Archive for the ‘Craft Show’ Category

How to Evaluate Fine Handmade Objects

Monday, June 27th, 2022

By decorative fabric needle felting artist Juliana Boyd, South Hamilton, Mass.

Great Barrington-based potter Dan Bellow

Most people sell their time in addition to their service and/or skill. That goes for a chauffeur, bus driver, plumber, PR person, dentist, lawyer, babysitter, computer techie, physician, financial advisor, artisan or artist for starters.

So how do fine craft artists calculate the prices of objects they have designed and created?

I asked my client, Richard Rothbard, who with his wife Joanna Rothbard, has promoted the work of artists and artisans for over three decades in his galleries and at shows and festivals. He owns An American Craftsman Galleries in Lenox, Mass. and is days away from swinging open the gate on the 21st annual Berkshires Arts Festival, July 1, 2 and 3, in Great Barrington at scenic Ski Butternut.

Iva Kalikow, Fine Art in Glass, Beckett, MA

Artists shoulder the same skyrocketing costs as any business, he reminded. To exhibit their work there’s gas for hours-long trips via van and propane or oil to run a  kiln or furnace 24/7 for potters or glass blowers. Just as the price of commercial construction supplies have increased, so have fine woods–some quadrupling–for the vessels, sculptures and implements artisans fashion.

Designer Dahlia Popovits, Boston,

The time to create one fine work precludes making a normal living said Rothbard. “It can take six hours for a glass artist to fabricate a piece for which he charges $400. If there were no expenses–such as the purchase and maintenance of a furnace, shears, paddles, tweezers, blowpipe and raw material, not to mention marketing and insurance costs–the artisan would make less than $60/hour. And consider the years it took to perfect the skill.”

Some of the exhibitors at the Berkshires Arts Festival who use furnaces or kilns are Michael Radigan, Pittsford, N.Y., creator of fused glass plates, bowls, pendants and sculptures and stained glass artist Iva Kalikow, Fine Art in Glass, Beckett, Mass.; potters Lynne Puhalla, North Attleboro, Mass.; Dan Bellows, master potter, Great Barrington and Jenna Cranna Cahalan, New Milford, Conn. as well as ceramicist Gail Markiewicz, Woodbridge, Conn.

Rothbard observed that if artisans paid themselves what their customers make an hour, few could afford their work. According to, the average salary of a crafter in the U.S. in 2018 was $33,572, the median $30,720 with ranges from $18,680  to $59,750. In the “Quality of Life” section of the website: “With a take-home pay of roughly $2,478/month, and the median 2BR apartment rental price of $2,506/mo, a Crafter would pay 101.14% of their monthly take-home salary towards rent.”

Do you own and enjoy jewelry, ceramics, wood pieces, fashions, photographs, art glass, prints or paintings you bought in a craft boutique or art festival?

Sculpture by fine wood turning artist Paul Petrie, Gloversville, N.Y.

Service of Antidotes to Decorating and Fashion Insecurities

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Alexandra & Michael Miller, Everyman Works, Brooklyn

Americans’ insecurities about decorating their homes is well documented. Google the subject: you’ll see. I know this first hand from interviewing retailers and interior designers over years, starting with a stint eons ago at Art & Antiques Magazine. Fine antique shop owners had a heck of a time fighting a fear of being different. For starters, people dread unsolicited feedback from friends and mothers-in-law, as in “Why did you choose THAT style, color or pattern?” on walls and upholstery to china. Frame shops thrive when called in to fill a new house with art because a homeowner doesn’t know where to start [and perhaps would like someone else to blame?]

Renee Weiss Chase, Cloth2Clay, Collingswood, N.J.

The good news: According to Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I maintain that there are those who bend over backwards to achieve a special look in their homes filled with visual surprises that they love—that are the decorative equivalent of a squeeze of lemon or lime to perfect a dish or drink. And these people are in luck: American-made decorative accents, photography, sculpture and furniture will be exhibited this weekend at the Brooklyn Museum at my client’s American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn. [The Eastern Parkway subway stop is literally steps from the museum door and there’s a large parking lot.]

