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5 Questions For The Founder of Food Craft Market Artisanal L.A.

Photo of Donut Snob's donuts at a past event courtesy of Artisanal L.A.
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Artisanal L.A. has become the ultimate creative marketplace, gathering makers, crafters, artisans, and chefs for a weekend celebrating artisan production. Since its start in 2010, it's grown from having about 70 local vendors to now hosting 178 food crafters from across the U.S., in addition to hosting hosting demos, book signings and workshops.

Though California's new laws have paved the way for budding entrepreneurs working out of their own home kitchens, there's still room for growth.

We chatted with Artisanal L.A.'s founder Shawna Dawson about the progress of the artisan food movement, coconut-based bacon, and what to expect from this year's fall event, which takes place this weekend.

LAist: Tell us about how Artisanal LA started, and how it has evolved over the years.

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Shawna Dawson: In 2010 when the artisan food movement was just beginning to bubble to the surface I thought it would be great to create an event that showcased what was happening with our burgeoning local food movement. At the time, there were numerous craft related maker events, but nothing that really focused on food, food related products and the makers and stories behind them.

We hosted our inaugural event downtown in October 2010...In 2012 we took a hiatus to rework the event model, refresh the brand and see where others would pick up where we left off, and while there are some amazing brick and mortars that have sprung up since that first event, we found no one was doing quite what we did in the way we did it, so decided it was time to come back.

How do you envision the food crafters movement moving forward in the next 5 years?

People are only going to become more and more curious about where their food and food products are coming from and how and where things are made. The natural extension to that is wanting to get back to making things at home yourself. Even big corporations like AmEx are beginning to understand their consumer's desire for all things local...Words like "GMO" and "gluten free" weren't in our attendee's vernacular three years ago. It's amazing to see how quickly things have evolved over the course of the last few years, and I think we're going to see this area proliferate with an even greater diversity of products and services that will continue to push mainstream, filling in the gaps between the coasts.

What are some of the hurdles that food crafters at the event are struggling with, even with the Cottage Food Bill passing?

The financial burden is very real for many trying to get started, and that's one of the key reasons we spent as much time as we did finding the right home for the event that could help support us and the economics of this kind of undertaking. One of our goals is to help take down some of those financial barriers to entering the market for lesser known artisans and those who may be bringing their product to the public for the first time--keeping booth fees and costs substantially lower than any similar event--and the LA Mart and Maker City LA have been a great partner in trying to achieve this.

Another hurdle, of course, is permitting. We've always straddled a tough line between keeping the event at times private, and thus non-permitted, and at other times public and entirely permitted, which previously meant having to exclude some. With the passing of the Cottage Food Bill, many who couldn't permit their products now can, which has made it possible for us to host the kind of event we want to with the makers we want to in an environment much more conducive to being public and more accessible.

What are some of the new things to look forward to for the fall show?

This season's Fall Show will feature nearly 200 vendors and demonstrators -- more than double what we've had in the past -- on the main trade show floor. We also have expanded programming, with an entire floor devoted to education and workshops (the 11th floor Maker City LA), a pop-up urban farm by Sow Swell (complete with its own workshop and class schedule), a 500sf pop-up book shop from Skylight Books, the Institute of Domestic Technology's Laboratory (to answer everyone's burning home ec questions!), a mini Altadena Farmers Market, complimentary giveaways, collectible canvas totes for our first 1000 pre-sale ticket holders (and people who GO METRO and show us their stub), a cafe and lounge area with complimentary coffee hosted by Verve, a kids craft area, a Lensley Automatic photo booth, and, of course, lots of shopping.

This is like picking a favorite child, but who are some of your favorite purveyors?

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Yes, that really is like picking a favorite child, but on my must try list because I haven't yet is Phoney Baloney. It's coconut based vegan bacon. Yes, vegan bacon. Who knew?

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