2013 bonus issue
the craft of design
25 Artists Make Authenticity Work
Design 2013 Published by the American Craft Council www.craftcouncil.org
Features 061 Reveal
047 Golden Age
062 Populist Modern
070 Fear and Fascination
People today care more than ever about how things are made – and who made them. The upshot? More opportunities than ever for makers to put on another hat as designers, collaborating with manufacturers and retailers. Joyce Lovelace reports on the trend and tells the stories of six designer-craftspeople who’ve made the leap.
Architects monopolized Scott McGlasson for the first decade of the woodworker’s career. Then the economy tanked, and he reinvented his business plan. Today, the craftsman brings his design-minded approach to everything from custom furniture to turned plates, hawked in person at farmers’ markets and craft fairs. Christy DeSmith tells his story.
Gaze upon glass artist Shayna Leib’s Wind and Water series, constructed from hundreds of pieces of hand-pulled cane, and one might assume two things: She’s an artist of preternatural patience, and she’s had a long relationship with the sea. The first is categorically true, the second, more complicated. Judy Arginteanu meets up with Leib to talk about overcoming fear.
Where can inspiration take us? Jim Rose knows; from the beginning of his career, the artist has remained open to it. The result is striking steel furniture, interpretations of Shaker forms and traditional quilts, all meticulously crafted from reclaimed metal. Julie K. Hanus reports.
Tom Van Eynde
Rau + B
084 Drawn to Fire
090 Crafted Systems
096 Curves Ahead
104 Back to Basics
Shawn Lovellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s technique at the forge is as lyrical as the nature-inspired bed frames, arbors, doors, chandeliers, and other home goods the blacksmith creates. Deborah Bishop visits Lovell at her Alameda, California, studio.
Portland, Oregon-based designer Aurelie Tu hires women from a local YWCA shelter to help assemble her stylish felt lampshades, rugs, and vessels, imparting new skills and the therapeutic effects of making. Elizabeth Lopeman reports on an empowering business model.
In Vivian Beerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hands, rigid metal becomes impossibly sensuous furniture. Julie K. Hanus talks to the New Hampshirebased designer/maker about her latest bodies of adventurous work, her residency at SUNYPurchase, and taking advantage of the many opportunities the past few years have presented.
Two decades after first learning woodturning, Joshua Vogel, cofounder of furniture company BDDW, has made it his full-time venture, producing goods as Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co. Caroline Hannah pays a visit to the consummate craftsman and his partner, Kelly Zaneto, at their home and workshop in the Hudson Valley.
Shawn Lovell Metalworks
What does craft have to do with design?
Vitreluxe glass studio’s creative approach to production
Nicholas Stawinski’s city-scaped furniture
How Andrew Gilliatt puts the fun in functional
Wendy Stevens’ sheet metal handbags
Heather Knight’s chic ceramic tiles
Mandi King’s road to glass
Paul Loebach’s furniture with a twist
Jennifer Merchant’s mega-fun acrylic jewelry
Furniture maker Doug Meyer reclaims Ohio’s rustbelt
Jewelry artist Tia Kramer’s kinetic creations
Marc Maiorana’s hand-forged housewares
Lara Knutson’s reflective glass fabrications
Handmade designs you can own, curated by the editors of American Craft.
Vitreluxe glass page 10
Nicholas Stawinski furniture page 12
113 Ideas 114
Wendy Stevens handbags page 16
Shop Till We Drop
The Future Is Now
What’s the real price of a bargain buy? And should we expect people to pay more for handmade goods? Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, talks with Shannon Sharpe.
When Natalie Chanin decided to publish how-to books, including patterns for her most popular pieces, some thought the clothing designer had made a mistake. Instead, her brand has bloomed. Julie K. Hanus asks Chanin to tell us how.
Here’s a question sure to stir up discussion: Does the future of craft lie in design? Monica Moses interviews Garth Clark, ceramics dealer, craft historian, and consummate flamethrower.
Now in his 80th decade, the inimitable Wendell Castle – designer, craftsman, and father of the art furniture movement – shares his newest guide to living a creative life.
Road Map to Creativity
Stool photo: Nicholas Stawinski / Glass photo: Paul Foster / Bag photo: Kate Lacey
06 From the Editor
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from the editor
when a magazine called American Craft talks about design, what does it mean? “Design” can mean many things, of course. Design is a discipline, a problem-solving process that often yields innovation. Design is also a business strategy, allowing artists to partner with industry – as designers – to produce more work and make more sales. Design, more subjectively, is also an aesthetic – a purposeful, visually logical approach that feels fresh and appealing to consumers. For this magazine, in this first-ever bonus digital edition dedicated to design, the term means all three things. Since 1941, American Craft has championed the work of individual craftspeople, many of whom are experts in specific materials – for example, clay, wood, glass, fiber, metal – more 06 american craft design 2013
than designers per se. Celebratmuseums and galleries, but she’s ing original, masterful fine craft got an astute business side, too. is still our mission. But the lines And for design aesthetic, between craft and design are look no further than Vivian blurring more every day. Beer, whose sleek steel and So this issue recognizes the concrete furniture has made her rise of the modern-day designerthe darling of design aficionados craftsperson – the materialacross the country (page 96). savvy artist who also excels in “Here’s this young, great designer design. That’s design as a pro– who’s got so much potential cess, design as a business stratand is so committed to her craft egy, and design as an aesthetic. – creating these incredibly wellConsider lighting and furnidesigned, well-crafted pieces,” ture designer Alison Berger, for says Lewis Wexler, co-owner example (page 50). Take one of Wexler Gallery in Philadelglimpse inside her studio and phia. “That’s a powerful you see a careful, highly technicombination.” cal process. That skillful design Design has taken center process has led to partnerships stage in our culture. We expect with Holly Hunt and Hermès. everything from our boots to Then there is Kathy Erteman, our tech gadgets to be flawlessly a critically acclaimed ceramist designed. For some artists, such who, by the way, also makes as the two dozen we’re featursophisticated dinnerware for ing in this issue, the zeitgeist Crate & Barrel (page 54). Her is perfect. “You do have those sculptural work graces rising to prominence who are
able to merge what you might call those two sides of their brain,” says Rose Apodaca, co-owner of A+R, a stylish home accessories store with two locations in Los Angeles. “They’re using craft-y methods and applying those notions in ways where items can be produced on a larger scale – maybe not a Walmart scale, but certainly one that means a good business and living for them.” We think there is much to admire in the process, business, and aesthetic powers of the artists on the following pages. We hope you do too.
Monica Moses Editor in Chief
Portrait: Douglas Kirkland
The Three Faces of Design
Alison Berger’s highly technical process is evident in her studio.
editor i a l
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American Craft® (issn -0194-80 08) is published bimonthly by the American Craft Council 1224 Marshall Street NE, Suite 20 0 Minneapolis, MN 55413 www.craftcouncil.org Periodicals postage paid at Minneapolis, MN, and additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2013 by American Craft Council. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written consent is prohibited. Basic membership rate is $40 per year, including subscription to American Craft (formerly Craft Horizons). Add $15 for Canadian and foreign orders. Address all subscription correspondence to: American Craft Council P.O. Box 30 0 0 Denville, NJ 07834-30 0 0 Phone (888) 313-5527 For change of address, give old and new address with zip code. Allow six weeks for change to take effect. The opinions expressed in American Craft are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the American Craft Council. Address unsolicited material to: American Craft, Editor in Chief 1224 Marshall Street NE, Suite 20 0 Minneapolis, MN 55413 Material will be handled with care, but the magazine assumes no responsibility for it. American Craft is indexed in the Art Index, Design and Applied Arts Index, and Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Book reviews are also indexed in Book Review Index. Newsstand distribution: COMAG Marketing Group 155 Village Blvd. Princeton Junction, NJ 08540 POSTMASTER: Address changes to: American Craft, P.O. Box 30 0 0, Denville, NJ 07834-30 0 0 Printed in the U.S.A.
cØntempØrary craft —
S “Through the Fire” by Lynn Cornelius at Obsidian Gallery. Fiber & Steel. 2012 28” x 14” x 7”
“Honey Jar” by Peter Muller and Joe Peters at L’Attitude Gallery. 22”h x 9” x 9”.
“Higher Learning” by Karen Halt at Elaine Erickson Gallery. Linen, beeswax and paint. 28” x 16” without stand.
Elaine Erickson Gallery 207 E. Buffalo St. Suite 120 Milwaukee, WI 53202 (414) 221-0613 www.eericksongallery.com
OBSIDIAN GALLERY 410 North Toole Avenue, #120, Tucson, Arizona 85701 (520) 577-3598 www.obsidian-gallery.com
WEYRICH GALLERY The Rare Vision Art Galerie 2935-D Louisiana N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110 (505) 883-7410 www.weyrichgallery.com
L’ATTITUDE GALLERY 211 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116 (617) 927-4400 www.lattitudegallery.com
The Grand Hand Gallery 1136 Main St., Napa, CA 619 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN (855) 312-1122 www.thegrandhand.com
WHITE BIRD GALLERY 251 N. Hemlock Street, Cannon Beach, Oregon 97110 (503) 436-2681 www.whitebirdgallery.com
ople who put gre tspe at d f a r esi c gn en z o
catalyst to creativity
Ellipse, 2008, glass, 18 x 7 in. dia. (tallest)
Tube Tops XL, 2008, glass, 12-20 in. tall
Clouds and Ellipse photos (2): Lynn Everett Read
The Perks of Prep Work
Tube Tops and Duotone photos (2): Paul Foster
Duotone, 2008, glass, 5 x 11 in. dia., 6 x 8.5 in. dia., 5.5 x 10 in. dia.
for glass artist lynn Everett Read, embarking on production work was a pragmatic decision. He built his own glass studio, Vitreluxe, in the early 2000s, so he had access to all the space and equipment he might need. And by making more objects, and crossing the line between pure craft and design, he bet the studio would come to
support him, rather than vice versa. He was right. What he didn’t expect was that the production process would be such a catalyst to creativity. Vitreluxe is located in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Running along a curve of the Willamette River, it’s a dense, dynamic area known for antique shops, restaurants, and cafés. The buzz of activity within Read’s hot shop belies its unassuming exterior – something that could be said of Read himself, who, with a quiet, steady demeanor, has produced a remarkable range of glass work. (The studio also includes a cold shop.) Read combines complex techniques with familiar forms to create a look that is refined but fresh. The Ellipse Incalmo series employs the incalmo method, aptly enough, which requires each color to be blown separately before being fused together. In order to fit properly, the weight, size, and thickness of each segment must
Clouds – Aurora, 2012, glass, 17.5 x 8.75 in. dia. (tallest)
match – no easy feat. As a small, nimble operation, the team at Vitreluxe can funnel their energies into limited but repeatable runs of such technically difficult objects. “The mix of methods and the skill set to make the designs are high enough in caliber that they are not going to be copied,” Read says. “I mean, they could be – anything really could be – but the amount of prep time is going to make that almost impossible. For us it makes sense.” The design community has taken notice: Wallpaper* magazine named Vitreluxe’s Tube Tops series the “Best Vases” in its 2012 design awards. A perfect example of how the production process can promote rather than constrain innovation, the Tube Tops were originally designed with transparent tops and bottoms marked by a shift in the color of the neck. But after standardizing the scale of the pieces and fashioning multiples to refine the palette, Read says, “I found I could actually have more options, because I’d prepared more colors.” The final vessels mix opaque glass necks with transparent glass bodies, a tacit recognition of the separate elements of the form and a com-
bination that enhances the tones in each piece. Effective innovation requires a strong design sensibility as a base, and that’s equally evident in the series. Read’s distinctive eye for color and composition comes out of his background as a painter and theater set designer. In a grouping of Tube Tops, the tonal variation from piece to piece creates subtle overlays – tertiary colors – visible as the vessels are seen from different angles, engaging the viewer and rewarding those who observe closely. Vitreluxe’s eponymous production line is available across the United States and abroad, from OK Store in Los Angeles to Vessel Gallery in London, as well as many museum gift stores and the gallery at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft. “I feel I’m really fortunate because I’ve never been lost,” Read says. “I’ve never struggled with ‘What should I do?’ Since high school I’ve been motivated to just work.” ~carolyn hazel drake vitreluxe.com Carolyn Hazel Drake is a ceramist and art teacher in Portland, Oregon. design 2013 american craft 011
heritage as muse
Sectional, 2010, automotive upholstery, poplar, milk paint, 2.6 x 6 x 3 ft.
Ash chair, 2008, ash, walnut, 3.9 x 1.4 x 1.8 ft.
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nicholas stawinski is a fourth-generation upholsterer with deep family roots in the Detroit area, and his art reflects his experience living among the hulking relics of the auto industry. Tables, ottomans, sofas, and sculpture take their geometry from old water towers, derelict cooling plants, crumbling smokestacks, and aging incinerators. He makes some pieces with slats from shipping pallets; even the upholstery materials he uses are leftovers from the shuttered design center of a car manufacturer that relocated to Southern California. Stawinski
transformsthese vestiges of decline into furniture and sculpture with fresh, energetic appeal. Now pursuing an MFA at the University of WisconsinMadison, Stawinski, 25, credits his aesthetic to his hometown and the family business. “Being around a post-industrial landscape, you see a lot of brokendown, worn-out things. You see people trying to tie things together and make things work,” he explains. “This ties into our family’s work as reupholsterers. We make the old and unwanted into the new and desirable.”
Some 80 years ago, his greatgrandfather started the business that his parents continue to this day. “I’ve been around the shop ever since I can remember,” Stawinski says. By the time he was in high school, he had worked his way up from taking out the trash to disassembling furniture for repair. At the same time, interior designers were calling on his father for custom-designed ottomans. As demand grew, the younger Stawinski was enlisted to cut wood and assemble the pieces. Once familiar with most aspects of furniture making, he branched out into design.
Furniture photos (6): Nicholas Stawinski
Chair, 2010, automotive upholstery, poplar, milk paint, 3 x 2.7 x 2.2 ft.
Bent Landscape, 2008, plywood, upholstery, cork veneer, 1.4 x 2.3 x 1.4 ft.
Cork Legs, 2008, upholstery, cork, nails, 1.7 x 1.6 x 1.6 ft.
