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The Ann Arbor Art Fair

Posted by Ali on July 23 at 02:49 pm

peopleEach year on the third Wednesday in July, the Ann Arbor art fair begins. This fair is one of the largest in North America and brings more than 500,000 people through our small town in 4 days. For the past 50 years, Ann Arbor has played host to talented artists from around the globe as well as our own local talent. These artists show a massive body of work, including: beaded, sculpted, and fine jewelry, multi-media to oil paintings, fiber arts, wood, blow glass, photography, clay, furniture, carvings, etc.

I always take a special interest in the jewelry designers. Here are some of the more unique things I noticed this year:

  • A lot of funky sculptural jewelry
  • Mixing metals (e.g. silver & gold)
  • Beach/recycled glass
  • Stones with more inclusions – normally included stones would be considered lower quality, but when used properly, they offer an unmatched “natural” look.
  • Cuff bracelets made from recycled materials (rubber, leather, metal, etc.)
  • Rough stone material wire wrapped or set in sterling
  • Encapsulation doming with interesting materials like vintage maps, pebbles. These would make great focals.

raderboothI also take a special interest in the way these artists display their work. You can always tell when someone is truly creative – it even extends to their booth design!

Like so many of you, I design and string most of my own jewelry. I’m also not very fond of fine jewelry, which makes it difficult for me (and especially Kevin) to buy jewelry made by someone else. I’m always on the lookout for something that I couldn’t make myself, but also has an artist-designed, unique feel. The art fair is one of the only places I’m able to find something. This year, Kevin and I were walking around and I saw a bracelet that I absolutely loved. He said he didn’t like it and I was sad. I found out later, that he said he didn’t like it so he could sneak back out and buy it for me as a surprise. It’s a silver cuff-style bracelet with flashes of 22k gold and a large fossilized turtle shell in the middle. I definitely couldn’t make it myself and it’s unique :) It’s by an artist named Elaine Rader ( I truly love her style.


As a jewelry designer, what kind of jewelry do you buy for yourself? Have you been to many art fairs this summer? What kind of stuff are you seeing?

Thanks everyone!


Read the comments (or add your own)

  1. Cuban Queen Crazy Chick
    Cuban Queen Crazy Chick says:

    Wow, great bracelet, Ali! And how nice of Kevin to sneak it to you. :)

    I like both fine jewelry and earthy, organic designs like the ones I make, but when buying jewelry, like you I’m always looking for something sort of in-between. Something that I can’t make myself but that definitely has an artistic flair to it, something that screams unique. I think that’s exactly what you got in that bracelet.

    By the way, I’m SO glad to see all the new products and restocks! (I’ve been missing that amber for a long time now.) I was just on Green Girl’s website last night and thought it would be nice if you guys got the two peas in a pod piece and the raven tube, which is so cool. And those new red sponge coral beads are amazing. Definitely a favorite of mine. Thank you, Lima Beads!! :D

  2. Cuban Queen Crazy Chick
    Cuban Queen Crazy Chick says:

    Oh, haven’t been to any art fairs yet this year, it seems like the whole summer has been non-stop rain. :(

  3. Inspired2Create
    Inspired2Create says:

    Great bracelet! I buy more unique pieces that I could not make either.. Though I have to admit I do buy some stuff I could make if I really wanted too but it’s my style and inexpensive- lol!

    I have not been to any fairs yet, but plan on it.. I too love to look at what other people make you never know what will inspire you!

  4. No Photo
    Jeannes Gems - Gem Chick says:

    very cool bracelet, Ali! You’ve got yourself a great guy to sneak back and buy that for you.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to go to any fairs this summer.

    The one thing I bought for myself this summer is one of Lynda’s beautiful pendants ~ something I couldn’t make myself!

  5. ChickyD aka Debra
    ChickyD aka Debra says:

    Fabulous bracelet, Ali! Very cool, indeed.

    About the only art fair I get to each year is the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar in Austin each year. I’m always on the look-out for new ideas. I won’t buy anything that is strung…I want to find something original and “arty”. I ran across a very interesting booth last year but couldn’t afford anything. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get something from her this year.

    I’m getting one of Lynda’s gorgeous pendants, too. I’m with Jeanne on this…it’s something I couldn’t make myself.

  6. Lynn Eileen Chicky LE
    Lynn Eileen Chicky LE says:

    I’ve already treated myself to Lynda’s stunningly beautiful necklace “Monet’s Water Lilies” — for the very same reason given by Jeanne and Debra. If I could do it, I would, but since I can’t and SHE can do it so wonderfully….. LOL ;-) Plus, I figure I’m doing my part to support our “local” LB artists this way! I’ve already ordered other pendants from her, too! :D

    Sadly, we’ve had no art fairs near us this year. :-(

    My criteria for buying jewelry from other artisans is to look for items/designs that I don’t know how to create or something that is just so utterly unique that I am willing to pay someone else to have created it! :D Those wonderful, one-of-a-kind pieces we all aspire to own and/or create for others to own….. ;-)

    Ali, I would say you have two keepers — your fabulous new bracelet and your full-of-surprises husband! :D

  7. No Photo
    Elizabeth K says:

    That bracelet is spectacular! It’s so something I would wear (if my wrist wasn’t so big)

    When I buy for me I buy huge vintage figural or modernis rings, the kind that most people pass by. I have charm bracelets for all occasions and a gigantamungous french bakelite bangle with amethyst. I have various figural rhinestone (favorite is a dragon) brooches that range from 5″ to 6″. And vintage bird brooches from Mexico in the 4-6″ range. Necklaces I make for myself because I so particular as to the size – vintage beads, sterling and solid copper gemstones from Lima Beads (of course). I’ve shared a modernist polish ring a 6″ bird brooch and cast Navajo ring

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