LA's Crafter Culture: Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles




For some, the term "craft fair" conjures up images of arguably useless items like tea cozies and ornately sculpted candles. But with hipsterdom's recent embrace of using their hands for more than just blogging (ahem), being "crafty" is no longer just the purview of scrapbookers and bedazzlers. The enduring popularity of the Unique LA independent design show (and its expansion to San Francisco and NYC) has proven that there is a robust market for reclaimed-wood art pieces, salvaged leather handbags and handmade soaps. But for those of us who have found that the thrice-yearly event has become a little too crowded and overwhelming in its endless array of vendors -- or who simply balk at the $10 cost of admission -- there's Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles.

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Crafted is a comparatively modest affair. While it's billed as "a permanent craft marketplace featuring the work of over 100 artists and craftspeople," turnover among vendors, and seasonal sales fluctuations, meant only a few dozen stalls were open on my recent visit. And that was fine with me; I didn't feel like I had to spend my time there as strategically as possible so as not to miss anything. Free admission and free parking also take the pressure off.

Crafted features many of the same things you'd find at Unique LA, including jewelry, posters, t-shirts, cookies, and handbags, and pretty much everything is worth a look. A couple of my favorites include the gorgeous salvaged leather totes and clutches from Salvageshop, and the sweetly festive handmade little girls' dresses by Grace & May (a bargain at $24 each). The fragrant teas and spice blends on display by World Flavorz were also tempting, as were the all-natural (i.e. food coloring-free) French macarons of Soft Peaks Confections. And I was intrigued by the whimsical hand-painted leggings offered by Morgan Culture.

Everything at Crafted is locally made and sold directly by the artists, which makes for a truly "feel good" shopping experience. The Women's Findings Project offers perhaps the best opportunity to positively exercise your buying power. The organization provides English language instruction and job preparation to women of diverse ethnic backgrounds to help them discover their entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Participating women design and produce arts and crafts such as clothing, toys, and totes, which they sell at Crafted.

Crafted is part of an ongoing attempt to draw more people to San Pedro's Waterfront district, which boasts attractions and landmarks like the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the Vincent Thomas Bridge and the USS Iowa Battleship. Visitors can explore the area by way of either the free downtown trolley service, which runs between Fountain Plaza and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, or by riding the vintage Waterfront Red Car Line for a dollar. Both transports stop near Crafted, so you can hop on when you're done shopping and then get a ride back to your car when you're ready.

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