If someone says handmade, do you think Grandma? If they say craft, do you think glue gun and artificial flowers, maybe a few beads? Think again. Think craftsmanship, and add the word fine. Think skilled hands, coordinated with eyes and brains that have learned all there is to know about how to make something special. While you’re at it, consider the beautiful things that were made before the industrial revolution, and used, everyday, in people’s homes.
The fact is, old skills-the kind that were common before computerized machinery and produced what we value as antiques today-are alive and well. There’s painstaking craftsmanship in this era of instant gratification, and you don’t have to decorate with plastic, fiberboard, and the combined advice of a big box store and gimmicks. There are classics out there. They still make heirlooms.
There’s a connection between the values in the skilled workmanship of the past and the consumer’s desire for something that lasts for generations, something that’s a pleasure to own. Objects like these, connections between tradition and the present, can be found in abundance at the Greater Cincinnati Folk Art and Craft Show at Sharonville.
Consider two of the fifty juried exhibitor craftsmen who will be at the show in March; take a closer look at what they make.
A conversation with one of them, the pieced quilt maker Carol Collins, is to know someone who is passionate about what she does, as well as knowledgeable (she’s been quilting since1975). “There are a lot quicker ways of doing things,” Collins said, “but I like the old methods.” She likes the old colors, too-dark jewel tones-printed fabric pieces are chosen as carefully as an artist mixes paint.” They’re not a random assortment of fabric scraps,” she said, explaining the process of relating pieces (everything’s cotton-thread, batting, fabrics) into a specific design. Carol’s patterns are the “ole” favorites, like the intricate old Log Cabin: “a bed quilt can have 80 or 90 different fabrics,” she said. Her business is called Lady of the Lake; her quilts range in size from nine-by-12 inches to 40-inches square, beautiful as wall hangings, runners and tabletops. Some are framed in handmade, grain-painted wood-a mellow, traditional accent in any room.
There’s an entirely different kind of craftsmanship going on at the ASL Pewter booth, but the same thinking about quality. Pat and Tom Hooper love fine pewter-and they make a living by turning out connoisseur pieces that improve with everyday use. The Hoopers keep a constant inventory of three to four hundred pieces, and sell it all. At Sharonville they’ll bring a dozen of each of the forty types they make everything from chalices to candlesticks, spoons, bowls, plates, and Christmas ornaments-and they’ll include some one of a kind pieces as well. The couple collaborates: Pat does the casting of ornaments and small details, Tom the heavier molded pieces and spinning. It’s an old technology they’re reproducing-they use antique molds for some pieces, make their own molds from antiques for others. It’s all about process, with a lot of trial and error to get a piece just right; Tom is an engaging and persuasive conversationalist about what he does for a living. Pointing to a small example, he said, “It’s way more than a spoon,” and he’ll tell you why.
There’s a history of handmade craftsmanship in everything at the show-a long line of skills right up to the present. Make a connection of your own there; continue the line of distinctive, high quality Americana.
There will be a special display of an original interpretation of an antique apothecary handcrafted by Renowned Master Cabinetmaker John K. Spicer and Master Redware Artisan Greg Shooner.. The apothecary-”A Physician’s Herb, Elixir, and Potion Library” will be auctioned January, 2008 at the Designer Craftsmen Show of Philadelphia. Fifty percent of the proceeds from this one-time auction will benefit Habitat for Humanity. Spicer and Shooner both hale from Warren County in Ohio.
Spicer and Shooner broke all records for auctioned original, contemporary folk art in 2005 when their Purple Martin birdhouse brought $21, 500. The money raised at that auction benefited the Heritage Center of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
DETAILS: The Greater Cincinnati Folk Art & Craft Show, March 16 – 18, 2007, Sharonville Convention Center, Sharonville, Ohio. Opening Night, Friday, March 17, 5 pm – 9 pm; admission $7.
Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm; Sunday, 11 am – 4 pm. Saturday and Sunday admission is $6. Any admission is good for all show days.