Friday, May 7, 2010

Crafty crafty

Back on April 25th, I lucked into* two tickets for the 28th Annual Smithsonian Craft Show at the National Building Museum in DC. So, with a liked-minded crafty companion in tow, I moseyed up and had a look around. *again, thanks to a certain lovely co-worker are very much due!

Unsurprisingly, there were lots of the usual things, purses, jewelry, some abstract sculpture objects, and oodles of people looking around but not buying stuff (including moi). I think just getting face time with potential future customers is valuable for the artists, especially because some of us would go home and tell our friends, or, sayforexample, blog. So here are a few of my favourites:

Locality loyalty first, there were at least two booths from Brattleboro, VT in the array:

Natalie Blake's ceramics have been on my "to buy" list for years now. She makes these spiffy little jar stoppers that look like sea anemones, and decorates her work with patterns that look like scratch-art (actually called sgraffito).

Randi Solin's Solin Glass is also captivating, full of glittering fragments. The vases have so many mosaic layers they're often at least an inch thick, and you get lost staring into them (One of these became a Christmas gift to my mom a couple years back).

Both Blake and Solin have studios in Brattleboro, VT at Cottonmill Hill, one of my favourite warehouse-gallery-studios. The Torpedo Factory in Oldtown Alexandria is similar, and a lot closer to DC, for those who want to go exploring.

In alphabetical order, then:

Ignatius Hats had sculptural, woven, straw hats of all shapes. Some looked like fools caps, one looked like a fairy cap made from leaves (above), but I just like the wide-brimmed basic hat with a tuft of feathers at the side.

Lenox Workshops presented what looked mostly like very plain, ladder back style chairs, but for some unique shaping. My favourites had legs that curved outwards and looked like they could walk away if they got tired of being sat on.

A lot of the "wearable art" said either "grandmother" or "person skinnier than me," but I really liked Starr Hagenbring's dresses. Her work was pieced together in vertical strips, making the shaping of the dress very pronounced and the skirt very full.

Shu Juan Lu displayed another example of wearable art, this one calling to my minimalist tastes. The dark fabric obscures some of the interesting folds it makes; the wool stands on its own while the knit uses the wearer for stability.

My favourite straight-up, framed-work artist was Thomas Meyers. His work bordered on similarity with Nick Bancock (Griffin and Sabine) and Peter Sis (Tibet: Through the Red Box), but was primarily reminiscent of private doodlings on odd scraps of paper.

One of the most desirable objets d'art at the show was a reddish-orange leather coat from Toshiki and Maryszka Osaki of Futari, Inc. It was shaped by wavering, raised darts around the torso, not unlike climbing vines or trails of steam rising (Meyers, whose booth was directly next door, commented that a great many people had fawned over it until they saw the price tag).

The prize for most mesmerizing piece definitely goes to Jeffrey Zachmann, whose wall-mounted kinetic art (read: marble toys) kept a full audience catatonic for at least 5 minutes apiece. The only issue I had was that the pieces required small motors to carry the marbles back to the top after each run. Each machine made different clattering, swirling noises, and altogether they overwhelmed each other. One alone might make a nice variation on the sound of an indoor fountain (there are videos on the website!).

Last but not least, more shapely weaving, this time with willow bark into baskets by Jennifer Heller Zurick. I loved how the pieces were uneven and unique, how sculptural each was and how different weaves and braids were laid on top of one another.

The only downsides to the show were that a) the booths were teeny and I felt guilty taking up space staring at things when other people wanted to look. Craft show, not gallery. and b), which is part of a, there were so many people I felt pressed to keep moving, or at least not walk straight into them. (and c) that I didn't have camera to take my own pictures of the work for posting.) I heard that the other days of the show were less crowded, so maybe next year...


  1. I love the green jar with the anemone top! And I agree, craft shows have that weird pressure to keep moving. I always feel bad if I'm just looking.

  2. Nice post, thanks for covering our work, Toshiki and Maryszka shearling jackets, at The Smithsonian Craft Show! (and by the way, NOT expensive in relation to dept store mass produces coats!) See you at more shows! Our schedule can be found at shows!