Artistry and community draw fans to craft show

25,000 visitors attend annual event at convention center


News From Around The Baltimore Region

February 28, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Falling in love was easy yesterday for Judi Broida of Ellicott City as she walked through the multitudes at the American Craft Council Baltimore Show with her husband, Charles: "Oh, I'm in love with this stuff," she said.

Just then, the object of her gaze was "Infinity," a $5,000 piece of quilted fabric art - not your grandmother's simple patchwork, but an abstract and intricately stitched block design in shades of violet and cream, with swirls of metallic thread.

Judi Broida didn't take "Infinity" home, but chatted with the creator, Libby Mijanovich, and compared notes on threading looms and making small blocks from fabrics found at thrift stores.

"Recycling vintage cloth is our philosophy and I'm not willing to compromise that," Mijanovich said, explaining that quilts represent a form of conservation for her and her husband, Jim. They collaborate on their quilts in a small family workshop near Asheville, N.C.

The Broidas listened to the story behind the quilts and then moved on. "I do my own stuff, so I can be an informed consumer," Judi Broida said. Speaking of the show, which attracts people from all over the region, she said, "I can tell you, this is a premier, class-A show."

Artists hung shingles and displayed hand-wrought works in glass, copper, metal, stones and clay at the 700 booths set up at the Baltimore Convention Center. The personal aspect - exchanging stories, thoughts and techniques with artists - makes the large national show seem like a village gathering, several said.

"We make a migration here once a year," said Dave Cavanaugh of Alexandria, Va.

Yesterday the place was buzzing, with attendance up from last year, officials said.

The 29th annual Baltimore retail show of the American Craft Council, a three-day event, ended yesterday and drew an estimated 25,000 visitors, council officials said.

Most artists had traveled many hours and long distances, from Vermont to California, to get to Baltimore for the show, which is considered a highly competitive event. Artists are selected by a jury of their peers, council officials said.

"This show is the most competitive of all our six [craft] shows every year," said Bernadette Boyle, a spokeswoman for the New York-based council.

Selling briskly were moon bowls, no two the same, their surface sheen inspired by images from the Hubble Space Telescope, said the artist, Bruce MacDonald, of Burlington, Vt. "I thought those were staggering images, an amazingly beautiful aesthetic," he said.

At another booth, images from Earth inspired doll designer Cathy Smith, who works in Frenchtown, N.J. One doll is described as "the over-the-hill actress who was only famous in Des Moines [Iowa]." Another was "Grace, the flower child of the 21st century."

From Martha's Vineyard, Mass., came ceramics artist and painter Washington Ledesma, who said his work creates a more whimsical Eden and embellishes biblical tales.

For example, he told a customer why a whale was pictured with a man and woman inside his stomach: "I didn't want to leave Jonah alone inside the whale," he said.

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