Howard County artists market their creativity at American Craft Council Show
By By Mike Giuliano
Feb 20, 2012 | 4:25 PM
Ellicott City artist Theodora "Teddi" Fine has been going to the annual American Craft Council Show at the Baltimore Convention Center for the past 20 years.
This faithful visitor finally will be one of the more than 650 artists from around the country exhibiting there. She's thrilled to have her own booth at the 36th annual craft show running Friday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 26.
"The idea of being among people whose work I have coveted for years is both gratifying and mind boggling," Fine, 62, says of the opportunity to exhibit. "When you create something, you're not just putting your things out there. It's an extension of yourself."
There are autobiographical threads running through her decision six years ago to give up a career as a lobbyist and speechwriter for a new career threading together small beads and porcelain into pieces of jewelry.
"My grandmother taught me to bead as a kid and then I put it away for 50 years," Fine said. "Now I have come home to craft. Part of what I do is my connection to my past."
Although Fine is a first-time exhibitor at the Baltimore show, several other Howard County artists have exhibited there many times before. All of these artists also take their work to similar shows along the East Coast and into the Midwest. They recently got together to talk shop at a coffee shop in the Columbia Mall.
"The Baltimore show starts out my year," said decorative fiber artist Susan Levi-Goerlich, who will have a booth for the 17th time at the Baltimore show.
"I come with new work and new directions," she said, noting that her sales results at the Baltimore fair influence her decisions about what to make and market for the rest of the year.
A 53-year-old Columbia resident, Levi-Goerlich uses layers of colored silk to make framed pieces that are intended to hang on the wall. Some of these pieces are representational depictions of actual gardens, while other pieces are abstractions.
Her 25-year career as a fiber artist follows an early career as a lawyer. She went from filing motions in court to doing what's technically known in her craft field as free-motion machine embroidery.
Whatever their medium of choice, considerable artistry is involved for everybody gathered around this table.
"I think of myself as an artist. Craft I see as doing the same thing over and over again. I like to think that every time I make something, it's different," says Ed Kidera, 57, of Woodbine, who is exhibiting for the ninth time at the American Craft Council Show.
Following a career as an engineer and software designer, Kidera for the past 21 years has made sculptures from metal scraps that he scavenges.
It's a good thing that his own property comprises more than six acres, and it also helps that his wife is also an artist, because, Kidera said, "I collect things and have piles of junk, and it will inspire a piece at times. Mostly I use old stuff that I get from junkyards and dumps. I go on a regular basis."
The steel scraps are given new life as bells, birdbaths, mailboxes and anthropomorphic assemblages that he calls "crazy creatures." A day at the office for him means making a bell from a split oxygen tank.
"I love selling my work locally," said Giselle Kolb, 41, of Laurel, who is exhibiting for the sixth year at the Baltimore show.
Her metal and enamel jewelry has floral motifs that she describes as being "very organic. When I started making jewelry, it just became a flowers thing."
Trained as a graphic designer, she went on to receive a certificate in jewelry from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She observes that her colorful floral designs have been influenced by craft traditions in her native Peru.
Besides putting a lot of thought and labor into their work, these artists have been designing their own booths at the Baltimore Convention Center, where Kidera says "they give you a concrete pad and a piece of tape."
The average booth size is around 10-feet-by-10-feet, so they need to decide everything from what color to paint its back wall to whether or not to have large photographs depicting their often small work. Being an artist involves more than making the work. They also need to think about marketing it.
Although most of them make lightweight little objects, Kidera pointed out that "I have some of the heaviest stuff." He estimates that he will be loading around 3,000 pounds worth of sculpture into his van as he makes the trip from Howard County into the city.
All of these artists will be setting up shop in hopes of selling artwork ranging in price from $100 to several thousand dollars. The recession hit them pretty hard, because, as Levi-Goerlich said with a laugh, "We sell stuff that you do not need."
Sales have been picking up recently, however, and the Baltimore fair still draws crowds. As Teddi Fine said, "There's a cachet to the Baltimore craft show."
She and the others are hoping that the cachet translates into cash.
The American Craft Council Show runs Feb. 24- 26 at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt Street in downtown Baltimore. Hours are 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $16 for a one-day pass and $30 for a three-day pass. Go to http://www.craftcouncil.org/baltimore.