Lori Kaplan, NY jeweler

Does the same self-doubt apply to fashion? I’ve not studied the industry so I can rely only on my own experience and observations: A remarkable accent—scarf, jewelry, hat or jacket–on a classic ensemble brightens the wearer whose posture and expression beam with joy and confidence. Imagine giving such a bonus with your holiday presents this season. One Brooklyn Museum member, a loyal craft show visitor and successful business owner told me: “My whole wardrobe this year was from [last year’s] show. ”

Why do you think so many fear decorating their homes? Do you? What is one of your favorite fashion accessories? Where did you find it or was it a gift? Do you explore fine craft shows as a resource for unusual, handsome gifts and additions to your home and wardrobe?


Milliner Karen Morris, Minneapolis, Minn.

Catherine Joseph, C Joseph NY, Huntington

Furniture maker Bok Read, Media, Pa.

Service of Nameless Friends

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Craft Santa 2016 turned

I love traditions and one I’ve kept for 15+ years is to visit the Dutchess Community College Foundation annual craft fair in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Thanksgiving weekend. I arrive by 9:45, after a stop for coffee and munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts, to get a good parking spot—it starts at 10—and to stand at the door when it opens to be among the first at an exhibitor’s booth. Stephanie Stillwell has a fan club and sells out of her best pieces early. [See an example in the photo above.]

A mother with grown daughters—also Stillwell fans—usually wait with me. We recognized each other the second year and enjoyed chatting ever since.

Last year they weren’t there.

Stephanie told me that one of the daughters, [in her 50s], had suddenly died and that the family was having Thanksgiving out of town. She promised to send me contact information so I could offer my condolences—I don’t know their names or where in Dutchess County they live.

Again this year they weren’t at the entrance so I rushed to Stephanie’s booth with others. The first thing Stephanie said, even before saying “hello,” was that she couldn’t find the mother’s address and apologized for not getting back. I started to pick some wonderful quirky gifts when the mother appeared. We hugged for a long time and spoke for a short time. She said she was OK.I still don’t know their names.

When I was a kid, my mother said “hello” to countless people on the street and in the grocery store in our Manhattan neighborhood. She was better than I at names but often she’d respond, when I’d ask, that the person she’d greeted was Miss O’Reilly’s friend or someone she saw repeatedly at Mr. DiMaggio’s deli and that she didn’t know their name.

Are there people whose paths you cross of whom you’ve grown fond and/or are happy to see whose names you don’t know?

Service of Color II

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Karen Morris, Dellwood, Minn.

Karen Morris, Dellwood, Minn.

On Lauren Smith wrote “Pantone Predicts the Colors That’ll Be Popular Next Spring–Let’s just say, next year is going to be bold and bright” and called out Flame, Island Paradise, Primrose Yellow and Niagara—the names Pantone gave coral, soft aqua, sunny yellow and denim blue. Pantone calls itself the “authority on color, provider of color systems and leading technology for accurate communication of color.”

Deborah Shedrick, Montgomery, Ala

Deborah Shedrick, Montgomery, Ala

What struck me about the work of some exhibitors at my client’s upcoming American Fine Craft Show at Brooklyn Museum this weekend, November 19-20, is the palpable importance of color—some of those Pantone identified as well as other luscious, succulent ones. Much of the jewelry is inspired by spirited, passionate hues; magical tints enhance ceramics and glass. 

Thomas Marrinson ceramics, Hinesburg, Vt.

Thomas Marrinson ceramics, Hinesburg, Vt.

Color isn’t for everyone and there will be many options for the more conservative shopper in every category. In addition to color, 26 jewelers reference travel, history, nature and their current or previous careers in far-flung industries as impacting their designs. Their expert work transforms precious stones and sheet metal, wire—even textiles and paper—into enchanting decorative enhancements and imaginative gifts.

Julie Shaw, Cocoa, FL.

Julie Shaw, Cocoa, FL.

For those bored by the mostly insipid fashion on today’s clothing racks, a fine craft fair such as this one is a treasure trove of both chic high-end classic and stylish casual wear. Fanciful accents and detailing punctuate one-of-a-kind coats and jackets designed and created by masters of leatherwork, weaving and expert tailoring. Exemplary millinery promises to be a show-stopper and versatile scarves and accessories in the hands of artists and expert fashion designers achieve elegant impact. 

