Real Estate

Uniquely made

Artisans bring their furniture and home goods to city's annual Palo Alto arts festival

There comes a point after you choose what you like from the Crate & Barrel or Restoration Hardware catalog, you want to make sure there is something in your home decor that no one else has. You may have to look no further than the the artistic furnishings being offered at the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts.

About 300 artists and crafters will showcase their work at the Festival on August 27 and 28, lining up on University Avenue between Webster and High Streets in downtown Palo Alto.

In its 34th year, the festival attracts artists specializing in every kind of material, from jewelry to porcelain to wood. A majority of the crafts are handmade and authentic, something that Sandy Kreyer, a ceramics artist from Long Beach, appreciates.

"I'm amazed by the quality of what's there," she said. "I'm pretty sure there's no people selling spiders on a stick; it's beautifully made work by artists."

The 66-year-old Kreyer knows a thing or two about her line of work -- she has been selling pottery since she was 13.

Kreyer describes her work as "silk pottery," specializing in functional objects such as plates, bowls, cups and vases. Everything she makes is handpainted, and her most popular items are coffee cups. Last year, she brought 100 of them with her to the festival and sold all but five on the first day.

"They sell," she said. "It's amazing. The best compliment is when somebody buys something from you. It's such a great feeling."

Cathi Borthwick, a blacksmith from Flagstaff, Ariz., has been a vendor at the festival since the mid-1980s. She focuses on ironwork for the home such as kitchen utensils, lamps and tables. The forging process is meticulous and done entirely by hand -- the steel is heated to 2,000 degrees before being molded in shape.

Borthwick also stressed the importance of the functionality of her creations.

"You can't make a table that falls over," she said. "It's nice to be able to make something that appeals to a level of beauty and that (people) can use and functions well."

She enjoys the distinct nature of each product she makes -- with no two things completely similar.

"I've had people ask, 'I want three things, can you make them differently?' she said. "I say, 'Sure.' It's hard to make things the same. The heat's different. Everything has its own personality and look. Each person gets something unique. People buy things as much for the piece as for the maker. They like the story, that somebody put it out there."

Functionality and uniqueness seem to be a key theme amongst those at the festival. Roger Combs is a woodworker from San Luis Obispo who makes furniture such as stools, benches, dining tables and bedroom sets. Describing his style as having a "Danish simplicity with an Asian flavor," Combs said that woodworking "pays the bills," but he enjoys it as well. His most popular items are barstools.

"To me, (functionality) is very important," Combs said. "I've always made functional pieces. To have it used is important to me. I like that people use my stools, dining table, bedroom pieces -- things that can be appreciated every day."

Combs has been in the business for 26 years, but this will be his first time doing the festival in Palo Alto.

According to Kreyer, arts and crafts shows are losing popularity, but the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts is well worth the drive from Long Beach.

"I'll drive to Palo Alto every day for that kind of show, for that kind of response," she said. "I look forward to people that enjoy the beautiful art work in the show. It's amazing. I'm happy to be there."

The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28.

Eric He was an editorial intern. He can be emailed at

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 4,623 views

If you do nothing else, do These Three Things
By Sherry Listgarten | 17 comments | 1,704 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,230 views

Lentil Brownies
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 280 views

Finding Balance
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 182 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.