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Arts & Crafts show gets better with age

They keep coming back year after year. For 28 years, to be precise, enthusiasts of the Arts & Crafts style flock to the annual conference held at the historic Grove Park Inn in Ashville, N.C. They’ll get their next chance on Feb. 19-21.

“It still amazes me that any event could last 29 years,” director Bruce Johnson says. “I’ve seen Arts & Crafts publications come and go and Arts & Crafts businesses come and go, but this conference does speak to the appeal of the Arts & Crafts style.”

With a loaded agenda full of antiques shows, exhibits, workshops, seminars and more, the event typically attracts more than 3,000 people from across the country, Canada, and even some foreign countries. Typically 1,000 or so attendees will opt for the all-inclusive conference pass with access to seminars, small group discussions and workshops on everything from furniture restoration to stenciling. The rest will visit for an afternoon or so, just as they would at any other high-quality antique or craft show, according to Johnson.

“The thing about Arts & Crafts collectors is that we live with our work. The things we collect are also the chairs we sit in and the tables we eat at and the lamps we turn on. That sets us apart from people who collect just one specific thing. And I think that for a large part is why for 29 years people are willing to leave their homes and their jobs and their families and come down to Asheville, N.C., for a long weekend with other collectors,” Johnson says.

Another key to the show’s long run is a separation between vintage and contemporary crafts, Johnson explains. For example, antiques are shown in dedicated space, away from new work.

“We do this because the contemporary craftspeople are really good. They use the same styles and techniques as some of the original craftsmen and have the finishes and stains down so well it’s very difficult to tell a new piece from an old one. I don’t want anyone disappointed in what they’re looking at here at this show.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue.

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