If shopping directly from hundreds of selectively juried creators of contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture and home décor sounds like a dream, add the American Craft Council Show, (Feb 20-22, 2015) to your calendar immediately! Housed annually in the Baltimore  Convention Center, the show presents a sprawling array of of fine quality craft items that will dazzle, intrigue, and inspire yearning.

Although price points can fall on the high side, which is fair given the high caliber of artist involved, this year the ACC took their offerings a step into affordable territory with Hip Pop. This exhibit of emerging craftspeople provides younger artists and artisans an entry into what many consider to be the country’s best contemporary craft show, complete with marketing mentorship and other professional development. In addition, the participation of younger artists is a great benefit to those of us with champagne tastes and beer budgets – Hip Pop presents a range of art, furniture, ceramics, and jewelry priced affordably enough to inspire a splurge without having to take out a second mortgage. In addition, the influx of fresh new energy breathes new life into the ACC show.

To find out a little more about the ACC’s new Hip Pop selections, I reached out to three contemporary crafters who are participating this year: Mary Raivel (jewelry), Johnny Williams (furniture), and Jamie Lau (wearables).

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Johnny Williams, Furniture Maker

BmoreArt: Can you tell me a little about your work and how it ties into the ACC craft show?

Johnny Williams: Before I was a woodworker, I was an eager onlooker, browsing furniture blogs from the comfort of an Aeron office chair. I was living in Brooklyn surrounded by all things artisanal and handmade, yet I could barely install a curtain rod. Eventually I quit my job in marketing to take an introductory woodworking course at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. It was there that I fell in love with the craft.

Since then I have honed my skills at the College of the Redwoods Fine Furniture program and steadily assembled a woodshop in Connecticut. At the moment, I focus on one-off tables, seating, and a line of “tasting boards” for serving fine foods – but I dream of branching out into all types of woodworking. The ACC show is my first major trade exhibition and I am excited to meet all the other artists. Like them, I aspire to make objects that are thoughtful, artful, and soulful. With this opportunity to exhibit in the ACC’s Hip Pop program, I’m more proud than ever to be a part of the craft community.

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BmoreArt: The ACC Craft Show has been an established craft fair for many years, and brings in a huge following. Why did you want to participate in this program? How does your work bring a new or fresh perspective to the show?

Johnny Williams: From a young age, we’re given the impression that craft is creative but not serious, more hobby than art. But when I first got my hands on American Craft magazine, with the profiles of professional artisans and remarkable work, I was inspired to see craft as a career. The American Craft Council is at the forefront of the craft scene and I am eager to introduce my work to that world.

Like many makers, I don’t necessarily pursue newness so much as originality. It is important for me to incorporate the traditions of fine woodworking while expressing myself through the material and the technique. I hope that my furniture reflects my deep reverence for trees and nature. I’ve found that often times you must step aside and let the wood do the work. The material has a life of its own and I aim to create pieces that are somehow characterizations of the wood’s personality.

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BmoreArt: What is your definition of “Craft” ? It seems the term is constantly changing, becoming more and less popular, and now is reinventing itself and having a surge in positive growth. How do you approach the term in relation to your work?

Johnny Williams: To me, craft is the fused expression of the material and the maker. Neither exists without the other and the best craft demonstrates that union, in unison. I have profound respect for the traditions of craft and believe our society should value them just as much as we value film, music or visual arts. Still, there is something very fulfilling about craft as the quiet underdog and I’m proud to be a part of such a humble community.

Website: www.johnnyawilliams.com

Instagram: instagram.com/jawwoodshop

ACC Both #909-2

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Jamie Lau Designs, Fashion and Textiles

BmoreArt: Can you tell me a little about your work and how it ties into the ACC craft show?

Jame Lau: I am a fashion designer based in Brooklyn, New York. For my clothing line Jamie Lau Designs, I transform simple silhouettes into fashion-forward looks cut and sewn from traditional Japanese prints, luxurious brocades, handwoven ikats, and my signature textile designs. I strive to create clean, functional garments with a strong textile focus that cater to year-round wear. Each piece is handmade and cut and sewn in my design studio, one stitch at a time. I also design my own textiles, including digital prints inspired by the natural environment, travel, and art based on my photographs.

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BmoreArt: The ACC Craft Show has been an established craft fair for many years, and brings in a huge following. Why did you want to participate in this program? How does your work bring a new or fresh perspective to the show?

Jamie Lau: My designs transcend various age groups and I look forward to sharing my work with a new customer base at ACC Baltimore. My brand stands for textile-driven work, effortless silhouettes, and quality craftsmanship. I am not afraid to mix prints and love bold pops of color. I would describe my work as clean, practical, and easy to transition – in both the short term – from different situations within a single day – and in the long term – to invest in, wear, and enjoy a garment for multiple years on end.

