I recently had the opportunity to represent the Milwaukee Art Museum at the Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show held at The Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum. First of all—what a great venue! If you haven’t yet been to the Harley-Davidson Museum, the cool industrial architecture is definitely worth checking out. Also, the Show was a perfectly timed experience for me, with the European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century exhibition open at the same time at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Our exhibition explores notions of design as either primarily for function, or for a more conceptual idea. I was able to see more examples of how craft and design intersect at the Fine Furnishings Show. Apart from one prototype plastic chair, the objects there demonstrate a beautiful melding of function and handcrafted one-of-kind design.
Aside from the amazing objects for sale, Fine Furnishings is largely an opportunity to meet extraordinary craftspeople and interior designers. All of the craftspeople I encountered were so friendly and engaged with one another’s work. My neighbors across the aisle, furniture designers Hans Gottsacker and Michael McCarthy, seen above, had incredible modern-art furniture pieces. All weekend, they were turning their pieces over and pointing out details to the other furniture makers at the event, discussing techniques and materials. Then they would mosey over to another booth and do the same thing with another designer’s furniture.
Being of petite stature, I had no idea that a sitting in a chair could be a near-transcendental experience until I settled into a custom-built rocking chair at one of my booth’s neighbors, Opa’s Custom Woodworking. It was honestly the first time my spine rested comfortably against the back of a chair and my feet settled firmly on the ground! The support and gentle pivoting of the back slats actually massaged my back while the complete support of sitting in a chair that fit my proportions allowed the rest of my muscles to relax. Heaven! That is design that is pleasing on every level!
My next-door booth neighbor was the terrific potter Jessie Schroeder Voss of Pottery by Jessie. Pottery is such an earthy, almost rustic medium and you can see the traditional handwork Jessie employs, but the final result of her glazing style makes her pieces much more contemporary. I couldn’t resist picking up a bowl as a birthday gift (spoiler alert if you’re my cousin!) that had a perfect little divot for your thumb so you can comfortably hold the bowl in one hand—even if it’s a small one.
I had a wonderful time meeting the designers, introducing people to some of the house-wares objects featured in European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century and mingling with Museum Members who visited the show. If you were able to make it to the show, I’d love to hear about your experience—and if you haven’t, add it to your calendar for next year!
Donele Pettit-Mieding was Museum Store Marketing Manager. She organized Museum Store events, promotions, and communications and introduced visitors to art and design objects to enjoy in their daily lives.