Shoppers in the 21st century have nothing but options, even when faced with — dare I say it — a recession. We could go to a big-box retailer and prowl the shelves for snow globes, plastic ornaments, or stocking stuffers with a pretty patina and no intrinsic value. We could visit an online storefront and give our shopping experience the same sense of predestination that a kid has opening an advent calendar (i.e., it's a box of chocolates, and you know exactly what you're gonna get). Or we could go to a craft fair and treat the holiday season as an exercise in conscious-raising: Buy everything locally, make sure it's handmade, and source all the raw materials. That might sound like an old-school way of doing things, but for progressive, ecologically minded shoppers, it's probably the best way to go. Organizers of the KPFA Crafts & Music Fair understand the social dimensions of holiday shopping. It's an experience we want to share with other people but also savor individually. Moreover, we like the convenience of having everything in one place but want the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what we'll find. There's something to be said for not having all your heart's desires just a mouse click away, after all.
Now in its 39th year, the KPFA Fair features 220 artisans selling affordable handmade goods in a variety of media including ceramics, textiles, toys, paintings, furniture, glassware, jewelry, leather goods, bath products, gourmet goodie baskets, and apparel. Historically, this huge, juried, two-day bazaar has provided local craftophiles with an opportunity to find exotic body oils, papyrus notebooks, soaps with weird vegetable scents, or marionette puppets with as much intricate detail as a Japanese woodblock. But it's also a great party, even if you plan to spend nothing beyond the cost of admission. This year, KPFA has an all-star music lineup planned for both days, with gospel, blues, funk, world music, jazz standards, hip-hop, and contemporary soul. Saturday's highlights include the California Honeydrops, the Jaz Sawyer 3IO, Hot Club of San Francisco, and vocalist Valerie Troutt. Sunday skews folk, with performances by Loretta Lynch, Knuckle Knockers, and Blushin Roulettes, along with the Latin combo Carne Cruda. Add to that the list of KPFA radio personalities on hand: Greg Bridges of the jazz and roots show Transitions on Traditions, Weyland Southon of Hard Knock Radio, Avotcja of Music of the World. It's perhaps the only holiday party that would use the adjective "pluralistic" in its press materials, but judging from the content, that's no overstatement. KPFA Crafts & Music Fair happens Saturday, Dec. 12, and Sunday, Dec. 13, at the Concourse Exhibition Center (635 8th St. at Brannan St., San Francisco). 10 a.m.-6 p.m., $7-$10. KPFA.org/craftsfair