With hundreds of exhibitors ranging from traditional basket weavers to young designers making jewelry from spun sugar, the American Craft Show presented an exciting, abundant feast of fine works of craft last week at the Baltimore Convention Center.
Click here to view pictures I took at the show, including shots of most of the makers, works, and trends mentioned below.
We love this show, presented by the American Craft Council, not only because we get to see lots of outstanding work and meet some of the best craftspeople in the country, but also because it's when we're able to visit with many of the artists and artisans we show at Greenjeans (like Janice Ho, pictured left, and many others who may be found on Greenjeans Online).
We also love to see the Searchlight Artists, a group comprised of emerging talent nominated for first-time exhibition. This year's group showed strong, interesting work in a well-lit stretch at the back of the hall. Notably: The glistening glass spinning wheel by Andy Paiko (pictured top) impressed everyone not only for its form but also its functionability. Mixing fashion with gustatory delight, artist Ana Claudia Chrisan Calabria showed a dress, an embellished mirror, and corsage flowers all made from spun sugar (and we got to sample the dress - yum!). Lacey Jane Roberts exhibited her life-sized hot pink knitted fence (which is made from the ground up, and is not an actual fence covered in yarn). Haley Renee Bates' poetic silver spoons totally captivated me and I would have purchased the lot of them for myself if I could. Hisano Takei showed her bold yet sweet felted art jewelry. Diaphanous pendant lights covered in curling lengths of silk appeared courtesy of Jung Yeon Choi (pictured bottom). Two Tone Studios showed beautifully designed and well-made functional glassware, and Tanya Aguiniga presented her appealing felted folding chairs (pictured left).
During the days when the American Craft Show is open to the public (it's half a wholesale show, half retail marketplace), the ACC offered shoppers a chance to see and purchase work by 15 new wave crafters. We loved the furry hats by Austin-based designer/maker Chia (pictured on Jae), which are not only warm and a heck of a lot of fun to wear, but also beautifully designed and sewn. Jewelry maker Erica Schlueter, who has been a regular show exhibitor in past years, presented her new `work that combines fine metalsmith jewelry with embroidery and crochet. And I picked up a business card holder made from recycled bicycle tire inner tubes by Alchemy Goods.
Last but not least, we were impressed once again with the ACC's forward-thinking School-to-Market program, exhibiting work by college students studying craft and design. Kendall College presented fantastic work for the second year in a row, and we again found furniture by Eric Britton and Dustin Farnsworth intriguing and very well crafted. Students from Virginia Commonwealth University also showed work, most notably silversmith Adam Whitney and glass sculptor Grant Garmezy. They are all ones to watch.
Of course it's not only work by the new generation of craft designers and artists that's interesting to see, but also the fine, mature work of well-established craft artisans such as Cliff Lee, Keith Lebanzon (pictured), Barbara Sebastian, and Susan Pratt-Smith. I could devote several posts, if not whole books, to each of them.
The ACC is doing a great job of trying to weave together a show of traditional craft and new craft. And what we noticed most of all is the craft/design hybridization taking place, especially among younger exhibitors and the Searchlight Artists.
It seems that many new artisans are are not only dealing with issues of craft, but also taking up ideas about design and art into their work, in a way similar to how artists and designers are taking up craft techniques to better express their ideas. Craft is still the root, but its branches are reaching into the realms of art and design. (Derek Hennigar, shown left, for example.)
Such hybridization is working to make craft more relevant, viable, and interesting. What we saw at this year's American Craft Show is not only the great continuation of craft, but also the sprouting of new ideas about and approaches to craft. We can hardly wait to see what next year's show will bring!
Stay tuned... I'll also be posting info from the talk I gave on Wednesday morning about craft and blogging within the next couple days...
Posted and photos by Amy Shaw.