Conference Reflections


It’s been a couple of weeks now since the close of the 32nd National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows, so I thought I would use this space to reflect back on this year’s event.


First, I am still amazed each time I see the number “32.” At a time when interest in mainstream antiques and attendance at general antiques shows is at a painful low, Arts and Crafts enthusiasts still not only come to the Arts and Crafts Conference, they come to add to their collections. Once again sales in every category – furniture, art pottery, metalware, textiles, and books – were strong in both the antiques show and the contemporary craftsfirms show.


One antiques dealer who specializes in art pottery was amazed at how many young buyers were making purchases in the $200-$400 range. “That’s the future!” he exclaimed.


Devoted attendees standing amidst applause at the 32nd National Arts & Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn. Photo Courtesy of Ray Stubblebine.


How is it that we have lasted 32 years — and already have more than 300 people who have made their reservations a full year in advance for the 33rd National Arts and Crafts Conference?


Hosting this event in the iconic 1913 Grove Park Inn overlooking popular Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains is not a bad way to start. In addition, beginning with that first conference in 1988 we have always maintained our theme of “educating the collector,” even in the face of occasional grumblings about the short hours of the afternoon-only shows.


I have always believed that our morning and evening seminars, combined with daily small group discussions, demonstrations, and tours, sends every attendee into the show a more confident collector. The more we know, the more comfortable we are making our collecting decisions.


Conference Speaker Jim Spates during his 2019 seminar “”From Ruskin to Roycroft: How John Ruskin Created the Arts & Crafts Movement.” Photo Courtesy of Ray Stubblebine.


And over the course of these past 32 years we have assembled an impressive group of both antiques dealers and contemporary craftsmen and craftswomen who are excited to be included in this show and who greet each attendee warmly. They have proven to me that they are more than simply vendors; they are a critical component in our Arts and Crafts education system.


Finally, it is the quality and the character of the people who are drawn to the Arts and Crafts philosophy who provide the enthusiasm and the energy that lights up the Grove Park Inn during this three-day conference. For many, it is as much a family reunion as it is a conference. For others, it is a chance to connect with people who share our enthusiasm for the Arts and Crafts style. Ironically, we have had people meet each other for the first time at the conference, even though they live just blocks apart back home.


Attendees relaxing by the fireplace in the Grove Park Inn’s Great Hall. Photo Courtesy of Ray Stubblebine.


As I have often said, “We don’t collect Arts and Crafts because its different; we collect Arts and Crafts because we’re different.”


Small Group Discussion. Photo Courtesy of Ray Stubblebine.


So, if you have any suggestions for what you would like to see or hear at the 33rd National Arts and Crafts Conference to be held February 21-23, 2020, please do not wait to email us. We are already filling in the blanks with topics, speakers, and discussion leaders that will grow in the coming months into our next Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn.


Together we grow stronger.


– Bruce Johnson

Conference Director