West Coast Craft is fast becoming one of the most highly-anticipated and respected craft shows in the United States. Happening twice a year, in June and November, West Coast Craft is a juried exhibition of artists, designers, and makers who “draw inspiration from the mood and aesthetics of the West Coast lifestyle.”
The participants are primarily individual artists and makers, but there is also a selection of small indie brands and larger companies that fit the aesthetics and the values of the show. WCC is an opportunity to sell directly to customers (as opposed to a trade show like NY NOW), and the crowds that come out to this show can be truly astounding, at time crowding the aisles and slowing the pace to a crawl. The show is free to attend, and shoppers flock to the show on both Saturday and Sunday, with peak times around 12-4pm.
Over 250 vendors sell their wares in this two day show, and the offerings are varied. Walking the five aisles of Fort Mason Center, you’ll find clothing, bags, jewelry, home decor, artworks, ceramics, textiles, perfumes and cosmetics, and handmade furniture. Prices range from letterpressed greeting cards under $5, to high end heated patio furniture reaching over $6000.
West Coast Craft curates their show with an eye for aesthetics, and the artists go above and beyond to create a beautiful shopping experience. Many of the vendors chose to create elaborate booths, with professional build outs worthy of a trade show. Baggu, maker of reusable tote bags, created a kitchy supermarket-inspired display, complete with old-school coupon pages marketing their offerings. WCC vendors tend to invest in the details of their displays and packaging, lending a very sophisticated look to the craft fair experience.
This stylish show is a great place to do some trend spotting. Some of the major themes at this year’s West Coast Craft show:
High minded design for children seems to be more popular than ever. This could be an offshoot of the sustainable living mindset on the West Coast, which encourages thoughtful purchase of all goods that could be handed down to siblings rather than thrown out. Knotwork LA rattles are handcrafted from beautiful woods and have a streamlined look. Micaela Greg creates sophisticated knits for children (and adults!) that are fashion forward. Bitte offers a collection designer toys and clothing with a focus on neutral colors and natural materials.
One notable thing about West Coast Craft was that the organizers paid special attention to supporting parents who were both participating in and shopping at the show. There was a reserved quiet room for parents who wanted a private space to feed their kids, and Mother Mag hosted a lounge with free activities for children.
Irreverent 70’s and 80’s inspired designs are everywhere. Ali Golden offered jumpsuits and high waisted trousers in a decidedly 70’s palette. LA phenom The Good Twin Co. offers an updated take on 80’s pastel California-vibes with her greeting cards and enamel pins. Gentle Thrills creates fun airbrush art, and did live demos of her unique artwork in her wildly decorated WCC booth. Debbie Bean creates modern stained glass in vintage color palettes, reinforcing the 70’s California vibes.
Natural materials, like wood, ceramics, and cork dominate at West Coast Craft. Woodworking maven Katie Gong brought her unique steam-bent knotted wood pieces, and Melanie Abrantes displayed beautiful turned cork vessels and wooden tabletop goods in rare natural colors. Linda Hsiao’s inlaid ceramics and tiki-inspired pottery offers detailed designs, a contrast with many of the more minimalist designs at the show. Toools offered a selection of contemporary handmade pottery with a nod to traditional Korean Banchan dishes.
Political messages + charitable giving. The 2016 election sent ripples through the art and design scene, and the frustrations and passions of west coast artists are fueling new political designs, as well as lots of partnerships with non-profits like Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Otherwild, a shop that has gained lots of attention for their “The Future is Female” t-shirts, brought lots of inclusive progressive swag to their WCC booth. Chaparral Studio displayed their signature “lady caves” — geodes featuring frolicking nude miniatures in effervescent feminist scenes.
Plants everywhere. Millenials are known to fill their homes with plants, and brands at WCC were savvy to this trend. Leon & George had a lush booth filled with plants ready to be delivered directly to your home. The Good Twin Co. even offers enamel pins of popular plants.
In just a handful of years, West Coast Craft has become a go-to destination to meet up-and-coming artists and shop handcrafted designs. If you’re interested in becoming a vendor at the Summer ’18 show, sign up to receive emails from West Coast Craft, and get notified when their applications open.
About the Author:
Erin Dollar is an artist, surface pattern designer, and founder of Cotton & Flax, a collection of boldly patterned textile home decor that is designed and manufactured in California. Her work has been sold in 100+ retail shops, from indie boutiques, to large mass-market retailers like West Elm, CB2, and Need Supply. By growing her ecommerce business to accommodate wholesale buyers, she has built a sustainable business that generates income year-round, and built a platform for long-term growth. See her webinar, Wholesale for Craft Business, in our archives.