Made in Maryland is craft shop selling point ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

December 07, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Tucked among the little shops lining Annapolis' antique row is a new art gallery with a distinctly Maryland flavor.

The walls are covered with framed oil paintings and photographs of skipjack races, herons perched on docks and boats bobbing on the Chesapeake Bay. A red ceramic crab sits amid polished bowls on one shelf, and a picture of the Old Severn River Bridge leans against a collection of Christmas ornaments.

All the pottery, jewelry and hand-woven blankets are homespun. Thirty-five Maryland artists, from Takoma Park to Cambridge, are displaying and selling their wares in the League of Maryland Craftsmen shop on Maryland Avenue.

"People come through the door, and they're really excited about buying something made here in Maryland," said Bill Johnson, who opened the shop at 54 Maryland Ave. with his wife, Lee, in October.

The couple say they want to showcase local art and offer craftsmen a steadier outlet than the usual round of fairs and seafood festivals.

Mrs. Johnson had a number of different careers, from teaching psychology to managing a casino, before she fell in love with designing jewelry 11 years ago. She took classes, became apprenticed to a goldsmith in Atlantic City, N.J., then moved to New Hampshire, where she joined a league of artists.

When she and her husband came to Annapolis seven years ago, they were surprised the state did not have a similar league.

Many artists belong to the non-profit Maryland Federation of Art, but the Annapolis-based group does not have a chain of privately owned shops like the New Hampshire league.

Maryland craftsmen often rely on annual shows to display their wares, Mr. Johnson said. Even those who are well-known within the small but thriving artist colonies in Annapolis, St. Michael's and Baltimore rarely have a large public audience.

Artists have been delighted with the shop, which sells on consignment and is already a hit in Maryland's capital city.

Mary Lou Troutman, who paints scenes of watermen working on the bay, said she's "just tickled with it." The granddaughter of a waterman, Ms. Troutman began painting as a child and works in a studio in Dameron, a small town on the southern tip of St. Mary's County.

"I just love the water," said Ms. Troutman, who layers her paintings with transparent colors to capture the light of the bay.

Martha Bogan, a potter who works with her husband, Forrest, near St. Michael's, said they've had a hard time keeping up with orders since the store opened. "The response has been really amazing," she said.

Wayne Everd, a detective in the Annapolis Police Department who carves wooden ducks, has his work on display. So does Doug McConnell, a police officer in Cambridge, who specializes in black and white photographs of wildlife. At least four artists call every day asking to join the league.

Although some of the paintings are expensive, many of the bowls, ornaments and photographs in the shop are priced from $10 to $150.

The Johnsons say they carefully choose artwork for the store that customers can easily identify with and would want to buy for their homes.

They usually turn down larger, more abstract pieces.

"It's been incredible fun," Mr. Johnson said. "I think people like to come in here and buy something they know is really from Maryland."

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