Three artists. Three very different mediums – fabric, aluminum cans and acrylic paint.

The three are a few of approximately 90 artists who showcase and sell their work every Saturday and Sunday at Eastern Market, seven blocks east of the Capitol.

Although different in many ways – from backgrounds to mediums to styles – the artists are united as those who brave the market weekly, rain or shine, hot or cold, to sell their artwork and share their creativity with the community.

“The artists contribute to make Eastern Market the interesting and unique place that it is,” Barry Margeson, the market’s interim manager, said.

Jamie Langhoff’s unique style makes her stand out among the market’s artists. At first glance, one might think her booth is filled with paintings. However, the 29-year-old D.C. resident uses fabric, from old clothing to scraps, and thread to create detailed and colorful wall hangings.

Down the street from Langhoff, Manatho Shumba Masani, 46, of Mount Ranier, Md., is known for giraffe sculptures he makes out of aluminum cans.

And Zachary Sasim, 37, of Hyattsville, Md., uses brush strokes and a palette knife to achieve his impressionist style. Many of his paintings are colorful depictions of iconic D.C. landscapes and imagery.

Art vendors have been included in the market since 1979, Margeson said. Built in 1873 as a place for vendors to sell food, the market maintains that function for the Capitol Hill neighborhood during the week, adding artists and other vendors on the weekends.

Arts and crafts vendors must apply to sell at the market and are chosen through a selection process about twice a year, Margeson said.

The market offers a variety of types of art, including paintings, photography, sculptures, wood carvings and jewelry.

Langhoff has been selling her artwork at Eastern Market since January.
Her brand, “Seeing in Fabric,” is representative of how she approaches her art.
Langhoff said she is inspired by the urban setting she lives in and “particularly all of those architectural and geometric man-made structures juxtaposed against the natural backgrounds setting of the organic shapes of trees and sunsets and clouds.” Telephone wires are a frequent subject of her art.

“I know all the fabrics that I have, and so when I see something I like, I automatically think about how I’d translate it into fabric depending on what fabrics I already have,” she said.

Using her 1961 Kenmore and 1968 Singer sewing machines, she creates her compositions by adding fabric layer-by-layer. She rarely removes or covers up a piece once it’s on.

Langhoff, who has been sewing for 16 years, developed her style by using scraps of fabric to apply designs on plain T-shirts during the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college.

When she returned to school in the fall, she sold them to friends and eventually at festivals, retail shops and art galleries. She did that for five years. In January 2011, she started to create the wall art she is known for today.

Masani’s booth is one of the first visitors see when they come to the market from the Eastern Market Metro station. His booth is normally crowded with people in awe of the creatures Masani spends hours making.

He said a frequent question is what machine he uses to cut the cans that he uses in artwork. He said they are usually surprised to find out that he only uses a pair of scissors.

After cutting the cans into thin slices, he uses a weaving technique to attach the aluminum pieces to a frame he has made.

Masani, who learned his signature style of art when he was in Zimbabwe studying music, began doing this type of art eight years ago.

His booth consists mainly of sculptures of spindly giraffes, from 12 inches to 6 feet 6 inches tall, which is the actual size of a newborn baby giraffe, and a smaller number of other animals or subjects.

Jessica Sabbah

SHF Wire