In February of 2011, with the holiday season behind us and the promise of spring just around the corner, artists and craft enthusiasts alike will gather in Baltimore, Maryland, to kick off a new year of shows organized by the American Craft Council. Taking place from February 22 - 23 (wholesale) and 24 - 27 (retail) at the Baltimore Convention Center, ACC Baltimore will celebrate thirty-five years of bringing together the crème de la crème of crafts in a variety of media, all under one roof.
This year’s event continues the tradition of high-standards and exceptional quality the American Craft Council has built for its shows over the years, with the eminent exhibitors and events the public has come to expect, as well as some new faces and show highlights. Brand new this year is the Handmade Under $100 category. Artists are provided with colored cards that they can display in their booth to call out handmade items that retail for under one hundred dollars. Likely a response to a tight economy, this venture not only supports artist’s sales by highlighting items that are more affordably priced, it is also aimed at encouraging a new division or generation of craft collectors, who are often just starting to build their collection. Show Director Melanie Little also hopes it will help “open up the conversation” between artist and buyer.
As can be expected, a show of such established reputation receives an overwhelming amount of submissions, which jurors whittled to a final number of some seven hundred artists. The variety of artists and aesthetics is largely what keeps audiences lining up for the American Craft Council shows, and Little stresses the importance of having a well-rounded jury for the selection process. This year, twenty-one jurors were divided into three groups, each focusing on specific categories. Within these groups there were roughly four artists, as well as industry professionals, such as buyers, gallery owners and others with demonstrated expertise in the respected fields.
Entries were judged through the online ZAPP application process, allowing each juror to consider pieces in his or her own location and pace. Jeweler Judith Neugebauer, a previous juror from the 1997 show, returned as one of the artists judging the wearable categories for the 2011 shows. When judging and scoring applicants, Neugebauer says she is primarily looking for “uniqueness in design” as well as “technique and the quality of the workmanship.”
The Baltimore show’s thirty-fifth year also comes in concert with the seventieth anniversary of the council itself, providing plenty of reasons for celebration. “It’s going to show up in funny, creative ways throughout each show city,” Little says of the anniversaries. “In Baltimore, part of it is that we are going to be celebrating artists who have done this particular show for thirty years plus.”
Alongside this history of returning crafters representing excellence in their field will be refreshing opportunities for new artists—many of them working in innovative materials or techniques under the AltCraft category. Exhibitors in this category represent a more DIY-segment of the craft population—one that is constantly growing and shifting in unique directions. The category has been expanded this year to thirty artists, reflecting a growing interest.
Jurors like Neugebauer are thrilled to see this gathering of artists both old and new. “What I see with the artists who have been applying for decades is a continual growth and improvement in the work. It’s really outstanding to see how they have continued to get better and better. What is really encouraging is a whole new group of artists coming onto the scene. It’s so exciting to see what they are doing, the materials that they’re using. The aesthetic is contemporary and lively and it’s really nice to see those new faces.”
ACC Baltimore will bring even more to the stage. Green Craft features a section of artists working in recycled or found materials and eco-friendly techniques. The School-To-Market program invites students—this year from California College of the Arts—to gain firsthand experience in areas like presentation and sales, bridging the gap between education programs and the actual marketplace. A demonstration stage presents topics and techniques ranging from ceramics and glass to fiber, wood and jewelry. “It’s to really educate people to the process and work behind the craftsmanship,” Little explains, “to help them gain an even better appreciation.”
With such a diverse group of artists, handcrafted work and informative events, it is no wonder shows like Baltimore continue to hold strong, even after thirty-five years.
Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains
Philadelphia Craft Show
Some of Our Popular Articles