Kelly Richard believes
her ownership of The League of Maryland Craftsmen and American
Craftworks Collection located on Main Street might possibly have
been in the stars. It all just happened so easily.
day in 1996, her husband, Kerry Smith, said to her, "Wouldn't
it be nice if we could own something like The League of Maryland
Craftsmen?" That same day, she received a call informing her that
the owners, Bill and Lee Johnson, were selling.
"We said we would only do it if all the numbers were right---and
they were," she says. "It seemed that it was meant to be."
Six years later at a craft trade show, it was she who approached
her husband this time, asking him if he thought it would be "crazy"
to open a second store featuring not just work by Maryland craftsmen
but by artisans across the nation. "At the time, it was difficult
to find really good work from Maryland craftsmen," she says. "My
husband said, 'I think it makes infinite sense.' We found the
location on Main Street that week."
two years later, Kelly says her husband was right. "The stores
have been very successful," she says. "Annapolis is unique in
that we have a very astute and knowledgeable public. There are
many people here who have a real understanding about wood and
other materials. They truly appreciate what we are selling."
Kelly, a sculptor, graphic designer and illustrator, hails from
New Jersey but has lived in this area for nearly 30 years. She
became familiar with The League of Maryland Craftsmen through
selling her own work there. At that time, the store was located
on Maryland Avenue and was run solely on consignment with more
than 130 artists and craftsmen from around Maryland.
Kelly and her husband, an ordained minister who manages Anchor
Mental Health, bought the store in 1996 and moved it to 216 Main
Street when the location became available in 1999. "When we moved,
our sales went up 300 percent," she says.
Today, less than half of the crafts are sold on consignment. The
remainder Kelly has purchased outright. "We have found consignment
to be a kind of lose-lose for everyone involved," she says. "Many
of the products just end up sitting there. When I purchase them
outright, I have more control over the quality, the price and
the production. I have a good idea of what will sell and what
The League of Maryland Craftsmen features numerous types of traditional
crafts ranging in cost from as low as one dollar to $4,000 for
some of the furniture items. "I try to keep the average price
in the $30 to $50 range at both stores," Kelly says. "The tourists
really want something made by a local artist, and they need to
be able to take it with them."
The crafts include fiberworks, hand-painted silks, kaleidoscopes,
model ships and boats, original paintings, prints and photography,
scrimshaw, hand-woven baskets, jewelry in a variety of mediums,
mosaics, pottery, wood carvings and turnings, sculpture, blown
and fused glass, and stained and etched glass.
American Craftworks Collection caters to buyers with more contemporary
tastes, featuring fine glassware, wooden kitchen items, metal
fountains, stained glass, and jewelry. "We go all over the country
looking for crafts," says Kelly. "We also have craftsmen who come
in or call both stores, asking to show us their work."
Kelly says working with the artists is what makes work so enjoyable.
"There is just so much creative energy and a great deal of ingenuity,"
she says. "I'm always amazed by what they come up with." Plus,
all of the craftsmen have a story which she likes to share with
her customers when they are buying the craftsman's piece.
"We have one craftsman who is an insurance agent and simply decided
one day to take a pottery class with his wife," she says. "He's
now our best seller, hands down." His name is Richard Ashburn,
and his work is very recognizable in that every piece features
a Maryland blue crab so real looking it feels like it could reach
out and pinch you. "He is able to catch the essence of Annapolis,"
She believes what brings the artists and the customers to her
stores is her effort to display the items in a way that makes
them look the most enticing. "I try very hard to make it as professional
a display as possible," she says. "I change the store around often
so everyone has a chance to be in the spotlight."
Ashburn, who sold his work on consignment through The League of
Maryland Craftsmen even before Kelly took over, agrees. "It's
a beautiful place, and they are such nice, honest people," he
says. Kelly now buys his work outright. "I wouldn't dream of going
any place else in Annapolis," says Ashburn.
Mohsberg is a resident of Eastport and a freelance writer
in addition to being the media relations associate for Anne
Arundel Health System.