By Mark Ellis Bennett
Thousands of collectors and enthusiasts of the Arts & Crafts genre will come to the Grove Park Inn this weekend to meet antique vendors and contemporary craftsmen who produce and sell everything from prints to furniture, lighting, jewelry, pottery, tiles, textiles, art, books and more. The 29th annual Arts & Crafts Conference will be filled with back-to-back presentations, demonstrations, small group discussions, and chances to socialize with other devotees of all things Arts & Crafts.
The Arts & Crafts Movement marked a departure from heavy Victorian ornamentation and home furnishings produced in factories. For those unfamiliar with the movement, it began toward the end of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and soon spread to America. It favored crafts designed with clean lines, fashioned with one’s head, heart and hands from simple materials such as copper, tile, oak and glass.
Bruce Johnson, director of the annual conference since its inception 29 years ago, spends the entire year with his staff working on all the details that will result in a seamless three-day event. “I will be the first to admit, quite honestly, there are days it gets quite tedious. Yet, when you get here and the place fills up with these wonderful antiques and great contemporary works, and then you bring in all this energy, it just takes on a life of its own. Once it starts I literally step back in awe of it, and get out of the way.”
Johnson and his staff have already been planning for the next conference for several months. “We have known for several years now that the enthusiasm over the Arts & Crafts style and philosophy of simple yet elegant and beautiful furnishings would carry us into our 30th anniversary year.”
He said one of the most challenging aspects of planning an event of this magnitude is making enough changes to keep it fresh without making so many changes that we lose track of what has carried it this far. “Our three-day format continues to emphasize the education of the typical Arts & Crafts collector by scheduling seminars that do not conflict with the times of the shows, insisting that every piece have a price clearly marked, having daily small group discussions on a variety of topics, and featuring authors and book publishers.”
Pre-conference hands-on workshops in metalworking, block printmaking, landscape design and stenciling begin on Thursday. These continue on Friday with jewelry design and embroidering added to the lineup. Seminar topics include The Arts & Crafts Movement: A View From The 21st Century, Playing With Fire: Pottery Glazes of the Arts & Crafts Movement, Woodblock Prints: Arthur Wesley Dow and His Influence, New Discoveries In Arts & Crafts Metalware, The Role of the Roycrofters at the Grove Park Inn by Bruce Johnson, The Die-Hard ‘Dazzle’ Style of Louis Sullivan by Colleen Yarger, and If Walls Could Talk: Paper, Paint or Stencil?
Grove Park Inn is host to many events and groups ranging from political functions to business conventions and big band, comedy, or ballroom dancing getaway weekends, but Johnson says the Arts & Crafts crowd is different. “Most other groups know what Arts & Crafts is, but they don’t appreciate it like this group does. This conference is important in keeping the Arts & Crafts spirit and commerce alive. During the conference the building pulsates. It’s like there’s Arts & Crafts blood running through the veins of the Grove Park Inn,” Johnson said.
General admission for the Antiques Show and Contemporary Craftsfirms Show from Friday through Sunday is $10. If you want to attend the eight major seminar presentations, the daily small group discussions, the afternoon demonstrations, and the special educational exhibits, and all three shows each day, you will need to register in advance for the Conference Pass. The cost is $150 per person. For more information about the conference or to register online visit www. http://arts-craftsconference.com.