Craft Conglomeration: 10 Favorites from the 2021 American Craft Council Show

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One cannot work in the cultural sector without witnessing a deep divide between art and craft. Although museums display functional objects like furniture, silverware, ceramics, fibers, and jewelry, they tend to be separated out from the fine arts. Perhaps this is due to the everyday functionality of these objects, compared to painting, sculpture, or installation, intended to be experienced as a thought-provoking gesture and relegated to conceptual and aesthetic means.

BmoreArt devoted our ninth issue, released in July 2020, to an exploration of craft in the Baltimore region, in order to recognize that the dichotomy between art and craft is out of date and to focus on the cultural contributions of those more often called artisans, craftspersons, fashion designers, quilters, jewelers, potters, fabricators, and woodworkers. No matter how you describe these individuals, we all know that they are artists and that those of us with a fine arts background have a lot to learn from makers working in an array of traditional craft materials like glass, wood, clay, fibers, and metal. There is an incredibly deep and powerful history attached to these materials and the way their creative production elevates our collective quality of life on a daily basis.

As a collector and appreciator of beautiful handmade things, I look forward to the American Craft Council’s show (ACC) in Baltimore each spring. I always end up bringing home more items than I expected, but also dozens of postcards, photographs, and the memories of many thoughtful conversations which often lead to stories I write later on. The opportunity to browse and touch and engage and collect is one that is valuable but ephemeral. A year ago, the ACC’s 2020 show was one of the last large events I attended before COVID-19 closures made large gatherings seem like a figment of our imagination, and I regret that I didn’t realize at that time how precious the experience would be.

This year, the ACC has continued its mission to elevate and promote the work of master craftspeople and to make their work accessible to those who want to live with beautiful handmade objects. They have had to pivot, like most of us working in a creative field, but their commitment to artists has stayed the same. This year, the ACC show is entirely virtual, which means that you can browse from the safety and comfort of home, but you will miss out on the collective energy and personal interactions the show manifests in person.

We look forward to 2022, when the ACC  will hopefully be able to exist in person again, the Baltimore Convention Center brimming with energy and exquisite objects. At BmoreArt, we appreciate the ACC’s fabulous annual craft extravaganza, but also their contributions to larger cultural conversations about contemporary craft. Baltimore and the surrounding region are home to legions of artists, makers, craftspeople, and collectors and we are thrilled that the ACC is continuing to bring energy, visibility, and resources to a rich and diverse group of artists.



Bautista Weaving

I am pretty much madly in love with everything Bautista Weaving has available this year in the ACC virtual marketplace. Francisco Bautista is a fourth-generation master weaver from Mexico. He and his wife, Laura, were born in Teotitlán del Valle, a Zapotec village in Oaxaca, and they use only hand-spun, hand-dyed wool, and weave each work on a foot pedal loom. The variety of bold colors come from their own natural and aniline dyes, combining traditional practices with new ideas and influences. Each piece is signed with four dots, which represents four generations of weavers, and also represents Bautista’s family in the Pacific Northwest.

Bauhaus-Tradition “Mi reflejo” Bautista Weaving, Size: 4′ x 6′  $3,250
Details: Hand-woven rug/tapestry on a foot pedal loom, sheep wool and cotton warp, vegetable and aniline dyes



Personal Best Ceramics

I have been scouting out the ceramic pieces of Whitney Simpkins of Personal Best Ceramics since we met at a holiday art bazaar at Current Space a few years back and, full disclosure, Whitney was featured in BmoreArt’s Issue 09 last year, in our portrait series of artists in their studios. The artist began selling her ceramics in 2016 and her brand, Personal Best Ceramics, has evolved into larger pieces, vases and plates and large bowls, but her cups are an excellent starting point. Simpkins works in stoneware, a type of ceramic fired at a high temperature, rendering it non-porous and durable. When it is covered in glaze a glass coating forms, making it more suitable to eat and drink from. 

At ACC, the Baltimore-based ceramicist is offering the opportunity to purchase an entire set of her charming, wheel-thrown speckled stoneware glazed with an assortment of glossy colors.

Speckled Everything Cup Set$174 for a set of 6
Details: 4.5″ tall 2.75″ wide, holds 8 oz. Set of six contains one of each color: Blush, Butter, Glossy Mint, Soft Blue, Lavender, and Creamsicle.



Erickson Woodworking

This father/son design and make team is based in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. They craft handmade, ergonomic seating, as well as tables and desks. Each piece is built by hand and they create about 75 pieces of furniture a year. Their work is represented in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery, and their philosophy is inspiring: “We believe in craft, in investing everything in our work. We believe in service, not only to those who patronize our work, but also to our community, our employees, and to the woods and mountains around us. We believe in beauty, in a fair curve and in perfect proportions.” Robert Erickson has been creating furniture for 40 years and his son, Tor, became a full partner in the business with his parents in 2014.

