The word “craft” is typically associated with time-honored techniques used to make pottery, weaving and woodworking.
But in recent years, the American Craft Council (ACC) has been trying to prove that craft can also be fashionable.
Its annual American Craft Council Show will showcase contemporary clothing, jewelry and accessories — as well as modern furniture and home goods — from more than 200 artisans gathered from across the United States. This year’s selection of high-end wearable crafts includes everything from hand-blocked wool hats, to jewelry made from coins, to one-of-a-kind leather shoes, to handbags made from brightly dyed fur. Prices range from under $100 for select jewelry and accessories to more than $850 for a pair of hand-cobbled shoes.
Demonstrating how to incorporate these handmade pieces into attendees’ wardrobes is now a key element of the event. Last year, the ACC debuted its “Style Slam” program with local stylists doling out tips on wearing handcrafted pieces for the real world.
Here are six of the most stylish vendors appearing at this year’s ACC show.
Hat Make by Celina Kane
Artifact Bag Co. by Chris Hughes
After he lost his job as a product manager during the Great Recession, Chris Hughes realized he wanted to launch his own business. Drawing from his passion for vintage military and utilitarian designs, he founded Artifact Bag Co. with the mission of producing well-crafted, American-made goods with a lifetime guarantee. Products include tote bags, rucksacks, cross-body bags and work aprons, all made from canvas with leather detailing in Hughes’ Omaha workshop. Most of Artifact Bag’s products are made from domestically sourced materials, and some even incorporate dead-stock fabrics and antique hardware. But Hughes emphasizes the practicality of his designs over their vintage-inspired look. “Utility inspires my work,” he said. “I want my designs to be useful and have purpose beyond aesthetic.” (artifactbags.com)
Jamie Lau Designs
San Francisco-based clothing designer Jamie Lau began sewing in 2008 at the age of 25. Since then, the self-taught seamstress and pattern maker has launched her own label and co-authored a pattern-making book dedicated to vintage-modern fashions. Vintage plays a major role in Lau’s playful, modern dresses, which blend 1950s- and ’60s-inspired silhouettes with colorful, bold fabrics. The most distinctive aspect of Lau’s designs is her fabrics, including everything from traditional Japanese prints, to luxurious brocades, to handwoven ikats from India and some of her own textile designs. (She even spent a summer living in the mountains of Kyoto, studying the art of ikat weaving.) And thanks to her easy-to-wear, flattering shapes, her vibrant fabrics easily take center stage. (jamielaudesigns.com)
Hark Weber Shoes by Amara Hark-Weber
Minnesota cobbler Amara Hark-Weber first began making shoes and boots while completing a master’s degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Today, Hark-Weber works as a shoemaking educator and creates one-of-a-kind, custom footwear in her St. Paul studio under the label Hark Weber Shoes. Hark-Weber utilizes time-honored shoemaking techniques such as hammering the leather into shape, and cutting and hand-sewing everything together using primarily vintage tools. (New shoemaker’s tools are apparently in short supply.) Despite the old tools, her designs are timeless — from her updated take on the classic oxford to Norwegian-style wingtip boots outfitted with elastic sides. “My shoes are fairly traditional,” she said, “but they are beautiful and built to last.” (harkweberstudio.com)
Stacey Lee Webber
Philadelphia-based jewelry designer Stacey Lee Webber creates her designs with some fairly unconventional materials — coins and metal screws. “My artwork and jewelry are inspired by everyday objects,” explained the designer and sculptor. “I study their intricacies and recontextualize them so the audience sees them in a different light.” Webber creates her distinctive coin earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pins, rings, lockets, money clips and cuff links out of hand-cut pennies, dimes, quarters, silver dollars and vintage coins. These conversation-starters start at $60 for a pair of studs made from antique silver dimes, while a chain-link necklace made out of 10-karat gold-plated brass screws goes for $700. (staceyleewebberstore.com)
Rebellion Bags by Stephanie Wheat
Fur, leather and hardware are central to the designs of Chicago-based handbag designer Stephanie Wheat, who founded Rebellion Bags in 2011. “I’m drawn to the way the materials feel,” said the Minneapolis native. “My designs are super-simple. I design for myself, never follow trends and pick out the simplest way to say something in a big way.” Rebellion Bags are not for the faint of heart, either. The sheared beaver and raccoon fur of Wheat’s hobo-style bags are dyed in brilliant shades, including electric blue, emerald green and ruby red. And her calfskin and shaggy Tibetan wool bags are decorated with silver studs for a rock ’n’ roll edge. (rebellionbags.com)
American Craft Council Show
Preview party: 6-9 p.m. Thu.
Where: RiverCentre, St. Paul.
When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.
Tickets: $11 for show, $85 for preview party; craftcouncil.org.
Jahna Peloquin is style editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine and a fashion, design and arts writer in Minneapolis.