A turn of the wheel, a cut of the saw, a silver casting, a quilted patch . . .
A hundred crafts workers and their objects -- baskets, ceramics, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, paper, quilts, wood -- are on exhibit through Sunday at the Washington Craft Show, sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates Women's Committee, at the Departmental Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Ave.
Goldsmith Sandra Hayner of Stephentown carefully arranged in a case a $1,500 intricate ebony, gold and silver necklace, set with a diamond. "I call myself a craftsperson. But sometimes I'm an artist. It's the way I'm feeling at the time. I'm both. But art and crafts don't always overlap."
Cabinetmaker Tom Swift of Paw Paw, W.Va., gave a wipe to a maple cabinet, with leaded glass doors, an ebonized walnut trim and a $4,800 price tag. "I ebonize the walnut myself, soaking rusty nails in vinegar. The liquid reacts with the walnut to turn it black.
"I just moved from Washington to Paw Paw this year. We lost a lot of off-the-street business, so it's been a hard, slow year."
Swift said he taught himself how to make the cabinets and tables. "I worked for a year in a cabinet shop which did cheap, shoddy work. But I learned how to use electric saws. I also worked doing set design, building and lighting with small experimental theaters such as the Back Alley. I like doing things where the joints don't show. I make a kind of mortised joint. You can see the sources of my design influence -- turn-of-the-century Frank Lloyd Wright and now the modernists."
Ceramicist Carolyn Sale of San Francisco adjusted the lighting on her huge $600 ceramic sculptures. Some of the disk-shaped pieces look more like flat paintings than round sculptures. "They're not really vases. They're nonfunctional decorative ceramics. It's a biggie to say if they're crafts or art. I think crafts and art are equal. No reason to make a big stink. I was a painter but now I work in ceramics. I don't feel as though I've stepped down."
Tapestry weaver (aptly named) Louise Weaver Greene of Silver Spring straightened a $1,200 hanging. "This is my first show. I've sold to friends and to the American Craft Museum, but I've only been working full time for two years. For now, I'm supported by my husband -- I don't know how long his patience will hold. We don't have any children yet. But I know some weavers who do. It takes a lot of organization."
Leather worker Deirdre Broderick of Wallingford, Conn., opened yet another box of leather handbags and portfolios. "My husband and I worked full time with leather. But then, when our first baby was born, he thought one of us should make a lucrative living, so he went into computer training. He got his first 'real' job just after our second child was born. Now we both work part time with leather." Wearable-art maker Robert Nusbaum of Brooklyn carefully pulled a $340 knitted coat over a hanger. "I use a knitting loom -- you shape it as you go, but the loom does the knitting. It uses one thread instead of two as you do with a regular loom. I taught myself how to use it. I began with crocheted hats and sweaters. I make a sort of a living -- I support myself."
Woodworker Peter Petrochko of Oxford, Conn., put a $1,250 banded wood bowl on a stand. "I use a handsaw, disk sander and hand finishing. This particular bowl" -- he held up an elaborately patterned piece -- "has a natural design. I've been making a living at woodworking for five years or so."
Show winners of $500 each: Peter Handler, anodized metal tables; Mara Superior, ceramic plates and tea service with animal motifs; Stuart Golder, woven precious-metal boxes. The creativity award went to Peter Petrochko for his oval bowl made of laminated mahogany, purple heart and ziricote woods. The craftsmanship award voted by the exhibitors went to Mara Superior.
The judges' individual choices: Lloyd Herman, Louise Green's wool and linen tapestry called "Light Dance;" Elena Canavier, Ken Loeber's black coral and gold necklace with a pearl; Andrew Lewis, William Niemczyk's ring lizard leather and sterling silver briefcase.
Herman, director of the Renwick Gallery, said, "I saw more diverse styles here than in previous sale shows in other places -- everything wasn't Art Deco or New Wave. The quality was very high. I was interested in the craftsmen's use of new techniques: sandblasting on glass and jewelry, air-brushed enamel on jewelry. The furniture is straightforward and well designed. The jewelry is very elegant, often classic. Ceramics are using more metallic sheen and decorations. The basket makers are all different. I like to see the crafts people trying something adventurous, testing with an audience."
The show is open today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.