Ann Arbor Art Fair: An Artist’s Perspective


by Betsy Lehndorff

It’s Monday evening and I am sitting at my tree-shaded Michigan home listening to the cardinals singing in the woods. About a hundred yards away is Hubbard Lake, which I see from the windows of my living room. On a clear, calm, cool, sunny day, it’s absolute peace and I am reluctant to leave. Yet, tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. I will be heading for the traffic and challenges of a 4-hour drive to reach the Ann Arbor Art Fair. I’ll go from a poor county of 10,000 souls to a bustling region where millions of people bump elbows and honk their horns. Then, starting at 1 p.m., I will be helping members of the Michigan Silversmiths Guild set up a booth, where a group of us will do demonstrations and sell our work Wednesday through Saturday.

For $30 in membership dues and $200 to help cover the booth fee, this is an opportunity of a life time for an amateur silversmith. But the guild really offers so much more besides a booth one of the largest art fairs in the country.

The event actually is four separate art fairs covering 30 blocks, and brings more than 500,000 art aficionados craftsmen to the heart of my home town for four days. Although I can’t find figures on the dollar amount of sales at the fair, a 2008 study by Power Marketing showed the art fair boosted Ann Arbor’s economy by $79 million.

Talk about traffic at an art fair — it’s non-stop. Crowds and crowds of people are looking to buy and they have a passion for beautiful work.

There are also crowds and crowds of artists, including hundreds of amazing jewelry artists. So, not only do I look forward to selling my own work at the guild’s booth, but I also love looking at the work of other silversmiths. It is just mind boggling see their incredible work first-hand and talk to them about what they do. The Ann Arbor fair represents some of the finest craftspeople in the United States and the Midwest.


Demonstrations at the Michigan Silversmiths Guild booth.

From now until Saturday, I’ll be writing about this event and sharing images and stories about my experiences there. An event like this is extremely difficult to get into and quite expensive for a beginning silversmith. So, my guild membership is invaluable. Sure. I had to submit photos and an application and be juried in to show my work at the guild booth. I also have to volunteer to help out others and will be doing demonstrations. I’ll help with set up and some of the tear down. I’m also very good at selling the jewelry of other members, because I once worked in retail, so I’m handy that way.

Some of Betsy’s detailed pieces.

Yup. It’s still an investment. I no longer have family in the area, so I can’t camp out on someone’s sofa. And at the end of four days, I’ll be pooped and have to make the four-hour drive home. But the rewards are huge. I’ll have lots of fun. I’ll meet interesting people. I will probably come across ideas and designs that will influence my own work, and of course, I’ll eat lots and lots of good ethnic food on campus.

Here are some links you can explore:

To find out more about the guild, check out their link at: Also take a look at their Facebook page.

If you are planning on going to the fair, be sure to check out the fair guide and this website that includes information on all four events.

I’ve also cut and pasted some information below on the four separate fairs:

The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original

The Original Fair, established in 1960 was named the Number One Art Fair in the country by American Style magazine readers survey (October 2004) and has made the Top Ten Fairs and Festivals list every year since. The Street Art Fair is set on North University Avenue and on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus, amidst elegant architecture and beautifully landscaped pedestrian walkways, including the landmark Burton Carillon Tower.

The State Street Area Art Fair

The State Street Area Art Fair is a nationally recognized and award-winning art fair that combines the talents of 300 artists along the vibrant streets of Ann Arbor’s campus area. The retail climate explodes with a host of merchant displays and food of all kinds as outdoor shoppers search for sales or relax while enjoying a beverage or meal amid the throngs of artist displays. The success of the fair is attributable to the State Street Area Association, a strong downtown organization that welcomes and opens its streets to artists each year. The show combines both highly contemporary works alongside very traditional crafts including glass, painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, fiber, wood and more. The standards set for acceptance reflect in the artists’ dedication to excellence and quality. A jury of both practicing artists and other arts professionals has the task of screening prospective exhibitors, always looking for fresh and innovative approaches as well as stunning examples of age-old techniques.

The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair

The 45th Annual Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair is a juried, fine art event featuring the members of the Guild of Artists & Artisans.  It has 375 exhibiting artist booths, art demonstrations and features special guests including the Carr Center Artist-in-Training program and the Gallery U Boutique, an art therapy and vocational training program from Therapeutic Rehab/Universal Institute.  And, not to be missed, the Cooling Misting Station presented by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions located on State Street at South University.

Ann Arbor South University Art Fair

This is where the Michigan Silversmith Guild will be, sitting next to the College for Creative Studies Blacksmithing booth in front of the U of M School of Social Work. Compared to other venues, this area is a little more gritty, down to earth, offering the work of about 100 artists. It’s also a lot of fun because of the many ethnic restaurants along the streets. Parking is a challenge, so most of us will be using shuttle buses to get to and from the event. Members who juried in are Kristine Bolhuis, Lori Brauer, Andrea Earl, Mary Kernahan, Jennifer Marcson, Emily Saling and Carol Tomasso. Demos will be done by 10 other members, including Janice Degen, Rose  Giacherio, Lesley DiPiazza and Ralph Parus. You’ll hear more about these people during the week.


Wubbers University instructor Betsy Lendorff is a journalist by day and silversmith during her spare time.  Mostly self-taught, she like to make beautiful narrative pieces that are very detailed and a challenge to solder.  She also occasionally writes for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine and other special interest publications.  You can view pictures of her work and enroll her in Wubbers U classes here.


Posted in Handmade Business, Selling Jewelry

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