A few weeks ago, I travelled to Baltimore to attend the ACC Craft Show, the largest craft market in the country. The show is immense, and is divided into two shopping experiences: the first two days, Wednesday and Thursday, are devoted to the wholesale market—mostly owners of galleries and stores that specialize in handmade craft, with a few designers thrown in for good measure.
While I was browsing a fabulous array of glass, ceramics, and other home accessories, and sneaking a quick look at the jewelry and fashion as well, the second part of the show was being set up. On Friday morning that show combined forces with the vendors from the wholesale show to create a paradise of fantastic handmade objects and furnishings for the home. A large show like this draws craftspeople from all over the country. Just as most of us have identifiable accents but think we don’t, crafts from different parts of the country often have a different aesthetic. It’s a great chance to see things that are not shown in regional markets.
The live edge low media stand shown here, as well as the wooden chair, were two of my favorite furniture designs. Purchasing a piece of furniture from a furniture maker costs about the same as high end mass-produced furniture, but you have something that is both unique and beautiful, as well as being crafted to the highest standards.
These glass vessels by Pennsylvania artist Lauren Cummings were incredible, calling to mind a modern take on lusterware and the look of molten metal. They were so beautiful I couldn’t resist bringing one home for myself.
Ceramics are a personal favorite —I love the combination of utility and beauty, and the touchable quality of pottery. Glass is mainly a feast for the eyes, while pottery encourages you to touch. There were many fine ceramic artists at the show. My favorite was the work of Peter Karner of Denver, because his work seemed both very unusual and also of-the-moment. I can see his work in a mid-century Modern room, as well as an eclectic room filled with color and pattern. Moroccan style is all the rage this spring, and Karner’s work easily fits in with that aesthetic as well. Of course I bought a beautiful bowl, but lusted after many more of the pieces.
What can you expect to find when you attend a high quality craft show? Handmade rugs and floorcloths; pottery, including dinnerware; glass, both decorative and utilitarian —though not utilitarian looking! Textiles: wall hangings, quilts, pillows; furniture, both wood and upholstered; and many innovative pieces to hang on your walls. Handmade boxes, accessories, lighting. And that’s not even counting the jaw-dropping array of jewelry, clothing, and fashion accessories. There are no bargains at shows like this, but there is terrific value. The level of craftsmanship is high, and the point of view is always singular. I think of handcrafted pieces as examples of individual style that are beyond mere fashion. Fashion lasts for a season or two: style lasts forever.
Another perk of going to a craft show like this is the opportunity to talk with the artists about their work. You learn how the piece is made in technical terms, and also learn the inspiration behind it.
To best understand the beauty of craft and the impact it can bring to your home, visit a show. My favorites are Craft Boston; Paradise City; all American Craft Council shows, and Artrider shows. Small shows like Celebrate West Hartford have some interesting finds as well.
Centuries ago, the hand of the maker was always a part of the goods with which we furnished our lives. There is something incredibly personal about using or wearing an object that someone at the top of his or her craft has made. Fine crafts bring lasting beauty to your home; they also make a world that can seem impersonal feel a little bit warmer.