Craftswomen: Their art, your commerce

It’s a rare combination of art, holiday shopping and providing essential support for a good cause.

For the 31st year, the Celebration of Craftswomen brings together unique handmade crafts, a shopping opportunity and funding for The Women’s Building, a multiservice center of social services for women and girls.

This weekend and next, Fort Mason Center’s Herbst Pavilion will be transformed into a giant studio and store, where more than 200 female artists will exhibit and sell their work, including jewelry, pottery, ceramics, dining wares, photographs and paintings.

Organizers call it the largest such event in the country, with attendance reaching 10,000. All exhibitors are women; attendance is available to all genders.

Advertised as an “enjoyable alternative to the holiday shopping experience,” offering “environmentally conscious and economically sustainable choices to mainstream consumption,” the fair features some of the finest female artisans and artists exhibiting their works.

Among them: Lisa Toland’s classic bags and pins; Amy Faust’s wearable designs made from recycled beach glass, stained glass, gold and silver; Marguerite Wagner’s wood sculptures; Sarah Gutierrez’s whimsical hand-painted ceramic vases; Paula Best’s mixed-media collages; Melissa Cole’s organic abstract paintings; and Kelly Reed Morgen’s art nouveau-inspired jewelry.

Morgen, a Marin resident, won awards for her paintings in her teens. Having studied psychology at Williams College in Massachusetts, she went to study art in Italy, where her interests included batik and metalsmithing. She became a jeweler. Her egg tempera paintings, combined with her own poetry, focused on classic fairytales.

She then studied American Indian handicraft in Montana, and, returning to Marin, launched Kelly Morgen Jewelry.

Among highlights last year: Liz Russell’s ceramic pieces; Kathleen Walbridge’s abstract glasswork; and Marilynn Host’s quirky, handmade papier-mache animals.

The fair also includes the Emerging Artist Program, which encourages artists who have been selling their works to the public for less than two years. Those included in the program may participate in the Celebration of Craftswomen at a reduced fee.

The fair began in 1979 as a small crafts show held at the Old Wives’ Tales feminist bookstore in San Francisco. Organized by artists Judy Stone, Carole Sea Jay and Sherry Thomas, it featured 22 craftswomen from the Bay Area. The fair has grown tenfold in the number of exhibitors, gained thousands in attendance and attracts participation from around the world.

IF YOU GO

The Women’s Building 31st annual Celebration of Craftswomen

Where: Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, Buchanan Street and Marina Boulevard, San Francisco
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and Dec. 5-6
Tickets: $6.50 to $8.50, free for children under 12
Contact: (650) 615-6838, www.celebrationofcraftswomen.org

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