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Sonoma County craft fairs offer alternative to online holiday shopping

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HOLIDAY CRAFT FAIRS

Handmade Holiday Crafts Fair: One of the biggest and oldest local holiday crafts fairs, with more than 80 vendors. Live entertainment, food and activities for kids. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 8. $3. Children under 12 free. Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa. Free trolley rides between the Crafts Fair and the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens Open House.

Luther Burbank Home and Gardens Holiday Open House: Some unique locally made crafts for sale, along with visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus and tours of the old home decorated for Christmas. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8. $3. Free for kids 11 and under. Corner of Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues. Free trolley rides between the Burbank Home and the Handmade Holiday Crafts Fair at Finley Center. 707-524-5445, burbankhome@lutherburbank.org.

Occidental Holiday Weekend Craft Faire: 35 local and regional artists. Prize drawings, baked goods and caroling. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7. Occidental Community Center, 3920 Bohemian Highway.

Artisan Boutique: Local Sonoma County artists and crafters. 5-9 p.m. Dec. 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 14 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15. Pleasant Hill Christian School, 1782 Pleasant Hill Road, Sebastopol. 707-823-5868, sebastopolholidayhometour.weebly.com.

Petaluma Handmade: Clucktown Collective Market of one-of-a-kind, unique and vintage items, at the annual Gingerbread House Showcase & Competition. 1-8 p.m. Dec. 13 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 14. Hotel Petaluma, 205 Kentucky St., clucktowncollective.com.

Clucktown Collective: A gathering of artists, makers and creators. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at The Bank Community Hub and Marketplace, 199 Petaluma Blvd. Clucktowncollective.com.

The Christmas crowds at indoor malls continue to dwindle as holiday shoppers opt for easier and more strategic buying online. But that doesn’t mean we are completely abandoning the tactile experience of browsing in person.

Millennials and mid-lifers, hungering for a creative outlet in a digital world, have made craft fairs the cool place to shop. Every weekend beginning in November, there have been holiday craft fairs somewhere in the North Bay. Followers and fans of the one-of-a-kind and non-returnable find know that whatever they choose for a friend or loved one, there will never be a duplicate under the tree.

All those small sales, cottage industries and Etsy shops together account for a $44 billion crafting industry, according to a 2017 survey by the Association for Creative Industries. That’s an increase of 45% since 2011.

Part of the interest in the handmade stems from concern for the environment. A lot of younger consumers in particular want things that are functional or attractive for the home, but aren’t made in China, out of nonsustainable materials like plastic.

Maker markets and craft fairs are offering a big range of gifty items that are useful or decorative for the holidays and year-round. Many of the events now are carefully curated and even competitive, so the quality is high and the selection varied.

Julie McNamara oversees the Clucktown Collective, which is hosting two holiday marketplaces in Petaluma Dec. 13 and 14. She ensures there is a balance of selection, benefiting both shoppers, who have a greater variety to choose from, and artisans, who aren’t forced to compete with other crafters making the same thing.

“It really makes a difference for me, buying small and from people who are able to use their hands to make goods,” said McNamara, who started out as a jewelry maker and has now expanded to working with natural gemstones and crystals, creating home decor like natural abalone shell bowls and frames.

Craft fairs are a natural extension of the “slow” movement that started with eating seasonal and local foods and grew to buying items not just sold locally but made locally through more sustainable means. “People want to buy local, particularly after the fires. But even before that, they were trying to get away from too many things from China,” said Carrie Jahnig, who makes spun cotton ornaments using 19th-century techniques originating in Europe. The Petaluma creative basically sticks to ingredients Victorians would have used, from organic cotton and vintage textiles to glue she makes herself. She even foraged mica from the Black Hills where she grew up, to create nontoxic glitters.

“I wanted to focus on being environmentally friendly,” Jahnig said. Her ornaments, from whimsical sea creatures and candy-colored toadstools to tiny dolls, some made with real antique doll heads, are made as heirlooms to pass down through generations.

