The Sculpture Objects & Functional Art fair organized by the Art Fair Company each year on Chicago’s Navy Pier is more than just another market of beautifully crafted objects designed and executed by some of the world’s best makers.

SOFA is also a barometer of our field. Aesthetic direction, media percentages, gallery appearances (and disappearances), size of booth, placement in hall, artists on show – SOFA is a virtual snapshot of where we are and, more importantly, where we’re going.

Going places: e-merge 2010 winner Kate Baker is our choice for front row viewing at the entrance to this year’s SOFA.

Granted, it’s not yet even Opening Night. Many dealers are still knee-deep in installation. But since our own booth is finally “done and dusted”, I had a few minutes yesterday to walk the aisles and take a few notes. Shared herewith….

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The difference between a blog and Facebook?

On a blog, no one talks to you. Ask a question? Good luck. On Facebook everyone is so busy yabbering that your questions are drowned out by all the other chatter. But more often than not, people respond. Silly stuff sometimes. But at least you’re heard.

It’s kind of like speaking on stage compared to blathering in the local pub. And with Facebook you don’t really need a prepared speech. Anything seems to fly.

Get AWAY from me with that stupid camera – go embarrass some of your human friends!

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By the last day of COLLECT we’re running out of time. After years of working at Bullseye Gallery, Jamie announces she’s never seen glass blown (it is possible to take this gotta-be-Bullseye-gotta-be-kilnformed thing too far).

Adam Aronson takes pity and invites us for breakfast and a lesson at his hotshop in West Brompton. Charming neighborhood, good croissant, and Adam proves to be a brilliant teacher.

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Friday inside the Saatchi Galleries, it’s all business. Sales are stronger than we’ve seen in years.

Without a doubt the most satisfying clients are the ones who return a year later to say they deeply regret the purchase they didn’t make the year before and would like to make up for it immediately!

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By 5:00 pm Thursday the painful memory of set-up is fading.  Drawn, bug-like, to Saatchi’s glamorously-lit digs, we arrive for the VIP Preview of COLLECT 2010.

Inside there is just about everything that makes us keep coming back year after year.

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It’s a portent. Gallery. Mess.

Walking into London’s Saatchi Gallery to set up for this year’s Crafts Council COLLECT fair, I notice the signage over the posh café that’s pimping itself at the entrance to Charles Saatchi’s refurbished military barracks, aka Duke of York Headquarters, aka chichi Chelsea’s chicest exhibition space. We’ve arrived. That’s me, Jamie, our gallery’s assistant director, and Jeff, formerly our gallery’s head preparator until he moved to England.

How cool is this? It’s our fourth time doing COLLECT. We must think this makes sense.

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It’s been four days since we set up our booth at SOFA WEST. A lot’s happened and a lot hasn’t.

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Opening night knocked everyone’s socks off. The crowds were far larger than expected. Apparently they’d anticipated about 500 people for the opening night reception. I’ve heard that between 1500 and 2000 turned out. But who could count? I could barely move.

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Seems like yesterday that we packed up from COLLECT in London. Woke up this morning in Santa Fe. We’re here for SOFA WEST, the newest addition to Mark Lyman’s lineup of always (she writes with great expectations) brilliant expositions of Sculpture, Objects & Functional Art.

It’s 6:30 am. My gallery team is still asleep. For now it’s just me, my laptop and a cup of steaming hot lemon ginger tea.

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In a couple of hours we’ll reconnect with our DeWalt drills and start set-up down at the unconventional convention center.

Once the work is done, the artists arrive.  ;-)

For me, for now, it’s just a little morning bliss before the storm.

The hours between the end of COLLECT and the trip back to Portland for our biennial conference, BECon, seemed a good time to link the two with a visit to conference presenter Heike Brachlow at  London’s Royal College of Art.

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The RCA sits just opposite Hyde Park, not far from the little mews house that we’d rented for our time in London. So it was a short walk and a good way to stretch out after days of standing at the fair.

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