A high school art teacher guided him on his portfolio, which led to admission to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, where he earned his BFA in 2010. He studied at Penland School of Crafts with furniture maker Daniel Michalik and won a scholarship to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. A residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado followed. Both of Stawinski’s parents also have formal art training. His father is a painter who has exhibited at the Detroit Gallery of Contemporary Crafts; his mother, a knitter, weaver, and dyer, studied under master tex-
tile artist Warren Seelig at Colorado State University. A single experience with those artistic parents shapes his work even today. In 2004, when he was 16, his family took a trip to Chicago, where they stopped at the Museum of Contemporary Art to see a retrospective of the work of Lee Bontecou. The image of one piece he saw remains etched in his mind. “It was a huge hole,” he recalls. The untitled piece from 1959 is a welded steel framework using wire and canvas to form a 3D web around a black fabric center. “It was kind of reflective of yourself, what
you’re trying to say but not letting out,” he says. In 2010, the idea of the hole reemerged in his Introspective series – enigmatic geometric sculptures made of wood slats. Stawinski also cites Bernd and Hilla Becher’s pioneering typologies – photographic grids of industrial structures – as an influence, particularly in his 2009 Cooling Tower table. In Stawinski’s hands, a desolate vision becomes new and inviting. ~rachel schalet crabb
Combined ottoman, 2009, automotive upholstery, poplar, milk paint, 1.4 x 2.2 x 1.5 ft.
nicholasstawinski.com Rachel Schalet Crabb is a writer and fiber artist in Minneapolis. design 2013 american craft 013
one for all Winter Birds plate set, 2013, 1 x 9 in. dia. each
Mixed Tape lunch set, 2013, 6 in. tall (tumbler)
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andrew gilliatt sees a creative streak in all of us. “We might drive cars that are maybe black, gray, white, but we’ll wear T-shirts that are bright blue, bright pink, have Hawaiian designs on them,” he says. “Whether you make objects or not, we’re all constantly expressing ourselves visually through the objects we own and choose to own.” Gilliatt says he finds the practice fascinating, but it’s almost more than that. “Soft spot” might be more accurate – a sensitivity to the human
impulse to personalize, which drives his delightfully varied slip-cast porcelain work. Do you take your coffee with Tyrannosaurus rexes or a 19thcentury textile-inspired pattern? In each mug, bowl, tumbler, and dish, Gilliatt imagines someone finding his or her canny fit. While choosing glazes and imagery, “I think a lot about people,” Gilliatt says. “What kind of cereal bowl would I make for my 2-year-old niece or nephew? What mug would I give to someone who just got fired from their job?” While
mass-market goods offer the illusion of endless choice, Gilliatt’s wares are the real thing: an ever-variable body of work. Yet, surveyed broadly, the line is a cohesive whole, anchored by groovy, repeated forms. For each shape, Gilliatt designs and builds a prototype in wood. He might turn a rough bowl on a lathe and then shear off sections with a band saw, before sanding and sealing it. He then uses that wooden form to build a mold, in which he casts his ceramics in colored porcelain slip.
Photos (6): Andrew Gilliatt
Lost & Found mug set, 2012, 4 x 5 x 4 in. each
Sunflower jar, 2013, 7 x 10 in. dia. Fishing tumbler, 2012, 6 x 3 in. dia. Summer Birds jar, 2013, 7 x 10 in. dia.
“I had always had the understanding, working with clay, that you start with clay and you finish with clay,” he says. But wood or MDF (mediumdensity fiberboard) lends itself to the clean lines he favors and makes a more durable model. One shift in process begat others: using stickers and tape to make relief patterns in glaze, using a laser printer to make decals. A style was born. That’s a meaningful leap for a relatively young maker. The 33-year-old’s ceramics career began at Virginia Tech, where
he earned a BFA in graphic design in 2003. The degree required one clay class. “I was young and naïve; I thought this is great, I’m never going to have to buy dishes again,” Gilliatt says, laughing. “And reality hits. It was really challenging, and I think that’s kept me coming back to it.” The school’s graphic design and ceramics departments are in the same building; though Gilliatt never changed majors, as time wore on, he spent more and more time with clay. After graduating, Gilliatt moved to Kansas City and dove
in headfirst, becoming a resident artist at Red Star Studios, where he stayed for three years. (“KC as an arts town is amazing,” he says, “a really vibrant arts community.”) Next came graduate school at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he began using the wood prototypes. In 2011, with a freshly inked MFA, he moved again, this time to Montana. A summer stay at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, then it was “down the road, Montana-speaking,” for a year at Red Lodge Clay Center. Last
fall, he returned to the Bray as an artist in residence. Settling down a bit is an appealing prospect. “For the first time, I’ve made a body of work that I want to live in for a while,” he says – play around with color, add some new forms. Besides, between tinted slips and glazes, relief patterns and decals, “there are still combinations I haven’t done yet.” ~ julie k. hanus andrewgilliatt.com Julie K. Hanus is American Craft’s senior editor. design 2013 american craft 015
La Camisa, 2012, etched stainless steel in red finish, leather, 8 x 14 x 1.25 in.
wendystevens’metalpurses– “I sat down in my apartment and literally took a hammer and a some whimsical, some dainty, nail and put a hole in a piece of some sleek and classic – are all exquisitely designed and crafted. copper,” says the soft-spoken artist. “I put a snap on it, and I But her original spark wasn’t wrapped it around a railing and Calder, Chanel, or some other I thought, wow, cool. I can fashion or art-world icon; it was make something like this.” the muscular, industrial world She describes her first pieces of manhole covers, construcas crooked, awkward construction zones, and subway cars. tions. “I started going to the Stevens grew up in Clevehardware store and asking lots land, home of U.S. Steel, and of questions. My landlord had then worked as a teacher on the a plumbing contracting service, West Coast. She moved to New so when I would run into the York with friends in the 1980s, guys, sometimes I would ask, stepping into the wide-open ‘Hey, can you show me how to East Village art scene. There solder this?’ ” she began noticing sheet metal Her first big break came all around her. within a few years, when a buyIn the spirit of the times, er at Henri Bendel’s saw her without a day of training, she sheet metal purses at an open started putting things together. 016 american craft design 2013
vendor day. “She said, ‘I want three of each’; it took me all summer to make them.” It was a great start, though she had many uphill years after that. She sold through small shops in the East Village; later, designer Lewis Dolin noticed her work and became a true believer – and her sales rep. (He also introduced her to her husband, a furniture designer, who, she says, “has been at my side the whole time.”) She has since gone on to exhibit at craft shows, including American Craft Council, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Smithsonian events. Her work is in galleries and museum stores, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In 2010 the Tassenmuseum in
Amsterdam (the English translation is “Museum of Bags and Purses”) mounted a solo exhibition of her full collection. She also sells through design shops and boutiques, since her work is sui generis. “There’s no reference point for it, in a way,” she says. “It’s design, fashion, craft. It crosses borders – like I like to do.” She’s also been able to turn adversity to her advantage. Stevens and her husband, a Pennsylvania native, moved to his home state in the 1990s, eventually settling about 45 miles from Philadelphia. She had been working out of a converted stone barn for several years when, in 2004, a fire swept through her studio.
Le Fan photo: Caren Dissinger / All other photos: Kate Lacey
In the Bag
Le Fan, 2010, perforated stainless steel, leather, 3.75 x 7 x 1.5 in.
Pinwheel, 2012, etched stainless steel, leather, 5.5 in. dia. x 1 in.
Shoulder bag, 2012, perforated stainless steel, leather, 6.5 x 6 x 2 in.
It was a total loss – equipment, years of work, everything. As Stevens began to rebuild, it proved to be a turning point. Starting from scratch gave her the chance to explore new methods, learning to etch the metal rather than sending it out for custom perforated patterns. That opened up more design possibilities, such as a wider range of shapes. “If I hadn’t lost my whole studio, I probably never would have had time to learn something new,” she says. She continues to cull inspiration from anywhere she finds it. Sometimes, she seeks to meet a need, as with her new Pocket piece that fits the iPhone. Other items find their genesis in more unexpected sources. The
inspiration for her Fan bag, for example: “Hot flashes,” she says with a laugh. She’s also excited about her recent forays into color, both in the metal itself and the leather inserts, and is thrilled with recent media recognition; her pieces have been featured in Spanish Vogue and in W Magazine. “It comes from being in the right place at the right time,” she says modestly. “I’ve got some good things going. The best thing is a table full of orders to do.” ~judy arginteanu
Drop bag, 2011, perforated stainless steel in black finish, leather, 6 x 4.5 x 2 in.
wendystevens.com Judy Arginteanu is a freelance writer and American Craft’s copy editor. design 2013 american craft 017
multiple channels Clamshell bowl, 2011, hand-built porcelain, 3 x 15 x 6.5 in.
In Her Element
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retailers, works with consultants on commercial projects, and supplies interior designers. This year, Knight expanded Element to include a retail showroom. “It’s this diversity that allows me to work in my studio full time,” she says. “Each aspect of my business tends to ebb and flow at a rate that gives me some stability.” She spends six to 10 hours per day in the studio (all after lunch; the morning is for administrative tasks), so finding
balance is one of Knight’s greatest challenges. Last spring she hired a studio manager who helps with tasks such as shipping, maintaining the online sales listings, and working with galleries and shops. Her husband, who works in marketing and graphic design, lends a hand with marketing, branding, and development. She also appreciates the social aspect that comes with a space in the city’s arts district. But back inside her studio, bringing her pieces to life, she’s on her own. “Clay is just so immediate in some ways, but also calls for you to take your time, know when to stop and start, when to push and pull,” Knight says. “It’s a dance.” ~joann plocková heatherknightceramics.com Joann Plocková is a freelance journalist based in Prague.
left: Knight’s process is labor-intensive, but the artist isn’t interested in shortcuts. She appreciates the “life” visible in handmade objects.
Nesting Scallop bowls in copper blue, 2011, hand-built porcelain, 3 x 8.5 in. dia. (largest), 1.5 x 3 in. dia. (smallest)
Portrait: Michael Traister / Object photos (3): Heather Knight
heather knight’s workShe established Element, space is painted a calm, smoky a studio in Asheville’s River blue – and it’s very orderly. Arts District in 2007, a year “I’m the kind of person who canafter earning her BFA. There, not begin to work on anything she used her Urchin bowls and unless my space is clean and tiles to explore texture. “I wantorganized,” the ceramist says. ed to see how many different Her desk is in one corner, where applied textures I could come she displays an inspiration board up with,” she says. Knight confull of images: textiles, fruit, structs her work out of slabs, chandeliers, sculptures. There using templates and hump molds are bowls throughout, exhibitto create her forms. Each piece ing natural objects she has colof texture is made individually. lected: sea urchins, shells, twigs, Her favorite tool? “A chopseed pods, rocks. Clean, calm, stick,” she says. and well-designed, Knight’s That same year, looking space reflects her work. for extra income, Knight set up Characterized by textures shop on Etsy at the urging of a that sway, point, and undulate, friend. It turned out to be the and enhanced by primarily “catalyst for my career,” she says. white surfaces, Knight’s porce“I was approached by galleries, lain creations look like someretailers, designers, and consulthing you might find rolling tants through the visibility that around in the depths of the Etsy provided me.” ocean. Yet their crisp execution She still has that online shop, makes them just as likely to be but these days also consigns to discovered in the chic spaces of galleries, sells wholesale to those with an eye for design. Knight discovered clay in high school, but her career path wasn’t a straight shot. She spent two years studying art at South Carolina’s College of Charleston, which didn’t offer ceramics, before heading to Asheville, North Carolina, 13 years ago to pursue a cooking career. In 2002, following a “nagging feeling” to fully commit to art, she enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. “Once I stepped foot into the ceramics studio, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.”
Heather Knight describes her work as â&#x20AC;&#x153;designforward ceramics.â&#x20AC;? Each porcelain piece in this Micro Tile installation is 5 inches square.
Illumini decanter and Thumbla Tumblas, 2010, blown glass, 11 x 5.1 in. dia., 4.3 x 2.4 in. dia. each
Up for Anything mandi king thrives on change. And in her 30 years, the glass artist has changed a lot. As she moved from ceramics to glass and from the United States to Adelaide, Australia, King knew the fears of any young artist. “But I thrive on major paradigm shifts,” she said recently, on one of her regular trips back home. “I thrive on putting myself in new contexts.” King grew up in Columbus, Ohio, with parents who nurtured her creativity from a young age, taking her and her two younger siblings to craft fairs, museums, and gallery
Rainbow Rocket vases, 2009, blown glass, ground and polished, 17.7 x 5.1 in. dia. each
hops. “I was one of those kids who did not fit in,” she recalls. Ultimately, she found her fit through creative experimentation: from dance to jewelry making, photography, and pottery in her teens. “I made sculptures out of trash, painted on my clothes; I think I tried everything,” she says. As she finished high school, King assumed she’d be choosing between digital media design and ceramics for her life’s work. So she enrolled in the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where she could pursue both. Then came the first big surprise of her career, on a wintry New York day, when she snuck into a noisy demonstration at the university’s hot shop,
looking for warmth. On stage were visiting glass artists Einar and Jamex de la Torre (whom, as serendipity would have it, she would assist at Pilchuck Glass School six years later). Watching them work awakened something deep inside of King. “What I saw in the hot glass process blew my mind. Their [use of] the material was so interactive and intimate compared to anything else I had ever tried.” In that first glimpse, she admired the way the de la Torre brothers translated their sensibilities – “funny, loud, bold, and energetic” – into their work.
When she enrolled in Alfred’s glass program her sophomore year, she loved how quickly her aesthetic – sleek, high-contrast, informed by Saturday-morning cartoons and the 1988 movie Beetlejuice – took shape in exuberant glass pieces. “I was hooked,” she says. “I was in such a trance, I forgot about the ceramics entirely.” After she transitioned to a new medium and earned her BFA, she made another seismic shift, entering a two-year professional development program at JamFactory in Adelaide in 2006. There, artists learn to run a studio, design for commissions, and create production lines of decorative and functional wares, in addition to making their own work.
Bubbleboxes and Vases photos: Tom Roschi / Telescopium photo: Rodrick Bond / Decanter photo: Ashlee Page
Telescopium, 2011 blown, ground glass, 10.2 in. dia. x 3.9 in.