“I use vintage handmade laces and vintage buttons and also make my own buttons out of metal,” Jahnig said. She gets her ideas from real antiques as well as books and her imagination.

Craft shoppers can find her creations at the Handmade Holiday Crafts Fair this Saturday and Sunday, one of the largest and oldest holiday craft fairs in the county.

The city-sponsored event, now in its 45th year, overtakes the Finley Community Center with more than 90 vendors, many offering practical items for the home, from candles and garden statuary and art to wreaths and seed balls.

HOLIDAY CRAFT FAIRS

Handmade Holiday Crafts Fair: One of the biggest and oldest local holiday crafts fairs, with more than 80 vendors. Live entertainment, food and activities for kids. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 8. $3. Children under 12 free. Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa. Free trolley rides between the Crafts Fair and the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens Open House.

Luther Burbank Home and Gardens Holiday Open House: Some unique locally made crafts for sale, along with visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus and tours of the old home decorated for Christmas. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8. $3. Free for kids 11 and under. Corner of Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues. Free trolley rides between the Burbank Home and the Handmade Holiday Crafts Fair at Finley Center. 707-524-5445, burbankhome@lutherburbank.org.

Occidental Holiday Weekend Craft Faire: 35 local and regional artists. Prize drawings, baked goods and caroling. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7. Occidental Community Center, 3920 Bohemian Highway.

Artisan Boutique: Local Sonoma County artists and crafters. 5-9 p.m. Dec. 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 14 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15. Pleasant Hill Christian School, 1782 Pleasant Hill Road, Sebastopol. 707-823-5868, sebastopolholidayhometour.weebly.com.

Petaluma Handmade: Clucktown Collective Market of one-of-a-kind, unique and vintage items, at the annual Gingerbread House Showcase & Competition. 1-8 p.m. Dec. 13 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 14. Hotel Petaluma, 205 Kentucky St., clucktowncollective.com.

Clucktown Collective: A gathering of artists, makers and creators. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at The Bank Community Hub and Marketplace, 199 Petaluma Blvd. Clucktowncollective.com.

The show is juried to ensure high quality and that everything is handmade, said Al Prichard, a recreation coordinator for the city of Santa Rosa who is overseeing the event. The fair draws some 3,000 people every year and supports scholarships for swimming lessons and senior center memberships.

Holiday shoppers looking for handmade and local goods also can score some nice finds at the Burbank Open House while enjoying refreshments, visits with Santa for the little ones and tours of the Burbank home decked out for the holidays in Victorian finery.

Also in Petaluma, the Clucktown Collective Holiday Market on Dec. 14 will be held in the elegant old bank at 199 Petaluma Boulevard North. The inside of the historic building will be decorated with lights and juniper, and shoppers can sip wine and beer while they shop.

“It’s also fun for people to be able to meet the person who made that item for you. It’s a connection,” added Brena Kennedy, whose artist husband Dom Chi’s cutting boards and coasters, laser etched from his own designs, will be featured at the market. Rebecca and Brandon Gaut, a crafting couple from Rohnert Park, are making the rounds of the holiday crafts fairs. Brandon creates fine hand-turned camphor bowls, tiny scrap wood magnetic planters and other designs in wood. Rebecca has developed a large following with her delicate coiled-rope baskets of cotton cord and natural botanical dyes. They’re perfect for small jewelry or keys and coins.

Many local crafters have gotten to know each other through Instagram and support one another’s work. Karen Silberg is among them. She’s a potter who makes mugs, bowls and stemless wine glasses and other usable tableware with glazes she makes erself from all natural ingredients.

“There’s a lot of focus now on being environmentally friendly, as well as doing something that reduces extra packaging and waste,” she said. “One thing I really enjoy about ceramics is that it’s a reusable thing.

“II have people come up and say, ‘I love your mug. I use it every day,’ ” she added. “That’s such a sweet feeling.”

Staff Writer Meg McConahey can be reached at 707-521-5204 or meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com.

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