The visual feast of SOFA Chicago

20 years ago I met Julie Lynne (formerly Upshaw) and Vickie Hallmark when I lived in Austin, Texas and we were all making art quilts.

Fauna is one of the many group quilts that we made together.
Fauna panels left to right: Frances Holliday Alford, Kathy York, Vickie Hallmark, Julie Lynne, and me.

Julie and Vickie have moved in other artistic directions since those days in Austin, but our friendship has remained strong. When I lived in Chicago, I introduced them to the SOFA: Sculptural Objects Functional Art convention that takes place annually the first weekend of November.

While on this trip, I realized that I left Chicago exactly 6 years ago to the day on the night Obama had been re-elected. What a different place my life is at now! So when Vickie told me they were going to SOFA this year and had booked a 2 room suite with a sofa I could use, it was an opportunity I could not pass up.

I hadn’t been back to Chicago in 4 years, so it was really cool to visit again and see familiar sights and how things had changed.

It was lovely to see fall colors in the trees. We have fall color in Northern California, but it’s nothing like you see in other parts of the country.

We spent two days at the show walking from gallery to gallery until our feet were too tired to go on. At that point we would sit down to watch a live glass blowing demonstration at the mobile Corning glass studio to rest.

Each evening we had a fabulous meal at one of Chicago’s amazing restaurants: The Girl and the Goat, The Purple Pig and Rick Bayless’ renowned Topolobombo.

SOFA is like walking into the best fine craft gallery you’ve ever been to, except it fills an entire convention center. This is just a sampling of the many things that inspired me.

Jeweled metal bugs that revealed beautiful interior surprises.

a necklace of blown glass baubles with tiny origami cranes inside

Cast glass

There are not too many textiles at SOFA, but when you see them they are always lovely.

This painting was huge and gorgeous. The background had been burned to a blackened charcoal surface with a satiny sheen.

This layered cut paper piece was about 18″ across and 3″ deep.

I adore this wall of glass branches.

Steffen Dam’s glass work has blown me away for years, with its delicate scientific specimen aesthetic.

This gorilla is covered with gold milagros and the hair is copper chain.

I love the intricate porcelain sculpture work of Irina Zaytceva with it’s gold leaf and exquisite painting.
These photos show the front and back of each piece photographed in the mirror behind it.

A collection of mosaics by different artists.

The rabbit is a porcelain sculpture and the faces are large painted spheres.

Christine Kaiser’s work is painted wood with fine pencil drawing.

Lori Katz’s work were porcelain squares.

If only I had the skills to carve wood… ❤️

yep, that’s cardboard, so cool!

Who doesn’t love a ceramic sewing machine?

Because I also worked in clay for a number of years I’m very drawn to ceramic work.

These clay wall pieces combine images carved in relief with a beautiful painted surface as well as the kind of imagery I’m drawn to.


Exquisite viking ships made of cast glass and wood.

I love this porcelain sculpture of mice that spanned about 18 feet vertically.

The single mouse is suspended by ribbon being lifted into the air by 3 balloons, while a gathering of adorable life size mice peer upward at him from below.

It’s really fun to see artists that look like their art.

embroidered and beaded brooches.

I’m in awe of the ability of this artist to create the drape of fabric with wood.

And that bird, be still my heart!!!

I had the most wonderful surprise when I walked around the corner of a booth and saw my dear friend Trish Williams. I didn’t expect to see Trish because she moved to Peoria a number of years ago. I think our screech of recognition was heard across the convention center, lol. Trish was a regular participant of the art dinners we used to have at my old loft.

This was the best girls weekend ever! It was so great to go on a trip just for fun, usually I’m schlepping two 50 lb bags and a back pack on my way to teach somewhere.


On Saturday I get to to do it again, but this time I leave for Germany with Phil. I’m so excited to  go on a trip to support his work in the field of experimental music. He has been creating music of this kind since the 1980’s solo and with a group called The Hub, that formed while he was in graduate school at Mills college in Oakland. The really exciting part is on November 24th, The Hub is being awarded the Giga-Hertz life time achievement award in Karlsruhe, Germany, which is coincidently, the same city that hosted the Nadelweldt convention that I exhibited at in May. Previous winners of this award are Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno.

We are also going a few days early so we can do a bit of sightseeing while visiting my quilting friend Birgit Schueller and her family before we head to Karlsruhe.

Keep creating,


I’d love to spark your creativity at one of these upcoming events:


January 16-20 Craft Napa: 2 day Paint and Printapalooza (a few spots open), Collage, Paint, Create! (Sold out), Make an Impression! (a few spots open)

I heard there’s been some cancellations for Craft Napa due to recent events, so some workshops that were closed may now have openings. 

May 17-18 Meissners, Santa Rosa, TBA


IMG_5538Judy is an artist, explorer, image wrangler, knowledge seeker, instructor, speaker, creative alchemist, and purveyor of inspiration, helping others channel creativity on a daily basis.



8 Responses to “The visual feast of SOFA Chicago”

  1. Beautiful! I love SOFA. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  2. Helen says:

    Amazing art work!


  3. Sue Siefkin says:

    Thanks so much for posting these. I have never visited an exhibition like this. Just fabulous!

  4. What a beautiful exhibit. I love all that glass. Thanks for posting so many pictures.

  5. Judy Carlson says:

    Thank you,thank you, thank you! A beautiful exhibit that I would have never see if not for you. Blessings

  6. Wow. Wow. Wow. So much beauty and creativity! Thank you for sharing with us. Worth a trip to Chicago for sure!

  7. Brenda Wood says:

    What a wonderful post! I am in Awe of the incredible display.
    Including one of my favourite artists!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.