by Kate Nixon
In the past few months, there’s been an attempt to recover from the business-crippling Covid-19 restrictions: the opening of businesses, auction houses and notably – the return of in-person shows. With the recent revival of last week’s Pottery Lovers Show in Zanesville, Ohio and last month’s Roycroft Summer Festival, collectors and enthusiasts of the Arts and Crafts movement country wide are proving that the enthusiasm has stayed strong and buying power has not subsided in the community of collectors.
According to Roycrofters At-Large Association’s Thomas Pafk, the Roycroft Summer Festival had more than 1,500 attendees on Saturday and more than 1,000 attendees on Sunday, an above average number from the previous year’s attendance. “The Roycroft summer Festival went really well considering we put it together in 5 weeks instead of the usual 6 months,” replied Pafk in an email sent to ArtsandCraftsCollector.com.
According to Pafk, in addition to having more attendees at the shows, the artisans he spoke to at the Roycroft Summer Festival enjoyed above average sales, an indication of an appreciative and excited community of collectors braving the summer heat in search of the newest addition to their collections. Christie Schorf-Miller of Mission Guild Studios, a participating exhibitor, Roycroft Artisan and tile maker, said of the show, “The positive energy was great and buying energy was great too. Folks were really happy to see the artisans and catch up. They were very interested in seeing new work and that was a blessing!”
Printmaker and exhibitor Laura Wilder said of the Roycrofters’ show in a recent e-mail, “WOW! The Roycroft Summerfest was a record-breaker, with buying enthusiasm at an all-time high,” and metalsmith and owner of Van Ostrand Metal Studio Ron VanOstrand confirmed the positive atmosphere. “After having to forego last years show, attendees were eager to attend an in person show,” said VanOstrand. “From talking with other artists, most had better than normal sales and none left unhappy.”
While attendees were happy to be connecting with artisans in person again, the influence of Covid-19 restrictions was still apparent with the number of artisans participating in order to conform to social distancing guidelines. Pafk said the event was limited to 42 artisans due to the restrictions and while the majority of sellers at the Roycroft Summer Festival were Juried Roycroft Artisans, the struggle to find established artisans was very real. “There are a lot of “makers” and “crafters” out there but really great, established Artisans are few and far between,” says Pafk. “Etsy and other online presence has somewhat taken the place of physically doing a show for some Artisans. One thing we never do is compromise on the quality of our exhibitors just to fill a show.”
While the Pottery Lovers Show in Zanesville, Ohio at the Holiday Inn Express is in the rear view mirror (it happened this past weekend), the enthusiasm knows no bounds with both exhibitors and attendees. Pottery Lovers organizers and exhibitors Arnie Small and Barbara Gerr noted the excitement of just being back among friends. “This is our first show since early 2020 and we can’t wait to see our ‘old’ friends and make new ones. After not being able to have a Pottery Lovers event last year, we are thrilled to be back.”
The unique format of having dealer booth spaces set up in individual hotel rooms traditionally made for a cozier experience with customer and business owner; the same could not be done last year and in 2021, dealers follow the Ohio state guidelines for social distancing. While social activities were limited, the Zanesville Museum of Art hosted important collections for Pottery Lovers throughout the weekend, while the neighboring Hull Pottery Association’s Show set up shop at the Crooksville High School. Add the McCoy Collector’s Society group meeting at the Quality Inn and Zanesville, Ohio became for a brief period an art pottery hub for collectors.
Along with shows starting to open, tours of historic sites and specialized tours have continued plans to open at their own discretion in the summer and fall of 2021. With the upcoming 23rd Annual Conference on the Arts & Crafts Movement taking place in Chicago hosted by the organization Initiatives in Art & Culture in late September, the thrill of returning in person is still palpable. “Initiatives in Art and Culture is thrilled at the prospect of returning to Chicago with its limitless lake horizon and the sense of boundlessness leading to the proverbial prairie: the City is a nexus of the Arts and Crafts Movement in America in so many respects,” says IAC president and conference organizer Lisa Koenigsberg. “In 2021, IAC will use Chicago’s rich history to shed light on the City’s complex artistic and cultural networks.”
In this period of transition, where shows opening and closing is dependent on state guidelines, it remains a time of cautious optimism for many. While distancing guidelines are still in place for many events and sites, the payoffs of needed connection, the feel of holding a favorite work in the hands of excited collectors, and in-person education with experts are proving to be powerful lights after a dark season.