End Game for Famed Art Mart

Crafts Market founder Roy Helms, who’s calling it quits after 34 years.

For 34 years, the Contemporary Crafts Market has brought together some of the country’s most acclaimed artists, who travel from far and wide to exhibit and sell their creations.

But this year’s event — from Nov. 1 to 3 at The Pasadena Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall — will be the last.

“I’m nearly 80 and am retiring,” said Roy Helms, CEO and founder of the Market.

“I think the best part for us has been the wonderful associations we’ve had and the friendships we’ve made with artists. I’ve had the chance to buy some wonderful pieces and have built a nice personal collection over the years. Crafts people are the ultimate entrepreneurs — they design and make their work, market and sell it with minimal additional help. It’s been very gratifying to encourage them to make a living doing crafts.”

When Helms founded the Contemporary Crafts Market more than three decades ago, at the time there wasn’t a show of its kind in the Los Angeles area. He had previously worked for the American Craft Council and was inspired to start the Market after seeing a lack of opportunity to purchase American-made, handcrafted products. The show launched in Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, but after eventually outgrowing the space, it found its new home at the Pasadena Convention Center.

“Everything here is one-of-a-kind, and you’re getting the artisans’ passion, tradition and story in everything that you buy,” said Liz Anderson, the Market’s organizer. “Going to each booth is like visiting the artisan’s studio. You get to look at everything they’ve made and ask them all about it — it’s a world of wonder.”

Added Helms, “We offer customers an unusual shopping experience. Many come to the show and don’t know what they’re looking for, but they come with an open mind. They’re looking for something to excite their creativity and they get to talk with the artist about it — that’s what they look forward to.”

More than 200 exhibitors participate in The Contemporary Crafts Market, showcasing American-made, handcrafted artisanal products that range from textiles and jewelry to ceramics, woodwork and more.

Joe Feinblatt with one of his urban-forest wood bowls.

Wood artisan Joe Feinblatt of Pasadena has participated in the show for almost a decade. He turns and carves salvaged urban-forest wood into beautiful vessels such as bowls, many of which are adorned with metal and glass embellishments. 

“I enjoy working with wood because you’re much more involved in the direct handling of the materials,” he said. “Handmade items may not be as perfect as machine-made things, but there’s something special about them. This has been the best-quality crafts show in Southern California for a long time. I enjoy meeting and talking to other artists, and I usually end up acquiring several things myself. I will really miss having this opportunity.”

Jeweler Karen Brown from Manhattan Beach has been with the show for 25 years. She creates contemporary and versatile jewelry that features clean lines and rare gemstones.

“I love working with gemstones,” Brown said. “They often tell me what to do when I make jewelry, so I’ll start with the gemstone and then build around it. Roy does a really nice job of putting on a show — he and his crew have been wonderful. I’m so sad about the show ending because there are no others of its kind and I love that it’s held indoors with better lighting.”

Lois Sattler is a renowned ceramics artist from Marina Del Rey whose decorative and functional handcrafted pieces are collected and coveted by art lovers. She has been with the show since its inception.

The Contemporary Crafts Market, held in recent years at the Pasadena Convention Center, features the work of more than 200 artisans. This year’s final edition runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 Photos courtesy of Liz Anderson

“Roy has been amazing to work with,” Sattler said. “And I love the people — I’ve never met an artist I had a problem with. I think people who work with their hands are a breed in themselves. I love working with clay because it’s so forgiving and you can do anything. Art has the power to heal and enhance everyday life. I also teach art to kids, and many times their problems go away while they’re working.”

This year, The Contemporary Crafts Market is partnering with Go Metro and Giessinger Winery. Attendees who present a TAP ticket will receive a discount on admission.

“The show may be coming to an end, but the art it has showcased is timeless and that will live on,” Anderson said. “You’re buying beauty built to list — every piece is going to bring joy into your life every single day.”

The Market is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased at the door for $8; children 12 and under are free. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit www.craftsource.net.