BERKELEY -- Beginning Saturday, the public will again have an opportunity to explore the creative process and shop for original, handcrafted items during the 23rd Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios.
For the next four weekends, 100 artisans and craftspeople will open their studios, workshops and galleries to the public. Thousands of pieces in a variety of mediums will be on view, many one-of-a-kind.
These include functional and decorative ceramics, jewelry, blown glass, painting, sculpture, mosaics, photography, textiles, one-of-a-kind clothing, leather bags, mosaics, original prints, musical instruments, painted and custom furniture, and lamps and lighting.
The free, self-guided art walk provides the opportunity to meet the artists within their working craft studios.
"This isn't like being at a busy craft show, it's really a personal experience," said Susan Brooks, Berkeley Artisans media and event contact, jeweler and painter. "You get to spend time with somebody who comes through your door and demystify the art process, explaining how the pieces are made."
Within Brooks' studio, viewers can see similarities in the patterns depicted in her figurative paintings and repeated in her jewelry, then watch as the artist demonstrates the techniques she uses to build up layers of texture on the metal of her earrings and pendants.
Many are drawn to the opportunity to purchase unique and unusual gifts not found at a local mall and at competitive prices. Artisan work is marked by top-grade materials and workmanship, with each piece made to last and quality-controlled,
The benefits extend to the artisans themselves, as organizing the collective open houses brings them to the attention of the public, not only for the holiday season but throughout the year, allowing new connections to be made and maintained.
Buyers not only support the artist but add to the economic base and cultural tapestry of the community.
"Artists create a product and create their own jobs. We boost the local economy because we're all small businesses, and we add to the tax base," Brooks said.
Entering a studio is akin to coming into someone's home and seeing the breadth of their work, rather than a few select pieces, and the experience can extend beyond a sale. Alison Antelman creates fine jewelry in silver and gold with unusual stones.
She loves to show people her equipment and demonstrate the process that creates her pieces. She finds that buyers often ask her to create something specific, often using stones from heirloom jewelry they no longer wear.
"I think that when people buy from an artist, it's a relationship, not just buying a product," Antelman said. "Sometimes, people see something they like and have it custom made, maybe using grandma's diamonds in my design so the new piece still has the history of the old one."
Jim Rosenau of "This Into That" uses combinations of vintage books to create thematic furniture and believes that Open Studios gives him a unique opportunity to meet people he wouldn't normally see at art shows.
"I think people come here because they enjoy meeting artists in their studios and having a more intimate relationship," Rosenau said. "I make pieces that would never happen if people didn't come here and see what's possible."
Preparing to attend the Holiday Open Studios is as easy as picking up a brochure and map or downloading one from the website, then determining which mediums you're interested in, such as blown glass, jewelry, mosaics or furniture. You can pick out individual studios or select a neighborhood of three to four blocks and wander around.
Many of the studios are in the same building or clustered within walking distance, and the entire map represents four square miles that could be covered in two or three trips.
The Berkeley Artisans have selected the slogan "Handcrafted in Berkeley, support local artisans and bring more art into your life" for this year's holiday open studios.
What: Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22.
Details: For information or to download a directory and map, call 510-845-2612 or visit www.berkeleyrtisans.com. Directories and maps also are available at many Berkeley bookstores, cafes and art supply stores.