By Dasha Morgan- Bruce Johnson, renowned author and Conference Director, has once again held the three-day educational conference this past weekend on Arts & Crafts at the Omni Grove Park Inn.
Many local artisans exhibited at this national show— such as furniture maker Brian Brace of Black Mountain, jewelry designer Amy Brandenburg, and handmade Art Pottery by Julie Calhoun Roepnack, JCR Designs, of North Asheville.
The distinctive Arts & Crafts style has certainly influenced the architecture in this area. The Arts & Crafts Movement was a social and artistic movement of the 19th century in reaction to the industrial revolution. An emphasis was placed on the return to handwork, skilled craftsmanship, and attention to design in both utilitarian and decorative objects.
The Grove Park Inn, which was built in 1913 and furnished in the Arts & Crafts style, has become a mecca for Arts & Crafts enthusiasts. Johnson offered many exhibitions, booths, small group discussions, educational displays, workshops, walking tours, house tours, and demonstrations that ran from early morning to nearly midnight all weekend long.
The New York Times has called it “the most important weekend of the year for Arts & Crafts collectors,” and indeed with room after room of incredible displays of Art & Crafts items it is easy to see why. This is not a Victorian, Art Deco or Art Nouveau conference but is totally inspired by the original Arts & Crafts activities of the early 1900s.
On February 15-17 undoubtedly more than 2500 people from across the United States, Canada and England, as well as throughout Asheville and Western North Carolina, converged on the Omni Grove Park Inn for the 32nd National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows.
The participants found new and vintage style furniture, art pottery, tiles, textiles, lighting, jewelry, rugs and art. Amazing Arts & Crafts items were being shown, where more than 100 antiques dealers, artists and artisans had handsome, handcrafted pieces for sale and were present to discuss them.
There was much to be seen and learned, as the conference included three separate shows: the Antiques Show, the Contemporary Craftsfirms Show and the Books, Magazines & More Show. People came not only to buy, but also to learn as well. There were hands on workshops on Embroidery, Coppersmithing, Jewelry- Making, and Printmaking. In addition one could hear a number of incredible speakers — such as woodworker and Gustav Stickley researcher, Stewart Crick, or John Ruskin scholar James Spates.
The Asheville-Buncombe County Preservation Society organized afternoon bus tours that has included stops and interior viewings of up to 6 homes and buildings of interest to Arts & Crafts attendees. This year’s tour was in Norwood Park–between Merrimon and Kimberly Avenues in North Asheville.
All homes open were located in National Register listed Norwood Park which offers an eclectic mix of houses mostly built between 1912 and the 1930s. Docents were available in each home to answer any questions. Proceeds of the tour benefited the Preservation Society’s efforts to preserve Asheville and Buncombe County’s historic architecture.
On Saturday the Asheville Art Museum’s assistant curator Whitney Richardson gave a presentation about Women and American Art Pottery at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church—a fine example of an Arts & Crafts style building done by the renowned architect Richard Sharp Smith. Art pottery was a business in which decorative ceramics were mass produced, finished—and often painted in detail—by hand.
Speaker Whitney Richardson, the Museum’s assistant curator, specializes in craft, decorative arts, and architecture of the 20th and 21st centuries. She recently curated Symbols of Asheville, an exhibition looking at Asheville’s Art Deco masterpiece: its city hall.
Since 1988 Asheville has been known as the Arts and Crafts capital of the South. Many Craftsman Bungalow homes are scattered throughout this area, and the style has seen a resurgence in the last 20 years. The 32nd Arts & Crafts Conference highlighted the features of simplicity and quality of craftsmanship, which define this period. It was once again an exciting memorable conference to attend.