American Craft Exposition comes to Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe

Nearly 100 artisans will showcase their creations at the highly competitive juried 38th Annual American Craft Exposition Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a Benefit Preview Party from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 29 , which includes hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and a chance to view the work in advance and talk to the artists.

Artists are chosen by “a peer jury of other fine craft artists and two show directors,” said Evanston resident Leslie Sevcik, co-chair with Gayle Stellas, and organizer of the American Craft Exposition.

She noted this year’s diverse selection of artwork includes fine and contemporary jewelry, fiber wearables, fiber decorative items, baskets, ceramics, and wood furniture, as well as items made of glass, paper, metal, and mixed media.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we have two new artists with physical disabilities. We’re excited to welcome them,” Sevcik said. “In addition, we have a really fun mix of returning favorites and exciting new people.”

Jewelry designer Jonathan Rutledge of Evanston has participated in the show every year except one since 2004. “It’s one of the top shows in the country,” Rutledge observed. “Just one or two more have that caliber of artists. Something that makes it stand out from other shows is that there’s a cause behind it.”

Rutledge generally works with 22 carat gold, although he sometimes uses 18 carat gold, to create his distinctive jewelry.

“What makes my jewelry unique is the level of detail that I put into it,” Rutledge said. “With that detail comes an awful lot of time I put into each piece. All of the designs and patterns are made out of tiny little gold granules. They’re applied one at a time. The Etruscans were masters of granulation. The ancient Greeks used it and the Tunisians used it.”

Rutledge will be bringing earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and cuff links to the show. His pieces start at $1,500.

Metal artist Darlys Ewoldt of Chicago has participated in the American Craft Exposition a number of times. “I like that it raises money for a good cause,” she said. “The quality of the work in the show is exceptional and the clientele that comes to the show are knowledgeable at what they’re looking at. The committee does a lovely job of organizing it.”

Ewoldt began doing metalsmithing when she was in college. “We had a tour of all of the different art studios and there was one with jewelry and metalsmithing, which I never knew existed,” Ewoldt said. “I liked the process working with metal.”

Despite the fact that the artist is working with hard materials, her pieces tend to look delicate. “I work with a lot of chemical patinas to do coloration of my work,” she explained.

Ewoldt noted that her pieces are very labor-intensive. “I don’t do it as a production process,” she said. “I make the work because that’s what makes me happy and thrive in life.”

She will be bringing wall pieces and sculptural vessels to the show. Her work ranges from $100 to $6,000.

Morton Grove jewelry artist Aaron Macsai has participated in the show for 30 years. “There’s no other show like it in the Midwest,” he declared. “It’s my goal to get into the show every year. It’s a big honor. It’s the only show where all of the funds that they raise go to medical research.”

Macsai began making jewelry when he was in high school. Afterward, he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in metalsmithing from Southern Illinois University.

“I work with various colors of gold and gemstones,” Macsai said. “A lot of the work people will see are tiny 18 carat gold beads that I’ve been working on for years. I combine them with various gemstones and diamonds. Since the pandemic, I have a whole body of new work — bracelets, earrings, necklaces.”

His pieces range in price from $300 to $4,200.

There is a preview benefit party at 6 p.m. Sept. 29. Tickets are $200.

The annual event is produced by the Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem. This year, the fundraiser will benefit SAVE MOMS, a NorthShore program to preserve maternal health before, during, and after delivery.

American Craft Exposition

When: Sept. 30-Oct. 2

Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Tickets: $32 for adults; free for children under 12; parking is $8


Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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