BLADE Magazine

The Art Knife Invitational (AKI) Changes Ownership

The Art Knife Invitational—the biennial knife event that made biennial knife events cool—is now under the direction of Barry Lee Hands, and will be Oct. 30, 2021 at the M Hotel Casino Resort and Spa in Las Vegas.

Consisting of some of the world’s top custom knifemakers, each of whom votes on any additions to the group’s membership, the show had been held for many years in San Diego. Spearheaded by BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Phil Lobred when it started in 1983 in Reno, Nevada, the AKI was held again in 1984 before undergoing a hiatus until 1993, when it was moved to San Diego. It had been there every other year since.

When Phil passed away in 2016, his daughter Sandee took over the reins and coordinated the show in 2017 and 2019. In a meeting in July, Barry and Sandee discussed moving the show, for one reason because the member makers wanted to try something new. Meanwhile, one thing led to another and the show was in new hands—Barry’s. “I knew my dad admired Barry’s work [Hands is a leading knife and gun engraver], Barry’s experience with running shows, [and his] being the president of the Firearms Engravers Guild of America,” Sandee wrote. “So, we made a deal.

“I will admit it was heartbreaking at first, but when I see the good job Barry is doing on social media, managing things, the new hotel location in Las Vegas—wow!—and with the members voting in really good people, I know that we made the right choice.”

Barry is equally complimentary of Sandee. “I would like to say on behalf of our members that Sandee has been very helpful in the transition,” he observed, “and at AKI she will be an honored and respected show guest.”

Barry indicated the biggest change about AKI is the Vegas move.

“The members voted for a location change before I took over,” he noted, “and when I came in they let me know they still wished to move. With that in mind, and on the suggestion of one of our collectors, which happened to coincide with my own opinion, we chose the M Hotel Casino Resort and Spa. The M is a beautiful hotel and is the closest major property in Las Vegas to Los Angeles.”

Barry takes an aggressive approach to marketing, including a “beefed up” online presence with a “dramatic yet functional” new website. “We also have linked our Instagram @artknifeinvitational page to our Facebook page and are creating new graphics about our members and their work, which we post most every day,” he wrote.

Voting for AKI membership also has been updated. “Some members of the AKI advisory panel told me that since they are busy at the bench and the knife world is so large compared to the past, it is hard for them to know who may be the best to vote in,” he stated. Hence, after many communications they formulated a standard procedure for nominating and voting in new members. The panel approved the proposed rules, put them to a vote and a majority of the members approved them.

If you are a member of AKI, an invited guest or a maker who would like to be considered, submit your nomination at After a review of the nominations, Barry vets and selects a group of six or more. Biographical sheets are written on each maker and sent to the membership and panel for review. After 48 hours, if there are no objections, the group becomes nominees and is voted on by the membership. “The process has occurred four times since July,” Barry wrote. “It has been working very well and our membership seems highly pleased with the results.”

During the changeover, a few members resigned. “Some requested privacy, so respecting that, we will not list their names,” Barry noted. “Their reasons were varied. Some cited age, some preferred other opportunities, and others were not in full agreement with the rules voted in by fellow members.”

The present members are: Ron Appleton; Edmund Davidson; Harvey Dean; Jerry Fisk; Alex Gev; Shaun and Sharla Hansen; Anders Hedlund; Steve Hoel; Dietmar Kressler; Elizabeth Loerchner; Andrew Meers; Tom Overeynder; Bertie Rietveld; Rodrigo Sfreddo; Fabrizio Silvestrelli; Jürgen Steinau; Vasiliy Vorobiev; Owen Wood; and John Young. Guest makers for the 2021 AKI will include Corrado Moro, Veronique Laurent and others.

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This article is from the January 2021 Issue BLADE Magazine. Subscribe to a year of Blade Magazine for just $19.99 by clicking here.

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