Two Montgomery County Artists To Be Featured in Smithsonian Craft Show

Two Montgomery County Artists To Be Featured in Smithsonian Craft Show

36th annual event will be held from April 26-29 at National Building Museum

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A beaded necklace created by Chevy Chase artist Theodora Fine


Theodora Fine learned the art of beadwork from her grandmother when she was a young child. But it wasn’t until much later that beading became a passion that has since taken over her life.

“When I was a little kid I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother and she never met a craft she didn’t love,” says Fine, who makes light-weight jewelry from tiny glass beads, stones and other objects in the guest bedroom of her Chevy Chase apartment. “She taught me how to bead. I did it until I was around 10, on a loom, by hand or one stitch—which I got a refresher in 40 years later when I went back to it.”

For two decades, former Bethesda resident Nebiur Arellano has created silk paintings that she displays at art shows all over the world.

“When people look at my work, they wonder what medium they are looking at: Is it glass, paper, enamel; is it woven? ‘It’s silk,’ I say, to their surprise,” said Arellano, who lived in Bethesda for 20 years with her husband and two daughters before moving to Poolesville.

The two women are among dozens of artists who have been chosen to display their artwork from April 26 to 29 at the 36th annual Smithsonian Craft Show at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The craft show, produced by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, features the artwork of artists representing 33 states. 

The theme of this year’s show is Asian Influence and the show will highlight Asian cultural influence on American crafts, including basketry, ceramics, decorative fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, wearable art and wood.

The two Montgomery County artists were among 120 selected from 1,000 online applicants based on photos they submitted of their work.

Fine makes her jewelry by sewing individual beads by hand and using stitches that date back to ancient times. Her work includes Judaica designs and pieces inspired by history, travel, art or nature. One of her favorite pieces, a necklace with colorful flowers, was inspired by flowers she saw on a trip to Italy. She creates her pieces, which range from sophisticated to quirky, in a variety of colors and textures. Her necklaces, which take weeks to finish, are priced in the thousands of dollars, while bracelets she crafts in a day sell for around $300.

Throughout her life, Fin has tried every craft she could get her hands on. She fell back into beading when she was around 50 years old. Her hobby soon took over her life.

“I was doing silly stuff with rubber stamps and books and beads became part of it and then I went to an art event in Ohio and a woman I met there was holding a class on beaded amulet bags and I took it and I never looked back,” Fine, 69, said.

Fine has attended craft shows for years, often wearing her own jewelry for self-promotion. As her hobby became more serious, she started displaying and selling her own jewelry at art shows around the country. The best part about the shows is interacting with so many different people, she says.

“I’m looking forward to selling madly and having trouble filling my booth because I will have sold out,” Fine says of the upcoming Smithsonian show. “My goal in life is to have a really nice clientele in the Washington area before I am through.”

For Arellano, next week will seventh time that her artwork will be on display at the Smithsonian Craft Show. To create her paintings, she stretches plain white silk on stretcher bars, draws the design and then outlines the design in a black, silver or gold “resist” that acts as a barrier for the paint.

“I apply a first layer of silk paints with a brush, and let them dry,” Arellano said. “Then I apply a second layer of metallic paints, in some areas with a brush and in others with a gutta applicator, which has a very fine tip. The paint comes out like threads, which gives the effect of a woven and intricate surface. A third layer of silk paints is finally applied. I use also ink, gold leaf and sand to enrich the texture.”

Silk comes in a variety of weights and textures, which allows Arellano to create unique works of art. The layers of gold and silver hand-painted threads in her designs are in honor of ancient Peruvian textiles, she said.

Arellano studied sociology in college, but always had a passion for painting. After she quit her job as a sociologist and editor for a labor magazine 27 years ago, she began studying art and found that painting silk was the best medium for her to express her Peruvian roots.

She sells her work at art fairs and through commissions. Her pieces range in price from $1,200 to $14,000. The price of a piece depends on the amount of time that was involved in creating it. It can take up to three months to create the desired textures, she said.

“Through my work, and because of the medium I have chosen, I have been able to take part in both fine art shows and craft shows,” Arellano said. “I would like to help erase that blurred line between art and craft.”

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