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Philadelphia Invitational set for March

The third annual Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show is scheduled for March 27-29 at the Philadelphia Cruise Ship Terminal. The show will feature a limited group of furniture and furnishings artisans selected by jury to show their work and meet with present and prospective clients. Director Josh Markel expects a turnout of about 65 exhibitors and approximately 2,500 attendees, and encourages artisans to exhibit in the economic downturn.

“While the economy is a daunting factor, most of the makers I have been speaking with realize that this is no time to hunker down in their shops. More than ever, they need to get their work in front of the public and the Philadelphia area is one of the best markets in the country for their craft,” says Markel.

This year, the show’s gala fund-raiser will focus on the Philadelphia area’s central role in creating designer/craftsman-made furniture as an art form. Mark Sfirri, a turner and lecturer at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pa., will be giving an illustrated talk, and Bob Aibel of Moderne Gallery will be curating a special exhibition featuring the work of George Nakashima, Wharton Esherick, Dan Jackson and other pioneers in the field. Mira Nakashima and Bob Aible will add their comments. Proceeds from the gala will benefit the Wharton Esherick Museum, the Wood Turning Center and the Legacy Fund of the University of the Arts Wood Program.

In addition, Philadelphia’s University of the Arts is bringing back a feature from previous years — an exhibition of high school work — in order to address the future of the industry.

Most exhibitors are from the mid-Atlantic and New England regions, spanning from Virginia to Maine. And there are always a few from the Midwest, and even as far as Colorado and California. Attendees come from the mid-Atlantic region with most from the Delaware Valley area, encompassing southeast Pennsylvania and southwest New Jersey.

The show was revamped into a juried show three years ago. Markel says it has resulted in striking a balance between the need for high standards and the need for reliability as a marketing venue. Newcomers need to be vetted by the exhibitor acceptance committee or sponsored by existing exhibitors. Once accepted, the exhibitor has the option to keep returning.

At that time, the venue was also changed from the downtown convention center to the Cruise Ship Terminal, which works well for the show for many reasons.

“As opposed to the normal gray cavern of a convention center, it has plenty of natural light and plenty of charm, having been a 19th century boatbuilding facility. It also has free parking, easy on-grade move-in and accessibility from a nearby exit of I-95.”

Contact: Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show, 3605 Hamilton St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. Tel: 215-387-8590.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue.

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