Sunday, February 24, 2013

Art And Artifact

It is my distinct pleasure every February to attend the American Craft Council Show at the Baltimore Convention Center, the largest juried craft exposition in the country. With 650 vendors exhibiting everything from textiles, clothing and fine jewelry to furniture, utensils and objets d’art in ceramic, glass, wood, metal and a host of other materials to stunning effect, there was something for everyone to marvel at and items for sale at every price point. Indeed, so many fabulous artifacts were there to see that I am certain first time attendees found it difficult not to experience sensory overload. I remember well how overwhelmed I was by the extraordinary degree of talent and beauty on display the first time I attended this remarkable show. A veteran now, there is method to my madness once I check my coat and step inside the vast exhibit hall. As a longtime member of the American Craft Council (, I have perfected my annual routine.

Saturday morning dawned cold and gray, and featured an oppressive day-long drizzle intent on turning my blown-straight locks to frizz. From prior years I have learned that attendees like to show off unique or handmade apparel while walking from booth to booth, choosing attire that speaks to their personalities and tastes. Naturally, I decided to go with an all-vintage outfit as my personal "fashion statement" for the show.

Some of you may note that I featured this faded army drab jumpsuit by Ideas in my very first post, when I launched my vintage fashion blog in November 2011. That initial post, titled "Jumpsuit, Jumpstart!", seemed an appropriate homage to a venture that was very much a giant leap into the unknown for me – a terrifying dalliance into cyberspace that took all the coaxing my dear friend Judy in Dallas, Texas, could muster to get me started. "Do it, already!" she cajoled. This jumpsuit, then, has terrific sentimental value for me, not only for the sheer number of decades I’ve owned it, but as a symbol of my tentative step off the cliff into social media.

I drew on vintage embellishments as well: a red felt beret, red leather boots, enameled metal hoop earrings and a red leather belt by Ritz Accessories, all of which I bought at JCPenney in the 1970s when I worked for the retailer during my college years in northern California, plus some newer items: a textural neck wrap, itself a prior ACC show purchase, and a richly colored Navajo blanket-style bag which was a gift from my dear friend, Jan, in Baltimore several years ago. I finished my look with a necklace I've owned for forty years: a ceramic pendant featuring a coiling gold snake (this year's Chinese zodiac symbol) on a red background, hung on a gold metal loop around my neck. You could almost call the sum of these parts my "signature look", if I had one; so much does this old jumpsuit, paired with red, my favorite color, seem to embody my sense of self.

A vignette by interior designer Kathy Ward
The one-piece proved a fortuitous choice. I hadn’t completed perusing the first aisle at the exhibition before compliments from passersby, as well as vendors, began to flow. At one point, about midway through the event, Elizabeth Ryan, an official American Craft Council photographer, stopped me to ask if I would mind posing on a sofa for a photograph of a vignette arranged by interior designer Kathy Ward of Maryland (, one of several designers who showcased their decorating talents by plucking items from all over the exposition to decorate their displays. Of course, I cheerfully complied.

I modeled this gown by
Selma Karaca at last
year's ACC show
Aisle after aisle, booth after booth, I was wowed by the quality of art on display. At booth #415, I was happily embraced by haute couture designer Selma Karaca, whose luscious, blood-red gown (which she said was ultimately sold to someone from the White House) I was asked to model at last year’s ACC show (see my post titled "Whirlwind Weekend").

This gorgeous cloak, by Susan D. Luks.
comes with its own silk purse

At booth #3903 I fell under the spell of a gorgeous silk shawl, created by Michigan textile designer Susan D. Luks (, a new inductee to the American Crafts Council’s esteemed ranks. As I tried on Susan’s ethereal wrap in vibrant orange, the designer impressed the gathering crowd by demonstrating six different ways to wear her creation. Suddenly I heard the click of a professional camera, and turned to see yet another official ACC photographer snapping away as I twisted this way and that to show off the scarf’s versatility. SOLD!  I had to have it, so look for upcoming posts featuring this amazing piece once the weather warms.

This 1983 Harley Davidson Road King was covered in mosiac
tiles by talented artisan Paul Pearman (

In all, my old jumpsuit garnered 23 glowing comments from onlookers at the craft show, leaving me floating on cloud nine at all the praise. Even at the supermarket on the way home, a man approached me in the cat food aisle to tell me how much he liked my attire. Another verbalized his approval in the checkout line. I might just start having to wear this jumpsuit more often! What a marvelous day.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the shout out lynell - and stopping by my design space!