San Pedro's newest attraction: A year-round craft market

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Be honest. When you hear about crafting, you probably think about something like...

"Macrame," guesses Emma Alvarez-Gibson. "And maybe some kind of decorative thing somebody’s grandma made out of an old beer can."

But, that’s the old crafting, Alvarez-Gibson said. Holding a bag full of goodies she says the handmade movement is something new entirely.

“I mean we’re talking about artisans," she explains. "It’s really high-end stuff that’s still imaginative.”

Gone are the days of making knick-knacks — now she says crafts are about "learning to make do and stretching your boundaries. It’s not about sitting around bored, making a doily.”

Gibson and a few hundred craft admirers just like her made their way to the the grand opening of Crafted — an indoor, year-round craft market in San Pedro that plans to become the biggest in the country. Eventually, it’ll span two giant warehouses and host 500 vendors.

Wayne Blank came up with the idea. He’s the owner and founder of the Bergamot Station art complex in Santa Monica.

When looking for a space to house the new venture, Blank said they chose the warehouses for two reasons: they are a part of San Pedro’s WWII history, and they could be easily and quickly renovated.

The craft market is part of the $1.2 billion L.A. Waterfront project, a plan to revitalize the historic area with new shops and restaurants and transform it into a tourist destination. The marina has already been rehabilitated, one of L.A.’s old electric Red Cars stops right in front of the market and the behemoth battleship the USS Iowa is a new neighbor.

Only a third of the warehouse space is open to vendors, the rest will be opened up over four additional phases. So far about 100 stalls are set up to sell an assortment of handmade goods including a collection of feathered, fascinator hats made of industrial felt. They’re made by Brianna Kenyon of Pooka Queen who looks for inspiration in swirling architecture shapes and “animals of the sea.”

Wearing one of her own creations she said, “You’ll see the forms look a little bit like octopuses or structures of buildings.”

Kenyon’s story is similar to many of the vendors. She makes most of her hats and other accessories in her apartment and until now has been selling them at weekend craft fairs and online marketplace Etsy, where many craft vendors sell their goods. This is her first attempt at a brick-and-mortar shop.

“The problem with those types of shows,” she said, is that “you get a lot of people who come in and say, oh, I have an event coming up but I don’t know what dress I’m wearing so let me just take your card and then they just walk away and you never hear from them again.”

Having a stall gives her the opportunity to make custom pieces and build up a clientele.

On the way out, Liz Schindler Johnson pulls a giant, Hello Kitty candle from her bag. It’s pink, smells like bubble gum and is the size of a baby’s head.

Johnson puts it up to her nose and asks, "Now where else can you get something like that?"

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