American Craft Council and SOFA Shows

David Royce glass

David Royce glass, by C. H. Stapen

Some craft and art shows are worth traveling to, especially the American Craft Council (ACC) shows, hosted in Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Paul and San Francisco, as well as Sculptural Objects and Fine Arts (SOFA) yearly show in Chicago. At these events, you can find high-quality handmade objects. Even if you can’t buy, go ahead and browse.

That’s part of the fun as is talking to the artist about his exquisitely rendered bowl or her mixed media painting. Discover the artists’ vision and technique, educate your eye, and file away their cards for that future someday when your expendable income matches your rarified taste.

In the meantime, do what many attendees do: dream big and buy small. Expect the base prices at SOFA to be high, tending toward $1000 and up. That’s because SOFA’s objects straddle the line between the decorative and fine arts.

The vendors are galleries, not individual artists. Serious collectors along with museum curators, both outfitted with deep pockets, attend along with the curious. SOFA, which takes place in Chicago, November 6 to 8, 2015, is eye-opening and fun, but the items dangle far out of most people’s budgets.

At the ACC shows, by trolling the aisles, you can come upon some moderately priced finds– swirled glass magnets, perfectly carved wooden spoons, and pewter pins priced from $30- $125 apiece. Because the ACC shows are juried, they showcase the work of prominent craftspeople along with newcomers.

Admire the fine wood in a $15,000 cherry dining table, the sleek design of a $13,000 wall-size timepiece that hangs like a kinetic sculpture, and the cleverly crafted collar for $3,000 of clustered colored pencils made out of felt. But there are plenty of affordable finds as well.

More than 650 vendors displayed at the recent Baltimore show, February 20-22, coming from California, Vermont, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and many more states. The show was so big that five hours of browsing with a short break for lunch weren’t enough time to see it all.

Discoveries included Material Things’ fabric handbags, Danielle Gori-Montanelli’s whimsical collars and brooches fashioned out of felt, Bongsang Cho’s industrially elegant bracelets, K. Riley’s silk scarves, Robert Ortiz’ poised console tables and David Royce’s elegant glass vessels. Upcoming ACC shows take place in Atlanta, March 13-15; St. Paul, April 10-12; and San Francisco, July 31-August 2.

How to buy crafts? Choose things you like, ask about the materials and how the piece was made, and if looking to complement a piece in your home, bring color swatches of drapes, rugs, shades and other relevant furnishings.

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