Sunday, November 15, 2009

Road Trip

On Thursday, November 12th, we took a road trip to the City of Brotherly Love to attend the Philadelphia Craft Show, said to be the best craft show in the United States. At 8 AM sharp, we boarded our Peter Pan bus at Port Authority. With thoughts of Tinker Bell dancing in our heads, we were promptly lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound of the windshield wipers. (Yes, dear readers, we embarked on our journey in the wake of the remnants of Hurricane Ida.) Undeterred by the weather, we carried on, determined to make the most of our $24 round-trip tickets.

Luckily, the station was only two blocks from the show and the rain temporarily slowed down to a sputter as we made our way to the Convention Center. This year's is the 33rd annual Craft Show sponsored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The show itself is a juried exhibition and sale of contemporary crafts by 185 talented artisans, including 26 guest artists from Korea.

[Photos: Jean, above left, and Valerie, below right, sporting new hat boxes.]

Once inside, our plan to methodically work our way up each aisle, starting at the far right perimeter, quickly evaporated as soon as we spied the first booth -- Ignatius hats! (Astute readers will recall that Ignatius was the creator of Valerie's fabulous Guggenheim hat.) Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens are the extremely creative milliners behind Ignatius Hats.

Needless to say, we spent the entire first hour of the show at just this one booth, trying on an amazing array of (dare we say it?) idiosyncratic headpieces. So much for our resolution to not tarry long at any single booth. While they do produce very beautiful traditional hats in straw and in felt (which appeared to be selling like hot cakes, judging by the large number of women trying them on), we were drawn to their more esoteric straw creations, such as this exotic tall black, curvy number.

To create this effect, they take wheat straw plaits and sew them with a special machine, starting at the top of the crown and continuing in concentric circles to wherever their whimsy takes them. Located in Petersburg, VA, the pair travel to a number of craft shows. Do check out their website at to see where they'll turn up next. Two additional pale straw hats caught our eye: one that resembles a rumpled pacifier and the other that looks somewhat like an old fashioned juicer.

Obviously, one of the most distinctive features of their hats is their wide variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny sequined ovals to wide brimmed skimmers. They even had fleece "Who" hats for winter.

The photograph with all three of the straw hats gives you an idea of the relative differences in scale among the three hats.

Once we'd thoroughly appeased the hat gods, we finally moved on to admire the dizzying array of pottery, metalwork, glassware, textiles and clothing. The attendees of the show really dressed to the nines for the exhibition, so the people-watching only added to the event. The women in particular were extremely well informed about the crafts on display and many accessorized their own outfits with beautifully wrought handmade scarves, shawls and jewelry. After a few hours, when we'd covered about 75% of the space, we took a lunch break to cool our heels and compare notes.

Fortuitously, the famous Reading Market is conveniently located just across the street. The market contains just about any type of prepared food, ranging from Amish Shoo-Fly Pie and sushi to pizza and barbecue. After surveying our many options, we decided on crepes. While each of us enjoyed a variation on a veggie crepe (Jean's had feta cheese), we assessed the show so far. At the conclusion of our scrumptious meal, we were pleasantly surprised when our (French?) chef, who for most of our meal was perfecting that air of condescension required of all French chefs, presented us with a complimentary dessert crepe made with Nutella, fresh bananas and strawberries. Heavenly!

Fortified with food, we returned to the Convention Center to cruise the remaining booths with clear heads and full tummies. As we exited the show, with hat boxes in tow, we headed back home to the Big Apple. We can attest to the fact that the ride was both painless and economical. Since we didn't have to worry about traffic, we could sit back, relax and review the events of the day.

[At left: Jean shakes her booty at the Grayhound terminal. Compare number of bags to earlier photograph.]

Jean is wearing a vintage Stetson bowler hat, Comme des Garcons jacket, skull and star scarf, Michiko Koshino skirt, Dansko clogs and Lounge Fly bag.

Valerie is wearing a gray fulled wool Strawberry hat finished off by a gray and black pin in industrial felt by Danielle Gori-Montanelli (who also had a booth at the show); gray nylon zipper coat by Final Home over a herringbone wool coat by Tamotsu; a Jill Anderson fulled wool sweater with snap front, H&M cotton and lycra camisole, Huge Apple black cotton pants, Reiko Sudo black and white cotton ties around her ankles, and ever-so-comfortable-for-a-full-day-of-walking, if not exactly fashionable, Sebago shoes (apparently meant for yachting, but also great for land-lubbing).

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