New: Craneway Crafts Fair - 47th Annual Benefit For KPFA Radio

Jonathan Farrell
Tuesday December 05, 2017 - 10:05:00 PM
Artist Arbel Shemesh wearing her Fairy Crown.
Randy Johnson
Artist Arbel Shemesh wearing her Fairy Crown.
Artist Milton McClaskey making a mandolin.
Aeden McClaskey
Artist Milton McClaskey making a mandolin.
Artist Kim Nelson - Feltmaker & Hatmaker
Elijah Ray Nelson @nnoidea
Artist Kim Nelson - Feltmaker & Hatmaker

As the holidays approach, there has been much in the news about retail sales and online shopping. Yet, it is those shoppers who look for unique and special gifts that make an impact. And, this is where the holiday craft fair has an advantage over retail or cyber shopping. One of best and long-standing of such fairs in the Bay Area is the Craneway Crafts Fair. Now in its 47th year to benefit KPFA Radio, on the weekend of Dec. 16 & 17, it will provide the most diverse and beautiful holiday shopping experience ever.  

The Craneway Crafts Fair producer Jan Etre was eager to speak to the Berkeley Daily Planet about this annual event. The handmade work of 180 juried artisans alongside 20 Fair Traders and Non-Profits will be on display. This is something that she is very pleased about. As she said, "fair-goers may choose from outstanding wearable textiles to sophisticated ceramics. This includes luminous glasswork, innovative furniture and high design, yet practical housewares. There’s also evocative photography, original paintings and block-printed art, contemporary paper goods and an impressive selection of hand-made jewelry." 

Among those at this year's crafts fair who will be presenting handmade jewelry is Arbel Shemesh. "I make jewelry that is inspired by nature, said the Berkeley-based artist. But I am only trying to express the unique beauty of it, in a free from style," said Shemesh. She was very clear to say she does not attempt to replicate it in her work; or make something life-like.  

A bead-work artist since her early days, Shemesh, discovered the millefiori technique of bead, glass and textile making over a decade ago. "It is a technique that goes back to ancient times," she said. Shemesh is enthralled what emerges from the process, which takes considerable time and effort. It is the beautiful colors and one-of-a-kind aspect that has kept her making this type of art-craft and devoting more time to it.  

What she finds most rewarding is the interaction she has with customers as they discover her work. This is why she likes participating in the Craneway Crafts Fair. "This will be my third year at the fair and I am very selective about the fairs and craft festivals I participate in," she said. Craneway is a prestigious event, well-attended and I am a fan of KPFA." Besides, she added, "the pavilion is beautiful, so impressive it puts you right on the water, with a fantastic view." 

Former furniture-builder turned mandolin-maker, Milton McClaskey would agree, as he said, the Craneway Crafts Fair provides good exposure to artists and craftspeople." McClaskey stumbled into mandolin making rather unexpectedly. But like Shemesh, once he dedicated himself to it, McClaskey became engaged with it full time. "For me mandolins are fun to build and to be able to put one in a musician's hands and hear it played is sheer joy."  

He too loves KPFA. And as he said to this reporter, "I don't go to a lot of craft fairs because it requires a considerable amount of time and effort. Yet, the Craneway really takes care of its vendors and craftspeople. This will be my fourth time at the Craneway," said McClaskey.  

Etre was eager to mention a third artist who will be featured among the many at this year's fair. Her name is Kim Nelson. Like McClaskey and Shemesh she too is a Berkeley-based artist. This past June she moved her San Pablo Ave shop to her home. And, so having the opportunity to bring her varied textile works to the Craneway is an honor and something she cherishes.  

Nelson works with varied wools and new and vintage silks to make hats, shawls, scarves, gloves – and upholstery. She also makes wallets and bags. And, she even makes time to do paintings. This season she’s made a new line of hand felted and hand blocked hats. Kim also dyes wools and silks with indigo, and often teaches both felting and indigo dyeing classes in her south Berkeley studio and backyard. It is something she brings to the Craneway from her Raina’s Textile House shop.  

Not at all worried that this year's upswing in cyber-retail over the Thanksgiving weekend was at a record high. She does not believe online shopping will pull attendance away from Craneway. 

Etre has confidence the loyal KPFA fan base will turn out on Dec. 16 & 17, just like it has always been every year.  

As someone who appreciates finely crafted things as gifts, Etre is impressed with the vast array of jewelry at this year's Craneway Crafts Fair. She sees it as an auspicious opportunity to shop for that special someone in our lives, as she said. 

“A piece of jewelry can be viewed as sculpture in miniature, artwork that will enhance the beauty of the person wearing it. The range of jewelry is astonishing and all price points are covered, added Etre. So, shoppers in pursuit of a meaningful gift for friends and loved ones will be able to find something that suits both taste and wallet.” 

Proceeds from the crafts fair will benefit KPFA radio. KPFA 94.1FM is the nation’s original listener-sponsored, noncommercial, public radio station founded in 1949. KPFA’s mission is to encourage cultural diversity and pluralistic community expression. KPFA seeks to contribute to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, creeds and colors. KPFA is there to promote freedom of the press and to serve as a forum for various points of view, while maintaining an independent funding base. 

In addition to all original hand-made crafts and art work, the annual Craneway Crafts Fair on Dec. 16 & 17 will have food and live music.  

The Craneway Pavilion is 10 minutes by car from Berkeley, 5 minutes from the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. It’s accessible by public transit via BART and AC Transit. Admission is $12 (Age 18-64) $8 Senior & Disabled; Youth are free. There will be plenty of free parking on site. A free shuttle from Richmond BART station during all hours of the fair on both days will be provided. The pavilion sits on the pedestrian and bike-friendly Bay Trail.  

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