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Artists Show Their Best Crafts

June 04, 1988|ANNE Z. COOKE | Cooke is a free-lance writer who lives in Marina del Rey.

Got a yen to collect fine art? You'll need more than just one. With Old Master paintings--even the second-rate ones--being snapped up by foreign investors for millions of yen, chances are you've been priced out of the market.

Not so, however, if you love beautiful crafts and have a nest egg tucked under the mattress. At the fifth Contemporary Crafts Market today and Sunday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, you will find nothing cheap, but considering the artistic quality and skilled workmanship, you'll find many a bargain.

About 210 of America's finest contemporary craft artists will assemble here to display works that reveal the depth and virtuosity of the recent craft renaissance.

Innovative furniture, fine handblown glass, bowls and boxes of rare wood, for instance. Elegant gold, silver and gemstone jewelry and ceramics. Textiles, one-of-a-kind clothes and fiber art. Pieces not just to own, but to touch, admire and use.

During the last decade, a giant leap forward in the quality and prestige of craft art, formerly the stuff of sidewalk shows and holiday bazaars, has raised the best of it to museum level and quickened the pulses of art lovers and collectors.

"The show gives serious collectors a bit of an edge because they can see the entire spectrum of an artist's work in one place," says Kerry Feldman, one of several glass artists at the show. "And it's a rare opportunity to talk to the artist in person."

Feldman, whose 13-artist Fineline Studios in Marina del Rey produces glass art considered to be among the country's finest, makes a variety of handblown functional and decorative pieces such as bottles, vases, panels and wood-and-glass furniture.

"Prices at the show probably aren't any lower," he says, "but most artists bring not only their one-of-a-kind pieces but examples of their production work." All of Feldman's production line--pitchers, paperweights, vases and sets of wine goblets, tumblers, plates and bowls, for instance--are handmade.

But one needn't be a collector to enjoy the show, which highlights designer jewelry, some surprisingly affordable. Debra Levitt, a West Los Angeles designer of sterling silver jewelry, says her representation pins (recognizable objects like palm trees, flowers and airplanes) cost about $40 each.

While Levitt also makes bracelets, necklaces and earrings, she concentrates on pins, because she "loves them. They can be worn on just about anything." Many of her pins are set with stones, particularly amethysts, her favorite.

Recently she has used Sierra Snow Jasper in her designs. The striking, black-and-white jasper polishes to a high sheen, complementing its silver setting. Levitt says the jasper is a new stone, which "comes from Coalinga. It just came up in the (1983) earthquake."

Wood lovers will find a number of artists who work with rare wood, creating bowls, furniture, inlaid and laminated boxes and sculptures.

Dan Kvitka, from Corvallis, Ore., specializes in unusually shaped bowls. One of his finest, 18 inches wide and 6 inches high, seems to defy the laws of wood cutting.

Shaped of a single block of gold-and-brown streaked Makassar ebony, polished to a glowing sheen, it rests on a 6-inch base with a top opening only several inches wide.

Pleasure in viewing much of the show comes from its floor plan and intimate lighting. The booths, lined end-to-end along a maze of short, narrow aisles, give the impression of a native market and invite browsing; skillfully placed lights lower the ceiling, focusing attention on the color and design of the art itself.

Sandwiches and cake will be sold at a snack bar.

The show runs today and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Parking is adjacent. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is at Pico Boulevard and Main Street. Admission is $3 per person, children younger than 12 are free. Information: (213) 829-2724.

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