Not Your Average Crafts Show

As a founder of the Contemporary Crafts Market 12 years ago, Roy Helms says his first challenge was defining the show because the word "craft" suffers a breakdown in meaning.

"When you buy a glue stick and sparkle and decorate your T-shirt, that can be crafts."

But Helms, whose background includes working for a variety of arts organizations and serving as president of American Crafts Enterprises (the marketing arm of the American Craft Council, a nonprofit arts organization), didn't have a T-shirt show in mind.

"We were talking about artisans, often college-trained, who are producing high-end crafts," he said. "Their work is a bridge into fine arts."

His market, which returns to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on June 19-21, will feature 240 artists from around the country who bring a range of crafts, from jewelry and blown glass to ceramics and furniture.

"We try to make the show fresh and new each year," said Helms, who lives in Honolulu and produces the market twice a year in Santa Monica and annually in San Francisco.

Each show is juried, which means the artist submits slides of his or her work for Helms' selection, certifying that it is handmade.

"It's always very competitive," said Helms, who filled this year's 240 spaces from more than 600 applicants.

In the exhibitor's contract is the artist's pledge to be present personally, not send a sales representative.

"It is a show of artists, and that's part of the bargain," Helms said. "You are buying more than an item--you are buying an identity with the artist and a unique design."

Attendance runs between 10,000 and 12,000 a show, Helms said.

This year's schedule will feature artist lectures. On June 20 at 1:30 p.m., Stephanie Occipinti Karr will discuss her inspiration in creating her whimsical wood chairs. On June 21 at 1:30 p.m. basket artist Lois Rainwater will present a historical review of basketry.


Contemporary Crafts Show, June 19, 2 to 8 p.m.; June 20-21, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Main Street and Pico Boulevard. Admission: $5 for adults, free for children under 12. Information: (310)-285-3655.

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