American Craft Council director Chris Amundsen on keeping American aesthetics alive

Chris Amundsen is the executive director of the American Craft Council, which is celebrating its 70th birthday Aug. 12 to Aug. 14 at Fort Mason. The ACC is dedicated to preserving the history of American craft while promoting artists. For more info on the fair, visit

What is the American Craft Council all about?

We’re the organization that really champions contemporary American craft. So we have number of programs that offer to the public. First and foremost is our show in Fort Mason. Essentially, we provide opportunities for artists who bring their work to market and that obviously gets people to come in and not only take a look at the work, but understand more about how craft is made.

The American Craft Council is based in Minnesota, but what is it about San Francisco that makes it ideal to host the show?

I think it’s a very creative town and, centrally, it has that spirit that mirrors what I would call the values of craft. It’s not only about a creative lifestyle, but also about exploring and really being a community that appreciates and values craft.

How do artists get into the show?

People apply to get in. We have a national jury that selects the best artists who will then be participating in our shows. The can connect with the public and educate them about some of the work that they are doing.

How long has San Francisco been the location for the craft show?

It’s been there 30 years. It’s actually the largest craft show in the West, at this point. We’re operating out of Fort Mason. It’s just really a great indoor space to show contemporary art and craft and some of the finest artist in the country.

What was your foray into the world of craft?

My background is really more in business and operations in nonprofit leadership. For 20 years, I’ve been in nonprofit [ventures]. I’ve worked primarily through United Way locally and nationally. I got connected to this organization through a friend. And for me it was really kind of a unique calling.

Does your wife specialize in craft?

She is a painter actually. She also does stained glass design, fabric and fiber art. She is a multidimensional when it comes to being an artist.

What got you hooked onto the world of craft?

I’ve always been drawn to two specific areas. That’s really wood and glass. It’s always been fascinating to me. To take an object and create something that is beautiful and very unique just captured my interest. Not that I ever dreamed of becoming an artist, I don’t have those types of skills. But I really value the work that is being done in those areas.

In this era of mass production, what does it mean to be able to buy items that are truly one-of-a-kind?

I think objects that are handcrafted by people that you get a chance to meet and interact with are of significant value. We can always get mass-produced items from stores that we shop in. While they’re functional and meet a purpose, when you’re buying a one-of-a-kind object, the imperfections and the mark that the artist makes are really part of the character of the piece.

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