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Dealer’s Choice

Why is this man shooting his dinner?


Because for dealers at SOFA some of the most memorable experiences happened off the show floor.


And what a floor it was. With an estimated 34,000 visitors, SOFA Chicago 2007 enjoyed record attendance.

After ten hours of sensory overload, swimming against the crowds ogling fluorescent orange gumdrop glass and faux-African vitreous glitter, the highlight of my weekend popped into view at Arun’s on Friday night: a bug-eyed goldfish sculpted from a carrot – one of twelve courses in likely the most magnificent meal of my life.


I should have seen the fish coming. A butterfly had preceded it.


The flame that followed got a standing ovation.


Keeping track on my IPhone calculator, I tallied six appetizers, then four entrees…


…topped by two desserts.

If you thought you were going to get a review of the great glass at SOFA 2007, this blog will disappoint. As did much of the fair for me this year.

Of course the fair was dazzling. It always is. The sheer volume of studio glass to be seen at SOFA is unrivaled by any other selling exposition in the world. The crowds are heady. The chance to meet so many friends in one place at one time is irresistible. Did I enjoy it? Hell yes.

What did I like most?

#2. Discovering 21st Editions, a publisher of fine art photography books, showing a magnificent new two-part bound edition of Misha Gordin prints.

#3. Experiencing Elliott Brown’s “Green Matters”, a rivetingly thoughtful group exhibition of environmentally-themed art.

#4. Finding that I actually had NOT seen everything that could possibly be done with the ubiquitous fused plate form when I came across Lucy Alexandra Batt’s kilnformed and paisley cut pieces at Adam Aaronson’s ZeST Gallery stand.

But how, after three long days of trekking through almost a hundred booths, am I able to reduce my delight to three short entries?

Because SOFA is a hard way to see the best of what glass has to offer. At Arun’s each course of our twelve course banquet was presented with respect and received with awe. The eight of us gushed over every carved vegetable, documented each pea pod on our cell phone cameras, discussed and debated the various flavors, marveled aloud over the symphony of textures.


Norman toasts the fine art of carrot-carving.

How is that possible in an exhibition hall filled with thousands of people? It isn’t. And in my experience, it just doesn’t happen.

Instead, the best work can sit unnoticed – even when placed on the center aisle. Which brings me to my FIRST choice of all that I saw at SOFA that weekend. (In case you wondered why my list above began with #2)


My own Best of Show: Mel Douglas “Open Field 2”. Fused, coldworked & engraved glass, 17.5 x 34.5 x 1 inches. At Beaver Galleries.

#1 (by a mile) was a single panel of black glass engraved with haunting simplicity, patterning that appeared and disappeared at different angles, that whispered and sang, but seemed lost and alone in the torrent of color and commerce that roiled about it.

For a few of us, it was the best course – if the hardest to find – at the annual banquet that is SOFA.

2 Responses to Dealer’s Choice

  1. Barbara says:

    Lani, I decided this year to go to SOFA just to get a look see. I went with my friend Kris who has gone almost every year for as long as I have known her.

    It’s overwhelming. I felt like I do after attending a professional meeting like the American Public Health Association that holds sessions day and night for 4 days in a total of about 5 different hotels (with people staying in 20 odd hotels). I couldn’t decide where I wanted to spend my time or how long I could stay with anything and most things just kind of blurred together in my mind.

    I don’t have all my notes with me. But there are a few things that stand out in my memory.

    First of all there were galleries there selling work with incredibly poor craftsmanship. How do they get away with it? Some of the glass, I wondered if it had even been properly annealed.

    I was disappointed that Galerie Vivendi didn’t bring any of Acko’s paintings to the show ( I first saw her paintings a year and a half ago when I was in Paris in Place des Vosges and can’t get enough of them. I was looking forward to seeing her paintings. (I know that SOFA isn’t flat, but a girl can hope, can’t she?)

    There was a gallery that had some fantastic work in clay. A young woman’s collection of porcelain bottles filled with memories and dreams, lit from within. I went back to them several times. I can’t remember her name or the gallery’s, will have to check when I get home.

    I was happy to see Mel Douglas’ work. I’ve never seen it live. It was some of my favorite work.

    There was also a gallery from California with the work of some Argentine artists – all fiber I think. They had some marvelous quilts from one woman. I looked at the quilts and thought of my years in Caracas, they took me home to my barrio. That evening when I was going through my cards I realized that the artist was Venezuelan and not Argentine like all of the others. I don’t know how I missed that, but I didn’t really because her work clearly evoked Venezuela for me.

  2. Acko says:

    Nice to read that Barbara likes my paintings !
    She ‘ll get the opportunity to see more of my work at Art London this autumn through Vivendi Gallery, if she goes there.
    A hello from Paris !

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