Baltimore or Bust!

Baltimore or Bust!


Necklaces by Joanna Gollberg Jewelry.

Jenny Gill

For a first-time visitor, the American Craft Council’s Baltimore Show can be somewhat overwhelming - in the best possible way. I experienced that today when I entered the Baltimore Convention Center for a sneak peek at the exhibitors in our 34th annual show. I was immediately struck not only by the sheer number of artists, but also by the eclectic variety of the work on display. It’s an incredible sensory experience to encounter exquisitely handcrafted goods in such a range of colors, shapes, textures and materials. I found it hard to make any progress through the show - I kept wanting to stop and touch things, look more closely, hear each artist's story, learn how the work was made.

And that’s exactly how a show like this should be experienced. This year, our retail show opens on Thursday for the first time, so come early to beat the weekend crowds and take your time browsing the wares. Keep on the lookout for a few of my favorites from today's rounds:

One of our Green Craft exhibitors, ‘e ko logic (booth 906), turns recycled post-consumer textiles like old cashmere sweaters into unique handcrafted apparel. Husband and wife team Kathleen and Charlie Tesnakis sort preexisting garments from the local area in their Troy, NY, studio, where each item is washed and deconstructed, then hand-sewn into a new creation that combines various colors and textures in a painterly way. You'll feel good in more ways than one when you wear their luxuriously soft and environmentally conscious sweaters, dresses, hats and gloves.

Joanna Gollberg Jewelry (booth 812) takes inspiration from the repetition of basic geometric shapes. The resulting designs are bold, architectural constructions of metal and semi-precious stones, some of which are hand faceted by the artist using traditional lapidary techniques.

I love the muted color palette and delicate patterning of Penelope Wurr's glass works (booth 1609). "I tend to work with earth tones," said Penelope, in her charming British accent. "I really love subtle colors and textures."

Our School to Market section near booth 100 features exciting new work by craft media students from Rhode Island School of Design and Savannah College of Art & Design. The RISD display, exploring the theme "Principles of Nature," includes a dynamic series of necklaces inspired by spider webs, skeletons and other natural forms. Christopher Johnson, a senior in the RISD furniture design department, made a collapsible wood and plastic chair inspired by the expansion and contraction of duck's feet. The SCAD booth features a lively mix of jewelry, fibers and furniture selected from a juried exhibition held in conjunction with our recent SCAD symposium, "Making Meaning in the Marketplace."

Michael Bauermeister (booth 1805) is a veteran Baltimore Show artist who creates large-scale turned and hand-carved wood vessels. I've seen his work in print before and must say that the near human scale of many of his creations is quite impressive in person. Michael uses a variety of finishes on his vessels, sometimes choosing to showcase the wood itself, sometimes opting for bright blue and yellow stains.

Across from Michael, you'll find Justin Rothshank's stoneware ceramics (booth 1705), which are hand-thrown and decorated with underglaze and overglaze decals. I love Justin's stackable mug sets with faces of American presidents (Lincoln, Johnson and, of course, Obama). What would happen if you mixed and matched them?!

Damian Velasquez (booth 1902) is another veteran Baltimore exhibitor who designs gorgeous handcrafted furniture. Most of his work combines brushed steel and wood, but he's also exhibiting funky chairs and a coffee table made of brightly colored wire mesh.

Laura Peery (booth 3400) creates whimsical porcelain teapots inspired by memories from her grandmother's dressmaking shop in New Orleans. I love the bright colors, velvety surfaces and cloth-like textures in Laura's work.

As I was making my rounds, I found a hotspot of great glass artists near the restaurant on the left of the exhibit hall. I've heard other people who work in clay say that they find themselves seduced by glass, and I found myself drawn to this medium over and over again at the Baltimore Show. Devin Burgess of DB Glassworks (booth 3903) has a terrific sense of design that is apparent not just in his work but also in his booth design, which includes an elegant cluster of tall colored vases. I also loved Dan Mirer's hand-blown clear glass vessels accented with gold leaf (booth 3604). Richard Jones of Studio Paran (booth 2502) pressmolds then twists his glass bottles to create a gorgeous undulating texture on the surface, then adds a signature coil of colored glass at the top to finish off the neck of the bottle.

When you visit the show, don't forget to take a break from your browsing to check out the many hands-on demonstrations on the Demo Stage across from Booth 2140. We'll have wheel-throwing demos courtesy of Baltimore Clayworks all day Friday and hands-on workshops with DC Craft Mafia on Saturday. On Sunday, don't miss two veteran woodturners Jerry Kermode and Mark Supik dueling it out on the lathe.

Members/subscribers - remember that our shows are always free for you. Bring your membership card if you have it, but if you don't we can look you up when you get to the show. See you there!