Working at JamFactory was intense, King says. Here she was, having “never made anything functional in my life,” and suddenly required to think about efficiency, consistency, and designing for the marketplace. But the baptism by fire was worth it: She emerged with “the skills I need to be self-sufficient and make a living off my own work,” she says.
In 2008, King’s playful Bubbleboxes earned unanimous recognition by jurors of the annual Corning Museum of Glass New Glass Review, cited for their “subtle, rich hues and soft organic shapes.” More recently, King teamed up with fellow JamFactory alum Karen Cunningham on an innovative decanter that oxygenates wine while it pours. In 2010 the Illumini decanter won the top prize in InDesign magazine’s Launch Pad competition. King continues to open herself up to change. Between 2009 and 2011, she worked out of a 70-year-old former timber factory housing an artist cooperative called Blue Pony Studio. Struck by how the elements battered what was once a
Mustard, Vermilion and Rainbow Bubbleboxes, 2008, blown glass, ground and polished, 1.2 x 2 x .8 in., 7.9 x 1.2 x 1.2 in., 3.9 x 2.4 x 2.4 in.
perfect industrial rhombus, King began incorporating the building’s scruffy “surreal beauty” into her aesthetic. Her work, once sleek and graphical, became grittier and more opaque, like sugar-encrusted gumdrops. And her Illumini venture with Karen Cunningham has continued to grow, now incorporating housewares in wood. What’s next? Who knows? But count on more change. ~monica moses mandikingglass.com.au Monica Moses is American Craft’s editor in chief.
Unyielding Design “i was searching for an industrial wasteland,” says furniture designer Paul Loebach on why he moved into a former knitting factory in BedfordStuyvesant, a gritty neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. “I loved this place. It’s dark and empty. The area’s a bit of a no-man’s-land.” It’s from this apartment/ studio — where designs hang on the walls, books overflow off the bookshelves and his experiments with various materials cover the floor and any other available work space — that Loebach designs pieces that many said would be impossible. “People tell me I can’t do something and then I do it. I’ll be like, ‘I know what you’re saying but I’m going to ignore it,’” he explains. “You have to understand the basic principles of design and then mess with them.” Loebach’s exposure to design came early in life. He is descended from a family of German woodworkers. “My dad taught me woodworking — that was our manly thing we did together,” he says, laughing. “I was seven years old and running a joiner!” Always suspecting he’d be an artist, he solidified his interest in art and design during an extended trip to France, where he lived with his parents’ friends. He went on to attend University of Cincinnati and discovered industrial design. “Even though my family were craftsmen and my dad was an engineer, I had no idea that design existed as a career,” Loebach says. “Nor did anyone else.”
But after a year at the university, Loebach left. “The program was too regimented, and I’m not a big compromiser. Industrial design, yes. I just needed to figure out how to do it.” Loebach went to Colorado and then a friend studying at Rhode Island School of Design called and said “I’m at RISD. You’d like it.” He was right. RISD’s combination of practicality and creativity was what Loebach wanted, a synthesis reflected in his recent designs. Referring to the process as “aesthetic athleticism,” Loebach gives traditional styles a new twist through such technology as rapid metal printing and computer-controlled machinery. “I’m exploring how to push the limits of new manufacturing processes, traditional materials and the interplay of form and space,” he says. Pushing the limits has sparked Loebach’s interest in what the future offers with technology and society, too. “To do something new you often need to use a new technology because everything else has been explored,” he explains. “What’s new in people’s lives and our culture makes that exploration worthwhile. I try to have an awareness of what’s going on now and translate that through my work. I’m trying to make things that are relevant to our time.” ~shannon sharpe paulloebach.com Shannon Sharpe is the managing editor for Metropolis and former deputy editor for American Craft. design 2013 american craft 023
The Next Big Thing
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“acrylics and magazines, those are not the highest-end materials,” says Jennifer Merchant, a jewelry designer based in the Twin Cities. Yet with her fashionable, even high-end line of candy-colored jewelry, she has managed to craft something beautiful from these humble mediums. Merchant’s work demonstrates that acrylic, a hard plastic, is surprisingly malleable. “You can carve with acrylic and work with acrylic just like you can with [metal] casting,” says the 30-year-old, who graduated from Georgia’s Savannah College of Art and Design in 2005. This allows her to craft earrings, cuffs, and rings with architectural features like squared edges and dramatic, almost spire-like tapering. An exaggerated scale only enhances these bold qualities. “I like big,” she says with a devilish grin.
above: Layered acrylic chain-link necklace, 2012, acrylic, paper, 30 in. right: Layered acrylic bangle with trillion-cut, channel-set gem, 2011, acrylic, paper, cubic zirconia below: Corian and sterling silver ring, layered acrylic bangle and ring, all with channel-set gems, 2012, acrylic, paper, Corian, sterling silver, synthetic alexandrite
Necklace photo: Cameron Wittig, courtesy of Walker Art Center / Rings and bangle photo: Anna Rajdl
Bangle photo: Jacqueline Smith, courtesy of Ken Friberg & Rat Race Studios / Couture photo: Jennifer Merchant
Bangle, cuff, and rings from the Couture Layered Acrylic Collection, 2011, acrylic, paper, synthetic gems
Acrylic is problematic for some connoisseurs of fine craft, Merchant understands. (In fact, she stopped using the term “plexiglass” because of its downmarket connotations.) “At first I didn’t look closely enough because of the alternative materials,” confesses Ann Ruhr Pifer, owner of the Grand Hand Gallery, with locations in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Napa, California. Galleries like hers tend to prefer gold, silver, and precious stones. But Pifer was eventually seduced by the images Merchant carefully selects to incorporate into every handmade piece. To create a pair of earrings, for example, Merchant sandwiches magazine-page imagery between two layers of acrylic. “Most of my pieces I try to make double-sided so you can wear [them] with different things on different
occasions,” the artist says. This has her scouring glossy publications for cutouts with compelling imagery on both sides of the page. The best sources for pictures like that, she says, are high-end art and design magazines such as the British title Wig and New York-based Big. Merchant’s kaleidoscopic bangles and cocktail rings are the most complex – and compelling – examples of her work. Her enormous cuff bracelets incorporate up to 15 tiers of two-dimensional magazine cutouts, and are often studded with gargantuan lab-created gems (a 200-carat amethyst, for example). Merchant’s rings feature as many as seven tiers of images. Layered with cartoonish illustrations, ethereal watercolors, and graphic abstractions, the pieces look like a cross between pop art and a hologram.
“They are really interesting from multiple angles – from the side, from the front,” says Pifer, who now stocks Merchant’s jewelry in both gallery locations. “And if you catch a little bit of both, they’re even more intriguing.” Many of Merchant’s admirers detect a whiff of the 1980s in her work. Her bracelets and earrings are especially reminiscent of the Reagan era’s candied charms and glossy “jelly” accessories, though Merchant insists she’s more influenced by the geometric patterns of art deco. She mentions Patrick Nagel, the ’80s-era, deco-influenced graphic artist, whose posters decorated her childhood home, and specifically cites the enormous earrings favored by the fashionable women in those illustrations. Merchant also works in Corian, another inexpensive
material primarily used in kitchen countertops. Thanks to its earthy, granite-like feel and look, the Corian collection pays more obvious homage to Merchant’s art deco allegiances. For example, an irresistible two-toned ring incorporates Corian in colors of toffee and deep amber, with a smoky quartz as the centerpiece, like the muted hues bathing vintage art deco posters and skyscrapers. Merchant has even created custom engagement rings with Corian bands. With this material, she aims for “a high-end line, in the vein of finer jewelry.” But the Corian line is “still fun, still different, and still big,” she says. “That’s just me.” ~christy desmith jennifermerchantdesign.com Christy DeSmith is a Minneapolisbased freelance writer. She covers arts, culture, and travel. design 2013 american craft 025
Shopping cart chaise lounge, 2011, found shopping cart, recycled chrome tubing, upholstery
Necessity, Mother of Cool Furniture The once-mighty capital of rubber had long been struggling by the time Meyer graduated from high school. In his art classes, he “fell in love with sculpture,” but he didn’t have the money for college. So after working in a straw factory for $6.15 an hour, he and a few friends hit the road and headed for California. They made it to Salt Lake City before the cash ran out. Meyer stayed, found his way into the Job Corps, a tradeschool program for low-income youth, and learned to weld. Armed with new skills, he headed back to Ohio and found industrial work. Off the job, he began scavenging abandoned bikes and
Chrome frame tower, 2011, recycled sheet metal, found and recycled chrome tubing, 6 x 2.7 x 1.3 ft.
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Photos (4): Doug Meyer
doug meyer nabbed attention with wheelchair loveseats and shopping-cart chaise lounges that dare the adventurous to go careening down the cereal aisle. But his work also includes a sleek, neo-deco Paperclip console and an elegant, post-industrial Capsule coffee table. “There are facets of my creativity I always have to fulfill,” says Meyer. “Some of my work is damn serious, and some of it’s just straight-up goofy. It’s all what you see in it.” Others see plenty. His work has been picked up by Corey Daniels Gallery in Wells, Maine, and Liza Sherman Antiques in New York, by a high-end home furnishing store in Boston, and for merchandising displays for well-known retailers, such as Tommy Hilfiger and J. Crew. Not bad for a kid from Akron, Ohio, who learned his craft the old-fashioned way: on the job.
Minimalist’s desk, 2010, recycled sheet metal, steel tubular frame, 2.7 x 5.8 x 1.5 ft.
“anything that was metal,” making sculpture and furniture. He eventually landed a sixmonth gig working for an artist-craftsman friend, Mike Moritz, who needed an ace welder for his architectural fabrication business in Cleveland. Given the variety of work and Moritz’s meticulous methods, Meyer says he learned more about his craft in that short stretch than anywhere else. His next break came with furniture maker Jason Wein, another mentor, who let him contribute design ideas and taught him the all-important business side. Meyer worked for Wein for about four years before striking out on his own in 2010. (Wein sells Meyer’s work through his company, Cleveland Art, specializing in recycled industrial design.)
As Rustbelt Rebirth, Meyer now works in a converted barn in northeast Ohio. (A huge mural of underwater life bears witness to the barn’s unlikely previous life as a scuba shop.) Though he has two employees, he remains deeply involved in fabrication. And he still uses all post-consumer materials, though he’s moved from curbside “pick-up” to buying materials wholesale. His recycling ethos extends to his “segmenting” technique, joining smaller pieces of, say, sheet metal to form a bigger piece rather than cutting a
single sheet to fit and tossing the scrap. Meyer welcomes the serendipity: He doesn’t do any custom paint work, for example; he just ensures he has enough colored sheet metal on hand. “The materials decide the color – I’ve just given it a little guidance,” he says. “I have no sense of color; thank God the material does.” He also welcomes the patina old metal has. “I’m working with material that might have been used for maybe 40, 50 years, and it bears the distress of what it’s gone through. That’s nothing you can make happen – it’s something you have to let happen.” Despite his early success, Meyer acknowledges that his unusual work will probably never sell big with, say, midrange furniture retailers. Does
he ever worry that it could be left behind in the next design vogue? “From an artistic point of view, my work is constantly changing,” Meyer says, and that questing spirit may just be his best insurance against the changing tides of fashion. “Maybe what I’m doing now chimes with what’s selling now; maybe it’s just that it’s well made and creative.” And that never goes out of style. ~judy arginteanu rustbeltrebirth.com Judy Arginteanu is a freelance writer and American Craft’s copy editor.
Snail media center, 2010, recycled sheet metal, steel tubular frame, 3.7 x 5 x 1.5 ft.
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left and center: In Ascending series, colors like “inkpot” contrast with gentler tones of “cherry blossom” and “haze.” The environmentally conscious maker uses primarily recycled sterling silver and biodegradable, natural-pulp paper with a nontoxic waterproof coating.
below: Fluttering series earrings, 2011, 3.25 x 2.25 x .75 in. each
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Kramer’s path toward fullKramer chose wire and paper, time jewelry making has been a medium she’d worked with similarly instinctive. Though in fiber arts classes and at a job she loved art from a young age, at the Minnesota Center for it was never her only interest. Book Arts. As a student at Macalester Col“I started making these little lege in St. Paul, Minnesota, she maquettes and would hang expected to major in anthropolthem to see how they interogy or religious studies. acted with light,” Kramer says. An art class changed her “When students or other profesmind. “I realized, ‘Oh, wait, sors came in, their automatic this is actually a way that I proreaction was ‘I want those for cess; this makes perfect sense,’ ” my ears.’ ” she recalls. Kramer casually began makThe unexpected genesis ing earrings and other jewelry – of her jewelry came in 2003 her “rudimentary, self-taught during her senior year, when forms,” as she describes them, she was tapped to create two taking a back seat to sound, 20-foot hanging sculptures for installation, and performance the psychology department. work during a post-baccalaureSeeking materials that were ate year at the School of the light, durable, and colorful, Art Institute of Chicago in the
mid-2000s. Then came another fork in the road. When the prospect of six-figure loans put her plans to attend graduate school on hold, Kramer instead decided to move to – wait for it – Antarctica. Several months later, she was driving a 33-ton vehicle known colloquially as Ivan the Terra Bus over frozen ocean, working for the United States Antarctic Program, which conducts scientific research. To feed her urge to make, Kramer revisited her jewelry materials, which were light and portable. The stark environment turned out to be the perfect place to refine her designs. The all-white landscape served as an ideal background to explore
Photos: Hank Drew
“i don’t sit down and sketch something out and say, ‘I’m going to make this,’” says jeweler Tia Kramer. “I think very much through making.” Her work bears beautiful witness to that approach. In Kramer’s hands, wire and handmade paper come to life, as if the organic shapes and vibrant fiber webbing grew from seed. She patiently coaxes her creations into being, stretching wet, delicate paper made from chemical-free fibers around recycled sterling wire forms. Once dried, the paper, now remarkably durable, is imbued with an intuition of its own; if stretched or dampened again, it remembers and assumes its original shape.
below: Swoon series bracelet, 2011, 13 x 2.25 x 1.75 in.
center: Palpitation series brooch, 2011, 5.5 x 1.75 x 1.25 in.
