Nelson visitor center, which also distributes the free Tourist Guide to Nelson Potters, Nelson Inner City Shopping Guide, and Nelson City Art Trail. If you're driving to Motueka, pick up the free Nelson's Coastal Way-Mapua & Coastal Villages, a brochure that highlights top craftspeople, vineyards, and cafes. Also visit www.nelsonarts.org.nz.

South Street Gallery, 10 Nile St. (tel./fax 03/548-8117; www.nelsonpottery.co.nz), is well stocked with work by 25 top potters; it's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and weekends 10am until 4pm. Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmith, 320 Trafalgar Sq. (tel. 03/548-0640; www.jenshansen.com), is a name associated with fine-quality New Zealand-made gold and silver jewelry - and the handmade rings and jewelry used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's open Monday through Friday 9am until 5:30pm, Saturday 9am to 2pm, and Sunday 10am to 1pm. RED, 1 Bridge St. (tel. 03/548-2170; www.redartgallery.com), is a terrific place for contemporary fine art, jewelry, and New Zealand crafts. Flame Daisy, 324 Trafalgar Sq. (tel. 03/548-4475; www.flamedaisy.com), is a glass art gallery, with a wide variety of items, many at cheaper prices than the gorgeous Höglund Art Glass . It's open Monday through Friday 10am until 5pm, and weekends 10am to 4pm.

Farther afield, potter Steve Fullmer, Baldwin Road, Tasman (tel. 03/526-6765; fullmer.gallery@xtra.co.nz), is one of the country's best. His gallery is open daily 10am until 5pm in summer, and Wednesday through Sunday in winter. Royce McGlashen Pottery, 128 Ellis St., Brightwater (tel. 03/542-3585; www.roycemcglashen.co.nz), is another high point. When it comes to color, some of the nicest pottery around is produced by Katie Gold, 1380 Main Rd., Upper Moutere (tel. 03/543-2544; katie_gold@paradise.net.nz).

If you like beautiful glass pieces, drive 20 minutes out of Nelson to Höglund Art Glass, 52 Lansdowne Rd., Richmond (tel. 03/544-6500; www.hoglundartglass.com). Ola and Marie Höglund trained at Orrefors and Kosta Boda before emigrating from their native Sweden, and their skills have translated into stunning, colorful handblown glassware. Admission is free and you can watch the action in the studio by joining a guided studio tour (Dec 15-Apr 15; NZ$25 adults, free for kids 13 and under) that enlightens you to the history of glass and its processes; or you can make your own glass beads (NZ$75 per hour) or a paperweight (NZ$195 per person). And don't worry about having to cart your favorite piece home -- they offer an international shipping service. It's open daily 10am to 5pm (closed Dec 25-26 and Good Friday).

Cool Crafts -- One of the loveliest little galleries around is the Coolstore Gallery, 7 Aranui Rd., Mapua (tel. 03/540-3778; www.coolstoregallery.co.nz), located in a converted apple cool store on Mapua Wharf. It displays a wide range of contemporary art and crafts from the region's best artisans. It's open daily in summer from 11am to 5pm, and Wednesday through Sunday in winter from 11am to 4pm. Just down the road, you'll find it hard to suppress a smile at Laughing Fish Studio, 24 Aranui Rd., Mapua (tel. 03/540-3940; www.laughingfishstudio.co.nz), where large ladies cavort across everything from plates to wall works. And hat lovers will rejoice at Serious Straws, 144 Aranui Rd., Mapua (tel. 03/540-3262; www.seriousstraws.co.nz), which makes and imports a gorgeous range of fashionable and funky straw hats. If you can't make it to Mapua, they have a stall at Nelson's weekend markets.

To Market, to Market

You'll gain a terrific insight into local activities if you go to the Nelson Market, in Montgomery Square (tel. 03/546-6454). It's held every Saturday from 8am to 1pm and offers fine crafts, fresh food and produce, and a whole heap of the unexpected. Monty's Sunday Market is held every Sunday from 8:30am to 1pm in the same place and features more bric-a-brac, clothing, and oddments. The Motueka Sunday Market, in the carpark behind the Motueka Visitor Centre in Wallace Street, Motueka (tel. 03/540-2709), is held every Sunday from 8am to 1pm. Stalls here include fresh produce, clothing, crafts, and jewelry.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.