Artisanal LA: Shawna Dawson's Local, Sustainable, and Handmade Wonderland

Shawna Dawson speaks with the hurried breathlessness of a woman always dashing from one event to the next; unlike your run-of-the-mill socialite (can that word even apply any more in a world of cocaine misdemeanors and grainy sex tapes?) however, Dawson is typically the one planning the fête -- currently, this upcoming weekend's Artisanal LA. With her tumbling blonde hair and curvaceous figure, Dawson maintains a unique blend of glamour, down-to-earth tastes, and a healthy dose of eco-consciousness. Her marketing venture's website sums her up nicely as a "bacon lovin' bon vivant," thought it omits the fact that the bacon was probably sustainably raised on a local farm and served atop freshly-baked artisanal bread with garden-grown heirloom tomatoes.


Dawson, who grew up "really appreciating where her food came from," is a co-founder of the LA Street Food Fest -- a gathering popular enough that it necessitated the Rose Bowl as a venue -- and the mind behind Artisanal LA, which will bring together nearly a hundred local and sustainably oriented vendors to share their baked goods, cheeses, chocolates, meats, books, drinks, garden supplies, herbs, kitchenware, olive oils, and restaurants at the new shopping plaza, Santa Monica Place. The event seems to share Dawson's juxtaposition of sophistication and folksiness. Ticket holders can attend workshops on "The Importance of Organic & Sustainable Spirits" (which, one can assume, won't be found beside the Bud Light at 7-11) at noon, then learn how to organize a community food swap later in the day. A portion of the proceeds will benefit local charity St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. When asked what inspired her to organize the event, Dawson answered that "it's a chance to show off the little guys."

As if running a marketing company and planning some of the city's largest gatherings weren't enough, Dawson recently moved into a new home in an eclectic community at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains with her "longtime gentleman partner" and two cats. The home's most exciting feature, according to Dawson: its spacious yard. The 8,000 square feet, currently overrun with weeds, will not feature fountains or topiary when the move is complete. "I want chickens!" Dawson proclaimed. If this weekend's Artisanal LA proves as successful as her previous events, some of her vendors will surely be happy to oblige. How the fowls will feel about the felines, however, is another matter.

Artisanal LA 2011 Spring Show
April 16 & 17
Santa Monica Place
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door

Photo courtesy