One outstanding design featured in Erickson’s ACC offerings this year is the Sumi Arm Chair. It’s got a low back and offers lumbar support, with hand shaping for additional comfort.

Sumi Arm Chair $3,400
Details: This particular chair is available in California walnut and can be delivered directly to locations in California, but requires crating, shipping, and full insurance for deliveries to the East Coast. Within Erickson’s Sumi line, they also offer a rocker and a settee.



Shana Kroiz Jewelry

Shana Kroiz is a nationally recognized experimental enamelist and jewelry educator who has promoted the growth of jewelry as an art form. Shana’s meticulously crafted, limited production fine art jewelry exuberantly celebrates ancient forms and sensuous curves, with a contemporary edge. Organic and playful, Kroiz’s pieces mimic the lines and shapes of women’s bodies, and, for the artist, are a “celebration of distinctive style and the human spirit.”

Kroiz is a Baltimore native and she teaches at the Baltimore Jewelry Center, a nonprofit center for jewelry education with a gallery, that she helped to found. Before that, she was the director and founder of the MICA Jewelry Center (now closed) and the director of the Jewelry Center at the 92nd Street Y in NYC. Kroiz is a frequent guest teacher at art schools and jewelry centers around the country.

Cross Finger Ring $350
Sterling Silver with Oxidized Finish Bronze in white. This ring is first carved in wax and then cast in bronze, and then powder coated and fused with 24k gold leaf. It is great on either the ring or middle finger as either side extends over the fingers next to the ring finger. It makes a huge statement yet it is very comfortable and can be made in half and full sizes because it is adjustable. This ring also comes in all Sterling Silver as well as a special version in Sterling Silver with an 18k bead set with 2-2.5mm sapphires.



HGE Designs

Nicole Stokes is an enterprising crochet designer. What began as a hobby has evolved into a business and a growing philanthropic mission. As owner and operator of HGE Designs fashion company, the spoken-word artist turned designer has steadily built her reputation and brand. Since teaching herself to crochet, the collection has grown from simple hats and scarves to one-of-a-kind dresses and designs. The “Do It Yourself” series takes existing patterns and alters them to fit all shapes and sizes. She currently is a crochet designer for The Dollhouse Boutique in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

As one of the new faces revolutionizing people’s mindsets concerning crochet fashion, Stokes has been featured in Fashion at Artscape, The S.T.A.R.E Show, La Musee da la mode at Towson University, the 2019 launch of The Dollhouse Boutique in Los Angeles, and countless other fashion and hair shows. HGE Designs has also been a selected vendor for the 50th anniversary of the Americans for the Arts Convention in Baltimore, the Towson Heritage Festival, Artscape, multiple Juneteenth festivals with Dovecote Cafe, and the 2019 Maryland Art Summit.

Stokes’ passion and commitment to the fight against autism was inspired by her fourteen-year-old son, Roman. He was diagnosed at age two and they are navigating life with autism together. Currently she is using her art for sensory integration therapy with her son and seeking opportunities to share this in a community setting.

Supa Scarf, $175
Details: Up to 84″ long, these scarves are show stoppers. They are available in luxurious merino wool or acrylic/wool blends. Each scarf is one of a kind with random color choices based on available wool.



Tracey Beale Jewelry

This Baltimore-based jewelry artist creates one-of-a-kind statement pieces that reflect a spirit of generosity and possibility. This series came about after the artist’s car was vandalized, the windshield shattered. What surprised her was how beautiful the broken glass was, refracting light in all directions. As she says in her artist statement, “Sometimes life shatters us.” This particular series, the Geist Sensuality necklace, was created as a reminder from the artist: “to scoop up your broken pieces and love the new shape of your spirit.” Each piece of glass is unique.

Geist Necklace – Senses $268
Details: Wooden gift box included, Meaning: Senses/Sensuality (Talisman), Materials: Brass, 24k Gold Leaf, Shattered, Windshield Glass & Hand-poured resin, Chain: 32 -18 inches | adjustable length | brass | lobster clasp, Pendant: 1 3/4 inches long, Gender: Him, Her, Them



Kent Oaks Pottery

Based in Gaithersburg, MD, Pamela Barry of Kent Oaks Pottery makes functional ceramic pieces inspired by modern artists. These adorable trays were inspired by the Washington Color School painters, a group of abstract expressionist artists including Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Gene Davis, Howard Mehring, Tom Downing, and Paul Reed, who worked during the 1950s-70s. Bold color, and emphasis on design and pattern—stripes, curves, and dots—are incorporated into functional pieces. Barry works with mid-fire stoneware, using a variety of glaze colors, and often combinations of colors, so that each kiln opening is filled with an abundance of color.

