AltCraft is a special section at the American Craft Council shows where selected artists are invited to display work that illustrates innovative techniques and materials of new handmade crafts. The AltCraft section at the ACC Baltimore show in late February showcased about 20 artists.
One first-time artist in this category was Peter Boerger, owner of Wooden Specs Studio in Indianapolis. He makes a unique and trendy item - wooden glass frames. Boerger decided to make his frames using four species of North American hardwoods that represent a range of colors - cherry, oak, sycamore and walnut. Despite what one may think in advance, Boerger says the wooden frames are the same weight or lighter than plastic or metal frames.
"That's one of things that, every time someone picks them up, they comment on how light they are," says Boerger. "They expect them to be heavy, but they are actually very light."
The lenses have to be inserted into the frames in an unusual manner.
"I originally wanted to have the optician snap the lenses in as they do with a plastic frame," he says. "In a plastic frame they heat up the frame and that expands and softens it enough to snap the frame in and then it cools around it. I tried doing that with wood, but it just didn't work. So I've designed it to be 100 percent reliable. There are two little screws on top of the frame ... and the optician loosens a screw and the lens is inserted from the side and then the optician tightens it back down."
Although Boerger wouldn't say how many frames he has sold, he said the Baltimore ACC show was pretty successful and he is contemplating doing more shows.
"I'm trying to make it a business. I'm definitely am not interested in doing it as a hobby. I'm happy to continue doing it along with other things, but I need to be able to make it work on a long-term business basis."
Many of his frames combine paint on the top with natural-look wood on the rest of the frame.
"I didn't really intend that initially when I first started out, but I just really like that look and so I guess that is just part of the art of what I am doing. The paint is one thing and I also do wood-burned decoration. And I have done some all wood without the decoration. I just personally like it better with decoration on it."
Boerger's frames sell for about $500 each.
Contact: Peter Boerger, Wooden Specs Studio, 212 W. 10th St., Suite B215, Indianapolis, IN 46202. Tel: 317-942-1400. www.woodenspecs.com
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue.