Tigerlilly Shop – One of many local vendors at Artscape this weekend

While the rest of us blast our air conditioning this week, artists from far and wide will be sweating their way through booth setup for the 36th annual Artscape. 

The streets of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon, Midtown-Belvedere and Station North neighborhoods transform each July into a sweltering wonderland of art, craft, music and merriment in the nation’s largest free arts festival. Despite the heat, spots in the Artscape Artists Market along Mount Royal Avenue are highly competitive, and the show is not to be missed.

Many artists selling at Artscape are veteran crafters in the middle of craft fair season. But, with the festival being free and located so centrally in the city, it’s a rare opportunity.

“It showcases our work to a much larger audience,” says Kim Bentley of Baltimore Print Studios, when asked why she’s willing to stand outside in 98-degree heat for three days straight. “It expands our community to people we might not normally connect with.”

Luckily for Bentley, her studio is located less than a mile away from the festival grounds. In fact, on the roster of impressive talent from across the country for this year’s fair, many local artists have made the cut. We picked a few local favorites to showcase from the talented list of painters, sculptors, jewelers, metal and woodworkers and printmakers at this year’s Artscape:

Mea Rhee of Silver Spring brings her Korean-inspired, functional pottery to Baltimore, with a minimal and rustic style. A former designer, Rhee originally launched her pottery business, Good Elephant, as a side project before quitting her day job and running her business full-time. In addition to selling her work online and at fairs, Rhee posts informative teaching videos on how to throw basic ceramic shapes on a wheel.

Sandtown Millworks in Baltimore City intercepts wood and metal scraps headed to landfills and salvages them for beautiful, functional furniture pieces. No two pieces are the same, and all come with hundreds of years of history from their original use. In fact, the company is so dedicated to preserving the history of its materials that it uses a machine to add a pewter emblem bearing the original address of the wood for each piece of furniture.

Baltimore Print Studios creates brightly colored silkscreen and letterpress prints from its public-access print shop on North Avenue. The shop also offers workshops on how to use its equipment, and rents time in the studio for others to make their own work. One of the first businesses to open on North Avenue some years ago, the shop has helped to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood while keeping alive a centuries-old art form.

Constance Scott of Baltimore offers a line of clutch purses and pillows made with vintage barkcloth fabrics, under the label Mercedes Sherwood. Formerly a jeweler under the name Studio C, with retail locations in Hampden and Fells Point, Scott is a 20-year veteran of the Baltimore craft scene. Mercedes Sherwood maintains Scott’s quirky and colorful design style, and uses her love of vintage patterns to build functional, wearable, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Allison Fomich has been creating unique metal jewelry and accessories since 2005. Pieces in her Tigerlilly Shop line are made by collecting specimens from nature and pressing them into metal with a printing press. Having found success selling at wholesale shows, and to small shops around the country, Fomich is also a mother, Girl Scout leader and enthusiastic member of the Baltimore craft scene.

We hope everyone has a safe, successful and fun festival!

For more info on the 36th annual Artscape, visit www.artscape.org

Rachel Bone is a regular contributor to the Baltimore Fishbowl.