Find Beauty and Function at the Art Fair

I try to remember the famous William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Works for me! The trouble is, I find so many beautiful things and I want them all. We just don’t have a big enough house. That is why when I visit the art fair each year I limit myself to buying just one item.  “Beauty and function,” I tell myself.  “Don’t get distracted by colorful doodads that will clutter up the house.”  Unfortunately, I’m not good at taking advice, even from myself.

I found a lot to covet at this year’s BAM ARTSfair. Here are some of the artists whose work caught my eye:

Dakota Pratt

Dakota is an engaging guy who creates Pop Art Furniture Sculpture. Everyone who passed his booth took a closer look—you couldn’t miss his fun shapes and brilliant colors. A bouncy banana, large enough to sit on! Huge cherries, as large as beach balls! An enormous rubber ducky! Dakota first creates his sculptures in wood, then covers them with flattened bottle caps, and finishes off with epoxy. He personally hammers each cap and works mostly at night. “My neighbors love me,” he grinned. I can imagine a world where I own several of his sculptures. As soon as I got home, I scouted the house for a big enough spot for one of his creations. I’m sure I can find a spot!  You can see more of Dakota’s colorful work here:

Portrait of Dakota Pratt and his art

Dakota Pratt and his work

art with beauty and function by Dakota Pratt art by Dakota Pratt


Ginger Steele

I had a great chat with Ginger while we kept an eye on her booth. Ginger is quite articulate about how an artist works within their individual “design vocabulary.” It takes years for artists to develop this language, and it is influenced by their individual experiences, including travel, education, and architecture. Ginger specializes in salt-fired functional ceramics with a highly-decorated surface. Here we have beauty and function. So I just had to buy a baking dish from her. Ginger is online here:

Portrait of Ginger Steele

Ginger Steele and her work

ceramic work of beauty and function by Ginger Steeleceramics by Ginger Steele


Leslie Guinan

I have always loved encaustic and have enough experience with wax to know that it is hard to handle but can enhance many types of work. Leslie’s pieces have wonderful color and texture. She works with encaustic, steel, stones, paper and other natural materials. Leslie’s background includes formal training as a furniture maker, which informs the three dimensional aspect of her work. Leslie works alongside her husband, Rob Matthews.

Portrait of Leslie Guinan

Leslie Guinan and her work

encaustic by Leslie Guinan encaustic by Leslie Guinan

Rob Matthews

Rob and Leslie together form the artistic collaboration of Hidden Spring Designs. Rob works with lightweight concrete as the core material for his work. He incorporates hand-cut glass, found objects, wood, and other materials. His themes are frequently architectural, exploring perceptions of place. Rob and Leslie have just relocated from California to Des Moines, Iowa, which he describes as a “super happening place.” Find Rob and Leslie at:


Portrait of Rob Matthews

Rob Matthews and his work

artwork by Rob Matthews artwork by Rob Matthews

Marjolyn van der Hart

Marjolyn and I had a fascinating discussion of art vis-á-vis the internet. She told me that many serious collectors do not just show up at an art fair and walk around to see what inspires them, but instead they research the artists who will be displaying in advance and head directly to see their work. Marjolyn sees her collage pieces as “inspiring your life with images of the past.” She uses images taken from classic films, vintage magazines and found old photos, along with vintage wallpapers and tissue paper. She thinks of her process as a metaphor for memory. You can see more of her work online:

Portrait of Marjolyn van der Hart

Marjolyn van der Hart and her work

artwork by Marjolyn van der Hart artwork by Marjolyn van der Hart


Vicki Fish

I couldn’t pass Vicki’s booth without a closer look. Her whimsical mixed-media constructions feature myths, the animal world and personal journeys. Vicki is a talented story-teller, and her art work reflects that aptitude. She uses collage, sculpture, drawing and painting to explore our connections to the past, each other, and the animal world. And of course she has the perfect name for an artist who does this type of work! Find Vicki here:

Portrait of Vicki Fish

Vicki Fish and her work

artwork by Vicki Fish artwork by Vicki Fish artwork by Vicki Fish


Art fairs provide great opportunities to hunt for accessories that epitomize both beauty and function—with the added advantage of giving you a chance to meet the artist who created the work. Find the perfect wall art for over the sofa bed, or a handmade textile to enhance your leather sleeper at your nearest art fair. Plan ahead by reading up on the fair online before you go, so you’ll know what to expect.  Comment below to share your own best art fair finds!

About Meryl Alcabes

Twenty-five years ago, Meryl Alcabes launched Also Furniture with her husband Carlos. They were new to retail and new to the furniture industry, so the first few years of business were a challenge. However, with her art school background and gregarious personality, Meryl loved the combination of meeting new people and helping them design their living spaces by focusing on appropriate colors and styles for each situation.

When Meryl and Carlos were first married and found their dream apartment in San Francisco, they could only afford one new furniture item a month. The very first thing they purchased was a sleeper sofa, which they used as a bed at night and for seating during the day. After a few years in the furniture business, Meryl realized that sleeper sofas were a must for most apartment and condo dwellers, and they were hard to find—so the couple decided to specialize in sofa beds and Sleepers In Seattle was launched.

Two of Meryl and Carlos’s sons, Max and Jacques, have since joined the firm, which has expanded in many directions with Savvy Home. Meryl’s interests include photography and collage, in addition to cooking for her family and friends and frequent entertaining. Dinner table discussion always includes furniture talk and speculation about when their third son, Raphael, will join the business.
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