Jewish Artists To Display Creations at American Craft Council Event


This weekend, from March 15-17, 350 craft artists and several local arts organizations will be showing off their creations at the American Craft Made Baltimore Marketplace.

Organized by the American Craft Council and held at the Baltimore Convention Center, the flagship event is an opportunity for artists across mediums, including ceramics, weaving and furniture construction, to display their works and even sell them to interested customers and collectors.

In addition to well-established artists who have made a name for themselves in the world of handicrafts, the marketplace also seeks to highlight new and beginner artists with its Emerging Artists Program, which provides lower-cost booths and extra support to artists looking to get off the ground by exhibiting their work.

Because of the amount of artists on display at the event, the marketplace provides a diverse array of crafts from artists who hail from all over the country and from vastly different backgrounds. Among them are several Jewish artists, including a few from Baltimore.

A model wearing Shana Kroiz jewelry (Jerry Brown)

One of these is Shana Kroiz, a jeweler and a member of Beth Am Synagogue. Kroiz’s work can usually be found on display at the Rebecca Myers Collection in the Village of Cross Keys, and her creations have been worn by runway models at New York and Paris fashion shows.

Though she started as a fine arts student, Kroiz developed a specific interest in jewelry when she attended a jewelry show in New York.

“I was completely blown away by the fact that you could actually make jewelry, and [at the show] I was very much exposed to more sculptural, artistic pieces,” Kroiz said. “It felt like small-scale sculpture, so it felt like my skills were being distilled down when I started making jewelry.”

Many of Kroiz’s pieces are inspired by the human body and its form, particularly the feminine form. She started using human anatomy as a source of inspiration for her art after she had children and when she took up swimming as a hobby.

Kroiz notes that she is particularly excited for this year’s marketplace in Baltimore because it provides her with an opportunity to present her artwork to her peers in the area.

“It’s a chance for the people who see me as a mom and a wife to see what else I do,” she said. “It’s a great way to see everyone in town.”

Jewelry has always been a significant part of Kroiz’s Jewish identity. She recalled that she was raised by her grandmother, who would often tell her about pieces of jewelry she owned and the stories behind them.

“My grandmother would take me into her bedroom, open her safe and pull out pieces, and there were stories for each one. Her engagement ring was a tiny platinum band because it was all [she and her husband] could afford,” Kroiz said. “To me, that brings so much Jewish joy to my life. The local Jewish community has been very supportive of me.”

Mid-century modern havdalah set designed by Jim Cohen (Courtesy)

The marketplace will also feature several artists who make specifically Jewish art. One of these is Jim Cohen, who is coming to Baltimore from his Durham, North Carolina, hometown to display and sell the Judaica he makes. Cohen credits his involvement in the Judaica world to his mentor, Fred Fenster, whom Cohen calls “one of the real mavens of Judaica metalsmithing in the United States.” Notably, Fenster was named as a fellow of the American Craft Council in 1995.

“I think Judaica is often seen as the redheaded stepchild of Jewish art, and never regarded with the same reverence,” Cohen said. “Jewish art tells a story, but Judaica lives a story. Judaica affirms ritual practice, and it’s how the practice is kept alive.”

Using his background in metalworking, Cohen makes Jewish-themed jewelry, along with specifically Jewish items like mezuzot, yads and candlesticks for Shabbat. Cohen was raised Reform, and as such does not always follow established norms for creating Judaica, but making it helps him feel closer to his religious identity.

Aside from his art, Cohen recently authored the book, “Modern Judaica: Today’s Makers, Today’s Sacred Objects,” where he interviewed 53 Judaica artists from around the world and featured their artwork.

Cohen has been a staple at American Craft Council shows for many years, as he started applying to have his work displayed at them since the early ‘90s. He doesn’t only market his work to Jewish audiences, finding it important to expose non-Jews to Judaica as well.

“I think it’s important to get Judaica out to everybody,” he said. “We get a lot of questions like, ‘What is that thing that goes on your doorposts? And why do you have it?’ and I can answer questions like that, and about other aspects of Judaica. And I think that’s an important educational aspect of being at these events.”

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