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Academy Art Museum Craft Show 2017
October 20 - October 22
On October 20 through 22, the Academy Art Museum in Easton will celebrate the 20th year of its Craft Show. While the 2017 theme of “Fired Up!” conjures up its own level of excitement over the arrival of world-class ceramicists to the event, behind the scenes are secret love stories. These are stories – both marital and generational – that go largely unknown but serve to motivate many of these artists and their arts.
An annual fixture at the Craft Show is the woodworking talent of Jonathan Simons, the “Jonathan” of Jonathan’s Spoons. While apprenticing for a furniture maker, decades ago, Jonathan forgot to pack a spoon for his lunch one day. Surrounded by amazing wood samples, he grabbed a scrap piece and quickly carved a spoon to eat his lunch. Surveying the results, he began carving spoons and other kitchen utensils and the rest is history. Today, Jonathan’s spoons are found in the major Craft shows around the country and in many stores thanks to his presence at the Philadelphia and New York City buyers’ markets. However, behind the scenes those years ago, his daughter Hannah watched her Dad fall in love with his artistry. Even at a young age, Hannah helped Jonathan take phone calls and fill orders. After college, and the realization that bills needed to get paid, Hannah started in the family business by making wooden iPad rests. At this year’s Craft Show, both generations of the Simon’s family will be present. For the first time, Hannah will have her booth (Ideas in Wood) next to her Dad’s selling her new generational artwork to future collectors.
And sometimes Craft Shows themselves can inspire love. It was at just such a show, in Columbus, Ohio, that J.J. Reichert fell in love with Adam Kaser. Adam was already a well-known glassblower who had a large display at the Winterfair. J.J. happened upon his booth and fell in love with many of his glass shells. After gathering an armful to purchase, she turned to Adam to close the sale. Unknowingly, Adam had been watching her and was already quite “taken” by J.J. and the way she had so carefully amassed a collection of his pieces. Adam instantly fell in love with someone who displayed such confidence in his artwork. Now a couple, they continue to inspire each other to achieve new heights with their arts. At the 2017 Academy Craft Show, both Adam and J.J. will have separate booths – he with his glass art pieces and she with her incredible selection of handbags. While pushing each other to go beyond their artistic comfort zones, they have yet to complete one joint project – marriage. Jokingly, they’ve agreed that when that time comes, they will do it where it all began – down the main aisle of the Winterfair craft show in Columbus.
Barbara Umbel spent five years at Towson State University working on degrees in both the arts and business. She fell in love with metal working in the university’s studio during her studies. After graduation, Barbara apprenticed for a goldsmith in Frederick and continued her art advancement by learning the tools of fabrication and stone setting. Upon finishing her apprenticeship, she took the bold step of starting her own jewelry business. Crafting by day, she found herself waitressing by night – after all, the bills still needed to get paid. It was at one restaurant that she met a charming sous chef named Rick. They started to cook together and the aroma of love now mixed with ratatouille. Married in 2001, Rick then decided to go into the business with his new wife. Being her first student, Barbara enthusiastically began teaching Rick all aspects of design and the business of jewelry sales. Today, Rick designs and fabricates half of the jewelry pieces they craft in their joint studio. At the Academy Art Museum Craft Show, Rick and Barbara will be side-by-side selling their beautiful collection (Urchin Jewels).
The Academy Craft Show is proud to introduce two new artists to the Show for 2017 – Cliff Lee and his wife Holly Lee – and together they, too, have a fascinating love story to tell. Cliff was born in Vienna, Austria where his father was an ambassador. He began his schooling in Taiwan but quickly moved to the United States where he earned a degree in biology in 1971. He later became a neurosurgeon after finishing medical school at Penn State. To reduce stress from his work, Dr. Lee enrolled in a ceramics class at James Madison University in Virginia. It was at JMU that he found the two true loves of his life – ceramics and his wife, Holly. Holly was also enrolled at JMU, studying to be a jewelry designer. Today, Dr. Lee and his wife are both world-renowned craftspeople.
The sculptures created by Cliff Lee are made by transforming “kaolin clay” taken from the White Cliffs of Dover, England. He creates vessels that are thrown, carved and fired from the resulting porcelain. His carvings are intricate in nature and are largely inspired by the famous Song Dynasty of China (960 to 1277 AD). The Song Dynasty was historically significant due, largely, to its appreciation and trading of the arts. Dr. Lee was invited by President Clinton to have his works included in the White House Collection of American Crafts and, today, his porcelain is found in leading museums around the United States, including the Smithsonian.
Holly Lee uses metal as her chosen form of self-expression. Her designs are largely inspired by the uniqueness found in her own being. Her pieces are pierced and hand-drilled allowing a sense of light to pass through space, which she feels is a critical aspect of each jewelry design. She uses strong design statement and employs tremendously detailed craftmanship. To Holly, her life is about happiness and fulfillment. Happiness comes from her ability to design and the finished pieces represent her sense of fulfillment. Both Holly and her husband, Cliff, will have booths at this year’s Craft Show.
And, sometimes, the love just spreads all around. An example of this is the Hansbarger family. Ginger Reuling was a young mother on a cattle ranch in Montana. Following the farm hands, she learned how to cut and weld metal. While not something every young Mom strives to do, she began to use this talent as an artist – working, initially, with metal sculpture and eventually with bird houses. Today, she and her husband, Paul Hansbarger, jointly create their beautiful and whimsical birdhouses on their farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Each house is a combined work of love. Paul crafts the houses in pine or cedar, while Ginger fabricates the copper roofs with her plasma torch. Together they then paint each one and adorn them with a wide variety of copper designs. Each finished house is created to be a “safe haven” for a small bird and its family. And now their son, Paul, has entered into the family craft business. Paul, his wife Jessica, and their new baby make waxed canvas handbags, wallets and accessories. All five Hansbargers will be represented at this year’s Academy Craft Show in a double, “family-sized” booth (Lineage Goods and HomeBirdHouses).
The stories go on and on about how the love of artistry can sometimes be so strong and infectious that it can’t be contained and transforms itself into life-long human love stories. Many other booths at this year’s Craft Show will contain husbands and wives, family members, partners and life-partners – most of whom are together because of their love for the arts. As you tour the show, take time to stop and talk to each of the impressive artisans and ask them about their own love stories.
The Academy Art Museum Craft Show will be held on Saturday, October 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, October 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily admission is $10 for museum members and $12 for non-members. A Preview Party will be held on Friday, October 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets for the event are $100 per person (includes a complimentary ticket for admission all weekend). Tickets can be purchased at the museum or by calling 410-822-2787. For further information, visit academycraftshow.com.
Many booths at this year’s Craft Show will contain husbands and wives, family members, partners and life-partners – most of whom are together because of their love for the arts.