Diary of a (Mad) Craft Show Artist – Finale

by Michael on September 8, 2014

September 8, 2014 – Back at Base

And so, dear reader, I am happy to report that the Invasion of Evanston was a complete and unmitigated success. Fine craft artists from all over America stormed the beaches of Lake Michigan and flooded the indoor tennis courts of Northwestern University with beauty and achingly-fine craftsmanship. Vini, vidi, vici.

The show itself was superbly organized and ran smoothly from beginning to end.  Hearty kudos to The Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem and all those on the ground who assisted us.  

There are several ways of judging one’s personal success at a show such as ACE, especially on the debut outing. Regardless of income, commissions, or press, one must consider the effect one’s work has had on individual viewers.

 A single incident made me feel as if the show had been a total success: an elderly gentleman came into the booth and slowly, measuredly, with his hands clasped behind his back, worked his way around the tables. He tilted his head back so he could see through his bifocals, carefully examined each piece, and read each description card. As other people came in, he would stand to the side a bit so that they, too, could look at certain pieces, but he would always find his way back to the work he’d been viewing and pick up his inspection journey from there. I believe this gent may have been in the booth a full half-hour, yet never said a word.

He eventually viewed the last piece, turned to me, and, with a relaxed but genuine smile, said, “Wonderful, just wonderful.” He started to walk away, but then turned his head to me, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Thank you.”

I knew in a flash that whether or not I sold another piece, my show had been a triumph. In a very real moment of déjà vu, I was transported back to a concert I’d sung in 1985 and the memories of another gentleman in that audience.  I relayed that experience in an essay I wrote about why I make, a portion of which I’d like to share with you here:

I was singing a pops concert once when I noticed a man sitting in one of the front rows holding his hat in his lap. He was smiling and tapping on the sides of the hat in time with the music. I realized, in a flash, that that man would go home from the theater happier than when he’d arrived, and that what I was doing would make a difference in his life, even if only for that evening. I feel I am doing the same thing now with decorative arts, but, hopefully, the tangible nature of the objects I create will make the happiness last a bit longer than one evening.

It is these sorts of memories that sustain me in the long and solitary hours of making.   To read the full essay, click here. 

And so, I am already back to work, preparing to return to Chicago for the SOFA show in November, then on to the Society of Arts and Crafts’ CraftBoston show in December. My comrades and I will again be there on the front lines fighting ugliness and mediocrity, and, as always, we will not cease in our efforts until we can declare total victory.



August 21, 2014 – D-Day Evening

ACE Elixir


Provisions have arrived to sustain both the front line troops (a.k.a. artists) and those reviewing the troops and their wares, i.e., donors, patrons and invited guests. The provisions are taking on many forms including succulent hangar steak, fabulous Asian fare, and finely-crafted desserts.  But the hit of the night has been the ACE Elixir, a concoction of vodka, ginger-infused lemonade, and a splash of something mysterious, served up and with a twist.  It is proving to be as well-crafted and tasteful as everything else at this show.

ACE Elixir


August 21, 2014:  D-Day

We are safely ashore. A roomful of cardboard boxes, crates, empty booths and disheveled artists has morphed into a space filled with extreme beauty and elegant fine craftsmanship. My comrades and I are prepared to meet our discerning public.  The doors have opened, the music has begun, and, most importantly, hors d’oeuvres are now being passed.  Stand by for updates from the front lines.

ACE Booth - before croppedACE Booth cropped

ACE Booth – Before & After


August 20, 2014 – D minus 2 – En route

ACE Subaru - cropped

Well, for those of you following this saga (melodrama), as you will surmise from the attached photo, we decided to drive to The American Craft Exposition in Evanston. Our faithful little Subaru has whisked us through beautiful mid-western farmland filled with cattle and corn.  We’ve also had ample time for conversation, and my wife can assure you that all of the bull and corn is not in the roadside fields.  The Chicago skyline is now in sight, so I must sign off and prepare to join my comrades as we seek to invade Evanston with beauty.




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