Crafts For A New Age

BY DESIGN

February 16, 1992|By STEPHANIE SHAPIRO

The calabash is a graceful gourd with a swelling belly. As a vessel, it has been used in nearly every indigenous culture in the world; to hold seed and grain and for ceremonial purposes. With its ancient history in mind, craftswomen Valarie James and Liz Cunningham of Sonoma County, Calif., have re-envisioned the calabash for a contemporary clientele. Allowing each gourd to speak to them, the two create handsome vessels, inlaid with silver and rare stones, stained and burnished.

Their works, and the works of other artisans who have turned to ancient and ethnic cultures and the natural world for inspiration, will be on display at the American Craft Council Craft Fair at the Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall this Friday to Sunday.

When the country was feeling flush, the crafts movement responded good-naturedly with works of whimsy and humor. Today, the environmental crisis, the recession and fallout from an era of excess have sparked an appreciation for what older civilizations can teach them, craftspeople say.

Among the other fair items reflecting this '90s consciousness: masks of stone, feathers and aluminum; fused glass icons, stoneware totems, Hopi Indian katchina dolls recast in pottery, furniture, and glass bead brooches with an African flair.

The crafts fair's hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6; children under 12 free.

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