Visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 37th annual Craft Show, held from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, will find among a sea of pottery, jewelry and furniture, a four-sided metal spinning top.
The artist, Joy Stember, makes functional pewter dreidels, among other traditional Jewish wares like menorahs and challah knives. She likes to imagine her metal works straddling the line that separates an antique piece from a contemporary one — and, according to Stember, her customers respond well to this.
“My customers like to open up about how they grew up and how they used their grandparents’ pieces and the importance of heirlooms,” said Stember, who lives in Abington, Pa. “My generation doesn’t hold that important anymore, which is why I’m making contemporary heirlooms that will help them stay attached to their traditions.”
Stember will join 195 artists, selected by a jury from 1,000 applicants, for the museum’s craft show. For many artists, it’s a chance to defy what Internet shopping has made nearly ubiquitous and to meet potential buyers in the skin.
Clothing designer and craft show artisan Annina King says, “Meeting with your retail clients face-to-face is so incredible for a brand that’s growing because you get feedback and you meet the most amazing people.”
King, who lives in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., usually receives feedback about the women’s wear she designs and makes by hand from boutique owners who sell her work.
A former student of history, King looks to historic costume and early 20th-century U.S. fashion as a baseboard from which to craft the clothing she envisions a woman who is “beautiful and sensual, but also intelligent and strong” donning.
“I love corsetry or the use of boning and corsetry hidden within garments,” says King. “Some of my daywear, like high-waisted pencil skirts, includes corsetry to keep it always looking nice and to give it structure so you stand tall and look confident — the 1950s pencil shape, but modernized,” she says.
Outside of fashion, King sees the human form mirrored in the outdoors, and finds inspiration for her clothing in the lines made by nature.
“I grew up among a lot of trees with a dad who would take us on walks,” she says. The memories have stayed with her.
“I have a lot of branch or vine pieces,” says King. “You can’t improve on nature.”
Both King and Stember, the metals artist, saw a renewed vibrancy in their work after spending time outside the U.S. King visited Paris to learn from other artisanal clothing designers, while Stember traveled to Israel as part of a Birthright trip.
Stember says the visit was “more of an awakening than anything else,” and strengthened her view of herself as an artist. For King, her trip to Paris to meet with fellow designers meant seeing a community of people making clothes outside of mass-production and doing what she wanted to do.
“It was fascinating to see artisanal, hand-crafted clothing as opposed to huge mass-production,” she says. “Seeing these designers who are doing very small-end, intense amounts of hand work and embellishment was very inspiring.”
With her successful entry into a craft show and a chance to show off all of her hand-made work, King is thrilled be part of a world where artists are wrist-deep in their work.
“It’s exciting to see these artists who put their hearts into what they’re doing,” says King.