color, and in the isolated community she could see her work in action every day, on friends and colleagues. Normally, “when you sell [jewelry], it goes into the world and you don’t see it. But there I got to really see how things moved,” she says. Movement is critical to Kramer, who sees her dynamic, kinetic jewelry as “performative sculpture.” In 2008, Kramer relocated to Seattle, and committed to her art full time. She has embraced the Pacific Northwest’s craft culture, and the craft community, near and far, has returned the gesture with gusto. In the past three years, about 20 galleries and museum shops have begun carrying
above: A Palpitation series necklace looks expansive because it has a bracelet and brooch nestled in its prismatic tangle.
her work, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art store, the J. Paul Getty Museum shop, and Velvet da Vinci gallery. She also earned one of 12 emerging artist slots at the 2012 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Where will her winding road lead next? To Kramer, the most interesting trajectory is the one she’ll never personally follow. “I love that when you make a piece of jewelry and someone buys it, it becomes an extension of [that person],” she says.“It’s not just about the artist any more.” ~brittany kallman arneson tiakramerjewelry.com Brittany Kallman Arneson is a writer in St. Paul, Minnesota. design 2013 american craft 029
Strike a Balance
Wine rack, 2009, 33 x 6.5 x 4 in.
run your eyes over the clean steel curves of Marc Maiorana’s andiron. Its sleek, contemporary shape may seem to whisper “urban,” but it was born in a small smithy in Cedar Bluff, Virginia, in the heart of Appalachia, where Maiorana lives and works. The blacksmith makes a practice of defying easy categorization. Since 2008, he’s been running Iron Design Company – specializing in modern, handformed steel housewares – alongside Marc Maiorana Studios, the brand for his custom sculptural and architectural commissions, such as sweeping staircase railings. “They are two different beasts,” Maiorana says. “To make 100 of something is very different from making one custom something.” Some might 030 american craft design 2013
call that juggling two jobs; Maiorana calls it a source of balance. Commissions allow him to dive deep into the client-maker relationship, into the challenges of a custom design. But coming out of a mammoth project, it’s great to “launch into an order of bottle openers,” he says. But don’t think for a second that those bottle openers aren’t thoroughly thought through. “Charles Eames was spot-on when he said when you ‘design deeply’ for yourself, you design for others,” Maiorana says. IDC products flow from an elegant practice: Maiorana identifies a need, then ponders how he could apply steel. He’ll move forward only if a design honors the material’s defining characteristics: strength and malleability. Maiorana grew up in New Jersey, near the Delaware River, and his introduction to blacksmithing was through his father, a one-time farrier who left horseshoeing to train as an ornamental smith. He set aside
that work while his son was growing up, until “I came home from school one day, and suddenly our single-car garage was a blacksmith shop,” Maiorana says. His father gave him a strong background in the fundamentals. “When you’re not in a tricked-out shop, you learn to use what you have.” Maiorana enrolled at Alfred University, still finding his way, and completed a year of broadranging art coursework. “Each project I would turn in a little bit more metal,” he says. After finishing his sophomore year, he transferred to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to focus on the material that, apparently, was in his blood all along. In 2001 he earned his BFA in metalsmithing. In 2002, Maiorana began a three-year residency at Penland
School of Crafts. It was there that he first made what would become IDC objects – clever candlesticks, minimalist bottle openers. He produced them in response to the foot traffic passing through his studio, never dreaming he’d continue after his stay was over. But even after relocating post-Penland to Cedar Bluff, where his girlfriend had a job opportunity, “the requests kept coming in,” he says. Did he still sell those bottle openers? Could he make another pair of those candlesticks? Maiorana officially opened Iron Design Company in 2008. It’s been a lesson in crosscategorization. “I’m almost too crafty for the design world, too design-y for the craft world,” he says. From a craft perspective, the simplicity of his forms can obscure the significant handwork involved. And the design world, in turn, doesn’t always recognize that his prices, ranging from a $15 bottle opener to a $2,400 andiron, reflect that
Photos (7): Marc Maiorana
Andiron, 2009, 18 x 20 x 18 in.
Bottle opener, 2003, 2.5 in. dia.
North Carolina School of Art railing, 2009, 3 x 9 x 1.3 ft.
Coat hook, 2009, 4.5 x 2 x 1.5 in.
Pines rail, 2005, 3 x 3.3 x .4 ft.
handwork. “Luckily I’m straddling those worlds enough that now I’m getting respect from both,” he says. His work has attracted mainstream press attention, such as Dwell, Gourmet, and the New York Times. Then there are the design blogs. “We’re getting tumbled around on the Internet,” he says. Thanks to a burst of coverage from European bloggers, he sold his most recent run of wine racks to customers in Italy and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the studio craft contingent continues to approve. Maiorana’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions, including the welltraveled show “Iron: Twenty Ten.” In 2011, he had a solo show at Memphis’ Metal Museum, where he debuted the gorgeous gate he made for the
Renwick Gallery’s recent “40 Under 40” exhibition. The Renwick acquired the piece. To be in the company of Albert Paley, from whom the gallery commissioned its Portal Gates (1974), is no small compliment. And honors keep coming: In 2013, he was awarded a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship. Asked what’s next, he’s full of plans: Upcoming commissions, a sculpture to install, a redesign for IDC’s website. “In typical Marc Maiorana fashion, it’s sort of all over the place,” he says. And yet, together, it all balances out. ~julie k. hanus
Book sconce, 2008, 7 x 6 x 6 in.
irondesigncompany.com Julie K. Hanus is American Craft’s senior editor.
design 2013 american craft 031
Nebula necklace, 2011, reflective glass yarn, moonstones, rareearth magnets
A Light Touch
below: Nebula bracelet, 2011, reflective glass yarn, iridescent yarn, gray pearls, rare-earth magnets
below: Nebula necklace, 2009, reflective glass yarn, rare-earth magnets
Nebula necklace, 2011, reflective glass yarn, rooster and peacock feathers, rare-earth magnets
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Industrial designer Lara Knutson with an armful of her crocheted glass yarn Nebula jewelry.
“materials are my obsession,” says New York-based, Pratttrained architect and industrial designer Lara Knutson, whose reflective fabric-based work is now sold at the Museum of Modern Art Store and part of the permanent collection at Corning Museum of Glass. It was also included in a major recent exhibition, “40 under 40: Craft Futures,” at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. “I really feel like I’m on a material adventure,” she says. Since 2002, Knutson has been making a literally luminous series of sculptural objects, crocheted vases, conical flasks, and jewelry with titles like Nebula, Supernova, and Soft Chemistry from a fabric filigreed with 50,000 mirror-backed glass beads per square inch, which magnify light 100 times. If “50,000 glass beads” sounds glamorous, consider
that the glowy material is also used in emergency workers’ uniforms and athletic garb. Knutson says her love of light began with seashells that glimmered on the shores of Beach Haven, New Jersey, where she grew up. When crushed, the shells “would crumble and shred, creating a kind of natural glitter,” she says. Knutson has long been drawn to phenomena that remind her of childhood on the beach: “light glistening off the water, rainstorms followed by rainbows over the ocean, reflective fish scales,” she says. Jump ahead a couple of decades, past experiments with natural sheet mica from science surplus stores to this incandescent, microstructural textile that Knutson stumbled upon some 10 years ago. It is, she says, “a synthetic version of all these natural materials” she admires.
right: Soft turquoise glass vases, 2011, reflective glass fabric, nylon thread, 7.5 x 5 in. dia. (top), 7 x 6.5 in. dia. (bottom)
Portrait: Beach Haven Times / Object photos: Lara Knutson
Comet necklace, 2007, reflective glass yarn, opalescent glass
Supernova necklace, 2009, reflective glass yarn, rock crystal
Smooth and heavy in sheet form, slightly abrasive as yarn, but soft and lightweight when knit, this effulgent fabric is a shining example of how light can be used as effectively as – and more dramatically than – more palpable substances. “The material responds as I move around it by flashing light at me,” the designer explains. “Even in the same room, it’s impossible for anyone to experience this material in the same way.” Along with her Juki sewing machine, Knutson prizes her Lamb knitting machine, custom made by the last circular knitting machine manufacturer in America. (Similar machines come from China now.) “This machine is the best thing I’ve ever bought,” Knutson admits, partly because it enables her to add offbeat materials to the mix: neon threads, cashmere,
nylon fishing line. She uses automation for only some pieces, though: The Nebula jewelry, for instance, is knitted on handcranked machines by Special Citizens, a group of adults with autism in the Bronx. Knutson recently finished a textile for furniture and lighting showroom Mondo Collection in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. In May, she designed three rocking chairs that “bounce and reflect light and rainbows with the use of textiles” for New York Design Week. She is also designing tapestries that make “light look like an object that can be touched.” Finally, she is designing high-end jewelry that plays with light using precious stones. Light is Knutson’s material; her tools are often her hands. She credits “thinking with my hands” for enabling her to study
her materials and methods more deeply than if she limited herself to drawing schematics for factory fabrication. “When you really break it down, everything is handmade, even buildings. Perhaps we all define craft based on precision, scale, and how many steps removed we are from the final outcome, but go to any factory and you’ll see people making things. Even the machines, machine parts, and raw materials are made and mined by people,” Knutson says. “There is craft everywhere.” ~shonquis moreno laraknutson.com Shonquis Moreno is a freelance journalist working from Brooklyn and Istanbul who contributes to publications such as Wallpaper*, Whitewall, and Fast Company. She has been an editor for Surface, Dwell, and Frame magazines. design 2013 american craft 033
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036 american craft design 2013
an Jon Goodm
Right and previous page photos: Bryan Hochman
Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow These two Brooklynites create verdant miniature worlds – from urban settings to waterfalls and rolling hills – out of mosses, plants, and succulents. Each Twig terrarium comes with little figures that can be placed anywhere in the scene; custom terrariums and DIY kits are also available. twigterrariums.com
Monica Farbiarz It looks as if it’s made of agate or ivory, but this striking Bib necklace by Californian Monica Farbiarz is more ecofriendly. It’s constructed of “vegetable ivory” – sustainable tagua seeds, harvested by local communities and assembled by workers in Colombia paid a fair wage. encantojewels.com
Valentino Llegada Some people see beauty in the most unexpected places; Valentino Llegada is Exhibit A. The Florida artist became entranced by a rusty fire extinguisher in his studio, scrubbed it off, painted it, and voilà: A rugged new vase was born. Llegada’s vessels are one of a kind and come in warm or cool colors. valentinollegada.com
Jobe Fabrications These ultra-functional adjustable stools by Texas designer Bryan Jobe don’t sacrifice good looks for durability. Built for years of use, with polished steel legs and reclaimed wooden seats, they would look equally at home in a high-end kitchen or a garage workshop. jobefab.com
JGoods The JGoods company was formed in Minneapolis a decade ago to customize sneakers for such tastemakers as Jay-Z and Torii Hunter. Now you can be as cool as those guys, with the JGoods Custom Sneaker Kit, which comes with paints, brush, and a guide. The leather paint is guaranteed not to crack or fade. jgoodsonline.com
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Studio Yaacov Kaufman
Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co. Josh Vogel of Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co. in upstate New York is known for his turned vessels and boxes (see page 104), but also makes select small goods, such as these striking sculptural kitchen tools, handcarved of maple or cherry. Each tool is part of a harmonious limited edition – 365 per year. blackcreekmt.com
Yaacov Kaufman Yes, you can hold nails between your teeth while you hammer, but what kind of barbarity is that? Israeli designer Yaacov Kaufman dreamed up this magnetic hammer to simplify the juggling act that is home repair. The hammer can be attached to metal surfaces, waiting to be useful. yaacovkaufman.com
Co ur te
tist f t h e ar
endolyn Yoppolo Gw
Gwendolyn Yoppolo There’s efficient eating, and then there’s savoring, which you can do beautifully with North Carolina ceramist Gwendolyn Yoppolo’s glazed Eat for Two porcelain bowl set. Through her unusual dish forms, Yoppolo hopes to “rethink the ways we nourish ourselves and others.” When the dinner party is particularly intimate, this might be just the thing. gwendolynyoppolo.com
Carnevale St udio
Jessica Carnevale You’ve seen this chair design a thousand times, but not like this. Bungee and latex cording hand woven onto metal frames give London designer Jessica Carnevale’s Stretch chair a modern, kaleidoscopic twist. This green one is available exclusively through the MoMA design store. carnevalestudio.com
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Elena Rosenberg Each of this textile artist’s exquisite pieces is an original design. They’re hand-knit (no machine or loom) in her Scarsdale, New York, studio using natural materials including merino wool, alpaca, silk, cashmere, and cotton. elenarosenberg.com
Chilewich Vinyl is convenient, sure, but glamorous? In the hands of New York husband-and-wife team Sandy Chilewich and Joe Sultan, the washable material most certainly is. The pair’s placemats and floor mats look like they’re made of such tactile stuff as cowhide and bouclé, but there’s no accompanying high maintenance. chilewich.com
Marcus Papay The shade on the Sinuous lamp is made of Entropy resin, a sustainable byproduct of bio-refineries. Each shade is made one at a time by the Southern California designer. The shades are trimmed with walnut or maple, and fitted on machined aluminum bodies with vintagestyle bulbs. marcuspapaydesign.com
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Teroforma Press this felt Avva breadbasket into service at your next gathering, and you can be sure your guests won’t have seen it before. Designed by Californian Josh Jakus, the basket can hang out on your table when the party’s over, looking clever. teroforma.com
Bellboy The Water Tower chair, by art director turned furniture maker Mat Driscoll, is made from pieces of an old water tower in his Brooklyn workshop. The curvaceous seat and patchwork pattern of reclaimed redwood pieces are inviting yet sophisticated. bellboynewyork.com Joshua Dalsimer
Giovannoni Design Only the saintly among us actually enjoy housework. But maybe it’s not so onerous if your broom looks like Milan designer Stefano Giovannoni’s. Buy a couple in neon colors, bring them out of the closet, and see if you don’t have a new spring in your step when you sweep. stefanogiovannoni.it
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Danielle Gori-Montanelli In this designer-maker’s hands, felt is fantastic – cut, layered, and stitched into everything from couture collars (right) to chic brooches, and even the occasional houseware, such as coasters. The Vermont-based jewelry artist began working in felt after having children, seeking a non-toxic alternative to metalsmithing. studiodgm.com
Brad Ascalon This table is designed by New York-based Brad Ascalon, who left the music business to study design at Pratt. The sleek solid-walnut base pays homage to the refined lines of midcentury design, with a round marble or travertine surface, available in both end table (shown) and coffee table varieties. bradascalon.com
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David Weeks Studio Brooklyn-based David Weeks Studio produces sleek, sophisticated furniture and lighting – very grown-up – but nothing is cuter than the company’s toys for children. Made of durable beechwood, Simus the Rhinoceros (left) and friends will withstand years of creative, plastic-free play. davidweeksstudio.com Roman Vrtiška You can buy another set of ordinary shelves to contain your stuff or divide your room, but why would you? Consider Prague designer Roman Vrtiška’s Unibox. Assemble its modules in endless combinations to create a structure that’s functional, interesting, and a sure conversation starter. vrtiskazak.com, roman-vrtiska.com
Jen List and Stacy Waddington Illinois artisans Jen List and Stacy Waddington transform old sweaters into snuggly accessories for children – as in these slippers from the Storybook Collection, hand-felted of 100 percent wool and inspired by The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. uncommongoods.com
Roman Vrt iška
