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July 25, 2019 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Art Fair season in Ann Arbor
just ended, and, this year, I had a
mission: to find a specific ring from
a specific artist who had a booth at
the fair two years ago. The prob-
lem was I only had a vague mem-
ory that the artist was a woman
who made jewelry out of antique
silverware with her husband. I
tried Googling “antique silverware
jewelry” beforehand, but there
was a surprising number of people
on Etsy who make things out of
antique silverware. So, out into the
field I went.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair is a
yearly affair and has been a city
staple for the last 60 years. Art-
ists from all over the country
flock to the streets, only to sit in a
small, white booth in what is often
90-degree heat. It’s magical. And,
according to the Ann Arbor Dis-
trict Library archives, not much
has changed. In a series of pho-
tos from the summer of 1971, art-
ists stood by their wares, just as
they do today, and I, as a faithful
Art Fairgoer, am still confused by
some of the things people choose
to make. For instance, take Jane
Hawkins and her macramé, or Vic-
tor Ing and his prints, a style of art
that is still favored by the Art Fair
today. This year, I saw what looked

like paintings but were actually
images made entirely out of string.
Vastly different mediums and sub-
jects, yet the artists still have their
audience scratching their heads,
wishing they could craft some-
thing similar.
The next closest thing to being
able to do it yourself, of course,
would be to buy it from the artist.
It’s fulfilling to support an artist, to
know that your hard-earned money
is supporting a tangible thing that
others can enjoy, rather than hand-
ing it off to the corporate entities
that are so entrenched in our lives.
That said, the masked capitalistic
vibe of the Ann Arbor Art Fair did
nothing to deter downtown busi-
nesses, local or otherwise. The
fair is a time of sales galore from
MDen to Urban Outfitters, Cherry
Republic to Moosejaw. It’s not only
a place to find eye-catching paint-
ings of seascapes, but also a new
dress or hiking boots at half the
price. This shouldn’t be surprising,
though — in the 1985 Street Art
Fair brochure, it’s revealed that the
fair actually started as a partner to
the Summer Bargain Days of local
businesses. A fitting beginning for
one of the biggest attractions Ann
Arbor has to offer.
Aside from the actual art and
the sales, the other appealing part
of the fair is the people-watching.
The number of times I saw some-
one walking around drinking from
a full-sized fruit is surprisingly

high for day-to-day life, but, at an
art fair, what else would I expect?
People come from all over the coun-
try, not only to showcase their art,
but to look around and do some of
their own shopping. I spoke to one
woman doing just that as she vis-
ited the city from Texas. Though a
seasoned art fair shopper, this was
her first time at the Ann Arbor Art
Fair. Even better, she was scoping
out the competition for her son,
the artist (what he actually makes,
I didn’t quite catch.) Her goal was
to figure out what people are doing
and how they were doing it so he
could adapt his techniques and
stay relevant to the art fair circuit.
But where am I in my hunt for
the ring? Sadly, after walking up
and down the various branches
of the fair, I found myself coming
up empty. It seemed I was going
to remain ringless, a sad fact given
how I decided the Ann Arbor Art
Fair was my moment to become
a ring person. It’s not that there
weren’t any rings; there were
plenty of jewelers (and potters and
painters) throughout the fair. I just
couldn’t find the kind of ring I had
been picturing ever since I lost the
original in the depths of my grand-
parents’ couch.
Fear not. I persevered like any
good shopper, kept an open mind
and stumbled on some really great
pieces that weren’t just rings. Fur-
ther down Liberty Street, closer to
where it intersects Fifth Avenue,

there was a man selling bowls. But
not just any bowls, vegetabowls.
(I’m mostly mentioning them here
because of the magnificence of the
pun.) Although an interesting con-
cept, I didn’t end up purchasing
any because the bowls themselves
weren’t really my idea of dinner-
ware. Instead, I found solace on
Main street with Corbé, a Detroit-
based pottery company. The brand
catches a shopper’s attention with
mini vases in a white wire basket
sitting just outside of the booth,
but then it’s the patterns that
force someone to really consider
how great this pottery actually is.
There’s a spotted design reminis-
cent of a dalmatian mixed in with
strong oranges, blues and a speck-
led motif that somehow all came
together into a cohesive aesthetic.
My parents bought four of their
mugs and a vase.
The most surprising part of this
year’s art fair, though, was run-
ning into a Utah-based artist, The
Bearded Jeweler. A first-timer,
he and his wife both had booths
on Thompson, just outside The
Michigan Daily’s building. I knew
his jewelry from a Sunday market
in Park City where my whole ring
hunt originated — which is also
where his wife just launched her
own brand. So, imagine my excite-
ment when I found out he was here

in Ann Arbor! Though his pieces
aren’t made from antique silver-
ware, they’re gorgeous in their
own right, and both he and his wife
were fun to talk to.
Despite the welcome surprise of
running into The Bearded Jeweler,
my ring hunt was still on, and I
was getting frustrated. It was hot;
I had worked four shifts at MDen
with one more to go, and I was still
ringless. What was a girl to do? As
always, it was my mom who came
to the rescue. Both my parents
enjoy walking around the Art Fair.
With both kids employed at stores
in the heart of it, they had plenty of
reason to stroll around the area for
hours — serving as an extra pair of
eyes on the lookout for some rings.
It was on North University,
booth NU714, that my quest for
rings finally ended. Made out of
a variety of silverware, the rings
manage to be both delicate and
edgy and a marvelous way to
assuage my ringless woes.
The Ann Arbor Art Fair is a
unique experience — some townies
enjoy all it has to offer, in spite of
the absurd heat and its painstaking
traffic, while others leave town that
weekend to avoid the tourists that
descend on Ann Arbor. Whichever
way you choose, just remember to
shop local, and send me an email if
you see any rings worth wearing.


Thursday, July 25, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

My quest for a ring at the
2019 Ann Arbor Art Fair


Senior Arts Editor


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