Ann Arbor Art Fair
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Ann Arbor Art Fair runs Thursday-Saturday, July 15-17, in downtown Ann Arbor.

Two distinctive jewelry designers and a whimsical assembly artist are among the participants joining the multi-media creative contingent as the Ann Arbor Art Fair resumes showcasing new work.

Although this year’s event will be three days — July 15-17 — instead of four, the three artists are glad to travel the distances from their out-of-state homes so they can once again meet with customers and display the pieces made during pandemic isolation. 

Fractured Circle Brooch; 2 Part Hex Earrings; Layered Chevron Brooch.
Left to right: Fractured Circle Brooch; 2 Part Hex Earrings; Layered Chevron Brooch. Courtesy of Michele Friedman
Contemporary Jewelry

Michele Friedman, based in Chicago, will be at the original art fair and has brought an unusual material, wool felt, into her sterling silver-based necklaces, brooches and bracelets. Like the other two artists, she defines herself as culturally Jewish but not currently offering Judaica.

“I treat fiber as if it were a stone,” said Friedman, who has been developing original pieces since 1998. “I wanted to do something different and experimented with texture and saturated color. There is depth, not just thin material, and the fabric is water repellant and durable.”

Friedman, who began showing her work in Ann Arbor in 2007, had gone to the Parsons School of Design in New York City with the intention of majoring in fashion. 

“I sketched in shapes and loved sculpture class, so I put the two together,” said Friedman, who relied on social media for sales during the pandemic. “I loved fashion, but it wasn’t for me. I majored in metals and went on to work in a contemporary craft gallery and with a goldsmith.”

Boutiques and museum shops have carried her work.

The only artist in her birth family, she married into a family of artists. Her mother-in-law experiments with different media, and she defines her father-in-law as a “master woodworker.”

Bottom (L-R): Hinged Slate and Turquoise Cuff.
Top row (L-R): Fordite Necklace, Chrysocolla and Coral Earrings.
Bottom (L-R): Hinged Slate and Turquoise Cuff.
Sustainable Jewelry

Melanie Schlossberg, living in Houston, first learned about artistry from her mother and grandmother, who taught home economics. In her teen years, while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, she became captivated by ethnic jewelry and signed up for metalsmithing classes in high school. Her preference became modernistic designs with straight angles.

Schlossberg studied at Syracuse University, worked for an art consulting company and partnered with metals artist Blake Smith, introduced on the web. The two develop only collaborative projects using the business name Dirigible Designs.

“We fabricate sterling silver jewelry that uses hand-cut, fortunately-found and wisely-collected stones and materials,” said Schlossberg, not related to designer Edwin Schlossberg (Caroline Kennedy’s husband) but having communicated with him through professional media.

“Our jewelry explores the tension between asymmetry and balance, the natural versus the manmade. We explore sustainability by including recycled materials and bypassing the refinery process by reusing our sterling scraps. We provide collectors with wearable, comfortable jewelry that is one-of-a-kind.” 

Schlossberg will be at the State Street Art Fair.

Three whimsical  assemblies using clock faces
Three whimsical assemblies using clock faces Courtesy of Bob and Patti Stern
Artistic Whimsy

For many years, Bob and Patti Stern, of Cleveland, worked together on assemblies, but that has changed. Although Patti still scouts materials — most recently antique piano parts — that form sculptures, Bob now takes care of all the hands-on work.

Some of the most popular pieces are characters with clock heads.

“I have always told my collectors to walk through their homes and smile in every room,” said Bob, who will be at the original fair. “My whimsical creations reflect my unique sense of humor. The world has faced an ugly COVID pandemic, but luckily we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Working with the business name The Perfect View, the Sterns started out crafting decorative windows in the 1990s, as she applied her interior decorator skills. They moved into curio cabinets and key holders and have made installations on special order. 

“Bob upcycles found pieces into cabinets and tables,” said Patti, who travels with him to art shows around the country. “He makes a really cool cabinet to look like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz with parts from a tin ceiling.”

Bob, not formally trained in artistry, came up with the idea for whimsy. Before the pandemic, the couple sold at some 35 shows each year, many times in Ann Arbor. This season, they will be at six fairs.

“In 2021, I am poised to continue with my creations as well as my message of strength and perseverance,” Bob said. “I hope my creations are a glimmer of light amid these dark and uncertain times. Returning to Ann Arbor is a welcome sign that things are getting back to normal.” 


The Ann Arbor Art Fair runs Thursday-Saturday, July 15-17, in downtown Ann Arbor.