- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2005

It would have taken a lot more than sleet and freezing-cold blasts of air to deter the die-hards trekking into the Washington Convention Center to see top-notch works by master artisans — everything from $25 wooden toylike sculptures on wheels to $22,000 handcrafted kayaks — at the Washington Craft Show preview party Friday night.

“This says ‘I don’t care what the weather is, I’m wearing it anyway,’” Maureen Ross of Arlington pronounced as she made a runway twirl in front of a mirror in a shiny, bright yellow $1,200 raincoat designed by Black Rock, Conn., designer Jeffrey Weiss.

Others were captivated by the one-of-a-kind kayaks by Nick Schade, who competed with 185 artists from across the country to win first prize at the juried show.

“I’m an engineer, and I started doing this in 1986 because I needed a boat,” Mr. Schade explained. After a few years, he started selling two or three a year. That plus commissions for boat plans allowed him to quit his day job.

His biggest challenge is not to convince prospective buyers that his boats are art but to assure them that the kayaks are actually navigable.

“I get that all the time, ‘You don’t put that in the water, do you?’” the Glastonbury, Conn., native said with a laugh after mentioning that he had “done at least 1,000 miles,” mostly on Long Island Sound, in his own kayak. A similar creation, he added, has pride of place in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Aside from being a favorite holiday shopping venue and a place for artists to meet and be recognized, the event also raises funds for the Washington Hospital Center’s Cancer Institute and Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts. This year, as in the past, it was expected to raise about $100,000.

The relationship between art and healing was not lost at the show, which featured a white wooden Greek-temple-like “healing pavilion” filled with tall bamboo trees, poinsettias and various artists’ work.

“The element of beauty in our surroundings helps us feel balanced; it reduces stress; it increases our overall well-being,” said Barbara Huelat, one of the pavilion’s designers.

Shanti Norris, executive director of Smith Farm, which offers arts therapy and education at the Washington Cancer Institute, agreed.

“On a superficial level, art provides a diversion for the patients,” Ms. Norris said. “On a deeper level, it brings back joy in a terrifying time.”

— Gabriella Boston

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