Bedford Craft Fest happening Saturday in Walnut Creek
By Lou Fancher
There is something intensely comforting found in annual craft festivals held each fall throughout the Bay Area. The handmade artisanal goods on display when purchased and brought home serve long-lasting, aesthetic purposes. Significantly, the often one-of-a-kind ceramics, glass, jewelry, clothing, textiles, paper and home goods or specialty foods convey an organic, multicultural inclusion. Springing from a cornucopia of ethnic, racial and religious traditions and techniques, craft items express community and connectivity — minus the heavy-handedness of political messaging.
And so it is with the admission-free, 11th annual Bedford Gallery Craft Fest, a one-day affair Nov. 17 at the Walnut Creek museum’s downtown location in the Lesher Center for the Arts. With team-centric curatorial eyes selecting 33 vendors from among 76 inquiries received, curator Carrie Lederer and her staff apply criteria that aims for handmade, local, high-quality, affordable items.
“We also take into account the overall cohesiveness and consistency of the work. In order to produce a holiday marketplace that features a diverse selection of products, we only accept a certain number of vendors from each category,” says Lederer.
Among the many highlights are Martinez artist Joy Brooms’ intricately designed illustrations and pins; Walnut Creek nonprofit Creek Kids Care with artwork made by children, the proceeds from which support the well-being of local and international children and families in need; fair trade chocolates from North Berkeley’s Xocolate Bar, owned by chocolatiers Malena Lopez-Maggi and Clive Brown; small-batch, all-organic toffees, caramels, peanut butter cups and other treats from Moraga-based Hofssi Chocolates; Curio Wolf’s nature-themed stationery and small-scale pouches featuring the watercolor art of co-owner Summer Thorton; and bold, whimsical or soulful art presented in prints, greeting cards, coasters, tea towels and children’s flashcards by Kokeb Studio owner and artist Netsanet Tesfay.
“My passion for art was sparked at age 11 after receiving a box of coloring pencils from my uncle,” says Tesfay of her work that reflects influences from her birthplace in Ethiopia. “My drive to draw and paint emanates from my attraction for colors, shapes and patterns that inspire me daily. I try to see the whimsy in most things, which enables me to create beautiful art and share it with the world.”
Evoking connections through art that bridges human emotions, Tesfay adds, allows people to find relatable, enjoyable meaning in art that is relevant. A similar spirit emanates from the practices of San Jose-based Curio Wolfe, according to co-owner Katie Wong.
“All of our pouches are made in California, and our stationery items are printed locally in San Jose. Our designs begin as watercolor paintings before we convert them to continuous patterns for our canvas dopp kits, pouches and coin purses,” Wong says.
With an eye to their company’s overall carbon footprint, Curio Wolfe partners with ethically like-minded manufacturers and artists — a comic strip company to produce a comic book, an accessory brand to make fanny packs — to expand their line. She says deep satisfaction arrives when the artwork resonates with customers on a personal level.
“We hope that it’s planted a seed of inspiration for their own creative expression or helps them to appreciate the little things such as unexpected details, subtle variations and nuanced humor.”
Nuance is paramount for Hofssi Chocolate co-founders Linda Hofmeister and Susan Rossi. To produce consistent, rich and favorable items that feature American classics like Peanut Butter Cups and Mint Meltaways, and international candy such as nut-rich, buttery Italian Gianduja (chocolate), requires attention to detail.
“Most commercial candy has no flavor,” says Rossi. “The chocolate just tastes like sugar, and the fillings have a chemical flavor. Our candy is made with all high-quality ingredients with no preservatives and mostly organic ingredients. Our goal is to give joy to our customers through their palate.”
Special package design using sustainable packaging when possible turns Hofssi items into gifts people are proud to share, suggests Rossi. Many of the participating artists notably are women entrepreneurs and business owners.
“Women have been honing in on their crafts for thousands of years, so now that craft fests have become a national phenomenon, it is no surprise that women have taken the reigns of the craft world,” says Claire Astrow, the Bedford Gallery’s marketing and communications coordinator. “With the advent of platforms like Pinterest and mammoth crafting marketplaces like West Coast Craft, women have been able to connect and share together in new, expansive ways.”
The Bedford festival is just a one-day pop-up event, but don’t despair. There are curated and noncurated festivals throughout the Bay Area leading up to late December. Check local listings or online event management platforms like Eventbrite for details on other events.