The American Fine Craft Show takes place at the Brooklyn Museum this weekend, November 22 and 23. This annual fair is a great way to not only get to know the artists behind the creative crafts that will be on display, but it’s an even better opportunity to get your Christmas shopping done early!
Over 90 exhibitors will fill the central hall of the Brooklyn Museum, displaying a wide array of crafts, from textiles to ceramics, sculpture to furniture, and beyond. In an effort to build extra anticipation for this exciting event, we spoke to a number of the artisans who will be on-hand at the museum this weekend.
Shana Kroiz, a jewelry maker for almost 30 years, loves showing in the Brooklyn Museum. She comments, “This show is particularly wonderful because it is very small and select. The room is magnificent and really well suited for the quality of work that is exhibited. Showing at the Brooklyn Museum brings an educated and artistically-interested crowd.”
The museum houses many beloved works of art from almost every era of art-making – ancient Egyptian to female contemporary. Placing crafts for sale in the Beaux-Arts Court alongside some brilliant paintings and sculptures that are already part of the regular museum collection, seems to boost the status of the crafts here to an even higher level.
The artists who are offering their wares this weekend have been in the business for many years. Whether 10 or 40 years as an artist, they each express their passion for what they do, and their love of the various forms of artmaking. Nick Leonoff, a glass artist for the past ten years, notes “It was never really a conscious decision to become an artist. I feel blessed to have found my passion. I also love the challenge and the creative process of working with glass.”
One of the things you’ll get to learn at the craft fair by speaking to artists is their own artmaking process. Like a ceramic bowl but want to know how it was made? Does a unique pair of earrings pique your interest? Or a rocking chair look particularly well-crafted? All you have to do is ask. We took the liberty of asking some of the artists just how they go about creating their art and this is what they responded:
Nick Leonoff says, “I create blown and wheel carved glass pieces. I blow my glass blanks out of a 2200 degree furnace. The glass blanks are made with different layers of colored glass on the inside and outside of the piece. After the pieces are annealed and cooled back down to room temperature, I create my designs on the blanks. I cut and reshape the forms and integrate linear designs onto the surface of glass. I use abrasive wheels to grind into the various layers of colored glass to create patterns and textures. The incisions through the opaque layers of glass allow light to come into the piece. In my compositions, I am developing a relationship between the exterior and interior of the piece. The incisions on the surface become reflections of light on the interior. Glass is a dynamic material that plays with light. The focus of my work is shifting toward enhancing the virtual images of light that are revealed in the pieces.”
Fiber artist Cindy Griselda works with very different material but puts in just as much work: “My materials are hand-dyed fabric and multicolored threads. My work is designed organically without a preconceived pattern, and the textural lines are added freehand, so no two pieces are ever exactly alike. I design intuitively, cutting directly into the fabrics to create shapes, then auditioning the shapes on a design wall. Although I often have an idea about how I expect the piece to look, I don’t sketch anything out ahead of time, so the interplay of color, line and shape is integral to my design process.
It’s a little like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but without the picture on the box to guide me.
Once the composition is designed and I’m happy with the way it looks, I sew the pieces together and layer the top with thin batting and backing in preparation for adding the texture. All of the stitching is done on a regular sewing machine, but it is entirely hand driven. There’s no computer program or marking, just me drawing the designs in my head with a needle and thread instead of with a pencil or brush.”
Colleen ODonnell, a sculptor for 15 years, creates every work of art on her own: “My process is simple but lengthy and involved. I sculpt my figures in clay, then make molds and cast the figures in bronze. I cast at a foundry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The entire process is done by me personally, from the beginning clay sculpture; mold making; foundry bronze casting through to the final patination of the bronze.”
If you’re wondering what artists do when they’re not in the creative process, they welcome that question too! Some are responding to email inquiries, some are filling out exhibition forms, and some… take care of their sheep.