Ethan Abramson, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Ethan Abramson, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Furniture artisans at the show speak about their pieces and the elements that go into them as though they are human or a three dimensional reflection of their lives.  Although most of them design and fabricate with wood, there are architectural, handsome steel and aluminum pieces as well.

The furniture makers aren’t alone in their mastery and appreciation of wood. Several exhibitors will sell handmade small decorative and/or functional and at times whimsical pieces that are impossible to bypass without touching.

In addition to furniture, wood objects, art glass and ceramics, there’s more to enhance a home: Fine artists and two sculptors join the artisans this year, achieving a tempting and visual feast just a few days before Thanksgiving.

If cost were no object, where would you look for special gifts for yourself or someone else? Do you value the fine work of artisans and artists and recognize the imagination, skill and time poured into each piece?


Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Service of Museums & How They Attract Audiences

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Agave Pod Vase by Christine & Michael Adcock

Agave Pod Vase by Christine & Michael Adcock


Ellen Gamerman shared a glimpse of “The Museum of the Future” in a Wall Street Journal article reporting how technology is one of the ways these institutions plan to revolutionize and transform a visitors’ experience. A goal: Attracting audiences.

For starters she told how Metropolitan Museum visitors saw a Jackson Pollock picture through 3-D headsets; mentioned a “virtual-reality film that recreates ocean creatures from 500 million years ago,” at the London Natural History Museum; wrote about movies with “special effects in a 4D theater with piped-in gunpowder smells and seats that jiggle whenever cannons are fired,” at the imminent American Revolution Museum, Yorktown, Va. and more. Lots to look forward to.

Seascape necklace by Beth Farber

Seascape necklace by Beth Farber

There are also valuable, effective traditional ways museums introduce potential enthusiasts to their exhibitions. For the third year Brooklyn Museum is the venue for the American Fine Craft Show November 21-22 where 90 exhibitors, handpicked by my clients Joanna and Richard Rothbard, will exhibit and sell some of the best crafts designed and made in America. Tickets to the craft show include general admission to the museum, including “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” an exhibition that opens on the eve of the show.

Selecting to feature the work of only a few exhibitors from the riches of images I have is always difficult but what fun: Almost as good as shopping.


Mediterranean Decay Coral Necklace by Barbara Heinrich

Mediterranean Decay Coral Necklace by Barbara Heinrich

Whether gemstones, coral or polymer, jewel tones from nature will punctuate the display cases of many of the 19 jewelry designers.

Barbara Heinrich transformed perforated red-orange coral from the bottom of the ocean into necklace beads [photo above, left]. The Pittsford-NY jeweler added an 18kt gold egg-shaped bead that mimics the coral’s perforations and a toggle clasp.

Another necklace informed by the deep, but in brilliant turquoise, is Beth Farber’s “Seascape,” hand-woven with apatite, a boulder opal and gold [Photo above, right]. Farber, whose studio is in Minnetonka, Minn., says her work combines the ancient with the contemporary. Adapting ancient bead weaving techniques, she hand-weaves fine gemstones, silver and gold with a contemporary sensibility and edge.


Bern and Trusk vests by Teresa Maria Widuchn

Bern and Trusk vests by Teresa Maria Widuchn

Fashion takes pride of place where 25 of 90 handpicked artisans will exhibit handmade coats, jackets, dresses and accessories in the museum’s regal Beaux-Arts Court. Standouts reflect Asian influences in style, fabric and/or construction as well as elegant design simplicity.

Spare simplicity in form and motif translates to classic elegance that Teresa Maria Widuch understates on her website as “an efficient use of materials with a clean line,” [Photo of Bern and Trusk vests, right]. In her Chicago studio she creates one-of-a-kind wool felt and Ultrasuede jackets, vests and coats at her Chicago studio. Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass., explores the relationship between painting, Shibori dyeing, Rozome and hand embellishment to create art to wear. [Photo right, below].

Barcelona jacket by Jane Herzenberg

Barcelona jacket by Jane Herzenberg

Both Shibori and Rozome [batik] are Japanese techniques.


Glass, ceramics, wood, leather and wool are transformed to one-of-a-kind decorative and/or functional pieces by artisans who describe their work as “improvised” and “intuitive.”

