In a world increasingly filled with big box chain stores, mass-market catalogs, and “unique” gifts manufactured in the millions, where to shop for distinctive and meaningful gifts as the holidays approach?
A good place to start your search might be one of Berkeley’s holiday artisan and craft fairs and events.
Several events this season, some starting this weekend, provide direct access to hundreds of fine artists and craftsmen and women, many of who make Berkeley their year-round home or workplace.
These sales also provide the welcome opportunity to spend your gift money locally and put it directly into the hands of those who conceived and created the artwork you’re purchasing.
Holiday Gift Shoppe,
Berkeley City Club
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28. 2315 Durant Ave., between Ellsworth and Dana.
An intriguing and wonderful building opens its doors for a one-day gift fair this weekend, featuring “a select group of local artists, craftspersons, and artisans” as well as musical entertainment.
Besides the shopping and music, a strong incentive is the opportunity to tour Julia Morgan’s “Little Castle,” one of Berkeley’s most opulent and well-preserved institutional buildings.
If you have never been inside this neo-Gothic fantasy, complete with lushly planted courtyards, indoor swimming pool and baronial event spaces, here’s a chance to look. The sale is a benefit for the preservation of the City Club building.
For more information, call 883-9710 or 848-7800.
Berkeley Artisans Holiday
11 a.m.-to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 27-28, Dec. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19. Multiple locations.
This annual event gives shoppers four weekends to visit studios all over town. Nearly 30 locations and scores of artists are included, from the Elmwood in the southeast to Gilman Street in the northwest; a few Emeryville artists also slip in under the Berkeley umbrella.
Hand-blown glass, ceramics, works of photography, jewelry and oil paintings or watercolors seem to the primary offerings. Within those media, however, the range of type and technique is very eclectic.
The descriptions of art also include “art glass stepping stones” (Cordelia DeVere), “watercolor and Japanese calligraphy” (Diane Abt), “children’s book illustrations” (Thacher Hurd), the intriguing but enigmatic “unusual egg ornaments & dioramas” (J. Brooke Patterson) and even “handcrafted wines” (Grapeleaf Cellars).
Since many of the artists work in fairly specific styles, media, or price ranges, it’s unlikely that absolutely every studio you visit will suit your taste or budget. The hunt is intriguing, however, and collectively the range of offerings is vast. Most of the studios are also listed as wheelchair accessible.
Open Studios also provides a chance to see inside several of Berkeley’s workshop buildings including the Strawberry Creek Design Center and the Sawtooth/Kawneer Building at 8th and Dwight. The next time you read about public policy or development disputes over live/work or affordable artist space, the issues will seem less abstract.
For more information, visit http://berkeleyartisans.com (which includes links to individual artists’ and artisans’ websites) or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Berkeley Artisans, 2547 Eighth St., No. 24A, Berkeley, 94710.
Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Holiday Crafts Fair
Saturdays, December 4, 11 and 18.
Downtown, Center Street at Martin Luther, King, Jr. Way.
Along with organic fruits and vegetables, the Ecology Center’s popular Downtown Farmers’ Market offers Earth-friendly arts and crafts in December.
“A wonderful variety of beautiful handcrafted gifts—jewelry, fabric arts, leather, ceramics, hats, dolls, fine art, photos, soaps and herbal potions, and other surprises,” is promised. Musicians will also provide entertainment.
The sponsors are requiring that all the craft items sold must be made locally (in California) by the seller’s family, or employees, and “not have extensive negative impacts on the environment”.
For more information call 548-3333 or visit www.ecologycenter.org.
Holiday Street Fair
Weekends of December 11-12 and 18-19, and Thursday and Friday, December 23 and 24.
For genuine Berkeley atmosphere, nothing beats shopping at the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair where craftspeople present their handcrafted wares beneath lampposts festooned with politically correct, non-sectarian, holiday decorations.
The Telegraph Fair typically offers an abundance of special little items, from hand-made ceramic refrigerator magnets to jewelry, silk scarves, and tie-dye clothing.
