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Your guide for the 2012 American Craft Council Show

7 tips to help make the most of this weekend's craft extravaganza

By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun

8:59 AM EST, February 24, 2012

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The American Craft Council Show has been coming to Baltimore for 36 years, and the two have been good to each other: Workmanship that is as much art as craft has been embraced each year by huge crowds.

But like any relationship, it can benefit from a little freshening. So organizers scoured the country — and other craft shows — for new talent, and there will be almost 200 new artists among the 700 exhibitors this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center.

They bring a wide range of offerings: exotic dolls, intricately carved gourds, whimsical furniture, jewelry that tells a love story, flowers preserved forever as glass.

"Everybody shops our show looking for talent, so that's what we did," said Pam Diamond, the council's director of marketing and communication.

"We worked with guilds and associations, and they got to pick people they thought were up-and-comers and that would raise the bar. We are looking for the next generation, with new aesthetics. We are trying to mix it up."

The show did some freshening of its own, including a new layout on the Convention Center floor, a user-friendly pocket guide and a new website, all of which make navigating the show easier.

One thing has not changed in the more than three decades this show has brightened the Baltimore winter landscape: "Buy what you love," Diamond said.

Tips for first-timers

1. Before you go, take a few minutes to visit the show's website at craftcouncil.org/baltimore. Check the list of categories to find your favorites: ceramics, metal, furniture, wearable fashion and others. Scan photos of the artists' work and make a note of the booth numbers. The website also has a map of the show floor.

2. As they say to casino first-timers: Bring only as much money as you are prepared to spend.

3. Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing. The show covers 250,000 square feet, the Convention Center is climate-controlled and you will be there with more than 20,000 other craft lovers during the weekend. There are concession stands throughout the hall.

4. Consider buying a three-day pass. This show is a lot to take in during a single day, and returning on Saturday or Sunday gives you a chance to carefully consider your purchases. Or, if the item you fell in love with has been sold, you can ask the artist to create another for you.

5. Plan to spend a minimum of two to three hours — and that might only give you time to see two or three aisles. By the way, the aisles are wide enough for strollers and wheelchairs. And consider bringing the kids: Children 12 and under are free.

6. Best times to avoid the crowds: after 3 p.m. and before 5 p.m. on Friday and Sunday afternoon. The crowds are steady all day Saturday.

7. Don't buy with the idea that one day the artist or his work will be more valuable. It is difficult to outguess the future. Instead, buy what you love.

If you go

The American Craft Council Show is 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St. Advance admission: $14 for a one-day pass; $25 for a three-day pass. Day of admission: $16 for a one-day pass, $30 for a three-day pass. Free for American Craft Council members and children 12 and under. Special Friday evening admission: $5 after 5 p.m.

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