Thursday, April 20, 2006

Say “crafts,” and most people conjure up images of summer camp: leather wallets and crocheted potholders.

Add the word “Smithsonian,” though, and those in the know flock every year to the Smithsonian Crafts Show in the National Building Museum, at 401 F St. NW, to view — and buy — exquisite one-of-a-kind items such as handblown glass, furniture, jewelry, pottery, ceramics, fiber, wearable art, baskets and other items from around the country for this event, celebrating its 24th year.

Sponsored by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, the juried show takes up an acre of space, with small booths and 120 crafters on site. The preview gala on Wednesday night drew 1,000 guests — sipping champagne and Chivas Regal — who toured the booths and dined on smoked salmon, pasta and desserts.

Just think of it as an uber-upscale flea market, with prices to match. The show runs through Sunday, and tickets are $15. (Children 12 and younger are admitted free; no baby strollers permitted.) There’s also an online auction for bedroom bidders at

It was a warm spring evening — perfect for Washingtonians decked out in silk and colorful attire. Like vice chairwoman Emily Willey. She and her husband, Mitch, own the award-winning Clifton the Country Inn in Charlottesville and live in Alexandria. Mrs. Willey and vice chairwoman Winkie Criegler started work on the show a year ago.

No detail was overlooked. The building, with its soaring ceilings and wide pillars, was transformed into an intimate, softly lit boulevard with live music and black-tied waiters, and the effect was like a bustling Paris side street.

The best-in-show was awarded to 58-year-old Randall Rosenthal of East Hampton, N.Y., for his unique woodcarvings. A first-time exhibitor, Mr. Rosenthal said he was “completely thrilled” by the honor. (Most of his work is by commission, and collectors include casino magnate Steve Wynn.)

One of the handmade pieces on display depicts a rendition of a Sunday New York Times newspaper, complete with the crossword puzzle filled out in ink. The piece was carved from one piece of pine and was priced at $22,000.

Worth the price of admission alone.

Stephanie Mansfield

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