Williams Robbins, furniture maker for over 40 years, also happens to live on a sheep farm: “In the morning I check upon the welfare of the ewes and lambs and then go to work in the wood shop. Currently I work by myself building, criticizing, figuring out, and performing clerical tasks. I usually conk out about 8 after checking on the ewes and lambs [again].”
Yes, artists have lives outside their work! You can learn some fascinating facts about your favorite artists by simply starting a conversation with them.
We asked these artists to highlight some of their works that will be displayed, and explain why visitors should take a second look. If their responses don’t get you excited for the craft fair, we don’t know what will.
Leonoff will display his Portal Series: “The Portal Series uses sculptural open forms that are
designed to showcase the reflections of light on the interior of the piece.
The relationship between the exterior incisions and the interior reflections are intriguing as the glass produces images of light that are suspended within the piece. I feel these are the most dynamic pieces of glass I have created.”
Griselda names Island Hopping as one of her favourite pieces: “There’s a lot of energy and texture in this wall hanging, which is 28″ h x 36″ w, although the cool green and blue color scheme make it easy to live with. Fiber art on the wall adds warmth and texture to any room in your home or office. Larger pieces can help absorb sounds, while smaller works can add a splash of color and interest to an underused space.
Kroiz’s jewelry is a great way for collectors to wear a work of art and show it off every day: “I have several exquisite one-of-a-kind necklaces that are made with Enamel over electroformed shapes that were originally carved in wax. These pieces are both sculptural and light weight and interestingly elegant when worn. All of my work accentuates the sensuous female qualities in all women.”
Robbins will highlight the Ayebeam shelf unit and his signature Rolling Wine Bar, both of which would looks great in a big dining room or a small apartment: “The “Ayebeam” is a series of adjustable shelves which cantilever off a central column. It is a design that celebrates its architectural origins and the materials of which it is made. The “Wine Bar” is a reexamination of a piece I have been producing for several years. It closes into a compact cylinder but opens for serving when needed. Both these designs adapt well to smaller spaces.”
ODonnell encourages collectors to add sculpture to their living quarters: “The three-dimensional quality of sculpture lends itself to the relationship between thought and action; the transference of the abstract into the concrete. In ‘Figuration,’ these sculptures are rooted in the context of the human figure, as I find this to be an endless resource of inspiration and expression. Aspects of humanity are interpreted in varied states of consciousness. It is in this myriad that we may better understand our humanness, with compassion and fortitude. For example, in Reach, I’ve represented a decision-making moment. The feet are moving of the ground as the torso turns towards the outstretched arm, that is reaching into the future.”
Winthrop Byers, a potter who followed in his wife’s career choice and has been crafting now for 40 years, comments,
“I try to make pieces that convey strength, dignity and calm. Whether people buy them for that reason or some other, I’m not sure.
I continue to make platters. Recently, I have played with oval bowls,” both of which will be on display at the fair this weekend.
Entrance to the fair is free with admission to the museum itself. Suggested admission is $10-$16 – entirely worth the price especially if you find a special craft work to take home to call your own.
Byers encourages museum visitors to see the craft show this weekend, describing the difference between a typical art fair and this one: “Exhibition halls are about commerce. Museums are about experiences, responses to the art. Shows blend the two. For the artists this setting ups the ante–we compete with the room and the collections. For visitors it creates a unique opportunity–they can go to a museum, find an object that moves them, and take it home.”
If you get the chance to visit the museum this weekend, comment in the space below and let us know your experience. If you had a great conversation with an artist or found a special craft to call your own, let us know!
To connect with any of these artists on a deeper level, contact them at their studios, as listed below:
Leonoff Art Glass
174 Bogart St. #305
Brooklyn, NY 11206
Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts
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2314 South Rd
Baltimore, Md 21209
William Robbins Furniture Maker
139 Newbolds Corner Rd
Vincentown, NJ 08088
300 Pine St
Rock Springs, WI 53961