Archive for December, 2013

PostHeaderIcon My One-of-a-Kind Show Guide

In my last post on holiday fairs, I wrote that I usually avoid the One-of-a-Kind Show held each December at the Merchandise Mart. Mixing more than 600 artisans in one space with thousands of weekend holiday shoppers is not my idea of a good time. Plus taking in so many merchants tends to dull one’s taste buds for judging what is truly worthwhile from what is common, if not kitsch. But my experience this year was a welcome change.

I arrived for a media tour of the fair before the crowds arrived Thursday. And I decided on an experiment: Walk through the show for one hour and see which booths caught my eye. The artists I chose had to be showing distinctive wares. Sometimes their display was quite eye-catching as well. I think my modus operandi might be a good way for the ordinary shopper, with limited time and budget, to save their sanity as well.

I emerged at the end of my selective tour with a list of roughly a dozen booths worth visiting. Another time saver: I avoided the Food and Fashion sections entirely and focused solely on artisans. Several clothing artisans I visited were exhibiting outside the Fashion area. So, after the hour,, here are the artists who I think had the most creative displays.

Teepees from Rattlesnake Crossings–Booth 3024–Something completely different and ideal as a special Christmas gift for your young cowboy. Kali Butterfly–Booth 3065–Appealing anodized aluminum jewelry that the artist says will never tarnish. And surprisingly affordable.  I wasn’t looking for clothing artists but Mia Tyson–Booth 4096–caught my eye instantly. Colorful, artistic jackets and vests made of cashmere/merino wool. Kali Basi Design–Booth 4077–Distinctive scarves, shawls, dresses all made of Nuno Felt (Don’t ask me what that is).

Lenae May (3136D) and Nora del Busto (8064)–Both of these exhibitors feature great giant and small Christmas stockings.  Lenae May features more traditional designs while Nora is a clothing designer who fashions her “upscale stockings” from luxurious, left-over fabrics. Next two are special. Paz Sintas–Booth 8055–Stunning jewelry designs completely crafted from textiles that appear solid. Her work is featured in many museum stores, including the Art Institute, Getty, Whitney and Walker Art Museum. Sintas’ work worth a special visit as is the booth of Jeffrey Weiss Designs–Booth 8048–You should see his leather-looking (actually a special microfiber) raincoats. You can be a standout in one of these creations.  To go with those raincoats or a Mia Tyson jacket, visit Sharon De La Cruz–Booth 6088 to sample her long, draped, colored, ethnic-influenced scarves.

The next three artisans showed more whimsical offerings, but ones with lots of panache and affordable prices (from under $25 to 50). Start with Garbella–Booth 8979–You’ll find fun T-shirts, totes and kitchen towels that make great stocking stuffers here.  Another must stop in this vein is the booth of Megan Lee Design–Booth 7078–A designer of artistic T-shirts and tunics. A surprising, more alternative exhibitor likelier to be found at the Renegade Art Fair. Finally, I was stopped short at a booth catering to a passion of mine, artistic boxes. If that also rings your bell, head  to Mirabelle Studio–Booth 7054–Artist Judy Lynn creates beautiful handmade books and boxes that would satisfy the discriminating book lover or writer on your Christmas list. No need to gift another boring book.

As the clock struck eleven, I was stopped in my tracks by the photography of Gregory Turco–Booth 7071 (not sure, check program). His giant photos of record album covers and a bookcase took me back to my youth. However, Turco is a true artist, so step inside his booth and also view his studies of distressed architecture. A fine way to end my tour and possibly your shopping spree as well.  Hope this guide helps!