Years ago, I was sitting in my condo watching WJZ on a cold bright Sunday morning in February. Between the week’s weather reports and the newest news, they were highlighting an arts and crafts show. But this arts and crafts show had giant sculptures of balloon animals made of plastic and modern pieces carved out of wood. Apparently, this was not my great-grandmother’s arts and crafts corner.
Over the span of my school years, I was a crafter myself. Besides the usual finger paints and colored pencil drawings, I also made realistic-looking animals out of papier-mâché, created flower arrangements with silk, and even completed a cross-stitch or ten. So I am no stranger to the challenge of putting aside time and effort to create something that will cause a person to stop in their steps and consider my work.
After that newscast, I packed up my wallet and headed out to what I assumed to be just a show with people displaying their wares. I could never have known that it would turn into a yearly tradition (just for myself) where I go to gather inspiration, jewelry and, most unexpectedly, friends.
It’s true, some of those transactions have turned into friendships that cover purchases, social media and catching up on a year’s worth of life lived. I came to this realization on the walk back to my car after spending the morning at the 2020 American Crafts Council Show in Baltimore, doing just that. Without being a public artist, I’ve become a sort of side-fixture in the arts community of Baltimore, and I couldn’t be happier about it, to be honest.
When I attended that first ACC so many years ago, I didn’t know that I’d make friends with Sarah Tector and go from groupie buyer to semi-email and Insta pals. She’s given me information on classes I could take if I wanted to start my own metalworking journey, offered sneak peaks at new jewelry ideas, been featured on this very site and even introduced me to her mom. She’s someone I hug when I see and look forward to chatting up. And yes, while I did buy two pairs of earrings from her (I mean have you seen her stuff???), that wasn’t the reason I made a beeline to her booth. I was excited to hear of her new ventures in metalwork and how her year has been. She genuinely asked about my school year so far and mentioned my most recent post, which she read. It’s because we’ve connected over our love of art, creation and extremely cool jewelry over the years.
Last year’s trip brought Amy Blair into my life. Her funky and outside-the-box style stopped me on the spot and brought me back to her Sun Ah Blair booth twice. As we chatted, I learned about her life here in Baltimore and how she makes her incredible polymer jewelry. I was charmed by her warm nature. Over the last year, we’ve been able to meet up at other events and discuss the greater art scene here in Baltimore. Her face always lights up when she sees me, and I’m always excited for what she’s thought of next. We’ve got a standing coffee date that I know will happen when we’re both not so busy. (Insert laughs now.)
Being part of the art scene, as a patron and writer, has opened up relationships and acquaintances I never would have had otherwise. While walking the show, I ran into Mowgli of Mowgli Art, who personally introduced me to the owner of MakeShift Accessories (bought something from him two years ago – proving I have great taste). We’ve been running into each other over the years at festivals and shows, I’ve gone to his shows and he’s been super supportive of my work here.
As has Deirdre of 5 Cow Farm Boards, who I ran into at the Workshop of Our Own pop-up. After a second, we realized we’d met at a Greater Goods Market where I helped her figure out the tagging system on InstaStories. And while I didn’t see Kacey of Found Studio/Shop (so sorry I missed her!), she has been a big cheerleader and mentor for me over the past year.
That first February, I had no idea I was embarking on years of making purchases, contacts and friends. I thought I was simply binge-shopping on incredible jewelry and art. But I gained so much more than the compliments I receive when I wear their work. (Although it’s a nice perk.) I also gained entrance into a community that is diverse and imaginative, supportive and kind. I’m an artist whose materials aren’t watercolors and resin but a keyboard and language – yet I’ve been welcomed into this community the same as if I had paint on my jeans.
Life is weird that way.
What could just B more comforting?
There’s still time to catch the American Craft Council at the Baltimore Convention Center:
February 21: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
February 22: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
February 23: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tell them just B more sent you!