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Baltimore artisans ready for American Craft Council show

Heading to the show this weekend? Here are some arty Baltimoreans you may meet

By Jaclyn Peiser, The Baltimore Sun

7:55 AM EST, February 21, 2014

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Every year at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, rows and rows of handmade material sit in booths for on-lookers to gaze at and admire. And behind the uniquely crafted jewelry and perfectly glazed ceramic pieces sits an artist, whose work on each piece is extensive. The artists spend hours designing their collections, carving their materials and sewing their pieces together.

The show returns to the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend to showcase more 650 craft artists from all over the country. The artists show works that range from jewelry and glass to woodwork.

"We've been working diligently to make the show more experiential and engaging for multiple age groups and for different aesthetics. We are really accomplishing that now," said Pamela Diamond, director of marketing and communications for the American Craft Council. "The artists are excellent at challenging themselves to do something better and different every year. It's what makes a show like this continue every year. … The caliber [and] quality is amazing."

Beyond the arts and crafts, visitors can enjoy a free Scotch tasting and two on-site exhibitions. One of the exhibits, "Make Room, Modern Design Meets Craft — Let's Entertain," will incorporate various works from the show, such as furniture, sculptures and light fixtures, put together by local interior designers, to form small staged rooms. The other exhibit, "American Craft Charm Collection," features specially crafted charms created by American Craft Council artists.

Of the 650 participating artists this year, 13 live and work in Baltimore. We talked to four of those artists, each working in different areas of the craft world, to learn more about what inspires their work and discuss what they plan to show at the convention center.

Shannon Delanoy

Sweet Pepita, clothing

When Shannon Delanoy's daughter Alice started crawling around her Woodberry rowhouse, Delanoy realized that it was time to put away her jewelry-making material and start working on something more kid-friendly.

Six years ago, Delanoy started making clothes for her daughter out of old T-shirts that she and her husband could not get rid of. Friends and strangers quickly caught on to the trend and started bringing Delanoy their sentimental clothing to be cut and remade for their children.

"People loved [the idea] because everybody has T-shirts that they are never going to wear again [but are still] sentimental," said Delanoy, 37. "It's nice that there's history in kids clothing."

Delanoy has continued with the theme of history through her most recent venture: making dresses out of vintage textiles ranging from the 1920s and 1930s to the 1970s. The mother of two also makes dresses out of brightly colored recycled T-shirts and enjoys searching through old shirts with unique patterns and prints.

In addition to accepting personal T-shirts to be made for a customer's child, Delanoy plans to feature dresses and hats in her booth this weekend. She will also display some of the unique vintage T-shirts and patterns for customers to choose and custom-make a garment for their child.

But perhaps her most noticeable pieces are her organic cotton pixie hats.

"My customers tell me that they will get thumbs up from strangers [because of the hat]," Delanoy said. "One man was so happy to see my daughter wearing it because it's so damn cute. It sounds so silly but people remember [the hat] and get a good feeling."

Lisa Cimino

Chee-Mee-No, jewelry

Lisa Cimino's handmade jewelry collections are inspired by nature. Her collections (roots, color, creatures, lines and pearls), depict her interpretations of animals, barnacles and sea life.

"Even though they are different collections, they all stem from nature and are inspired from the world that we live in," said Cimino, 43.

The designer began making jewelry 13 years ago when she started taking classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

"I took a class and I just really loved working with my hands," Cimino said. "It's very cool to have an idea on paper and to actually make that piece … [into] what you wanted it to be. It's funny how jewelry just brings such joy to people."

For eight years, the Woodberry resident has been working full time on her jewelry business, Chee-Mee-No (a phonetic spelling of her last name), and travels from coast to coast showing her work at indoor and outdoor shows. Each piece is handcrafted and can take up to a couple days to complete.

Cimino's booth will feature some of her newer additions to her collections.

"I'm really happy with my new designs," Cimino said. The artist is especially excited about her new color pieces. "I'm really customizing the colors and having fun with [them]," she said.

Yoshi Fujii

YoshiWare, ceramics

Yoshi Fujii, 36, came to Baltimore five years ago to participate in the Baltimore Clayworks residency program. Now, in addition to being a resident artist, Fujii teaches and works as a gallery manager at Clayworks.

Fujii, who lives in Station North, creates what he calls "functional work," such as ceramic plates, cups, bowls, vases and decorative pieces that have eclectic designs inspired by "ideas of West and East," he said.

This weekend, the artist will showcase decorative pieces as well as his functional work for visitors to purchase or to simply admire his detail.

Fujii is not only inspired by his Japanese heritage — he also gains inspiration from traditional textiles and wood-cut prints, wrapping papers, advertisement designs and even tattoos.

"I see [the print] in two dimensional and I then transfer it onto the surface of my pots and by carving on the surface, it becomes a little bit of three dimensional," Fujii said.

Annie Howe

Bmore Papercuts, paper

Annie Howe is not new to the Baltimore arts scene, but she is new to the American Craft Council Show.

"I'm thrilled to be there," Howe said. "I've never done a show on this level of the American Craft Council. … The level of work of the craft council is very high and I'm really honored to be part of it."

Howe, 34, moved to Baltimore from Rhode Island to attend undergrad school at MICA. After 10 years of cutting silhouettes of shadow puppets for an organization called Nana Projects, the Hamilton resident began transferring those skills to paper cutting and quickly realized its potential as a full-time business opportunity.

"I feel really, really lucky because it grew organically," Howe said. "I started this as just a way to give people gifts. [My friends told me I] should try to sell them and show them to people. I was friends with the owners of Clementine … and they were gracious enough to put my stuff up and see if it could sell."

Her work did sell and her business has grown through word of mouth, and by restaurants and stores, such as Clementine, displaying and selling her work. The bulk of Howe's work is commissioned one-of-a-kind, such as wedding invitations, anniversary gifts or presents to a friend. Customers usually ask her to cut paper to resemble a place they lived, or a quote, or a poem that has sentimental value. Howe has also designed for Urban Outfitters and Terrain and created a paper cut for Woodberry Kitchen, who then made the design into T-shirts for sale

When she's not doing commissioned work, Howe gains inspiration from her surroundings and enjoys the challenge of translating her inspiration into a paper cut. She explains that her work often showcases Baltimore's architecture; but other times she enjoys using her exacto knives and razor blades to cut animals and woodlands. Her pieces for the show will be of similar style but on a much larger scale.

"I'm really trying to put my best stuff out there," Howe said.

If you go

The American Craft Council Show is at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St., from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Advance tickets are $14 for a one-day pass and $28 for a three-days pass. On-site tickets are $16 for a one-day pass and $30 a for three-day pass. Tickets purchased after 5 p.m. today are $5. Children under 12 are free. For tickets and more information, go to shows.craftcouncil.org/Baltimore.