Ceramist Pat Warwick “has never been far from the sea.” [Today she lives by the sea in Warren, RI]. She wrote on her website that the drawings she made to illustrate and design materials for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Marine Resource center “became the basis for her first installation- a school of fish for her own kitchen.”

Christine and Michael Adcock, Leaves of Grass Fiber-Clay Arts, Santa Barbara, Calif., are collaborative mixed media artists. [An example of their work is at top.] Christine is a basket maker and Michael a studio potter. Christine Adcock said that nature is the ultimate teacher and inspiration. “I delight in its every detail, from the beautiful markings on a tiny bug or moth to the majesty of mountain and meadow. My work is an effort to take tiny, beautiful, elements of nature – a seed pod we tread upon or a leaf of grass – and put them in a context where people take time to experience and enjoy their perfection.”  

Haven’t museums always felt they needed to entice people to visit? Is this an American habit because the public is used to being marketed to? Are there lines a museum should take care not to cross in “merchandising” collections even if tempted by technology?



Pat Warwick ceramic wall piece

Pat Warwick ceramic wall piece



Service of Secure Shoppers

Monday, December 1st, 2014

NYCreates Post Card 2MB

A Michigan State University marketing study published by Psychology & Marketing reported by Henri Neuendorf in artnet showed that “men are more likely to positively evaluate an artwork based on the artist’s brand. On the other hand, whilst women also took the artists’ brand into account, they based their evaluation more heavily on the artwork itself.”

While fashion isn’t usually considered art–unless at couture level or made by hand–I know plenty of women who come off more like the men in the study. They will only buy name brands favoring easily identifiable textiles that may even feature recognizable logos. If not, and you admire what they have on, they rarely say, “Thanks,” as they are bursting to share who designed what they’re wearing. They want you to know they’ve spent plenty.

One of the ornaments in the Bird series by Jacobson & Doniger, a collaboration between husband and wife artist/illustrator Nancy Doniger and sculptor Eric Jacobson

One of the ornaments in the Bird series by Jacobson & Doniger, a collaboration between husband and wife artist/illustrator Nancy Doniger and sculptor Eric Jacobson

However if you know where to go, you can come upon treasures painted by unknown artists and remarkable crafts designed and executed by creative, talented artisans. The work you buy can achieve an electrifying impact on your interior design or wardrobe.

Here’s an example:

This weekend–December 6-7–at the Brooklyn Historical Society, NYCreates is producing its 11th annual Holiday Craft Fair. A hop and a skip from Manhattan, in Brooklyn Heights at the Brooklyn Historical Society, some 40 artisans, a photographer and artists will sell their best. NYCreates is a non-profit organization [501c3] founded in 2003 and committed to expand opportunities, visibility and marketability of NYC’s crafts artists and artisans. I’m helping to promote the fair.

Ceramist Alyssa Ettinger’s sweater-patterned porcelain salt cellar is rimmed in 24 carat gold lustre.

Ceramist Alyssa Ettinger’s sweater-patterned porcelain salt cellar is rimmed in 24 carat gold lustre.

You’ll meet ceramist Alyssa Ettinger who knows her way around interior design having pursued a career in magazine publishing for 20 years writing, editing and styling photo shoots covering home design, new products, decor and lifestyle. She threw her first pot at summer camp when she was 14 and today works exclusively in porcelain, a medium she says is “difficult and unforgiving” yet clearly worth the challenge. She describes the material as “translucent when it’s thin enough, letting light shine through.”

You might recognize the work of illustrator Nancy Doniger as it has been published in the New York Times as well as to enhance books both for children and adults. At the craft fair she is collaborating with her husband Eric Jacobsen, a sculptor, selling ornaments from their Bird collection [see photo above right]. Jacobsen creates the birds from metal and Doniger paints them. On her website she writes that her style is “bold with a quirky edge.” Doniger also draws, paints and is a printmaker.

Ceramic Egyptian figure napkin rings by Judith Eloise Hooper.

Ceramic Egyptian figure napkin rings by Judith Eloise Hooper.

NYCreates executive director Judith Eloise Hooper is also a ceramist. She describes herself as “an artist who just likes making things.” She’s been a successful fashion and children’s book illustrator and most recently has designed tabletop collections and ceramic landscapes in her Brooklyn studio. She also manages the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition gallery.

