Artisans show off at Festival

Brian Gleser plays with his son Onyx, 3, while one of his new pieces, Peace, love and garlic, is displayed inside his booth Harmony Materpieces Tie-Dyes on the park side Friday.

Garlic did more than flavor the food at the 34th annual Garlic Festival over the weekend. It also inspired several handmade crafts on display.

“Garlic, just the look and shape of it, actually lends itself very well to jewelry because it’s three-dimensional and has an interesting texture,” explained Morgan Fischer, one of more than 100 artisans from around the country who sold their wares at the festival July 27-29. “Plus, the little vine on top loops nicely so we can string it along a chain or onto a hook for earrings,”

Fischer, a lifelong jeweler, has sold her sterling silver garlic charms and earrings at the festival since 1975, she said. She makes the jewelry at her East Bay home with her 19-year-old daughter Paige Fischer using a method called “lost wax casting,” which is a lot like the way a dentist takes a mould of your teeth.

“It’s a really unique process,” the elder Fischer said. “And people love the result. The garlic pieces I’ve made special for this festival for years – they’re our best-seller.”

Another craft with garlic as a fitting muse: Jane Rekedal’s ceramic garlic roaster.

“Of course this is a hit every time,” said Rekedal, who teaches pottery classes at the nearby Gavilan College.

Rekedal, who runs a pottery studio from her home in Aromas, said she has sold her wares at the Garlic Festival for every festival except the first two years. The event has become a personal tradition for her, she said, a chance to sell not just the roaster but sundry garlic-motif platters, planters and wall-mounted cubbies for the fragrant bulbs.

“This is a juried show, so I always get excited to see that acceptance letter every year,” she said. “I feel like it’s more fun for me to work here than just wander around as an attendee.”

The timing works well for her, too, she said. She’s just finishing up with her teaching semester when she starts prepping for the show.

“It’s a big event for me – the biggest event of the year,” she said. “I look forward to it every time. And when it’s done, I get a month-long reprieve before classes begin. Then, it starts all over again.”

There will be no next time for Kerry Williams, however. The Santa Cruz glassblower and her husband have worked with the medium for more than three decades and enlisted as Garlic Fest vendors for several years. But this marked their last before they retire, she said.

“This is one of our favorite fairs to show at,” said Williams, surrounded by shelves of various twists and shapes of glossy, colorful glassware. “Partly because it’s more a tourist destination than a lot of the other fairs around here. People come from all over – it’s a nice crowd.”

It seemed the garlic-themed souvenirs flew off the shelves over the weekend. Though no such luck for John Barry, who struggled to market his handmade blocks of garlic soap.

“Honestly, it’s not that big a hit,” said Barry, a soap-maker for four years and fair vendor for two. “People say it’s too strong. The ones who did buy it got it more as a novelty, a souvenir, than a toiletry.”

Maybe next year he’ll use a tad less garlic oil, he mused.  

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