I was encouraged to apply to the show by my jewelry designer friend (and longtime ACC participant) Meghan Patrice Riley. The Hip Pop program offers new designers a reasonable point of entry to the high-end craft show market, including a community-based pod structure and the support of a dedicated program manager. Having a readymade fixture included with the booth fee makes it a lot easier to travel for the show.

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BmoreArt: What is your definition of “Craft”? It seems the term is constantly changing, becoming more and less popular, and now is reinventing itself and having a surge in positive growth. How do you approach the term in relation to your work?

Jamie Lau: I have seen the term “craft” evolve throughout the last eight years since I started designing and making. At times, it seemed to carry a negative connotation with some people as “homemade,” amateur, and cheap. To me, craft stands for quality craftsmanship and thoughtful design. It is important for me to interact with my customers and share the story behind my product, which is why I love doing shows.

Website: http://www.jamielaudesigns.com

ACC Baltimore Booth Number: 3501-4

http://jamielaudesigns.bigcartel.com/product/black-and-white-dotted-ikat-midi-dress

http://jamielaudesigns.bigcartel.com/product/blue-gradient-a-line-shift-dress

http://jamielaudesigns.bigcartel.com/product/niwa-draped-cocoon-dress

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Mary Raivel, Jewelry Designer

BmoreArt: Can you tell me a little about your work and how it ties into the ACC craft show?

Mary Raivel: I design and hand make jewelry, primarily using silver, bronze or other metals, and have been doing so for the past 5 years since I started studying jewelry and metalsmithing at what was the MICA Jewelry Center, and is now the Baltimore Jewelry Center.

My work for the ACC show is inspired by mid-century modern design, and in particular a much larger one-of-a-kind piece that I designed and made and for a MICA fashion show a couple of years ago.  The pieces I’m making for ACC are clean-lined and open, and include earrings and pendants that consist of combinations of fine silver or bronze elliptical shapes in various dimensions.  I start with fine silver or bronze sheet, then solder, form, and hand finish each individual component, spray paint their interiors, and then connect the individual components with steel wire in various combinations to create the earrings or pendants.

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BmoreArt: The ACC Craft Show has been an established craft fair for many years, and brings in a huge following. Why did you want to participate in this program? How does your work bring a new or fresh perspective to the show?

Mary Raivel: I’ve attended the ACC craft show for many years as a customer and there are many artists there whose work I’ve admired and purchased.  The work I’ve seen over the years there has inspired me and was one of the things that influenced me to study jewelry making.

Over the past year and a half, I have started to sell my jewelry in smaller venues, such as at Artscape and the MICA Art Market (as part of a group of Baltimore Jewelry Center artists) and had my first “solo” booth at a local show–Facets–in October of 2014.  So when I found out about ACC’s new program for emerging artists (Hip Pop), I decided to apply and see what happened.  I want to find out what it is like preparing for, showing and selling my work at this huge and well-regarded show.

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I think my work brings a bit of a fresh perspective in my choice of materials.  I haven’t seen a lot of people using bronze, for example, in work that you would otherwise expect to find silver or gold.  I also use nylon-coated steel wire to connect various elements in my pieces, and it is a very visible — integral to my design.  This is steel beading wire that is normally not seen, but I like making it visible — to me it gives my pieces a somewhat “industrial” aspect.  I also love the contrast of this utilitarian material with the more “refined” look of the brushed silver and metal.

BmoreArt: What is your definition of “Craft” ? It seems the term is constantly changing, becoming more and less popular, and now is reinventing itself and having a surge in positive growth. How do you approach the term in relation to your work?

Mary Raivel: So many thoughts come to mind.  To me, the term “Craft” refers to an object made by hand with an inherent aesthetic quality stemming from a certain level of skill required to make the piece. I know that some people think about “craft” and “art” as an either/or proposition.  I think that craft can be art, depending on the circumstances, such as the artist/maker’s concept, and the process by which it is made.  As far as my work goes, I haven’t thought about it a lot, but I suppose I do think of my original, one-of-a-kind pieces as art. As a general matter, I’m not sure I think of the pieces that I reproduce over and over again as art.

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Website:  www.maryraivel-jewelry.com.
ACC Booth: 909-1

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Author and Interviewer Cara Ober is the founding editor at BmoreArt. If she had the dough, she would purchase pretty much everything at the ACC Craft Show.

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American Craft Council Show
Baltimore Convention Center
1 West Pratt Street
Baltimore , MD
United States

For tickets, show info, and artist listings, go to craftcouncil.org/baltimore.
See more here.