The annual event now known as the Celebration of Craftswomen began in 1976 as a small crafts show. Held at the Old Wives’ Tales feminist bookstore on Valencia Street in San Francisco, and organized by Carol Seajay, and Paula Wallace, the event featured 22 craftswomen from the Bay Area and couple of food vendors. The crafts show was a huge success. Even so, no one dreamed it would become the largest and most respected women’s crafts fair in the nation.
In 1981, the founders suggested that The Women’s Building take over the increasingly popular crafts fair. With this change, the event was named the Winter Women’s Arts and Craft Fair, and with the help of artist Judy Stone and co-founder with Laurie Edison ( now Laurie Gottlieb) the show moved from the bookstore to the Women’s Building on 18th Street in San Francisco. Each year, the crafts fair would attract more and more people. Feminist energy would fill the halls. Craftswomen were celebrated . All four floors of the The Women’s Building would be filled with craftswomen. The ancient elevator would groan, parking would be nearly impossible, and the circuits would overload, leaving the shoppers and artists doing business by candlelight. In 1982, highlights included Casselberry- Dupree and Mothertongue Theatre. In 1983, a still undiscovered Whoopi Goldberg performed along with lesbian comedian Marga Gomez.
By 1989, it was clear that the event had outgrown The Women’s Building and it was moved to its current location at Fort Mason Center. Now called The Women’s Building Arts and Crafts Fair, the event had become one of San Francisco’s top holiday attractions. But it had also remained true to its primary mission: addressing the lack of visibility and opportunities for women artists. To that end, along with judging for quality, the juries aimed to provide opportunities to the emerging artists as well as women of color, older women, lesbian and bisexual women, and immigrant women.
In 1991, under the direction of producer Deborah Castro, the fair adopted its current name, Celebration of Craftswomen. In 1999, Team Pro Event began producing the fair. Seven years later, in 2006, the reins were passed to Teevan Productions, who aim to make the Celebration of Craftswomen stronger,better known, and even more successful fundraiser for The Women’s Building. In 2009, the Celebration of Craftswomen was ranked in the Top 200 Craft Fairs in the Country by the ArtFair Source Book.
Since its inception, the Celebrations of Craftswomen has been a benefit for The Women’s Building, a multi-cultural community center where women and girls achieve self-sufficiency and pursue their dreams. Funds raised through the raffle, admission fees, and booth fees go to the organization. Programs offered by The Women’s Building include free bilingual Spanish/English information and referral service, educational support for low-income adults, financial counseling, and community events that promote arts, culture, and discussion. The first women-owned community center in the U.S., The Women’s Building houses ten diverse community groups and has helped launch more than 160 women’s programs and initiatives in San Francisco.