A chair by woodworker Joe Graham
ACE of Trades

The American Craft Exposition is returning to Evanston’s Harry Crown Sports Pavilion on the Northwestern campus this weekend for the 27th time, and it’s a splendid opportunity to view fine handmade furniture, glassware, textile art, clothing, jewelry, and mixed-media pieces by more than 150 juried artists. The work presented skews high quality and high price tag; high rollers can get first pick at preview events tonight (the 5:30 start time is a $175 ticket, and 6:30’s is $125; both continue until nine). This year’s show is presented by NorthShore HealthSystem and staffed by volunteers, and proceeds are earmarked for ovarian cancer research. In addition to the goods on display, such as this contemporary interpretation of a Windsor chair by Ohio woodworker Joe Graham, there are 14 smallish items being auctioned online. Three-day admission passes are $15.

Pillows by Steve Hafliger

Small Craft Warnings

ACE isn’t the only game in town this weekend when it comes to art and object shows. In contrast to ACE’s uptown vibe, one of my favorite summer festivals, the Bucktown Arts Fest, hits the streets Saturday and Sunday from 11–7 on the avenues surrounding the park at 2300 North Oakley. Now in its 26th year, this lively affair offers nonstop music and performances, substantial street-food options, and almost 200 booths of handicrafts, art, and jewelry. These “memory pillows” are by Chicago’s Steve Hafliger, a BAF fixture who’ll also be showing lamps, collages, upholstered items, and other brassy bric-a-brac. Also, the traveling Urban Folk Circuit gals have partnered with the Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia Street, to offer wares from 20-some crafters and designers, live jug band music, and drinks, Saturday, August 27 from noon till five.

The Sawbridge Studios showroom

Wooded Bliss

The Sawbridge Studios closed its River North location last February, with the intent of consolidating inventory in its Winnetka location, but, with the work of 80-plus American artists making handmade furniture and home accessories, that space (a converted 1880s livery stable on Tower Court) got pretty crowded pretty quickly. Owners Bill Hiscott and Paul Zurowski jumped at the chance to expand into a neighboring storefront when a flower shop called it quits this summer, and with the resulting new annexed space at 897 Green Bay Road, they now boast an increased footprint of more than 4,200 square feet. In addition to the finely hewn wooden furniture Sawbridge has come to stand for over the past 15 years, the shop also carries metal artists, upholstered pieces, rugs, and one-off accents.

A wine rack from The Haymaker Shop

Wham Bamboo

It’s fulfilling to find a store or boutique that seems to “get” everything—a distinctive, reasonably priced inventory, welcoming layout, friendly staff that knows their stuff, and a discernible point of view. Andersonville newbie The Haymaker Shop is one of those ventures, and I’m happy to see it coming into its own and consistently delivering the goods in the few months it has been open at 5507 North Clark Street. I dodged the rain last weekend to pop by in search of a birthday present, and owner Arrin Williams showed me a new line of bamboo products he’s carrying from Hala, a local, eco-aware design collective. Lots of good gift options, but I decided on this weighty wine rack with a sleek buttery finish. It holds up to six bottles, and looks like a piece of modernist sculpture when empty (a nice bonus for those of us who have trouble keeping the shiraz in stock). Williams is in need of some part-time help, by the way, so if any design-savvy readers are looking for a few days a week employment in a smart retail environment, get in touch with him. (Happy B-day, Michelle!)

A basket by Fujinuma Noboru

Basket Case

In related bamboo-zlement, there is a meditative little show of masterful Japanese bamboo baskets that were gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago by the artist, up now and weaving along until November 13. Check out the Fujinuma Noboru (try to say that ten times fast after a few sakes) exhibit, if you’re into intricate, quietly elegant craftsmanship and a Zen aesthetic. It’s tucked away in the back of the Asian art wing, in Gallery 109.

Colorful heirloom tomatoes

Tomato Scoop

If you conduct life judging books by their covers, you’re bound to miss out on a lot of unexpected pleasures, even in the produce section. Heirloom tomatoes can be lumpy, oddly colored, and splotchy, with more warts and cracks than Harry Potter’s middle-school teacher. But bite into a ripe one and you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with waxy, mealy grocery store versions­­––heirlooms have a flavor and texture that blows away the competition. Take a tomato tutorial at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Heirloom Tomato Weekend this Saturday and Sunday, from 11–4:00 both days. There will be tours of CBG’s tomato garden, veg vendors and demos, and useful tips on growing, preserving, and saving the seeds of heritage tomatoes (some varieties have come perilously close to extinction and could use a little help with that). Admission is free; parking is $20 per car.

A blue chair from Susanin's

Bluey Louie

I previewed the sale items coming on the block at Sean Susanin’s auction house this week (“Hello, my name is Mr. Domestica, and I am addicted to auction shopping…” I know, I know), and it’s one of those hodgepodge Marketplace sales with a little of this and a little of that. Good, interesting stuff, mind you, just not one of the more themed sales that draws a lot of attention and tends to fetch higher prices. Which means that you can get some very good deals, trust me. I thought the cobalt vinyl on this Louis XV-style chair transforms it from Gram’s parlor to a Jerry Kleiner nightclub, and its estimate is only $150 to $250 (keep in mind that you’ll have to pay a buyer’s commission and arrange for shipping). Sale #99 also contains a lot of nice rugs, boxes of posh china sets, antique, colonial, and modern furniture, artwork, African sculptures, and the ubiquitous Toby character jugs and glass paperweights. (Did everyone on the North Shore decide to deaccession these at the same time?) Viewing continues through Saturday noon, the day of the sale, and tonight there’s extended viewing until seven.