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Woodwork, glassware, metal pieces, leather: Annual GIFTY market returns for holiday shopping

on December 5, 2021

Christa Cesario picks out a pair of colorful, handmade wooden earrings and holds them up to her ear. 

“I came to buy a gift for my mom, and ended up buying one for myself,” she says.

Cesario is among thousands of people who are expected to visit The Crucible’s annual GIFTY Craft Show & Open House this weekend in Oakland. The 56,000-square-foot industrial artists’ space is hosting approximately 70 artists, including woodworkers, glassblowers, beadmakers, neon artists, metalworkers, and leatherworkers, many of whom will be offering demonstrations on Sunday.

Leticia Baker is a local pyrographer who creates bold designs on wooden earrings, woodblocks and notecards. She’s been selling her handmade art at GIFTY for four years.

“It’s rooted in community, and I love the diversity and the fact that it is really inclusive,” she said. “It’s representative of all the important things about Oakland. When you talk about Oakland as a melting pot, this is basically a true example.”

Cecilia Murillo of Oakland was a first-time visitor Saturday. “I like to support local businesses and there’s a lot of Black and brown businesses here, which is really important for us,” she said.

For jewelry fabricator Alexis Pavlantos, who has been affiliated with The Crucible for the past decade, the space is also important for creating community and collaboration between artists. She has participated in The Crucible’s Create program, which offers students and community members not only access to studios but also to materials, tools and equipment. 

The Crucible emphasizes diversity in its faculty and students. It offers offers year-round, free programming, scholarships, and paid teaching positions for local youths and adults who couldn’t otherwise participate.

“Our mission is to make the industrial arts accessible to everybody, so they can really enjoy the transformative joys of learning. And we want to do that regardless of people’s income,” said Susan Mernit, The Crucible’s executive director.

The Crucible runs several outreach and scholarship programs, many aimed at bringing in young artists from the community. It fosters long-term relationships with artists, and several instructors got their start as students. 

Brandyn Willridge is new to The Crucible. He has a background in metal fabrication, but hadn’t considered turning his career into an art form. 

“I’ve never done any art myself before The Crucible because I haven’t had access to material and all that,” he said.

Now he’s part of the Artisan Entrepreneurial Program which supports up-and-coming artists with business licensing, and marketing, and provides access to materials, workshop space and guidance from more experienced artists.

Flameworker Tansy Brooks, another artisan taking part in GIFTY, visited the studio as a student 15 years ago, then volunteered there before taking classes. She said it’s hard to find places that offer instruction in a wide range of industrial arts.

“There wasn’t anywhere else that I could learn how to flame work that I knew of,” she said.

That variety is on display at this weekend’s artisan market, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, at The Crucible, 1260 Seventh Street.

The Crucible
The annual GIFTY Craft Show & Open House at The Crucible industrial arts building. (Jennifer Wiley)


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