One of the enduring, and most endearing, slots on the Jerusalem cultural calendar is the Hutzot Hayotzer International Arts and Crafts Fair.
The event has grown and changed over its 40-year history, taking in an ever-widening swathe of works and entertainment from around the globe.
This year’s musical lineup includes plenty of big guns from the local scene, with veteran rocker Shalom Hanoch hosting popular pianist-vocalist Shlomi Shaban in the opening gig, and the likes of hip hop-funk outfit Hadag Nahash, diva Rita, Mizrahi pop singersongwriter Moshe Peretz and rocker Aviv Geffen on the roster.
And there is something akin to yet another reunion of 1970s seminal Israeli rock band Kaveret, with the group’s principal songwriter Danny Sanderson joined by vocalist Gidi Gov, and a string of guest artists, including former Kaveret cohorts Ephraim Shamir and Alon Olearchik, as well as singer Mazi Cohen.
Reut Shahar knows more than most about the fair. This year’s bash, which will take place at the Sultan’s Pool from August 15 to 27, will mark the 37th time she will be setting up her stall there. While the fair has gradually spread its wings to all parts of the globe, Shahar has proudly kept the blue and white flag aloft, doing brisk business selling her fetching Kakadu artifacts that take in all manner of decorative household objects, from clocks, wooden rugs, place mats and tables and chairs to lampshades and the company’s flagship wooden trays.
“Kakadu really grew out of Hutzot Hayotzer,” says Shahar, the founder of the company. “I was an artist – I had already started exhibiting – and I needed to make a living.”
Shahar says the fair was a perfect fit for her. “Part of my creative energies have always gone in the direction of craft. I also specialized in classic carpentry and metalwork, as well as painting and sculpting, but I was always drawn to craft, to practical objects that are also esthetically pleasing.”
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The proof of Shahar’s fair venture was there for the young artist to see, and enjoy, from the outset.
“I made all sorts of mobiles and wooden dolls. Kakadu grew out of my work with wood. I started developing my painting language on different items, mainly wooden trays. I started out at Hutzot Hayotzer with my trays, and I sold them all within two hours,” she recounts.
Things really took off after that.
“I started getting orders from stores, and I saw that people really liked the things I was doing, which were a blend of something artistic with something practical,” she says.
She also had a living motif that helped to create a product identity.
“I have always been fond of birds. I had a parrot that used to sit on my shoulder,” she explains, and the bird shape became a central theme of Kakadu’s output.
“I started up a production plant in the 1990s, and by 1997 I had over 50 workers, and we took orders from all over the world,” she continues.
Shahar was keen to ensure that the advent of mass production did not signal an end to the personal approach.
“The products were all handmade, and we employed a lot of youngsters, all sorts of graduates from Bezalel who learned the artistic idiom. We had all kinds of products, from mirrors to CD holders and all types of household utensils, all with our special colors.
They incorporated design with painting and utility,” she says.
With its exotic colors and shapes, there is something charmingly global about Kakadu’s offering, but Shahar believes the enterprise is very much the salt of the Israeli earth.
“I am a seventh generation Israeli, and these works came from me, and I work here (based at Moshav Zafririm in the Ella Valley),” she says, adding that Kakadu has taken on something of a national icon status.
“People identify our work with Israel. When they go abroad and want to take Israeli gifts with them, they take our stuff,” she says.
Shahar is delighted with her company’s continuing success but says it has come at a price and that things are not getting any easier.
“There are almost no Israeli craftsmen left. It is very difficult here. Also, at Hutzot Hayotzer, most years there were only Israeli artists and craftsmen. It is great that the fair shows items from all over the world and has managed to preserve its unique style.
However, importing from China is so aggressive, and it is very hard for us to survive,” she laments.
Shahar says that despite its international offerings, Hutzot Hayotzer continues to serve as a bastion of local creativity.
“The fair provides an important incentive for Israeli arts and Israeli crafts. It has established a tradition over the years, which is important for us all – artists and consumers alike.”
In addition to local items, this year’s fair will feature works from all over the world, such as the Far East, Africa, Europe, South America and Asia. There will also be a kiddies’ compound, with two shows running daily, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Meanwhile, mom and dad can saunter around the stall areas and, if they like, wet their whistle at the Beer Garden.
For those who want to get into the creative flow, there will be a slew of workshops, taking in calligraphy, embroidery, jewelrymaking, pottery and sculpting. And to get a handle on some of the up-and-coming artists, a wide selection of Bezalel students will proffer some of the fruits of their evolving creative minds in the White House area.Hutzot Hayotzer takes place August 15 to 27 at the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem. For tickets and more information, call (02) 623-7000; *6226 or go to tickets.bimot.co.il.
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