WDC awards $20k, attracts thousands

JACKSON, Wyo. — This year’s Western Design Conference Exhibit + Sale (WDC) set out to be better than ever.

“By far this was one of the strongest Exhibit + Sales, as we work year-round on this event and want to stun those in attendance each year,” says WDC Executive Director Allison Merritt. “The level of craftsmanship on display this year created a sense of accomplishment and energy that was felt by all. Many artists experienced very high sales and exhibitors were collaborating and discussing their work and future commissions with buyers – and even buying from one another.”

Celebrating its 27th year, WDC is a display of the finest in Western contemporary and cowboy craft. This year, 105 juried artists exhibited their work and interacted face-to-face with around 4,500 visitors.

“The Western Design Conference is indeed a pleasure to be part of. It is elegant, sophisticated and diverse and I appreciate the attention to every detail,” says Ewka Suede of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The unpretentious approach and kindness struck me the most.”

The WDC takes no commission from its exhibiting artists, selected by a jury of experts, and annually awards cash prizes from the show’s sponsors in a variety of categories.

This year’s Design Excellence awards were given out to 24 artists, with a Hamilton Forge Sheep Wagon winning the coveted Best of Show honor and receiving the $5,000 award for its customized, fun and functional “camps.” Built by modern-day Wyoming blacksmith Les Hamilton with aircraft-grade aluminum shells and detailed oak interiors, the wagons embrace Western heritage and are prized for outdoor tiny living or as guest quarters.

Misty M Designs handbags were a hit on the runway, and Shawn Rivett’s award-winning antler pieces in the showroom of the WDC ranged from lighting to sculpture. Runway photo: Katie Cooney // New Thought Digital Agency

With so many fashionable pieces this year, the Best Artist award in the Art to Wear Fashion Category went to Misty M Designs from California for a show-stopping handbag collection, a hit both on the runway during the live fashion show at the Opening Preview Party and in the showroom. And Mountain Jewelry Designs from Casper, Wyoming, took home Best Artist in the Best Art to Wear Jewelry Category for her sculptural silver jewelry that uses natural gems and minerals to create landscapes of the west.

The Best Artist award in the Accents category brought $1,000 to Game Trail Gatherings of Jackson, Wyoming, for its furniture, lighting and collectibles individually constructed from such found Western materials as antlers, skulls and unusual, sculptural tree branches and burls. The Best Artist award in the Mixed Media Category went to returning WDC artist, Wyoming-based Shawn Rivett Designs for his exquisite lighting pieces and sculptures created from naturally shed infused elk and deer antlers; and the Best Artist in the Leather Category went to Montana-based Shooting Star Saddlery. In the highly popular category of woodworking, with several extraordinary artists exhibited, the Best Artist in Woodworking Contemporary Design went to fine furniture maker Hughes Woodworks of Huson, Montana, while the Best Artist in Woodworking Historical Design award went to Chad Parson of Missoula, Montana.

A handmade horse mask by artist Supaya Gray Wolfe of Many Tears won the 2019 Exhibitor’s Choice award. This year’s winning room at the Designer Show House was created by Anne Buresh. Photos courtesy of WDC.

Another important award, the Exhibitor’s Choice award, voted on by the participating artisans, went to returning WDC artist Supaya Gray Wolfe of Many Tears for her remarkable handmade horse mask. The Best Interior Design award, chosen from participating designer-created rooms in the Designer Show House, went to North Carolina-based designer Anne Buresh for her warm and soothing living space, integrating Western art and handmade pieces with clean contemporary lines.

Merritt says she is pleased with the 2019 outcome and is already looking ahead with plans to grow the excitement for the 2020 show through social media and beyond.

“Our goal is to showcase the best of the best and unite patrons directly with the exhibiting artists for sales both at the Western Design Exhibit + Sale and throughout the year,” she says.

Merritt’s advice to new attendees? “Don’t let the word ‘Western’ throw you. While the West is beautifully represented at the WDC, the art on display includes rustic and elegant – and at every price point.”

See the complete list of 2019 winners here.

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