By Richard Campbell

Surely one of the most spectacularly staged art events during the holiday season is the annual Craft Boston Holiday Show held at the Hynes Convention Center. Sponsored by the Society of Arts and Crafts, (head quartered in the Seaport District). The lavish presentation was quite an abundant fine art gift collection.  From pottery to woodwork, jewelry and fabric arts, to fashion and household designer furniture, strolling through the vast displays revealed quite a lot of treasure.

It is impossible to leave that show without buying something.  The level of artistry displayed by over 100 artists who were selling their works would put most ordinary craft festivals to shame. The majority of this craft show contained heirloom quality art work, and many works were on the museum quality level. On Friday the crowd was light, but just as I imagined: the weekend show was roaring.  If you or your business are looking for extraordinarily high level of craftsmanship in decorative design, looking up the artisans in this show would be a great place to start.

Perhaps one of the distinguishing features of fine art crafts from ordinary craftwork is not merely the ability of the artist to practice the craft well, but the ability of the artist to bring off challenging pieces with a unique set of skills that show design polish.  The stunning features of many of these works demonstrated this kind of risk and reward.  When you hold these works in your hands there is the kind of palatable excitement with which ordinary craftwork simply can’t compete.  These are the kind of art objects that get rescued and handed down for generations. They are, quite simply, heirlooms.

There was a lot of jewelry, and as with all categories, it would be impossible to review every artist. Linda Kindler Priest’s works of delicate gold beauty, gave the impression of rare ancient Egyptian art. In more traditional, but also stunning jewelry, Patty Bolz work’s glistened with diamonds and gold shaped in a modern context.  If you or someone you know is searching for a truly original setting for an engagement, this designer answers that call. From a young local designer, Lauren Blais, of Somerville created more down to earth organic shaped jewelry in distinctive Victorian styles that would appeal to a younger audience looking for fresh interpretations.

Equally large in this showing was pottery and hand blown glassware. R Jason Howard showed masterful glass blowing with iconic visions, reminiscent of sea urchins, coral, and fantastic ornaments- his work had a great iridescent quality.  Irina Okula, of Clay Shards Pottery created vessels of inordinate beauty. Her forms of white earthenware clay, were often spun on a potter’s wheel and then transformed through a series of mercurial processes.  They immediately reminded me of the Lascaux caves in France.  From Ipswich Massachusetts, her work is well known among fine art shops in New England.  More playful and primitive, Loren Maron Ceramics of hand built porcelain pieces utilized traditional patterns and glazes, and her works can be found in the MFA shop.  Erin Elizabeth Ceramics are characterized by boldly shaped pieces that reveal a depth in understanding placement- in the way she throws and shapes pieces on the wheel, as well as an acute sense of detail about decorative touches that are organic to each piece. You will recognize the heirloom quality of this very selective artist’s work.

The men’s work was mostly in wood. David Levy’s Hardwood Creations are more utilitarian household items manufactured out of fine woods, along with very gift quality and reasonably priced, handmade chess sets, backgammon sets, and other game boards. In the same vein, but more specialized, Jonathan’s Spoons from Pennsylvania had clever cheery wood utensils that were balanced and beautifully shaped. Sean Shieber of Mytle Grove Furniture, Maryland, are in the category of extraordinary craftsmanship, from tables to cabinets and time pieces, they look like old world hand tools were used.  Smaller jewelry boxes that one might stow fine jewelry in were created by Jack Curran of Mashpee, Cape Cod.  On the level of craftsmanship, these pieces captivate for their Shaker like quality, and the beauty of the woods used, and the artist can customize them for you.

Finally, in women’s fashion and fabrics there was an astonishing array of gift items.  Sharon London, from the Hudson Valley New York area, had full wardrobe sets made of Egyptian organic cotton designed in unison with Carl Mateo. Their works had understated smart designer forms germane to NYC street fashion world, and looked comfortable without being pretentious. Mary Lynn O’Shea from Vermont had distinctly Asian influenced jackets and scarves, made with cleverly disguised synthetics. Chie Hitchner’s Japanese inspired hand dyed and woven textile art is museum quality finely woven silk wall art that would be at home softening up modern architecture- as well as luxurious silk scarves of ornate patterns.   A local young standout in this category was Natalie Therese from Boxford, MA, who created lightweight, durable environmentally friendly hand bags and wallets out of cork. This is a young designer whose work will be coveted shortly for its utilitarian beauty.  There were many more artists of course, as this must be one of the most prestigious arts and crafts shows in the nation.

Natalie Therese Designs cork handbags.

Chie Hitcher in front of her Fine Silk Art, poses with her husband.

Sharon London and partner Carl Mateo from Hudson River Valley with New York Designer Dresses.

Neil Claypoole of Joathan’s Spoons, Pennsylvania.

Erin Elizabeth Ceramics.

Irina Okula of Clay Shards Pottery

Lauren Blais Jewelry of Somerville, MA

Patty Bolz Modern Jewelry

Linda Kindler Priest Jewelry