“View from Brooklyn Bridge Park,” watercolor on paper, 12” x 18,” by Alicia Degener

“View from Brooklyn Bridge Park,” watercolor on paper, 12” x 18,” by Alicia Degener

Another artist with a business brain is Brooklyn-based urban landscape artist Alicia Degener who finds the borough is a visual feast and the subject of most of her watercolors, pastels, acrylics and drawings. She co-manages this fair with Hooper. On her website, she writes that “Color and pattern work together combined with odd angles to create landscapes that juxtapose realistic and abstract elements. Strong linear elements and patterns creating movement give the landscapes a rich visual workout.”

Earrings by Bilyana Tosic Petino for Falcon Feather Jewelry.

Earrings by Bilyana Tosic Petino for Falcon Feather Jewelry.

Bilyana Tosic Petino of Falcon Feather Jewelry, attributes the style of her work to her Mediterranean upbringing. She says that her simple organic jewelry is made with a few basic materials, primarily sterling silver, soft leather cords, and semiprecious stones and makes pieces that adapt to the natural contours of a woman’s body. Her philosophy: “Jewelry should not call attention to itself or overshadow the wearer.”  

"Bird Abstractions," a photograph by Peter Houts, taken of gulls flying over The Pond in Central Park.

“Bird Abstractions,” a photograph by Peter Houts, taken of gulls flying over The Pond in Central Park.

Photographer Peter Houts chose the subject of his work because of what he said is “My love of birds which came from living on a farm in Pennsylvania for 40 years.” He continued: “Photographing these beautiful creatures became an absorbing, challenging, and rewarding hobby.” He moved to Brooklyn four years ago and joined the New York City Audubon Photography Club, meeting Johann Schumacher, an accomplished bird photographer, who used slow shutter speeds to create beautiful abstract patterns of flying birds. This is a technque Houts has perfected.

Do you care if the artisan or artist from whom you buy a gift or something for yourself represents a well known brand? Do brands matter for more than prestige? Is their value everlasting?


“A Painter in Their Mist,” by Janie Samuels, colored pencil, digital drawing on paper, 4 x 6 inches--11 x 14 inches, framed. The image’s line and color work both as a narrative and abstractly, giving the canvas intrinsic balance.

“A Painter in Their Mist,” by Janie Samuels, colored pencil, digital drawing on paper, 4 x 6 inches–11 x 14 inches, framed. The image’s line and color work both as a narrative and abstractly, giving the canvas intrinsic balance.


Service of Conversations with Strangers: Craft Fair Brings Two Together

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

On my walk to work on Tuesday I saw a woman who looked strikingly smart: Fabulous floral patterned coat in muted colors, elegant purse, shoes and leather gloves. I almost snapped a photo of her from behind. She stood about 5-feet tall and had short gray hair—so she probably wasn’t a model–nor did her brisk gait catch my eye.

The look was a welcome break from the thousands of quilted black coats I’ve seen of late, mine included. Moreover, I don’t see that many women on the street looking so put together these days—they must be riding in limos or walking in different neighborhoods.

I passed her, continued on my way, my mind on other matters. I’d long forgotten the pleasing visual image when suddenly I heard someone speaking to me, which is unusual on my daily jaunt, once I pass my block.

The voice came from the woman with the amazing coat. She said, “I have the same coat you’re wearing in several colors. I know how long you’ve had it—I bought mine at a craft fair!” [I’ve had the knit swing coat for at least 15 years and love it still. I also bought mine at a craft fair.]

I admitted how I’d admired her coat and how tremendous she looked in it and that I’d almost snapped a photo. She said the coat was an Etro [not the one at right, above, though that coat is by Etro] and that she’d had it for four years.  Then she enthusiastically pointed out the chartreuse lining and I the remarkable detailing on the cuffs.

I often compliment a person’s dog which is met with mixed reactions for cultural reasons: Most Americans thank me and smile though generally foreigners don’t. [I live near the UN.] That was only one of the many reasons I was reluctant to say anything to this woman and I’m glad she approached me.

Since I routinely walk rather than take public transportation, where chatter happens more easily, and don’t shop as often as before, I don’t have as many such fun encounters with strangers as I used to and miss them. I know marriages that have happened as a result. Have you enjoyed any you can share?

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