Two or three times a year, for 30 years, jewelry makers Aaron Macsai and Frances Kite exhibited their wares at the same regional art fairs.
Macsai specializes in intricate, delicate metalwork, and Kite is a master in cloisonné enamel jewelry. They admired each other’s work and discussed their tricks of the trade.
“Most jewelry makers keep their techniques close to the vest,” Macsai said. “Frances and I didn’t feel that way.”
The artists maintained a close professional friendship for decades—before exchanging jewelry. Wedding jewelry.
The couple got married in 2012.
The husband and wife and 29 other fine jewelry artists will be featured at the 34th American Craft Exposition (ACE) September 20-22 in Glencoe. Against the backdrop of Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG), still aglow with the full bloom of summer, 140 of the country’s most celebrated artisans will gather at the prestigious annual Chicago craft expo.
In addition to fine handmade jewelry, ACE exhibitors will showcase ceramics, metal, handcrafted clothing and accessories, glass, furniture, fiber decorative, leather, wood, paper, mixed media and basketry at Chicago Botanic Garden. “The setting is absolutely breathtaking,” said Evanston resident Leslie Sevcik, an ACE 2018 volunteer co-chair. “It’s the perfect canvas for our exhibitors’ work.”
An estimated 8,000 visitors are expected to attend the three-day ACE show and kick-off Benefit Preview Party on September 20. All proceeds from the 2018 ACE support mental health initiatives at NorthShore University HealthSystem, including the creation of a Psychiatric Urgent Care Program to minimize wait times for patients in need of immediate care, as well as the implementation of a Collaborative Care Model for providing mental health services to families.
“Today, more than ever, expanded mental health programs, services and facilities are needed,” said ACE Co-chair Kathy Leighton, of Northbrook “Proceeds from ACE will help make those initiatives a reality.”
Macsai, a 20-year ACE veteran, and Kite share a studio in their Morton Grove home, collaborating on new jewelry pieces and exchanging design ideas. They have a close personal connection to ACE: after suffering from debilitating headaches for years, Macsai received successful treatment at the NorthShore University HealthSystem.
“This show benefits an institution that’s responsible for a lot of breakthroughs in medical research … breakthroughs that I’ve benefitted from,” Macsai said. “We don’t know of another show in the country like that.”
Founded in 1985, the juried show is widely considered the United States’ most selective, prestigious craft expositions. After three decades in Northwestern University’s Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, ACE relocated to Chicago Botanic Garden in 2016.
“Once again, attendees will see dozens of their favorite returning artists, as well as many newcomers, all showcasing one-of-a-kind, museumquality pieces,” Sevcik said.
Judith Kinghorn, a jewelry maker based in Minneapolis, exhibits her pieces regularly at topnotch U.S. art fairs, including ones held in San Francisco and Philadelphia. But she particularly enjoys returning to ACE each year.
“ACE is one of the most difficult shows for exhibitors to get into,” said Kinghorn, an ACE Show participant since 2004. “The Chicago Botanic Garden is the perfect venue for my current collection, which is botanical.”
Working intuitively from memory rather than a sketch or diagram, Kinghorn spends as many as 40 hours crafting one—just one—of her signature gold-layered chrysanthemums.
“I like contrast and texture,” Kinghorn said of her detailed, high-karat gold and silver brooches, necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.
Kinghorn looks forward to reconnecting with her Chicago customer base and introducing herself—and her striking artwork—to new faces.
“The ACE show committee members are very helpful at promoting the show,” Kinghorn said. “It’s always a treat when customers seek me out.”
Benefit Preview Party: Thursday, September 20, from 5:30-9 p.m. Ticket price is $200 in advance, $225 at the door, and it includes a three-day pass to the show.
ACE runs for the duration of the weekend: Friday, September 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, September 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, September 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 for a three-day pass, $13 for Chicago Botanic Garden members. americancraftexpo.org