This past weekend I was able to be at a fine craft show from the perspective of patron instead of exhibitor. It wasn’t your average show either, it was the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show. This is one competitive show with some top names and talent from around the country (both coasts, and north and south). Held the the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philly, the show features about 150 artists working in wood, glass, fiber, metal, paper, leather, clay, and mixed media. My partner and I took our time going through the show, talking with artists as we went.

It was an exciting event with some spectacular work, a great venue, and some engaging artists. I was especially excited to see names like Mary Jackson (basketry), and Cliff Lee (Ceramics), celebrities! But I also discovered several artists I was unfamiliar with. Standouts for me were Joana Mattson (felted wool), Pavel Novak (glass), Melodie Grace (Raku pottery), and Gordon Browning (wood).

Not all the work raised to the level I expected for such a show, but overall I was satisfied with the quality of work I experienced. It was great to be the audience at a show, asking questions, evaluating work that interested me. Some of the artists were very engaging. But, unfortunately, others were disengaged, on their phones, not greeting visitors. It was good for me as a full time artist to see others at work in such a fine setting. Every time I go to a show like this it is full of lessons and confirmation of personal beliefs.


One thought on “The Other Side

  1. Very perceptive observations as usual, Paul. You hit upon one of my pet peeves when you spoke about engagement. As we both know, good shows, like Philly, are very expensive–$2k-$4k+–in direct costs, not to mention the ancillary (or hidden) costs: e.g., the time and costs associated with creating the work to be presented, depreciation of show fixtures et al. With those in mind, I have never understood why participating artists and artisans–especially those at the pinnacle of their disciplines (who should know better)–would fail to be fully engaged from the minute the show opens until the last prospective patron has left the show floor (and beyond.) Again, as we know, talking on cell phones, negativity of any kind, even sitting down, having one’s partner(s) in the booth (when no patrons present), etc. etc. are among the most effective ways to turn what could otherwise be an outstanding/successful show on its head. I only hope that others who do shows will read your post and take your thoughts to heart.

    Know that you have my best wishes for a marvelous Christmas season!

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