By Dasha Morgan
On February 21-23 more than 2500 people from across the United States, Canada and England, as well as throughout Asheville and Western North Carolina, will converge on the Omni Grove Park Inn for the 33rd National Arts and Crafts Conference. For many collectors of this simple, beautiful, and functional American design this event is their Mecca in the southeast. It was the style that changed America forever. From its beginnings in the early 1900’s, the Arts and Crafts movement embraced the idea of hand-craftsmanship using native materials, including oak, clay, and copper, in contrast to the mass-produced items of the Industrial Revolution. Bruce E. Johnson, the conference director, brings the finest Arts & Crafts items to one spot for one weekend to be seen, studied and possibly bought. Year after year he coordinates an incredibly invigorating conference and show at the Omni Grove Park Inn.
The shows are open to the public and take place from 1:00-6:00pm on Friday, February 21; noon-6:00pm on Saturday, February 22; and 11:00am-4:00pm on Sunday, February 23. The general admission cost is $10 for adults; $5 for students. For workshops and other events there may be an additional charge. Outdoor parking is free, as well as three hours in the hotel garages. For more information, just go to www.Arts-CraftsConference.com or call Bruce Johnson, conference director, at (828) 628-1915.
More than 100 antiques dealers, artists and artisans will have works for sale. Expect to see the handcrafted oak furniture of Gustav Stickley and Charles Limbert, matte green vases by Grueby Pottery and Rookwood, mica lighting by the Roycroft Copper Shop and Dirk van Erp, and handwoven textiles decorated with cattails, gingko leaves, and purple iris blossoms. Arts and Crafts collectors and bungalow owners from across America journey to the historic 1913 Grove Park Inn to present their collections. You will be able as well to find handcrafted contemporary items in the Arts and Crafts style, including new and antique jewelry, rugs, furniture, pottery, tiles, artwork, furniture, and metalware, showcasing the hand-craftsmanship and simple yet elegant designs which are the hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts movement and philosophy. This is a truly remarkable conference highlighting the quality craftsmanship of the Arts & Crafts period.
The historic hotel becomes a visual feast of this turn of the century period, but in addition includes seminars, discussion groups, walking tours, demonstrations and many workshops. Making their annual return to instruct these workshops are Master Artisans Laura Wilder, Frank Glapa, Natalie Richards, and Ron VanOstrand. Laura Wilder will return with “Arts & Crafts Printmaking.” Laura will demonstrate basic printmaking steps, and as you work, she will tell stories of triumph and tragedy, using some of her own prints to illustrate. Frank Glapa leads “Coppersmithing: Arts & Crafts Style” designed to get attendees started on the basics of copper repousse techniques, hammering and shaping your copper “tile” into an incredible piece of Arts & Crafts metalwork. The basics of embroidery will be covered in Natalie Richards’ “Arts & Crafts Embroidery.” The workshop will be geared toward not only individuals new to embroidery but attendees who have taken previous embroidery workshops. Finally, Ron VanOstrand’s “Small Art Metal Project” is a workshop where you’ll create a small art metal object such as a keychain fob, pendant, or ornamental bookmark using chasing, repoussé, stamping, and sawing techniques.
Conference attendees can expect to experience a wide variety of powerful and educational presentations at this year’s conference. On Friday evening, February 21st, historical portrayal actor Annette Baldwin will present her rendition in character and period dress of Jane Addams, the social justice icon and co- founder of Chicago’s Hull House. On Saturday morning, the life and times of George Ohr will return to the Heritage Ballroom in a presentation given by art history professor Ellen Lippert in which she’ll explore “George Ohr: Sophisticate or Rube?” Historian Robert Rust will also present “Bert Hubbard: The Forgotten Son Who Saved Roycroft” and will reveal how Bert saved the Roycroft Campus after his father’s death in 1915 aboard the Lusitania. Saturday evening will bring the highly-anticipated red carpet premiere of the documentary “Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman” to the Grove Park Inn’s Heritage Ballroom. The feature film will examine the life and work of Arts and Crafts movement pioneer Gustav Stickley. The conference seminars continue on Sunday with “Beating Swords into Ploughshares: World War I and the Arts & Crafts Movement,” where historian and curator Ryan Berley will present his research on the little-known subject of handcrafted items made by soldiers in the wartime trenches. Finally, photographer Douglas Keister’s image-packed presentation will give attendees a look behind the scenes of how Storybook Style came to be known as the “architecture that makes you smile” – Keister’s “The Bungalow Goes to Hollywood” will round out the seminars for the 2020 conference.
In addition, in the neighborhood around the hotel, the Asheville-Buncombe County Preservation Society has organized a three-hour afternoon bus tour that includes stops and interior viewings of up to 4 homes and buildings of interest to Arts & Crafts attendees. Docents accompany each tour, both on the bus and inside each home, giving a brief history of Asheville and the homes on the tour. These tours run Saturday, February 22nd 1:00 PM -5:00 PM and
Sunday, February 23rd 12:30 PM – 5:00 PM. The tour bus will run approximately every 30 minutes – the last shuttle bus will leave at 5:00 PM – so that you can do your tour between your other conference activities. There are no paper tickets you need to pick up for the event – instead you can pick up your pass at the Preservation Society table at the Omni Grove Park Inn. (This should not be confused with the Conference Events Pass attendees will receive upon checking in at the Grove Park Inn – this tour pass will be a separate pass) Proceeds of the tour benefit the Preservation Society’s efforts to preserve Asheville and Buncombe County’s historic architecture.
Throughout the weekend, there are a full array of periodicals, quarterlies, newsletters, and books to look through at various bookstalls and book discussion groups moderated for several years by Pat Bartinique, a professor of English, will be held on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Bruce Johnson’s books, of course will be available—such as “Tales of the Grove Park Inn” “Arts & Crafts Shopmarks, 1895-1940 L. & L.G. Stickley Handcraft,” (A shopmarks is the key that unlocks the value of any Arts and Crafts antique) or his newly released book, “Tom, Scott & Zelda.” In addition, at the newly renovated Asheville Art Museum, there will be a panel discussion of Asheville, Tourism, and the Arts & Crafts Movement. This will be held Saturday, February 22 from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM with Lynne Poitier-Wilson, Whitney Richardson and Terry Taylor as panelists. The cost for this Museum event is $25 for Museum Members, $35 non-members (includes Museum admission, refreshments, and shuttle service for conference attendees).
“In just three days,” explained conference director Bruce Johnson, “you will see more, do more, and learn more about the Arts and Crafts movement than you could anywhere else in an entire year.” It is an event not to be missed. For a full schedule and information, go to arts-craftsconference.com