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Caleb Siemon and Carmen Salazar These color-banded pendants are made from layers of glass in alternating transparent and opaque colors, inspired by the scenery of sunny Southern California, where Caleb Siemon and Carmen Salazar have their studio. siemonandsalazar.com
Iannone Design Featuring salvaged automotive sheet metal, with a structure made from walnut hardwood and FSC-certified maple plywood, this RE:Wreck sideboard, a collaboration by New Jersey designer Michael Iannone and Joel Hester of Arizona’s Weld House, combines clean modern lines with a bit of industrial grit for a new take on “green” furniture. iannonedesign.com
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David Geckeler This Berlin-based designer’s Scandinavian influence shines in the Nerd chair. Manufactured by Danish firm Muuto and made from oak or lacquered ash, the Nerd’s clean lines let the rainbow of colors shine. davidgeckeler.com
goods Forrest Lesch Middelton The ceramist’s earthy, tonal Origins tiles come in three sizes and seven historic patterns, based on designs found in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. This is the Petaluma, California-based artist’s first collection for Clé, purveyors of fine ceramic tiles. flmceramics.com, cletile.com
Nao Tamura Silicone, with its heat- and cold-resistant properties, has transformed life in the kitchen. New Yorker Nao Tamura’s molded silicone leaf also makes a splash in the dining room; her Seasons serving platters can go from microwave to table to dishwasher without a hitch. They can be rolled up or stacked to store, making a unique sculptural statement. naotamura.com
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Joe Cariati The pure hues, elegant lines, and refined stoppers of these translucent glass decanters embody Los Angeles artist Joe Cariati’s devotion to clean, simple, beautiful forms. Each piece is handmade in his studio, and the bottles come in a variety of sizes, for both use and display. joecariati.com
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Stephanie Nichols This Vermont designer fills the clear acrylic housing of this pendant lamp with an artful arrangement of ceramic spheres. The mass of colorful, simple shapes makes a bold statement; it’s available in a wide range of colors to match your décor. stephanienicholsstudio.com
Lisa Crowder In this Austin, Texasbased artist’s jewelry you’ll find silver and gold, perhaps enamel and thread, angles or curves. But in every piece, there is impeccable design – right down to the balanced way an earring loops through the ear. lisacrowder.com
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Fort Standard The joint project of Gregory Buntain and Ian Collings, Fort Standard blends tradition with innovation, as evident in the Brooklyn design studio’s Cage necklaces and bangles, of-the-moment geometric forms cast in classic brass. fortstandard.com
Fleet Objects The familiar shapes and soothing blues and grays of Fleet Objects’ Pools Collection will put you at ease. Vancouver-based designer Zoe Garred makes the lids interchangeable, to enable endless pairings of the ceramic bowls, jars, cups, and vases. fleetobjects.com
Oswaldsmill Audio Who says speakers need to be big ugly brown boxes? The OMA Mini, designed by David Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Imperio, has an aluminum horn and powder-coated carbon steel stand, all hand-constructed in Pennsylvania. The speakers are designed to work with just about any amplifier for a high-quality listening experience. oswaldsmillaudio.com
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Kiln Design Studio The Brooklyn-based studioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s enameled bowls and platters feature glossy, color-saturated surfaces and gently curving forms. And by the way: Kiln also produces equally appealing richly toned jewelry. kilnenamel.com
Plywood Office Multiple cuts of plywood are glued, stacked, and sanded by Chicago designer Chris Jamison, turning this utilitarian material into substantial, midcentury-inspired coffee and end tables. plywoodoffice.us
Domenic Fiorello Studio Domenic Fiorello, based in Cleveland, designed his wall-mounted plant pods specifically for succulents. The CNC-routed solid-wood forms, with plastic inserts, really class up your cacti. domenicfiorello.com
SHIFT Six craftspeople who joined forces with retailers and manufacturers and found that theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re good together. stories by
We’re living in a new golden era of good design. Just look around any home décor emporium or design boutique. From high-end luxury items to that simple, artful mug, there has never been a richer selection of ingenious, expressive, well-made merchandise on store shelves. This, of course, is part of a larger trend. Nowadays both your beer and your pretzels can be “artisanal.” But in the marketplace for quality lifestyle goods – housewares, furnishings, accessories, fashion, even tech gadgets – there’s something deeper going on. As consumers, we’re more aware of materials now – not just their visual and sensual appeal, but also where they come from, why they matter. We’re more curious about how things are made and who made them; we watch TV shows about it. With social media as our global platform, we’ve all become tastemakers, critics, and curators, happily expressing our individuality and style in every possible way. Yet we spend so much time staring at screens that our spirits yearn for physical objects, especially ones that feel good in our hands. We like a touch of art (literally), a dash of innovation, and a little soul in our stuff. And we really enjoy attaching a name, a face, a persona to the things we use every day. In other words, we want everything that craftspeople have always stood for and expressed in their work. The zeitgeist has finally caught up with makers, and the market has taken note. So savvy manufacturers and retailers (Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, Room & Board, and Restoration Hardware, to name a few) are going right to the source, engaging craftspeople to design original products. What’s more, they’re putting artisans’ names and stories front and center as a marketing strategy. Meanwhile, on the entrepreneurial side, enterprising artisans are making the leap to become designer-manufacturers in their own right, expanding their operations and product lines to build their own companies and brands. The result? For all of us, great products. For craftspeople, new career opportunities. To be clear: We’re not talking about one-of-a-kind objects conceived and handcrafted from start to finish by a single person. That special act of creation goes to the heart of craftsmanship and has its own active market. We’re talking about a “product” in the industrial sense, specially designed by a craftsperson – someone with an artistic vision steeped in a hands-on understanding of material, technique, form, and function – that gets replicated, somehow, in significant quantities. It could be a limited run of, say, 100 chairs, made through some combination of hand and machine methods, by teams of craftsmen employed by the designer-
woodworker whose name goes on the collection. Or a signature line of dinnerware by a ceramist, massproduced at a factory. There are different ways to do it. What matters is that the product be made efficiently and still convey the artisan’s unique vision and aesthetic – that, and sell. The worlds of craft, design, industry, and commerce may have their differences and periodic clashes; a handcraft revival seems to sprout every few decades as a reaction to an overload of technology and consumerism. But they’re inextricably linked and fundamentally good together. The 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s – the time of the modernist “designer-craftsman” – gave us china by Eva Zeisel, barware by Dorothy Thorpe, silver services by John Prip, and all those fabulous furnishings we see on Mad Men. Dorothy Liebes applied a weaver’s sensibility to textile design, as did Jack Lenor Larsen, whose firm brings a sophisticated handmade aesthetic to the fabric industry to this day. Other, more recent, craft/design exemplars include ceramist Dorothy Hafner, who partnered with the Rosenthal company for her line of distinctive, exuberantly patterned ceramic wares beginning in the 1980s; jewelry designer Robert Lee Morris, now selling his RLM Home collection to a mass audience on the QVC channel; and Heath Ceramics, the historic California factory that thrives by offering its classic designs along with new work by contemporary artists and designers. Then there’s Jonathan Adler, who started as a potter and built a design empire with a mind-boggling range of products, from coasters to needlepoint pillows, sold in his own stores throughout the United States and in London. “Not all craftspeople think as designers, nor do all designers think as craftsmen,” observes fashion/design maven Rose Apodaca, co-owner of A+R, a stylish home accessories store with two locations in Los Angeles. “But you do have those rising to prominence who are able to merge what you might call those two sides of their brain. They’re using craft-y methods, and applying those notions in ways where items can be produced on a larger scale – maybe not a Walmart scale, but certainly one that means a good business and living for them,” she says. This is prime time for design-minded craftspeople, says Susan Harkavy, a New York-based public relations and marketing consultant who has specialized in design and craft for 30 years. “In this age, where you can get almost anything from Amazon and it all tends to look the same, craftspeople offer that element of poetry.” Joyce Lovelace is American Craft’s contributing editor.
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above: Fabric and meshes designed by Whelan for Humanscale office chairs. After in-house design and prototyping, the final products are woven on a hightech loom in Switzerland.
from college with a history degree, she decided to follow her passion, and earned a BFA in textiles from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1997 she opened her studio in New York, where today she and several assistants take a bottom-up, hands-on approach to every project. “We dye yarns. We put things on a loom. We spin yarns together to see how they work. We draw and paint our weave structures, then put them on the computer to figure it out in terms of a repeat. We do all the samples and prototypes by hand. I try to go deep into the work that way,” says Whelan, who cites weavers Anni Albers and Jack Lenor Larsen as her inspirations.
Photos: Alyssa Kirsten
elizabeth whelan gets a kick out of seeing her textiles out in the world, in everyday use. Like on the doctor’s rolling stool at the hospital where her mother went in for a hip operation. Or in The Bourne Ultimatum, in a scene where characters convene in a situation room on Niels Diffrient-designed Liberty chairs upholstered with her fabric. Whelan designs textiles for “products that meet the human needs of the 21st century,” from sneakers and apparel for Nike to luggage by Tumi. “It’s very cool, as a creator, to walk into a factory that’s making chairs out of your fabric, and see 500 chairs in five or six different colorways,” she says. But, for her, it all starts with the hand. “I’m a designer who wants to bring craft into her work. I don’t think it’s a far stretch from craft into design. The bridge is short.” As a child Whelan had a knack for knitting, cross-stitch, any kind of needlework: “I loved structures.” After graduating
“How is the wool going to take the dye? How is it going to feel? It’s so deeply rooted, at least for me, in craft,” she says. “But we also prepare the design so that it can be made in large quantities and put onto chairs, for example. By working all of that out by hand, we can guide production so much better.” Whether it’s textured paper wall coverings for Knoll woven in Mexico on 1940s Spanish looms, or fabrics for Human scale office chairs produced on high-tech looms in Switzerland, Whelan’s craft skills and sensibility come in handy when she’s at the mills, working directly with technicians. “The best know their craft really well, and I have a lot of respect for them. It’s wonderful when you can connect that way, but you’ve got to know your stuff.” In her practice, “we’ve worked within very advanced technologies. We’ve learned how to sonically weld our fabrics. You can only do that when you know your material well.
above: Samples of mesh for Nike athletic shoes, including Sailfish (top left), Yellowfish (bottom left), and Waffle (bottom right).
And you know your material well when you’re good at your craft.” That’s where craftspeople have an edge and potential opportunity, Whelan thinks. “People will reach out to a ‘cool’ designer or a ‘cool’ artist, and I sometimes wonder: Do they even know how to make what you’re asking them to make? But if you go to a craftsperson with an idea, he or she is going to know how to make it,” she points out, adding that makers are good problem-solvers. “Often we don’t know how valuable we can be. Sometimes we feel undervalued, and probably are. Other times we just haven’t made the connection to find those who can value us.” elizabethwhelandesign.com american craft design 2013 049
Hand-blown crystal and bronze make up the Chamber pendant chandelier (2011).
Alison Berger “it was ‘ignorance is bliss’ and chutzpah, combined together,” Alison Berger says of the time she approached Hermès with a proposal for a line of bowls, cruets, and other vessels for everyday use. A maker of glass objects that embody a pure, clear, pared-down aesthetic, Berger has always been interested in quality elevated to the level of “rarefied.” She felt the French design house epitomized that standard; still, it had never collaborated with an American artist before. Aiming high paid off. The company commissioned a series of signed pieces (a rare honor, pairing the iconic Hermès name with hers) and asked her to produce them herself. For Berger, who works with a team of glass artisans at her studio in Los Angeles, being both designer and factory was a revelation: “I started to understand that you can produce things in a production house with the level of integrity of art.” It led her to lighting, and to this day she does pendants, sconces,
chandeliers, and floor lamps for Holly Hunt, a luxury home furnishings company. Berger takes an open, unfettered approach to creativity, having worked in fields from architecture (in Frank Gehry’s firm) to entertainment (designing objects for a Madonna video). Hands-on making has been her touchstone, though, ever since she blew glass as a teenager in Texas. Her new venture, a furniture collection for Hunt called Tables of the Trade, pays homage to craft, with theme pieces in etched glass, bronze, and steel – the Jeweler’s table, Sculptor’s pedestal, Carpenter’s bench, and so on. “I see design as trend. Craft is about longevity,” she says. “The challenge becomes, how do you combine longevity with something that feels very current?” Designer, artist, craftsman – for Berger, “it’s not one or the other, but a combination of all, with craftsmanship always the foundation.” alisonbergerglassworks.com
The Jeweler’s table (2012), part of a new collection for furnishings company Holly Hunt, is made of cast glass and steel. Photo: Joshua White
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Photo: Angie West
Berger’s Surveyor’s floor lamp (2005) takes inspiration from history. Photo: Alison Berger
An understated Lure sconce (2011) of blown crystal and bronze exemplifies Bergerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s aesthetic. Photo: Angie West
Berger sits with the Roman Ring lamp, a 2001 design made of hand-blown crystal and steel. Portrait: Douglas Kirkland
Blown crystal cereal and sugar bowls are from the HermĂ¨s Balance Line Collection (2000). Photo: Laura Resen
Quilt designs by entrepreneur Denyse Schmidt, who also makes the occasional one-of-a-kind commissioned piece. left: Books and stationery designed for Chronicle, the stylish San Franciscobased publisher. 052 american craft design 2013
Portrait: John Midgley / Other photos (8): Denyse Schmidt
who doesn’t love quilts, or at least the idea of a quilt? They’re decorative and useful, suggesting warmth, family, and tradition. They go on both walls and beds. But until recently, the ones widely available on the market – not one-of-a-kind or “art” quilts – tended to have a generic, ersatz-homespun look. Denyse Schmidt noticed this and saw a niche for herself. A graphic designer trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, she loved handwork, having made things all her life. Why not bring a fresh aesthetic – one inspired by the simple beauty and sophistication of historic American quilts – to quilts for contemporary interiors? She crafted a few pieces to try out the idea, and it took off. Today Denyse Schmidt Quilts is a vibrant, multifaceted brand, with an enthusiastic following among savvy consumers and interior designers. The quilts come in two main collections: Couture, hand-stitched by Amish women in Minnesota, and Works, pieced and machinequilted by freelance crafters in Schmidt’s studio, located in a former textile factory in the old industrial city of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Through licensing deals with other firms, she also designs fabrics and quilt patterns aimed at hobbyists, as well as books and stationery. Schmidt has had to devise ways to get her quilts made in quantity while maintaining high quality and a handmade feel. (She does make the occasional one-of-a-kind commissioned piece.) “I thought, how can I invent ‘production-friendly’ methodologies to make this sustainable?” Her model – “hands-on manufacturing,” she calls it – allows her to take a holistic approach. “My parents were engineers, so I have that mentality. When I design, I look for the whole process to make sense, start to finish,” she says. “And each part is satisfying in its own way.”
