By her own definition, her art is limited, one-of-a-kind: sculptural home furnishings. She is a craftsperson, but she has problems with crafts fairs.

"If I do something, people will see it as a lamp," said Jacqueline Gikow, "whereas I'm doing sculpture that gives off light. People come in and see it and say 'look at that lamp -- it's the wrong color.' I've sat at crafts fairs for four days straight and seen people circle around my work and then home in on a cup or a casserole. When I talk to people, they're suspicious about my work. They can't pack it into a kitchen cabinet."

Jacqueline Gikow barely makes ends meet -- she is not sure if she has enough money to pay next month's rent on her studio. "I scrape by, day by day," she said. "It's usually a toss-up whether I want to have gas in my car or eat dinner."

She was one of eight craftspeople who discussed their problems at a sparsely attended forum held by the D.C. Commission on the Arts yesterday. The commission heard from artists in literature, visual arts, and crafts.

"You could spend 10 hours talking about crafts as art and trade," said glassworker Sal Fiorito, who made a glass front door for D.C. Commission chair Peggy Cooper's house. "Artists take advantage of that duality. There often is a utilitarian aspect to their work."

The crafts category for funding is only two years old. Last funding cycle, the commission received six applications. Forum participants were asked for ideas on how to locate more craftspeople.

Today, the commission will hear from artists in media from noon to 2 p.m. and artists in special projects from 2:15 to 4:15.

The forums, planned last month, were designed to let commissioners hear, in depth, about the problems of individual artists. However, at the first six-hour forum on Tuesday, only a third of the 18 commissioners were present and not all of them for the entire time. Yesterday, only three commissioners were there for portions of the forum.

The craftspeople, like the other artists the commission has heard from, complained about lack of affordable space. "I have a studio I share with someone at 18th and T, near a liquor store," said Sal Fiorito. "Believe it or not, they tell us that's desirable. I pay $580, and next month my rent is going up to $1000. What good is a $6000 grant for me to work on something unless I have space to complete it in?"

Mildred Bautista, commission executive director, noted that the commission has planned a forum next month to discuss space and how to get it. She said real estate developers and city officials -- including representatives of the Redevelopment Land Agency -- would speak.

Among the questions that the commission has discussed with the groups is what to do with the limited amount of money the commission has and what type of criteria should be set for judgment of applications.

At the crafts forum, Gikow spoke out for the little-known artists, of which she admitted she was one. "The people who get grants are the people who don't need them," said Gikow.

"They are the people whose names you always hear," she said. "The idea of these grants is to get people on their feet and into the artistic mainstream."

"Maybe someone has their name out a little more than others," said Peter Danko, a woodworker, who has recently attained national prominence for a nonjointed plywood chair he designed, which has just been purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. "You still have to make a living."

Fiber artist Rebecca Stevens suggested that the city actually commissioned artwork instead of giving grants. "For instance you could display the works in the District Building, hopefully creating a market as well," she said.

Most of the 12 visual artists at the forum said they wanted to spread funds around in little parcels instead of giving large grants to a few. "A small organization can take a small amount of money -- say $500 -- and make it go a long way," said artist Laura Seldman.

"Just to be able to put on your resume that you got a D.C. Commission grant, when you're applying for other things, is sometimes worth more than the money itself," said painter Judy Jashinsky.