The 2018 American Craft Council Show and Artists I loved!
Are you an art lover? A crafter? A jewelry lover? Have you been to an American Craft Council Show yet? If not, you need to find one in a city close to you and GO! Here’s a link to find a list of show locations.
A close friend invited me to go with her to the “2018 American Craft Show” on Friday (going on all weekend at the Cobb Galleria Center in Atlanta) and it was FANTASTIC! I’ve never been before. This is not your run of the mill craft show. I would consider this a high end art show with exhibits by incredibly talented, some very highly trained, and prolific artists from across the country. There was something for everyone! There were 230 artists/booths at this show and it was $13 for admission for the day. For the price of a movie ticket my friend and I spent 4 hours viewing some of the most incredible glass, jewelry, furniture, ceramics, fashion wearables, fiber, wood and metal art pieces available and talking to artists.
I met several artists who’s work I really loved. I hope to give you a taste of their art via this post.
The first artist I want to highlight is a woman whose exquisite hand-loomed wall hangings, with timeless and intricate designs, literally stopped me in my tracks. I had to get a closer look. She is a textile artist named Chie Hitcher from Montgomery, AL. I’ve included a link to her website below so you can view her biography and look at her gallery. I just love her work! When I asked her about her pieces and her process she had such a kind and quiet demeanor she simply drew me in. The amount of work that goes into each piece is mind-boggling!
Her exquisite wall hangings have clean and timeless, even modern, designs. They are incredibly beautiful and detailed and I found the colors she uses in many of the designs she creates to be very soothing. Her process is painstaking. The pieces she was exhibiting at the show were mostly made from silk fibers, but she also works in linen and wool. She hand dyes all her threads, mostly with natural dyes that she creates with organic items like onion skins, and plants from her yard. The threads are either dyed uniformly, or dyed multiple colors, in multiple stages. The multiple colored strands, when added to the loom, gives the piece a variegated or polychromatic look. Simply gorgeous! It is hard for me to fathom the patience it must take to add each strand to the loom one piece at a time. It can take months for her to complete a piece depending on the complexity.
Chie won an “Award of Excellence” at the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco (August 2017) for the piece she is standing with below, and was awarded “Best In Show” at CraftBoston Holiday (December 2017.) The pattern in this piece reminded me a little bit of a quilt pattern, but this is far different, and much more time consuming than quilting. The detail honestly must be seen in person. It is impossible to appreciate the intricacies of this design from a photograph. When the fabric is lifted you can see each tiny strand that was added to create the design on the front. This is not embroidery by the way – this is all done on a loom. Chie uses a “technique called nuki-tori, a form of weave lacing where she manually inserts extra weft threads in the weave to create a design or image. Its’ effect is often similar to that of embroidery, but the image is created during the original weaving process.” I believe she said it took her more than 3 months to create this piece! When you get up close you can actually see designs within the design that are not visible from far away, or in this photo.
From her website: “Chie’s work is a modern reinterpretation of Japanese weaving and dyeing techniques that are hundreds of years old. Many of her pieces use Japanese ikat weaving techniques including tate-kasuri, in which the warp (vertical) threads have been dyed more than one color prior to looming; weft kasuri, in which the multi-dyed weft threads are placed into the fabric with each pass of the shuttle; and zurashi-kasuri, in which these multi-dyed threads are intentionally offset from one another to create a dreamy effect or a specific design.”
UPDATE: Chie Hitchner was one of two artists at the ACC Atlanta show awarded the “Rare Craft Award of Excellence,” which was sponsored by The Balvenie US.
KEN and JULIE GIRARDINI:
The second artist I want to highlight is actually a husband and wife team – Ken and Julie Girardini of Girardini Design. I primarily had the opportunity to speak with Ken, as Julie was out of the booth when we stopped by. However, I met her briefly on our way out and I think it’s safe to say she has a great sense of humor and was clearly just as engaging at Ken. I wished I’d had more time to stay and chat. The couple have been married for 30 years. That in itself is a beautiful thing;)
Above is a photo of Ken with the pieces that first caught my attention – to his left on the wall. They are made of aluminum and the designs are created on the aluminum with acrylic that has been added in layers. Images are sometimes added between the layers and then more layers of acrylic are applied. The result is modern, light, even ethereal. Each piece is unique and can be purchased and hung separately, or they can be purchased in multiples and hung together to create a gallery wall as seen to his left. I enjoyed the colors, complexity and organization that goes into this work.
Below is a photo I took from Ken and Julie’s website of one of Ken’s “Moving Series” image sculptures. He did not have this piece at the show, but has several pieces online that I thought were incredibly unique. They incorporate art and sculpture. I really enjoy color, design, organization in modern pieces. The piece below has a little bit of all the things I like.
My friend noticed a bike wheel hanging on the opposite wall of their booth at the show. Ken told us it was actually a modern bike rack he designed and sells on his site. I’ve taken a picture of the business card he gave me (below) so I could share it here. You can get a sense of the minimalist design – a modern and artistic piece that is both unique and useful! What a great item to add to a small city apartment! I think every apartment dweller in the city needs to consider one of these! Based on some of the designs he had at the show, including the bike rack and a hanging rack, I asked Ken if he was by any chance an engineer. He smiled and said, “Kind of. I worked at NASA”. It’s interesting how often art and science complement each other.
From their website: “Julie and Ken Girardini are the principal designers at their small studio in rural Maryland. They specialize in designing metal objects for the home: furniture, lighting, clocks, candleholders, as well as sculpture and fine art. We are self-taught and pride ourselves on creating each and every piece by hand. We have deliberately chosen to make a living with our hands and minds and have done so for the past 28 years. Our primary medium is cold rolled steel, but we add curiosities like glass, brass, copper, paper and wood to keep it interesting.”
You can find more information about Ken and Julie and their designs on their website Girardinidesign.com
The last artist I’m highlighting from the show is Jeff Pender. As we approached Jeff’s booth, but were still at a distance, I could see white blocks, with a pop of color, stacked upon each other. To be honest the Mom in me thought, “I’m glad I don’t have small kids with me, they might knock them over!” As we got closer it became clear they were a singular pieces of art – ceramic totems – incorporating multiple ceramic blocks that could each be turned 360 degrees, mounted on sturdy wooden bases. Very cool!
As an art-lover, and and a mom involved in education, I thought these totems are not only interesting pieces for adults, but they would make an incredible interactive art exhibit for younger people. How many times have you told your child, “don’t touch”? I can hear my kids asking me to please buy one of these for our house. I liked the minimalism and simplicity of the white ceramic blocks, along with the clean lines Jeff etches in black onto each of the blocks, and the pop of color the glass he embeds provides on other sides.
Jeff explained that some of his pieces are created almost like a puzzle. As you turn the blocks there are points at which the lines of the designs, on the individual blocks, connect into a single design. I shared with him that I thought these would be great in a modern hotel…or even better…a display of them at Disney World! ( Kids LOVE interactive art). He said he was actually recently commissioned to create a custom piece for a hotel in the southeast region. I think they are very lucky. It’s going to be very popular!
Below is another picture of one of Jeff Pender’s “ceramic totems” taken from his website which I have included a link to below. He also creates unique wall hangings and sculptures that can be seen on his site.
For more information about Jeff Pender here is a link to more of Jeff’s website and interactive totems.
There were many more artists whose work I enjoyed at this show. I took cards from the booths of others I enjoyed but did not speak with and will be checking out their art online. My friend found several folk artists at this show that she loved and purchased a beautiful piece for her home. Everything at the show is cash and carry. Cash, credit cards and checks are accepted.
I’ll definitely be at this show again next year! Hope to see you there!