Striped Bucket Vessel, 2012, stoneware, slip, glaze, 10 x 14 x 12 in.
Kathy Erteman if you’ve shopped at crate & Barrel lately, you may have seen the 18th Street Collection, a set of sophisticated, rusticrefined dinnerware in a muted palette of black and cream, the newest line by Kathy Erteman. A critically acclaimed ceramist whose sculptural work is shown in museums and galleries, Erteman has been collaborating with industry, designing and making molds and prototypes for manufacture, since the early 1990s – a time when some in the craft world dismissed that direction. 054 american craft design 2013
“ ‘Oh, Kathy Erteman. I like her work, but, you know – she does design.’ I heard that thirdhand,” says the New York-based artist, adding that times – and attitudes – have definitely changed. “All of a sudden, design is good.” Erteman never set out to be any sort of groundbreaker; she just always envisioned a dual way of working. She grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of parents from the Netherlands and Austria. On trips to Europe, she saw that combining one-of-a-kind work with design for industry was a common
model for ceramists. She went to California State University at Long Beach (mainly because it offered training in plaster moldmaking, a technique she would use for years), and later studied with the celebrated ceramist Adrian Saxe at UCLA. As she established her career during the ’80s and ’90s, she simultaneously pursued her individual studio work while cultivating tableware-industry connections (“making it up as I went along”) that led to projects for clients such as Dansk and Tiffany.
Bucket and Monoprint photos: Alan Wiener / Dinnerware photo: Courtesy of Crate & Barrel
Ochre Monoprint Vessel, 2012, stoneware, slip, glaze, 10 x 12 x 13 in.
Small Vessel 3B, 2012, stoneware, slip, glaze, 6 x 6 in. dia.
All other photos: Kathy Erteman
Veil, 2009, porcelain, slip, glaze, 18 x 16 in.
collaboration; it’s not about an artist’s ego and expectations. “Working with industry, it’s more, ‘What can you do for us? Can you do something extraordinary that also fits in?’ ” In today’s market especially, artists need to be open and adaptable. Different artists have told her over the years that “basically the code or formula in the art world is, you develop a concept in graduate school and then you spend the rest of your career on that one concept, developing and promoting it,” she
says. But “that’s the success of the past,” Erteman says. “I realize that clarity in what you do is important, but I don’t know how that’s going to play out in years to come.” Erteman has found that having a variety of avenues for her creativity has been a fulfilling model. “Some of my students have said, ‘You’ve picked one thing and done it your whole life.’ And I say, ‘Yes, but within the one thing, I’ve done many things!’ ”
Small Vessel 4, 2012, stoneware, slip, glaze, 5 x 8 x 1 in.
Erteman’s 18th Street dinnerware, designed for Crate & Barrel
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Tracy Glover on her path to success as a designer-maker, Tracy Glover had to buck some trends, ignore some advice, and follow her own creative instincts. She trained as an architect, but switched to glassblowing when she found herself “wanting to design the objects in the buildings, rather than the buildings.” At the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1980s, she felt out of step with classmates, “who were all making supersculptural, conceptual things.” That, for her, felt forced. “In all honesty, I just didn’t have any ideas that were socalled ‘fine art’ ideas. I never even really wanted to try. I’d see people have this terrible struggle, [feeling] that what they were doing wasn’t worthy
because it wasn’t fine art. Which is a shame,” Glover says. “I think something that is beautiful and functional, that you love, that gives you pleasure in your life, is just as worthy.” Beautiful, functional, lovable, and a source of pleasure – that pretty much describes the colorful blown-glass lamps, pendants, sconces, chandeliers, and home accessories Glover and her team produce today at her studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Ironically, “I’m making things that are more sculptural now, instead of just functional,” she says. “So I’ve come full circle, almost.” Not that Glover ever felt fully at home in the craft world, either. For years, on the show circuit, she was told her work wasn’t “craft-looking” enough: “People were saying, ‘Oh, you need handmade shades’ or whatever,” she recalls. Finally she decided to target the interior design trade, “where the market
was.” It was a winning move. In addition to her production line (sold through lighting showrooms and lifestyle stores), she’s since branched out into hospitality, doing custom jobs for the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, plus various other ballrooms, foyers, and public spaces. “Glass walls, chandeliers – crazy stuff. The crazier, the better.” She has also designed drawer pulls and a popular table lamp for Anthropologie (“an amazing, innovative, totally cool company”) and is exploring designs for rugs based on the swirly patterns of her blown glass. Her time these days is split between blowing glass, tending to business, and dreaming up new designs. “I come up with new stuff every year,” she says. “I have to constantly keep moving.” tracygloverstudio.com
right: Glass artist Tracy Glover at work in her Rhode Island hot shop and studio.
The 30-inch glass Bell Jar lamp, shown in seafoam and olive, with a cream silk shade.
The Veronese lamp stands 25 inches, shown in spice and aurora, with a cream silk shade.
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Portrait: Carl Tremblay / All other photos: Courtesy of Tracy Glover
The Jewel Box pendant – part of a customizable system of large glass beads that can be used as a room divider, window treatment, or lighting.
Megan Auman when you go on megan Auman’s website, it’s like dropping by the inviting home of a stylish friend, one who really knows how to accessorize. You’re greeted with cheerful music and a quick video in which the young designer-metalsmith highlights the process and purpose behind her jewelry, compositions of steel and silver wire that are dramatic enough to make a fashion statement, but comfortable enough to wear every day. “That video has really been a positive thing for me,” says Auman, who as a result gets recognized at shows. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re the jewelry designer.’ It took me a while to really understand the importance of being a brand – being yourself, establishing yourself as a personality, and then making people feel connected to you.” above, right: Droplet rings, 2012, 14 kt. gold
below: Amelia necklace, 2011, sterling silver
above: Galaxy bracelet, 2010, sterling silver
above: Galaxy necklace, 2010, sterling silver
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In her sideline as a consultant on craft business and marketing, Auman offers group coaching and online courses on everything from pricing and wholesaling to how best to structure a creative practice. She tells makers the best thing they can do (besides create a great product, of course) is to build their brands. “People want to connect with the person behind the object. The brand is the person,” Auman says. The reality is “we are a culture that responds to brand and celebrity and personality,” she points out. “We also have
this renewed interested in handmade, artisanal products. All of the trends are pointing to you as the designer, or the maker, or the artist – whatever mantle you want to take on – having to step up and be yourself, be the public face of your art.” Auman lives and works in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, a small town that, conveniently for business, is just a few hours by car from Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. Her father owned a machine shop founded by her grandfather, so she grew up around manufacturing. At 31 she’s had a range of experience as a maker and small-business owner, and shown at indie and mainstream craft fairs as well as at big design trade shows. She did a line of home accessories
and my first year out, I did both,” she says. “Now I feel there are so many more options. I think it’s important to let go of any assumptions of the way things are supposed to be. My approach has always been, let’s just try it and see what happens. Adopt an attitude of openness and exploration, rather than waiting for someone to give you the prescribed path. Because there is no prescribed path anymore.” meganauman.com
Photos: Megan Auman
in laser-cut metal at one point, but right now is focused on her jewelry, which is handmade in batches with help from her production assistant, and sold in museum stores, craft galleries, and boutiques. The career track for makers has changed, she observes, even from as recently as 2006, the year she earned her MFA in jewelry and metalsmithing from Kent State University. Then, “it felt like there was one path I was supposed to take. Actually, two: I could teach or I could do shows,
Megan Auman at the work table where she transforms wire into wearables.
below: Maya necklace, 2012, steel, bronze
above: Lena necklace, 2008, steel, sterling silver
Nellie earrings, 2011, steel, sterling silver
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Feast your eyes, on rooms built around sculpture, ceramics, and fine furniture.
William Peace, ASID Inspiration: Michael Schwegmann, ceramics; Donna D’Aquino, metal sculpture
The American Craft Council collaborates with local interior designers and architects in Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Paul, and San Francisco at ACC shows to create room vignettes inspired by fine craft.
san francisco Aug. 2-4, 2013 baltimore Feb. 19-20, 2014, trade Feb. 21-23, 2014, retail atlanta Mar. 14-16, 2014 st. paul Apr. 11-13, 2014
Baltimore designer: Mary Douglas Drysdale Inspiration: Yoshi Fujii, ceramic teapot
REVEAL In depth with seven artists who have made it their lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work to create extraordinary furniture and objects for the home
Populist Modern For 10 years, Scott McGlasson was the well-kept secret of Twin Cities architects. But with the economy in the tank, the contemporary woodworker turned to another kind of design lover: the general public. story by Christy DeSmith photography by Paul Nelson
Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll never drink alone with Mr. Drink (2004) by your side. An ash and steel base is paired with bubinga for Le Orange, wenge for Nightster (top inset) and walnut for Danish (bottom).
I Desk photos (2): Rau+Barber
t’s a frosty october morning in Minneapolis, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of locals from clogging the everpopular Mill City Farmers’ Market. This upscale bazaar features a weekly assortment of farm-direct eggs, single-source honeys, organic pumpkins and squash, even a smattering of jewelry by local makers. A newcomer to the market, I let my nose guide me to the artisan cheese I want to sample. I stop to coo over two chickens. And when I reach the farthest corner, I encounter a scene so beautiful it triggers an involuntary response. I see ranks of turned plates and live-edge bowls, attended by a woodworker wearing a sporty skullcap and a fashionable green parka. Without thinking, I drag my grubby fingers across Scott McGlasson’s lustrous walnut scotch tray. It’s surprising to encounter such elegance at a farmers’ market, even a fancy market like this. The crowded setting can put off other craftspeople, such as Thomas Oliphant, a Minneapolis furniture maker and a friend of McGlasson. “That’s a sweaty retail experience there,” Oliphant observes dryly. Many artists wouldn’t stoop to hawk ing their wares in such gritty environments. “But Scott doesn’t have an ego because he’s never been in the hothouse of an arts school,” Oliphant says. It’s true: The farmers’ market was never a problem for the 46-year-old McGlasson; it was a revelation. McGlasson began making furniture full-time in 1998. Architects kept him busy; they usually hired him to build sleek, modern cabinetry and furniture for high-end residential projects. Designers admired McGlasson’s lacquered tables and chairs. Clients adored the stylish vanities and drawers crafted from birch, steel, and glass. But in 2008, the meltdown of Lehman Brothers hit and “nothing happened for me,” explains McGlasson. “The emails stopped. The phone didn’t ring for three
Writing desk, 2007, walnut, cherry, plastic laminate, 3.5 x 3.3 x 2.25 ft.
“I’m just a carpenter who makes furniture,” McGlasson says. “Sometimes I feel like an idiot savant.”
Walnut slab table, 2011, walnut, cast iron, 2.5 x 8 x 4.2 ft.
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below: Rustic Modern credenza, 2011, ash, yellow birch, steel, 2.5 x 5.7 x 1.5 ft. left and right: A turned lamp and bowl, both made of ash, sit atop McGlasson’s signature credenza. top: Anny stool, 2011, ash, walnut, 2.2 ft. high bottom: Black and white boxes, 2009, ash, walnut, birch, 6 x 12 x 12 in. each
months.” He started rethinking his business strategy. Here’s where McGlasson got lucky: He had finally saved up enough money to purchase his first lathe a few months before the economy tanked. Plus, he shares a sprawling St. Paul workspace with five other woodworkers, some with bright ideas. Studio-mate Duff Thury first suggested the farmers’ market. “So I decided to come up with a big line of stuff,” says McGlasson. He started logging long hours at his new lathe, crafting affordable tabletop items such as plates and bowls, along with some funky turned stools, all stamped with McGlasson’s irreverent label: Woodsport. when i visited mcglasson in his studio – surprisingly immaculate for a woodshop – he was preparing for Chicago’s One of a Kind Show. The only work-in-progress on display was an attractive A-line cabinet, specially sized for sheet music and commissioned by a Minneapolis-based pianist. More 066 american craft design 2013
left: McGlasson takes break from the lathe, the tool he uses to create his bread-and-butter tableware. He sells plates, bowls, and other tabletop items at farmers’ markets and craft shows; he spends the rest of his time working on furniture commissions.
right: Finny stools (2011), made of walnut, ash, and cherry, covered with Icelandic lamb pelts. below: Rustic Modern credenza, 2007, ash, walnut, steel, 2 x 7 x 1.7 ft.
