Art Jewelry at Chicago’s SOFA Fair



The SOFA fair draws art-minded jewelry buyers to Chicago’s Navy Pier

When the Sculptural Objects Functional Art & Design, or SOFA, fair celebrates its 20th anniversary at the Chicago Navy Pier Nov. 7–9, organizers will host a robust series of lectures to round out the selling activities on the show floor (a talk by emerging jewelry artists Steven Gordon Holman, Lauren Tickle, and Demitra Thomloudis, for example). But make no mistake: the well-curated goods on display are the event’s big draw.

SOFA is dedicated to three-dimensional art and design, ­including jewelry, and the 61 vendor-exhibitors represented at the fair—­primarily gallery owners from around the country—bring a selection of special pieces they’ve saved for the event’s discriminating and highly cultured clientele.

Sarra Osborne, manager of Pistachios in Chicago, will bring designs from Biba Schutz, Pat Flynn, and Myung Urso, among others. This is Osborne’s 11th year exhibiting at SOFA, which she describes as “a great way to get in touch with the serious jewelry collector.”

Buyers come to SOFA in search of contemporary pieces that lean toward the avant-garde. “There are collectors who maybe only come to Chicago once a year for the show, so it’s a great way to reconnect,” Osborne says.

Beau Staley, the owner of Dolce in Telluride, Colo., has attended SOFA for years, but this year, he decided it was time to try his hand at exhibiting. The event seemed like an “appropriate match,” he says, adding that he plans to bring some of his petrified wood furniture and mineral specimens, not to mention jewelry from Pamela ­Huizenga, Victor Velyan, and Simon Alcantara.

“We are in a resort town, but we have a strong Chicago customer base,” Staley says. “We function like an art gallery…and we’re trying to sell jewelry as art.” His decision to move from attendee to exhibitor is based on what he sees as a ripe opportunity: “Art jewelry is underrepresented there.”