Telegraph, immediately south of the UC campus, is closed to traffic during the Fair and scores of colorful booths thickly populate both street and sidewalk from Bancroft to Dwight.
Many of those selling are Telegraph Avenue regulars, but a number of artists make an infrequent or once-annual Berkeley appearance this time of year.
You can make the fair a quick stop, but consider spending an afternoon browsing not only the crafts booths but also the excellent book and music stores along the Avenue.
You can also stop for a sit down meal or get takeout here in Berkeley’s most extensive and eclectic dining district. Try the “Fifth Block” of Telegraph, just south, of Dwight for great Asian fusion at Unicorn, Vietnamese cuisine at Saigon City, traditional Japanese at Norikonono, or Ethiopian at the Blue Nile.
Holiday Plant and Gift Sale
UC Botanical Garden
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.
Centennial Drive, Strawberry Canyon, above the UC Berkeley campus. (Free parking in the lot across the street from the garden).
Featured plants for sale will include cacti, species orchids, house plants, begonias, bromeliads, and tillandsias, along with the garden’s ever popular (and hard to get) Lapageria—Chilean Bellflower—vines, carnivorous plants, and unusual bulbs. Pottery, books, jewelry, seeds and garden ornaments are also available in the Garden gift shop.
You could combine a visit to this sale with a stroll through the tranquil gardens, far from shopping mall parking lots, plastic Santas, and canned caroling.
For information on garden access and how to get there visit http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu.
ASUC Art Studio 2004
Tuesday, Dec. 7 through Saturday, Dec. 11, noon-5 p.m. Extended hours (6-9 p.m.) on Dec. 7 in a special open house for artists, which is also open to the public.
This year’s sale is the 25th annual holiday event (and fundraiser) at the Associated Students Art Studio that resides on the UC campus just a pot’s throw from Sather Gate.
The art studio’s primary activity is offering affordable classes in ceramics, photography, and other media. The annual sale features works by both enthusiastic students and accomplished instructors.
Here you can adopt a homely little vase that represents a budding potter’s first effort, or purchase at quite reasonable prices finely crafted one-of-a-kind pieces by recognized artisans.
While photographs, jewelry, works on paper and other crafts appear in the sale, the bulk of the offerings—and the strength of the show—are traditionally ceramic works, both decorative and practical. Hundreds of items should be for sale, with new ones added as the event goes on.
To reach the sale, walk north through Sproul Plaza, turn left right before you pass through Sather Gate, go down the creekside path, and quickly turn left again next to the breezeway.
For more information go to www.asucartstudio.org.
Berkeley Potters Guild 33rd Annual Sale and Show
731 Jones St. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 27-28, Dec. 4-5, 11-12, and 18-19, plus Dec. 20-24.
Work by a score of ceramic artists and a display of gifts built around a kitchen theme highlight this year’s event, held under one roof. Both first-rate handmade works and “seconds” will be for sale.
For more information call 524-7031 or visit www.berkeleypotters.com.
1652 Shattuck Ave., at Lincoln. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
In addition to the special fairs and open studio events described above, Berkeley’s ACCI Gallery, the oldest arts cooperative in the West, is offering a “Holiday Celebration of Arts and Crafts”, including jewelry, glass, ornaments, cards, ceramics, wood and fine arts during November and December. This airy storefront at the southern end of the North Shattuck shopping district, is always a nice place to browse.
Call 843-2527 or visit www.accigallery.com.
KPFA Crafts and Music Fair
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11-12, Concourse exhibition center, Eighth and Brannan, San Francisco.
Although it abandoned a Berkeley venue years ago, many locals still maintain an attachment to this annual event, a benefit for Berkeley’s KPFA radio.
This year there will be some 220 artists and craftspeople selling, as well as music, and food. There is an admission charge of $8 for adults, under 17 free, $5 for seniors and disabled individuals.
For more information call 848-6767 ext. 611 or visit www.kpfa.org/craftsfair.