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Shop the Smithsonian CRAFT: Fashion + Home Show

Move over Basel, Paris, London, Milan, and New York! Washington, DC is the new place to shop for the finest in contemporary, handmade apparel, accessories, jewelry, and home designs.

The venue is CRAFT: Fashion + Home, the Smithsonian Women’s Committee’s reimagined fall craft show held October 5-8 in downtown Washington. Transforming the historic National Building Museum into a vibrant marketplace like those in international art cities, the show will feature over 80 noted artists from across the country who are reimagining the horizons of contemporary craft with their individually made and imaginatively designed collections. Among the works featured are handcrafted jewelry; limited-edition clothing – coats, jackets, vests, shirts and sweaters – in vibrant shapes and colors; and a wide range of distinctive accessories, such as scarves, gloves, hats, handbags and leather goods.

“This is a dynamic time for American craft, which is advancing on many fronts due to experimentation with different materials, the use of new technology, and the public’s desire for objects that ‘mean something’ because they are expertly crafted and handmade,” said Susan Vallon, chair of the CRAFT: Fashion + Home show and the driving force behind the Smithsonian Women’s Committee’s change in direction. “We knew our show needed to reflect this exciting world and inspire people of different ages to own a piece of art – whether it is a jacket, a scarf, a piece of jewelry or a handcrafted belt or handbag,” Ms. Vallon added.

Mea Rhee

CRAFT: Fashion + Home also features a boutique of hand-crafted and contemporarily designed ceramics, glass, rugs, silver and dinnerware as well as pillows and throws to accessorize the home, for the first time expanding the offerings of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee’s fall craft show beyond wearable art. This change builds on a growing interest among the public for exquisite handmade home décor items and housewares that are affordable and a growing cadre of craft artists working to produce them. According to recent projections, the American home décor market will reach $126 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow by almost five percent a year for most of the decade.

“Besides treating themselves to something special for their home, the show is a great venue for early holiday shopping as well as birthday and wedding gifts,” Ms. Vallon said.

Beyond the collections presented at CRAFT: Fashion + Home, what distinguishes this show are the artists themselves, many of whom represent a new movement in crafting that combines traditional workshop techniques with new or repurposed materials and technologies like computer-aided modeling to create items that are both beautiful and practical and appeal to a diverse cross-section of the population.

Craft was not always heralded as art, but today’s artists are pushing the boundaries of creativity and design, especially in jewelry, textiles, leatherworking, papercraft, ceramics and glass. For example, Brian Croft, an Arlington-based artist featured at CRAFT: Fashion + Home, makes handcrafted pillows equal to paintings and prints hung on walls.

Another local resident featured at the show, Mea Rhee of Silver Spring, taps into her Korean heritage to design artistic yet practical ceramic bowls, vases, mugs, platters, baking dishes and chopsticks using techniques like Hakame, which literally means “brush marks” in Japanese. Her collection includes “enormous” coffee mugs big enough for Jack Reacher, one of her favorite book characters, often featuring designs of carved fish, cherry blossoms, gingko leaves and the Maryland blue crab.

In the area of textile art, Boston-based artist Amy Nguyen, draws inspiration from diverse sources such as the New England seaside landscape and Japanese aesthetics. She designs coats, jackets, long vests, dresses, and flowing scarves using a process of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction process influenced by the making of kimonos in Japan. She designs and dyes the silk using Japanese dyeing methods, then cuts the dyed yardage into pieces and sews them back together, which brings line, shape, color and form to each handcrafted garment. As a result, her garments transcend the meaning of the word “clothes” into artworks for the human form.

Shopping at CRAFT: Fashion + Home is not only an adventure in exploring the new and the next in artwear and home design, but it is shopping for a cause. Proceeds from the show are used for grants from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee to the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries and the National Zoo for needed programs that would otherwise not take place.

CRAFT: FASHION + HOME October 5–8, 2023. Advance Chance Opening Party $125 Thursday, October 5, 6–9 p.m. Daily Admission $20 Friday, Oct. 6, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. National Building Museum 410 F Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. Judiciary Square Metro stop smithsoniancraft2wear.org

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