Claycomb fair expands artists' opportunities

A new craft fair, designed to give lesser-known artists a chance to enter Ashland's competitive craft market and draw attention to the neglected Claycomb's Plaza Mall, has joined the lineup of annual Thanksgiving weekend bazaars this year.

Some of the crafters in the new fair, which opened at 10 a.m. today, said they have had trouble getting accepted at the longstanding Lithia Artisan's Market and are grateful for a chance to sell their wares this holiday season.

"I really love the people involved in Lithia Artisan's Market, but it's such a small space, it's hard for people to get into the market," said Amy Godard, a crafter who grew up in Ashland and recently returned after living in Eugene. "I've been really lucky. I got into the market, I was just unable to sell all of my stuff there."

Godard makes a wide variety of crafts, including dolls, feathered-hair adornments and silk screens. But because the Lithia market has strict requirements on products and a rigorous jury process for new crafters to enter the fair, only her dolls were approved for sale, severely limiting her ability to earn a profit, she said.

Even if artisans meet all requirements, their work can still be rejected. Halfway through the season last summer, for example, a moratorium was placed on new jewelry vendors, Godard said.

"I did it for two weekends and I just decided that it wasn't worth my time to sit all day in the sun and not really make that much money," she said. "I know there are other artists who have had that same experience there."

The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market also places similar restrictions on craft vendors, requiring that the work be related to agriculture. The group's bylaws also stipulate that 60 percent of vendors sell produce, limiting craft and processed food booths to 40 percent of the market, market manager Mary Ellen De Luca said.

"There is more of a difficulty in that area maybe because a lot of the crafts aren't agriculturally related," she said. "We pre-screen people ahead of time and let them know if their craft would even be considered."

When crafters approached merchants in Claycomb's Plaza Mall, the business owners saw it as a mutually beneficial opportunity, helping artists gain exposure while drawing visitors to the indoor mall, said fair organizer Todd Higgins, owner of Mystic Trade Company.

"People don't really know we're here," he said. "It's a way to do a little advertising for us and get artists in here."

The show will feature 10 local crafters and performances from local musicians, he said. If it is successful, they will consider holding a show once each season, he said.

Even Higgins had an overrepresentation of jewelry-makers for the inaugural fair at first, he said, but has rounded out the show with ceramics, gourds and knitted crafts.

Sharon Lawrence is one of those artists competing in the crowded jewelry market, although she also shows an eclectic mix of other crafts — including wind chimes, bookmarks and copper wire designs — to distinguish herself. She was one of the few crafters who got into the growers and crafters market with jewelry, and she hopes the Claycomb fair will help widen her audience.

Jewelry "is some of my nicest work, but it's one of the things you can't expose to many people because there's so much out there," she said. "The irony of it is that everybody buys jewelry."

The Claycomb fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Lithia Artisan's Market is hosting its Christmas Faire this weekend at the Historic Ashland Armory from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

A third holiday craft fair will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at the Unitarian center on Fourth and C streets.

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

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