Lifestyle & Culture

Artistry in Motion

From left to right, Elyse Allen’s gleaming accessories, Robert Wing’s wood rocking chair and Donald Friedrich’s intensely colored brooches.

By Janet Kelly

WE’RE just a week away from the country’s most prestigious craft show, the spring extravaganza produced by the awesome Smithsonian Women’s Committee. “Celebrating the American Spirit,” which showcases the country’s best artisans displaying and selling their jewelry, woodwork, weaving, wearable art and more, begins May 3. Whether you’re a collector, shopping for graduation gifts or just browsing, there’s something to delight your senses. So, don’t dally, buy your tickets now!

Frequent show-goers will take note how contemporary jewelry artist Donald Friedlich‘s work has evolved—he has exhibited here 30 times. Most recent is his Lumina Series brooches, a result of his interest in how jewelry moves when it’s worn. Friedlich’s brooches seem to shift in color or color intensity when they’re viewed at different angles. He’s inspired in part by “the color-field paintings of Mark Rothko, the sculptures of Dan Flavin and James Turrell, but even more so by the moonlight diffused by cloud cover or fog that I often see through my studio window.”

Like Friedlich, show first-timers Porfirio Gutierrez, Elyse Allen and Robert Wing are intrigued by the concept of movement in art.

A California-based Zapotec textile artist, Porfirio Gutierrez was born and raised in the historic community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. His work has focused on revitalizing, teaching and innovating traditional Zapotec natural dyeing techniques.

Working and living in both Ventura, California and Oaxaca, Mexico, Gutierrez reinterprets age-old icons into contemporary art pieces, drawing on the architecture and the movement he sees in cities and urban environments. The striking geometric wall tapestry pictured above shows off his mastery of color. Straddling two cultures, his designs deftly mesh the traditional with the modern.

Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Robert Wing makes adult and child rocking chairs, crafted of solid wood using mostly North American hardwoods, such as beech, cherry, walnut, maple, ash and hickory; each chair combines contrasting types of wood. Wing says important choices arise as the work progresses: the pattern of grains, textures and colors; the curve of the legs, the shape of the headrest, the spacing and the shape of the back slats.
In 2020, when his first potential client, an 87-year-old woman, loved his chair but said it was too hard to get out of, he changed almost everything about it except the curvature of the back slats. He tightened the radius of the rockers and the curvature of the back legs; sloped the arms downward and raised the back of the seat slightly, all to make the chair easier to enter and exit.
“There are no straight lines in the human body. There are few straight lines in my chairs. Sitting in a chair, but especially a rocking chair, is probably the most tactile experience one can have with any type of furniture.”


After 14 years in downtown Manhattan, Elyse Allen relocated her small knitwear studio to an artist loft community in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She and her team handknit accessories—hats, scarves and fingerless gloves. “I find the best materials I can because they’re worth it and last. We carefully knit, wash, felt, steam, finish, block, hand sew, meticulously seam, embellish and painstakingly make each piece by hand . . . .”

Allen loves mixing yarns and playing with colors and patterns to make them all explode with sparkle. Warmth and durability comes from the cashmere, while Swarovski crystals add depth and motion. Says Allen, “I like to make my pieces special to be near, like reuniting people with their long-lost favorite thing.” Pictured on the model above, from the top: a Starry Night Cloche, Estrella Shawl, Epaulette Poncho, Estrella headband (worn at the waist), Epaulette Featherweight Gloves and Cropped Stingray Gloves.

The Smithsonian Craft Show opens to the public on Thursday, May 4, 2022. Want to be among the first? Tickets for the Preview Night Party—from 6 to 9pm on Wednesday, May 3—are $250. First Look and Visionary Reception—from 5 to 6pm—are $500.

Show hours: 10:30am to 5:30pm, Thursday, May 4 to Saturday, May 6 ; and Sunday, May 7, 11am to 5pm. You may use your ticket on the day of your choice.

Admission: $20 at the door or in advance online at Smithsonian Craft Show. You can find tickets at EventBrite.

Group tickets (10 or more) and students are $15 each.

The Smithsonian Craft Show is produced by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, an all-volunteer organization that supports the education, outreach and research programs of the Smithsonian Institution. The National Building Museum is located at 401 F Street NW (202-272-2448). The closest Metro stop is Judiciary Square.




4 thoughts on “Artistry in Motion

  1. Ann Goedde says:

    You are in luck!
    If you can’t attend the fabulous Smithsonian Craft Show in person, you can get in on the fun by participating in the Smithsonian Craft Show Online Auction. The auction contains over 70 amazing items donated by artists from current and past Shows. The online uction runs from Wednesday the 3rd to Tuesday the 9th and can be accessed through the Smithsonian Craft Show website. And as with the in-person show, all proceeds go to funding grants within the Smithsonian Institutes.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Great!! Thanks for reminding us of this way to participate! We’ll be there, credit card in hand!

  2. What a sumptuous feast! Love the jewelry and knit ware. Wish I was there.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      You would love it!

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