Crafts at the Civic

By Art HarrisFidel and Frida are one of the lively couples this weekend at the Civic Auditorium.

And if you want to take that with a grain of salt, you can take it with pepper, too.

Tom Hatton has them as a salt and pepper set that, due to a misadventure suffered by El Jefe's cigar, can be had for a pittance -- well, only $110, if the set is still there -- at the Contemporary Crafts Market.

Like all crafts shows, this is not a single show but a lot of small, separate exhibits -- in this case, 250 of them. And in the world of fine crafts, this is consistently one of the better ones in the nation, and by far the highest quality crafts market that comes to Southern California.

A strength of this year's show is "wearable fiber" (clothing). There is also a large selection of jewelry and ceramics and a smaller one of furniture/wood and glass (blown, fused, slumped, maybe even slouched).

There are toys, dolls (toys for adults), leather, paper, musical instruments, baskets, clocks, and a few other categories. Even some "flat art" (painting, graphics and photography).

Among the wearables exhibitors, it's easy to point out some excellent work. And, by doing so, to omit other work that is just as good.

The elfin Sara Kaufman (head of the La Selva Beach Knitting & Chowder Society) has scarves from $48 or $100 (by style), and sweaters up to $340. The elegant Basia shows elegant clothing. You might not look like her in one of her designs, but the memory of her might make you feel good --or jealous.

Kate Russell and Valerie Guignon and about 35 more clothing designers will help you find distinction if you like (mostly) women's clothing. (Women should either shop alone or provide suitable distractions for any male companions. Or, as a reward for good behavior, you could spend $75 for an "antler belt" at the Leather Studio of Wes Garcia and Karen Carlson.)

Some jewelry and metalwork exhibits resemble high-end custom jewelry stores (Michael Halem and Glenn Dizon, for instance). There also are enamelists of national reputation (including John Howell's "Precious Sands," and Marianne Hunter).

Sylvi Harwin's brightly colored anodized aluminum, jewelry and functional items run from $8 to $300. Patrick Meyer has some copper boxes ($45) with an eye-catching crispness. Dana Driver's "Primal Jewelry" includes pieces that make notable use of small non-precious stones cut with delicacy.

Woodworker Roger Combs' attractive furniture tends to help sell a lot of his chopsticks (from $14) and sushi trays (from $59). (At crafts shows, there is a rule that "big pieces sell little ones." If the little ones do their job, they later sell big ones to the same customers.)

Michael Merriman's knives and knife sets feature wooden handles in 24 colors. (Knives start at $24; cleavers at $93.)

At least two potters work notably with celadon glazes here. Carolyn Rodgers' teapot with two cups fetched $135, while an assortment of individual cups went for $18 and $25, with some larger pieces going for as much as $150. Ruefully, she admits, some pieces come out of the fire so unexpectedly well that she has dropped them in amazement. (Unlike architects, most potters haven't yet learned to cover their mistakes with ivy.)

Barbara Sebastian's celadons are smaller, including carved pieces that make balanced representation of wind, wave and the winsome rest of the universe (from $75, but she also has soup bowls from $18).

Thomas Rapaich's ceramic figurines (at the very back of the hall) may be sold out by the time you get there, but they are one of its highlights.

And, Sooz Mansuet's "Spirit Boxes" are droll. I am still chewing on the message of one of them that "Gossip is the opiate of the oppressed" ($190 for brightness and wisdom).

(Admission is $6. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with free parking in the Civic Auditorium lot.)