Credenza and vases photo: Rau+Barber
left: Boiler, Bottle, and Beaker vases, turned from ash and finished with walnut top rings.
prominent was the cartful of boards – lots of ash and walnut, a few precious strips of maple and cherry. McGlasson was at work replenishing his cash-and-carry stock, busily crafting an assortment of small plates – one of ash with a slender strip of walnut, another yellow birch harvested from the northernmost woods of Minnesota. In between plates, McGlasson multitasks, working on his turned bowls – imagine a smooth basin carved from a chunky piece of raw wood. He discovered woodworking relatively late in life. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1991 with a degree in English, McGlasson defaulted to a teaching career, where he specialized in working with troubled students. A perk of his job with Minneapolis Public Schools was the free evening classes at the local community college. McGlasson took his first woodworking course in 1996. At the time, his motivations were primarily aesthetic, rather than just personal enrichment. He might have lacked a formal arts education, but McGlasson always had
a certain flair. As a child, he would create careful arrangements of Led Zeppelin posters above his bed. As an adult, he started coveting furnishings designed by Le Corbusier, Herman Miller, and Charles Eames. “I didn’t have much money, but there were certain pieces I wanted,” McGlasson remembers. Thanks to his woodworking classes, he could craft his own contemporary pieces such as the Rustic Modern credenza, now a signature piece in the Woodsport portfolio. The credenza caught the eye of Charlie Lazor, the Minneapolis-based design and architecture guru who co-founded the modern furniture company Blu Dot and later masterminded the FlatPak system of prefab housing components. Lazor was quick to recognize something new in the credenza. The piece has “this outer shell of a simple, clean modernist box,” explains Lazor. With their raw edges, “the drawers and the doors are exhibiting the found beauty of wood. [McGlasson] takes advantage of irregular edges in the wood to create handles and pulls.”
A tireless worker who avoids pretentious or overly theoretical conversations, McGlasson doesn’t always appreciate the artful qualities in his work. He even betrays a little imposter syndrome: “I’m just a carpenter who makes furniture,” he says in his studio, working the lathe. “Sometimes I feel like an idiot savant.” Minutes later, he cocks his head and remarks on the rich, burl-like swirls he sees in a piece of finished yellow birch. The shapes are contemporary, yet McGlasson clearly reveres the patterns and contours of natural materials. He likes wood so much he harvests much of it himself and has it milled locally. “People call me and say, ‘I’ve got a walnut tree – do you want it?’ ” he says. No doubt the approach helps imbue the Woodsport collection with earthiness and warmth. As Lazor describes it, “It’s this modern world and then it’s this wood-based craft world. Seeing the two together is unexpected, and really rewarding. Typically those two worlds live far apart.” By maintaining a retail presence at the farmers’ market and elsewhere, McGlasson design 2013 american craft 067
An array of walnut live-edge bowls (2009), ranging from 4 to 12 inches in diameter.
Cabinet of small drawers, 2007, walnut, maple, 5.2 x 1.7 x 1.3 ft.
and his rustic-modern creations managed to get noticed by other Twin Cities tastemakers. Thanks to Linda McShannock, a savvy curator at the Minnesota Historical Society, the organization added a Woodsport walnut bench to its collection, a distinction that few contemporary furniture makers can claim. Andrew Blauvelt, curator of architecture and design at Walker Art Center, recently bought the popular Finny stool for himself. “Its form is what really sold me,” 068 american craft design 2013
explains Blauvelt. “Rounded, over-scaled proportions – a nearly cartoonish rendition of the archetypal stool.” Today, about half McGlasson’s business comes from cash-and-carry bowls, plates, and stools he sells at events like One of a Kind Chicago and the American Craft Council Show in St. Paul. “I think up this stuff, and miraculously, people buy it,” says the modest McGlasson. The other half of his work is private commissions – the stylish cabinet for the pianist, an
enormous walnut slab table for another client. These projects provide the woodworker with a comfortable income. And increasingly, more of the best commissions come from homeowners than architects, people who first discover McGlasson presiding over his $40 bowls at the far edge of the farmers’ market. woodsport.net Christy DeSmith is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer. She covers arts, culture, and travel.
Cabinet photo: Rau+Barber
Turned plates (2009), made from ash, cherry, Baltic birch plywood, bullet-riddled walnut, and maple (covered in chalkboard paint).
McGlasson practices â&#x20AC;&#x153;snout-to-tailâ&#x20AC;? woodworking, his phrase for using every inch of a piece of wood.
An Abner chair (2010), made from ash, Baltic birch, and plastic laminate. Textured ash vases sit close by on a walnut slab side table.
Antilles (2008) photo: Jamie Young
Shayna Leib has probed depths that once terrified her â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and emerged with an artistic approach all her own. story by Judy Arginteanu photography byJames Schnepf
Sun and Oyashio photos: Jamie Young / Stiniva photo: Eric Tadsen
top: Sun Rising Over the Tundra, 2009, glass, 14 x 32 x 6 in.
above: Stiniva 2/5, 2011, glass, 19 x 30 x 8 in.
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right: Leib’s work derives in part from the innate properties glass shares with water – flow and translucency.
above: Oyashio, 2007, glass, 32 x 13 x 5 in.
what inspires shayna leib’s Wind and Water series? A scuba diver could say in an instant. For that matter, the interplay of light, color, and movement is recognizable even to those of us whose deep-sea experience is confined to Sunday-night Nature episodes. Look more closely at Leib’s work, and you’ll glimpse something else: hours of intense labor. A large wall sculpture (about 4.5 by 2 feet) might contain some 40,000 individual pieces of hand-pulled, custom-colored cane, which she then slumps, cuts, and meticulously arranges in intricate patterns, like those nature seems to create so effortlessly. It takes many weeks to produce one sculpture. “I remember the day I [first] saw her work,” says Jay Scott, co-owner of Habatat Galleries Florida in West Palm Beach, which has carried her work for about four years. Even as a 15-year veteran of the glass scene, he was struck by her work at a SOFA New York show. True, he’s drawn to underwater themes; “but then I got closer and looked at the process and the detail; on top of that, the craftsmanship was amazing. It had everything.
That was what really blew me away,” Scott says. Collectors Karen Depew and Steve Keeble had a similar response. Though they concentrate on wood art, they chose a Leib piece for pride of place in their Chevy Chase, Maryland, home. “I’ve never seen anything like the movement and the color together,” says Depew. When friends enter their house, she says, “they just go right to the piece. ‘What is this? What’s it made of?’ ” With the help of one assistant, Leib, 38, does all the work in her 640-square-foot studio, a converted warehouse in the charmingly boho East Side of Madison, Wisconsin. (She can just fit the length of the cane pull along the long side of her narrow rectangular space.) She can spend hours on the coloring process alone, and each piece of cane has at least two colors to add shimmering depth. She can use up to six different versions of a color in a monotone landscape; for a multicolored piece, the number may be 25 or 30. Leib grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, earning a bachelor’s degree at hometown California Polytechnic University in philosophy, with minors design 2013 american craft 073
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above: Six Species, 2011, glass, resin, 14 x 50 x 8 in.
Species photo: Eric Tadsen
Once afraid of deep water, even in pools, the artist is now an accomplished diver.
in glass and literature; she earned her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in glass and metal in 2003. (“I’m married to glass, but I have an affair with metal,” Leib says.) She worked as a metalsmith in Ronald Hayes Pearson’s studio in Maine, returned to her alma mater to teach briefly, then came back to Madison for a yearlong teaching position in 2005; since that
ended, she has worked in the studio full time. And while she has a portfolio of striking functional pieces in glass, along with jewelry and hollowware, Wind and Water consumes much of her time now. Given the watery presence of the series, it’s little surprise that Leib is a diver. Perhaps more surprising: It’s a recent development.
For most of her life she harbored a phobia of deep water – even the deep end of swimming pools. At the same time, as became obvious in her work, she was fascinated by ocean life and aquariums. Leib yearned to see her subject without the barrier of a glass wall. Ultimately, desire trumped fear, and five years ago she made her first dive.
She quickly discovered a paradox: “I’m calmer and calmer the deeper I go. It’s serenity, and it’s bliss. It’s just the most wonderful thing in the world.” She seeks that same kind of serenity when she conceives new pieces. She no longer uses sketches; instead, she says, she meditates for about an hour to visualize the piece design 2013 american craft 075
from start to finish. Once all of the prep work is done, she starts her pieces in a corner of the “canvas,” and they seem to expand organically. Chatting in her studio, she grabs a piece of sidewalk chalk from a shelf neatly lined with plastic bins housing varying lengths of colored cane, then quickly sketches a rectangle on the concrete floor, filling the lower lefthand corner with what look like fish scales to represent the groups of cane as they blossom outward. “I can’t work one area, then skip over and work on a spot in another area. I have to chase the edge, see how it unfolds.” It’s a process she’s developed over the eight or so years she’s been working with the series, and “it kind of messes with your brain,” she concedes. Her painstaking methods are no picnic, either. “I’m probably one of the most inefficient glass artists out there,” she says, but she’s not planning to change. She tried streamlining her methods, she says, but “it just didn’t achieve the effects I wanted.” She’s not too worried about other artists trying to copy her process; the attention to detail it demands offers a kind of “built-in protection,” she says with a wry smile. “I’ve had fellow artists come up to me and say, ‘I got as far as a four-by-four [inch] version of your piece, and I was ready to put a bullet in my brain,’” she laughs. As she has become more proficient as a diver – she’s now certified for deep-sea diving and night diving – she’s also seen her work change. A major influence, she says, is her transition into
Crevice, 2011, glass, steel, resin, 6 x 1.5 x .7 ft.
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larger freestanding sculptural pieces, like the 6-foot Crevice (2011). She’s also using more transparent color, as in the stunning Stiniva pieces (2011), which look lit from within. While less costly to produce, the layers of subtle colors actually require more time than her more contrasting, opaque work. She wants to go even bigger; she already has a piece in the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC, and is looking for other large-scale opportunities. Habatat’s Scott says it’s just a matter of time before Leib becomes a household name. Depew and Keeble agree. “We think she’s a real talent,” says Keeble. Adds Depew: “She’s one of the artists we watch to see where she goes.” shaynaleib.com Judy Arginteanu is a freelance writer and American Craft’s copy editor.
“Chasing the edge” is how Leib describes her meticulous building process.
above: Meniscus (detail), 2007, glass, steel, 5 x 12 x 2 in.
Crevice photo: Eric Tadsen / Laminaria photo: Jim Gill / Meniscus photo: Jamie Young
left: Laminaria, 2010, glass, steel, 3.2 x 2 x 1.6 ft.
left: Leib draws from her many bins of cut and colored cane – sorted by length and hue – to compose her minutely detailed works.
Piecework From his beginnings as an artist, Jim Rose has stayed open to influence. The result is furniture that stands apart. story by Julie K. Hanus
photography by James Schnepf
Tom Van Eynde
what registers first when you look at Jim Rose’s furniture? Maybe it’s the clean lines of his Shaker-inspired designs, or the bursts of blocky color in the quiltlike panels that brighten drawer fronts and doors. Maybe it’s the unexpected material: not wood, but reclaimed steel, soothed with wax finishes. Maybe it’s the meticulous craftsmanship, honed skill, and clear vision manifest in his finished forms. Whatever hits first, the magic is almost certainly in how it all comes together.
For 19 years, Rose has been crafting furniture in Door County, Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife, their daughter, Delilah, and a Jack Russell named Daisy. He works in an old creamery, a 100-year-old Belgianbrick structure converted into 2,250 square feet of workspace. A green mechanical shear dominates the shop floor, as colorful pieces of aging steel rest against the walls. The setup suits the thoughtful, grounded man. Yet Rose’s road to this place – and his perceptive approach to making – began far
design 2013 american craft 079
stand he’d made – one of his earliest pieces of furniture. A huge fire had recently laid claim to her gallery, Objects, along with eight others in the same building. The exiled art dealers had set up temporary shop at the city’s Merchandise Mart. Even amid tumult, Nathan was struck by what she saw. “It was fresh work,” says Nathan, whose Ann Nathan Gallery today specializes in paintings, sculpture, and studio furniture. “I can’t explain it. I never know why or how I do a lot of these things, but it was very fresh – and I took a shot.” After some good shows and commissions in the early ’90s, Rose and his wife relocated to Wisconsin, purchasing their property in Door County in the spring of 1994. Not long after, a road trip to the East Coast 080 american craft design 2013
Shaker style, Gee’s Bend quilts, the scrapyard – all have shaped Rose’s aesthetic.
far left and above: Rose builds detailed models to study proportion and form. The artist is meticulous at every step, from these initial models to cutting hundreds of pieces of colored steel and welding them together in striking patterns.
Signs Strip Quilt Cupboard, 2010, hot-rolled steel, found sign panels, 4.9 x 1.4 x 1.1 ft.
Furniture photos (3): Tom Van Eynde
outside of Wisconsin. Born in Indiana, Rose grew up in Europe. His father’s employer, a pharmaceutical company, brought the family first to France, then England. “My parents were always taking us on trips to see museums, different cultural sites,” he recalls. Rose returned to the United States in the 1980s, studying photography at Bard College for two years before transferring to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was hungry for a broad-based art education, but also eager to work more directly with his hands. As a student of sculpture, he began making jewelry and casting bronze, combining wood and metal. He also met his future wife, Suzanne, another SAIC student who is now a fine art photographer. It was 1989, his last year at SAIC, when Rose walked up to Chicago gallerist Ann Nathan with a Polaroid photo of a jewelry
sparked the distinctive furniture for which Rose is now known. Just as his parents would have, Rose and his wife stopped at a couple of cultural sites – Shaker museums and settlements in New York and Massachusetts. “Seeing their whole life, and that all of it was made by hand, was just so inspiring.” Craftsmanship, quality of materials, integrity of design – the combination was captivating. “That was when I really took off making furniture.” Rose began researching (“I’ve since acquired so many books”) and building his interpretations in steel: tables, cupboards, clocks. At the time, he was buying metal at the scrapyard because that’s what he could afford; reuse has since evolved into an environmental ethic that permeates his practice, from the steel to the nontoxic, natural wax finishes. He had brought in three Shaker-
inspired pieces to Nathan, he remembers, when she asked him how many more he could make; she was giving him his first solo show. Rose spent the next seven years exploring his Shaker interpretations in depth, producing some 250 one-of-a-kind works. In 2003, inspiration struck again, this time at an exhibition of Gee’s Bend quilts at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Rose recognized a congruity between worn fabric and weathered steel, between quilts constructed out of recycled textiles and his own practice of reclaiming scrap metal. “It was like, wow, that just really, really translates well.” While his early Shaker interpretations were mostly monochromatic, color defines his quilted works. Strips of canary yellow, blocks of rust-speckled orange: All of the
Enfield Settee, 2007, steel, natural rust patina, 2.75 x 6 x 1.6 ft.
