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To use or amuse

Fine crafts are available in the Tampa Bay area year-round, but every December, the American Craft Council brings an exceptional collection to Sarasota.

The American Craft Council's 14th annual Fine Craft Show opens Friday and continues through Sunday with more than 130 artists showing and selling their functional objects. "Function" is always a marginal word when describing some fine crafts.

Amanda Palomba's marionettes, with their papier-mache heads and hand-sewn costumes, won't advance any practical agenda. But who really wants a practical gift when you can have fun playing with a one-of-a-kind dancing doll? (And I'm talking about grownup fun.) Jane Corbus' "amazing wind machines," her description of her eccentric weather vanes, will tell you which way the wind is blowing, but how important is that to most of us? Instead, you can delight in their decorative whimsy. You can even have one custom crafted to replicate a favorite pet, sort of a tail wagging the dog thing.

If you must be practical, Brian Sykes' wood vase and Eric Rubinstein's glass vessel could contain flowers, but the blooms would always be supporting players to their artful design. Candone Wharton's sugar bowl could hold the obvious. Or a serious bauble such as Klaus Spies' architectural ring. Or nothing at all.

That's the beauty of fine crafts. They are usable but not necessarily useful. It's your choice.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at (727) 893-8293 or


American Craft Council Fine Craft Show

At the Sarasota-Bradenton Convention Center, 8005 15th St. E, Sarasota, Friday through Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 daily or $16 for a two-day pass. Children 12 and younger free. Free parking. (941) 355-9161.