Scottish success at the American Craft Show Baltimore

American Craft Show Baltimore, photo: Maximilian Franz

In February 2017 an exciting first took place as the American Craft Council invited 20 Scottish makers and designers to showcase their work at the exclusive American Craft Show Baltimore through a partnership with Craft Scotland. The highlight in the North American craft calendar, the show has up to now only showcased the work of North America’s leading craftspeople.

Attended by over 20,000 people and showcasing over 650 different designers across three days from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 February, the work of Scotland’s makers proved a massive hit as the Craft Scotland area was inundated by visitors across the three days resulting in £100,000 worth of sales. As well as record sales Scottish makers have secured contracts with galleries in the US, have had invitations to further industry shows and for some secured US gallery representation for their work.

American Craft Show Baltimore, photo: Maximilian Franz

Craft Scotland Director Fiona Logue said: “Craft Scotland is delighted with the success of our visit to the Baltimore Craft Show at the invitation of the American Crafts Council. We received a warm welcome and much praise for the work on show from organisers, fellow exhibitors and visitors. It was clear that there was a fresh and contemporary design aesthetic on the Scotland stand which along with the quality of the craftsmanship, really made it stand out and attract attention. We are thrilled for our makers who sold incredibly well, several having very few objects left on their stand by the end of the show. Moreover a number gained trade orders and links with North American galleries and organisations. We look forward to exploring future opportunities with our colleagues in the ACC”.

We heard from some of the designers and makers who took part in the Baltimore Craft Show about their experience.

Ruth Hollywood

Ruth Hollywood at ACC Baltimore, photo: Maximillian Franz

The Craft Scotland showcase at the American Craft Council flagship show in Baltimore was a brilliant experience. This was the first time that I have participated in a retail show in the USA and going with the group made it less daunting. As a sole trader, a shared stand is always a good opportunity to work alongside other makers.

“The show was very successful and has given my jewellery exposure to a new international audience. It was a great opportunity to make direct sales and get customer feedback on my current collection. I was also delighted to make new contacts with journalists and stockists that could help grow my business in America.”

Ruth Hollywood Jewellery:

Patricia Shone

Patricia Shone at ACC Baltimore, photo: Maximillian Franz

The American Craft Council show in Baltimore was my second opportunity to show my work in this way in the US, the first being Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in 2011. This show eclipsed Philadelphia in sales (about 50% greater) and also in exposure and interest from the general public. I had customers coming to buy work having visited my studio on Skye and was able to realise several sales from social media contacts. It highlighted to me the importance of making and maintaining personal contacts and continuing to develop exposure of my work on several social media platforms.

“It was a strange and interesting time to be in the States. Baltimore didn’t seem an obvious location to me for such a prestigious show however the catchment area is huge with four states within easy reach and the convention centre is enormous with good facilities. The first day, Friday, was the best in takings, as is always the case from my experience of three-day shows.

“Craft Scotland was given very good publicity and a lot of work was done to maintain our high profile throughout the show. The stand helped highlight our presence and ‘brand’ and made us easy to find on the floor amongst hundreds of other makers. 

“One of the major factors in applying to participate in this show was the subsidised shipping organised by Craft Scotland. This is a big issue for weighty ceramics and having customs and a lot of the paperwork dealt with by Craft Scotland was a huge benefit.” 

Patricia Shone:

Rhona McCallum

Rhona McCallum at ACC Baltimore, photo: Maximillian Franz

"As a new maker, I feel very lucky to have access to the opportunities and support that Craft Scotland provides. I was really excited to exhibit in Baltimore as I wanted to show my work to a new, international audience. The American Craft Show was my first international retail show and I'm delighted with how it went overall. I had good sales and made contacts with a few US galleries regarding trade orders.

“The reaction to the Craft Scotland area was fantastic; visitors were so enthusiastic about our work, and Scotland of course! In a few weeks I'll be flying back out to the US to take part in LOOT, a jewellery exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. Now that I've taken part in the ACC show and have had an introduction to the US market, I feel much more confident going into this exhibition. 2017 is definitely an exciting year for me and my practice, and I'm very grateful to Craft Scotland for all of their support."

Rhona McCallum:

Karen Suzuki

Karen Suzuki

"Participating in the show was a fantastic experience. My first experience of doing a show like this and my first time in mainland America, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so was delighted that it was such a success – particularly on the first day – as well as just to be there. Our American Craft Council hosts were lovely and took very good care of us, as did our Craft Scotland team. There was a real buzz at the event, a dynamic atmosphere. It was great to experience the work of other exhibitors too and to have a chat with them. Quite a few other exhibitors made a special visit to our stand to welcome us and get into conversation.

"In terms of how my work went down, I was amazed by the good reception it got, and by how much sold – especially some of the pieces I thought might be more challenging to sell (they sold out). I certainly missed a trick though – the home of Edgar Allen Poe and I had pigeons instead of Ravens! Customers were extremely receptive and enthusiastic towards the work and were intrigued by our presence at the show. They all seemed very engaged with craft and chatted a lot about ideas and processes. They were also very friendly and welcoming, and many had travelled quite some distance to be at the show.

"My favourite piece of advice from a customer, regarding the fact that, of the most popular range of my work only the pigs were left, was that if I wanted to sell pigs I’d have to go to Montana. In the end, however, all the pigs did sell.

"I made connections with a few galleries who were interested in selling my work. I don’t do wholesale, but as much of my work is one-off pieces without a set price, there is interest in those. I also made a great connection with a lady who collects Staffordshire pottery on a huge scale, and who bought one of my more expensive items inspired by that pottery. She has asked me to contact her whenever I make new work in that range."

Karen Suzuki:

Photos: Maximillian Franz

Craft Scotland receives Regular Funding from Creative Scotland.

This article was published on 16 Mar 2017