Hand-Painted Small Oval Tray $70 each

Details/ Descriptions for each include: Washington Color School#5, Washington Color School #2, Stained Glass #2, Marbled Blue Polka Dots, Washington Color School #4, Stained Glass #4, Black with Polka Dots #1, Washington Color School #1, Washington Color School #3, Stained Glass #1, Black with Polka Dots #2, and Stained Glass #3




La Loupe Design

La Loupe Design has its origins in Argentina where Jorgelina Lopez, a textile designer, started exploring fiber as a three-dimensional medium at her studio in Buenos Aires. In 2016, she relocated to Baltimore and officially launched her first lighting collection in collaboration with her partner Marco Duenas, a wood and cross-disciplinary artist. Many of La Loupe’s lighting designs remind one of origami; they are influenced both by Japanese and mid-century design, creating a connection between contemporary design and traditional craft.

An extremely tempting item for those who are nesting at home this year, the Naoki Table Lamp is available with three different wooden-based options (Maple, Black walnut, or Sapele). It employs a hand-folded linen shade to provide a bright yet soft and warm ambient light, paired with a minimalist handcrafted wooden base. It feels contemporary but cozy because the shade is made of off-white linen with styrene backing that diffuses the light. And since they don’t have any metal or inner structure, they are very lightweight and versatile.

NAOKI Table Lamp $285
Details: Dimensions: Shade: 8.5″ diam. x 11″ H, Base: 4″ diam. x 1″ H, Total: 8.5″ diam. x 12″ H
Material: The origami shade is made of hand-folded off-white color linen with styrene backing that diffuses the light. The folded pattern creates the tridimensional form of our origami shades. They don’t have any metal or inner structure and are lightweight. Wood Base: Handcrafted wood base finished with danish oil to preserve the natural look and beauty of the wood. Wood is a natural material; variations in grain and color may occur. Choose from three wood options: Black Walnut, Maple, or Sapele. Technical Specifications: 8-foot twisted brown cloth-covered cord with thumb switch and plug end. LED lightbulb included: 8.5w Soft White (60W Equiv.) Non-dimmable. Operate only with LED lightbulb. Installation and maintenance instructions included. Indoor use only.



Rebecca Myers Jewelry Design

Birds, bees, flowers, and animal prints converge and abound in the sparkling jewelry designs of Rebecca Myers. We featured her work in BmoreArt’s ninth print journal (the craft issue) because her work, in high-karat gold, platinum, and oxidized silver, achieves a compelling harmony and contrast, similar to the light and dark patterns found in nature. At ACC, the artist explores all kinds of natural forms in earrings, bracelets, and rings, many of which feature proliferating gemstones, and we love to visit her Baltimore-based jewelry store and gallery located in The Village at Cross Keys. A favorite this year are Myers’ earrings based on monarch butterfly wings, lightweight but large enough to be a dramatic statement piece.

Large monarch earring $2,200
Details: 18k gold, oxidized silver diamonds



Twisted Textiles

Based in NYC, W. John Jameson III hand selects the best wools, silks, and cashmere from sources around the world to create his collectible textiles. Signature design elements of his collection include dynamic color and multi-yarn texture. Each piece is handwoven on an American-made 8-harness loom.

Even though spring is here, the chilly air is drawing me toward the versatile “Perfect Navy Blue Scarf,” in part because of its classic navy blue color and also its cozy textured combination of cashmere, cotton, and rayon. The scarf includes an extra bit of color at the bottom third of the fabric, just for a fun effect. But mainly I want to own this handwoven piece because it looks so soft, so warm, and also lightweight.

The Perfect Navy Blue Scarf $160
Details: Cashmere, merino wool, rayon, and cotton, 7.0″ wide by 76.0″ long



ACC Craft Week Zoom Event this Thursday, April 15: 1-2 pm

Join BmoreArt and the American Craft Council (ACC) for a discussion of contemporary craft with three featured artists in ACC’s Baltimore Craft Week. Prior to COVID-19, ACC’s annual juried shows in Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Paul, and San Francisco featured thousands of professional artists working in metal, glass, wood, clay, and fibers and attracted a loyal following of more than 45,000 patrons. With Craft Week, ACC is moving their Baltimore event online, so this year we will spotlight three of their talented artists  – La Loupe Design, Tracey Beale Jewelry, and HGE Designs – about the shrinking divide between contemporary art and craft, the meaning of materials, and why living with artful, handmade objects is so important. Moderated by BmoreArt Founding Editor Cara Ober and with special thanks to AIGA Baltimore for Co-hosting.

Zoom Registration here.

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