Saturday, March 21, 2009

ArtsBuzz: Fine Craft Show a lure for collectors

Artist Nancy Kubale. (Photo by Katie Deits)

By Katie Deits

WEST PALM BEACH -- Contemporary art has been the best investment of any category since the end of World War II, local artist Bruce Helander told an audience Friday at the Palm Beach Fine Craft Show.

Helander, a maker of collages who sported his trademark orange bowler Friday, was a last-minute replacement for a speaker who canceled just before the juried show at the Palm Beach Convention Center. His talk was full of reminiscences about famous artist friends such as Andy Warhol and Dale Chihuly, passionate collectors as well as creators.

“If you can afford it, support these fine craft artists, even if you can only purchase something small,” Helander said, and urged his listeners to trust their instincts for quality when looking at the artwork.

If an artist is good, it should be readily apparent. “They have a sense of purpose, confidence. They’re fresh, honest and full of the love of creation of their craft," he said. "You can sense their pride and energy.”

More than 100 craft artists are displaying their work at the Fine Craft Show, which continues today and Sunday. Artists in this show must live and work in the United States, and many of them already are highly sought by collectors and have placed pieces in museums.

Here are some of the artists whose work caught my eye Friday:

* Buyers were lined up at Nancy Kubale's booth to purchase her fanciful ceramic and mixed media figures (seen at top of this post). Karen Flanders drove from Fort Myers to buy Kubale's figures, which she has been collecting for the past six years. Robin and Sharon Bauer of Singer Island also bought several of Kubale's small characters.

“They made me smile," Sharon Bauer said. "We plan to put them in an area where we will see them every day.”

Woodworker Brad Smith. (Photo by Katie Deits)

* Pennsylvania woodworker Brad Smith had one of the most innovative booths. His tent-like roof created a stage for his off-the-wall furniture, such as a cabinet with uneven sides, a stool made from a tractor seat, and a chest in which yardsticks were used for the wood.
Michael Schunke with some of his glass creations.
(Photo by Katie Deits)

* Michael Schunke, owner of Nine Iron Studios in West Grove, Pa., studied glass blowing at prestigious institutes such as the Rhode Island School of Design. His booth features handblown glass vessels, sculpture and lamps.

Ceramic artist Debra Fritts. (Photo by Katie Deits)

*Another ceramic artist and the “Best of Show” winner from last year is Georgia artist Debra Fritts If you attended the palmbeach3 contemporary art fair, you may have noticed Fritt’s work in the Ferrin Gallery booth.

Her highly collectible and emotional work spans from sculpture to smaller pieces and small vessels. She often combines found objects with the terracotta clay and adopts a painterly approach to the surface treatment.

Weaver Patricia Burling. (Photo by Katie Deits)

* Connecticut weaver Patricia Burling brought a selection of her detailed rugs, along with a myriad of colorful handwoven shawls and throws fashioned from mohair, wool, silk and rayon. Burling also specializes in creating custom rugs and throws for individual specifications.

Today at 11:30 a.m., artist Chris Roberts-Aniteau will speak about decorative fiber, and at 1 p.m. jewelry designer Marianne Hunter will give a talk about giving "new life" to estate jewelry.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, interior designer Joseph Pubillones will give a talk called Incorporating Art Objects Into Your Living Space.

The Palm Beach Fine Craft Show runs through 6 p.m. today and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, children under 12, free. For more information, visit the Website.

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