Eleven-Drawer Strip Quilt Table, 2010, steel, natural rust patina, found color panels, 2.8 x 5.2 x 1.3 ft.
design 2013 american craft 081
Seven-Drawer Sewing Desk, 2007, steel, natural rust patina, 2.5 x 2.7 x 1.8 ft.
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Chinese Coins Quilt Cupboard, 2011, steel, natural rust patina, found color panels, 2.8 x 4.75 x 1.6 ft.
Furniture photos (5): Tom Van Eynde
Housetop Quilt Cupboard, 2008, steel, natural rust patina, found color panels, 3.4 x 6 x 1.9 ft.
color and patina is natural. If his heart is fixed on a particular color or traditional quilt pattern – drunkard’s path, maybe, or flying geese – “I’m at the mercy of what I find at the scrapyards,” Rose says. The scrapyards, scattered across the Midwest, have been generous. Rose begins by constructing a piece’s frame, laying out panels and welding them up (“like making a stretcher for a painting”). Then the fun begins. He stands over a table, arranging and rearranging countless pieces of cut colored steel. Everything is fastidiously tack-welded, before wire brushing and wax finishing. He has up to six pieces in progress at any time; one longtime assistant helps. He completes about four pieces each month. At a time when reclaimed materials are chic, Rose “has taken that kind of piece to a new and high level,” says Nathan, whose gallery continues to represent the artist. “If you open the doors or the drawers, they’re just as meticulous on the inside as they are on the outside.” Over the years, his pieces have become more colorful, his patterns more complex. Lately, Rose says, he has been picking up pieces of metal with words on them at the scrapyard, incorporating text into his work. He’s also been looking at work by collage and outsider artists, thinking about how he might bring even more elements together. He won’t speculate on where that might take him. “I’m looking for what I can do next, but at the same time I have to be open to being inspired,” he says. “It’s a step-by-step process. You complete one thing and move on to the next, and hope that you’re being inspired – or that you’re going to see something that inspires you to make the next thing.” jimrosefurniture.com Julie K. Hanus is American Craft’s senior editor. Rose is superstitious about signing his work, waiting until pieces are completely finished before using hand stamps to mark them with his initials and the year.
Bars Quilt Cupboard, 2009, hot-rolled steel, found color panels, 2.7 x 3.1 x 1.6 ft.
Quilt Cupboard with Secret Drawers, 2008, steel, natural rust patina, found colored panels, 2.75 x 3.2 x 1.6 ft.
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FIRE Blacksmith Shawn Lovell puts soul into steel. story by
Deborah Bishop photography by
Shawn Lovell Metalworks
Fireplace tools, 2010, forged steel, 23 x 10 x 10 in.
Some of the tools blacksmith Shawn Lovell has forged for her collection are traditional, others were created for specific task; all have a beauty born of utility.
when blacksmithing is depicted in popular culture, the image tends to be one of brute strength rather than finesse: A male of Wagnerian proportions wields a hammer overhead as veins bulge and sweat drops from his protuberant brow. At Shawn Lovell’s studio in Alameda, California, such clichés are shattered with each strike of her hammer. Lithe and wiry, Lovell demonstrates her technique for forging a leaf, in a sequence that resembles a tightly choreographed dance, moving from anvil to power hammer and back to the coal-fed flames in fluid, efficient movements. Even her ergonomic striking technique, developed by Israeli blacksmith Uri Hofi, is more contained than histrionic; it has spared her the repetitive stress injuries common to the trade. “I’ve learned from many mentors over the years,” Lovell says. “It’s a challenge in this country. Old World smiths used to inherit their fathers’ shops and tools, and could learn and train as apprentices. Here, you start with nothing.” Lovell credits organizations such as the California Blacksmith Association with helping to revive what in the 1970s was a dying craft, in part by providing a kind of ongoing extension course – offering demonstrations, workshops, and, perhaps most important, community. She picked up Hofi’s singular striking technique, for example, from blacksmith Arnon Kart mazov during a demonstration design 2013 american craft 085
Doors and bed photos: Anita Bowen / Fire and hammer photos: Mark Tuschman
Once heated, steel becomes malleable and can be formed with a hammer and anvil.
First Congregational Church of San Francisco sanctuary doors, 2008, steel, fused glass, 9 x 6.25 x .25 ft.
of Japanese knife making at a CBA conference in 2001. Lovell came to smithing via degrees in graphic design from Arizona State University and in sculpture, which she studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts, now CCA, in the early ’90s. “I loved ceramics, but clay doesn’t respond like hot metal. Steel talks back, it resists you – it’s a dialogue.” A stint as a sculptor’s assistant introduced her to metal fabrication (in which metal is manipulated through cutting and welding); then, 15 years ago, a private commission drew her toward the fire. “My landlord, an avid gardener, asked me to create a bed as a gift 086 american craft design 2013
for her husband,” Lovell says. The resulting Tree bed appears to have grown out of a fairy-tale forest, its four trunks crowned with leaves and spreading branches that cradle a bird’s nest. “Getting the design approved was the easy part. The terror came when I had to figure out how to actually make it,” recalls Lovell. Each trunk is wrought from four pieces of metal pipe in varying diameters. To create a subtle, lifelike effect rather than a series of unsightly dents, Lovell filled the sections with sand during forging. After welding the pieces together, she created the knots and forgewelded the individual leaves and branches.
Over the years, the bed has become a signature piece. Images of it have swirled through the blogosphere, resulting in inquiries and commissions – a few of them high-profile (Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple lays her head on a white version) – along with instances of artistic plagiarism. One online retailer simply lifted an image of the bed off Lovell’s site and reworked it in Photoshop. Another chain, famous for its brand of boho whimsy, requested a sample, which Lovell does not keep on hand. Soon thereafter, the “Forest Canopy Bed” – a seeming hybrid of the Tree bed and another Lovell creation called the Branch bed – appeared for sale.
“The Tree bed has evolved along with my technique – growing surer and stronger over the years.”
A queen-sized Tree bed, made of forged and fabricated steel. Lovell introduced the design in 1997 and has made 20 of them to date.
“It can be galling when you consider how many hours it takes to design and fabricate,” Lovell says. “Most of my pieces are one-offs, so there are few economies of scale.” The portfolio on her website, which depicts not only beds but also custom furnishings such as fire screens, chandeliers, railings, and arbors, also attracted the First Congregational Church of San Francisco. In 2008 the church commissioned Lovell to design a set of sanctuary doors that would communicate its devotion to diversity. “When they mentioned the tree of life, I thought about the phrase from scripture, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ 088 american craft design 2013
I pictured a vine-entwined tree supporting different kinds of fruit, which I wanted to make from colored glass,” she says. “For years I’d heard that you can’t set glass into metal. They expand at different temperatures – the glass will shatter.” Lovell consulted the smithy’s bible, Alex Bealer’s The Art of Blacksmithing, which describes a process using bottle glass, then came upon the idea of heating glass rods (cane), more typically employed for beadmaking and lampworking. It worked. When the doors are closed, the backlit colored fruit glows among the branches and swirling tendrils, a modern spin on liturgical stained glass.
Having spent the past 15 years perfecting traditional techniques and developing new ones, Lovell has also refined the way she designs. “I used to work off a detailed sketch. Now I find I can actually design in the fire – it’s like sketching in steel. I start with one idea and come out with another I could never have achieved on paper.” She is gratified that municipalities and civic groups, famously cash-strapped, still recognize the value of the hand-wrought. Recently Lovell won a public commission to create entry gates for the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. Her design combines an abstract plant motif with a line of round, smooth
opposite: Lovell’s nature-inspired designs are equally elegant outside of the home.
rocks threaded onto the gate pickets below – an allusion to the soil line and a meeting ground between nature and art. “I see my work as a rebellion against soullessness. I grew up in bland suburban developments, and it created a craving for the handmade,” Lovell says. It also comes in handy at holiday time, as friends receive everything from handforged candle holders to nutcrackers. But there are drawbacks: “My mom asked me for a bed a while ago, but, I’m ashamed to admit, she’s still waiting.” slmetalworks.com Deborah Bishop is a writer and editor in San Francisco.
Cellar railing and garden photos: Anita Bowen / All other photos: Shawn Lovell Metalworks
clockwise from top left: A Lovell fireplace surround, residential staircase railing, wine bottle sconces, wine cellar railing, olive branch chandelier, and wisteria vine handrail.
“Moving from the design phase to the creation is more fluid now, but there’s always this pause, this fear, with something new. It’s like taking a leap into the unknown.”
story by Elizabeth Lopeman
portrait by Robbie McClaran
Aurelie Tu, shown in her Portland, Oregon, home, designs felt vessels, rugs, and other functional objects that are constructed by women at a YWCA homeless shelter. right: Diamond bowls, 2010, waterjet-cut and handwoven wool felt, 6 x 6 in. dia. each 090 american craft design 2013
Vessel photos (4): Lincoln Barbour
Crafted Systems Hope in the Making
in october, three homeless women in their 20s gathered in a common room at a YWCA in Portland, Oregon, for what Aurelie Tu, founder of CraftedSystems, calls a “weave.” Over a few hours, the women learned a craft, connected with each other, worked with their hands, and earned a little money – all while helping designer Tu create lampshades, rugs, vessels, and more. Tu’s business model is perhaps as inventive as her craft. For two or three consecutive days every couple of months, she conducts a weave, and women from the Y’s shelter are paid by the piece to construct the felt objects sold by CraftedSystems. The result is handcraft production that yields more than beautiful home accessories; it is also an occasion for training, community, even healing. The women who live at the Y’s shelter are transitioning from prison, recovering from drug addiction, or escaping domestic abuse. Typically three to five of the residents participate in each weave, but for larger orders there may be up to 10. “They start with a pile of parts,” says Tu, “and after a while they have all these vessels around.” Sarah, looking for work while she stays at the Y, says, “You get a sense of accomplishment after you see the shape take form. It’s really neat.” She’s quick to speak and enthusiastic, though she may have seen more of life than others in their mid20s. Her hands work with efficiency and determination. Flat pieces of felt that have been locally waterjet- or die-cut into two-dimensional geometric pattern pieces are the only materials needed, and Tu teaches the women how to fit her designs together. CraftedSystems hopes to do well by doing good. The company puts money directly into the pockets of homeless women (anywhere from $20 to $60 a day) and uses environmentally
friendly wool felt. At the same time, the company stays true to its design aesthetic. Tu, who also runs her own design studio, maximizes the structural properties of felt while designing vase-like vessels and orb-shaped lampshades with 3D computer programs. “My interest in felt lies in this structural quality, its three-dimensionality, how the material behaves when manipulated in certain ways, such as weaving and interlocking. It’s also completely biodegradable and inherently rich and warm,” she says. CraftedSystems also
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sells bowls, rugs, tapestries, placemats, and table runners that combine industrially inspired geometric shapes, which, when constructed with felt, evoke a unique postmodern warmth. Tu, herself warm and enthusiastic, is a wellspring of creativity. She gives the impression she can deliver on every idea that springs to mind. “I’ve always created from the time I could hold a pencil and draw,” she says. When she was an undergraduate music major and performing cellist in the ’90s, she dipped into textile design for the first
right: Tu shares a laugh with a shelter resident as she demonstrates the technique for constructing Crafted Systems diamond bowls.
Group weave photo (left): Robbie McClaran / Hands photos (3): Lincoln Barbour
above: The women in the “weave” events that Tu organizes are making difficult transitions – from prison, addiction, or domestic abuse.
time. She recalls being fond of require an understanding of skinny pencil skirts that were three-dimensional assembly impossible to perform in, and from a flat pattern. she set to work solving her She chose the YWCA for wardrobe problem. She made its clean, well-established, and wraparound skirts that fit her well-organized facilities. She slender form but stretched has long felt a drive to support while she played. “a cause greater than myself and Making clothes for herself my family,” says Tu, who has a was Tu’s introduction to design, young child. With that impulse, which she explored in the inshe wanted to create “a sustaindustrial arena for her graduate able mechanism that would work. But she still calls on her bring an ongoing cash flow to early experience for her the women’s shelter.” CraftedCraftedSystems pattern-makSystems makes regular contriing. The vessels, bowls, and butions to the YWCA from its lampshades, in particular, profits, and provides shelter The shelter residents have described the assembly work as satisfying and even healing.
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short, punky haircut, looks at her latest piece with satisfaction: “That one was my fastest – 40 minutes.” By the afternoon there are about 20 vessels constructed. Tu looks pleased; she had allotted twice as much time. “It’s therapeutic,” volunteers Melissa, in a voice that sounds almost painfully shy. “Yeah, something worthwhile instead of watching TV or something,” adds Sarah. There is a palpable sense of community in the room; the women clearly enjoy spending time together and sharing a sense of accomplishment. They talk over each other and answer questions collectively in a familiar way. “Nowadays people expect so much independence from women, it’s nice to spend time with the girls and hang out,” says Sarah. Then she smiles and says, “And someday I may be walking past a store and be like, ‘Hey, I made those!’ ”
below: Hexmats, 2010, die-cut and handwoven wool felt, 16 x 18 in.
crafted-systems.com Elizabeth Lopeman writes about art from Portland, Oregon, and Munich, Germany. Dana Cuellar contributed reporting to this story.
left: Leather Urchin, 2010, waterjet-cut and handwoven vegetable-tanned saddle leather, 6 x 23.5 in. dia.
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Urchin photo: Scott Kouchi / Photos (4): Lincoln Barbour
residents with work experience. empowering – artisans. “When (“Anything to fill a resume these I began working with textiles, days,” says Sarah.) it was only a natural connection Tu’s enterprise also leaves to associate that activity with a small carbon footprint, as women,” she says. Tu got in traveling distances for sales in touch with Aid to Artisans, an and around Portland are short organization that promotes coland don’t consume a lot of gas. laboration between designers Looking forward, Tu notes that and artisans around the world, there are YWCAs in many citabout six months before she ies. “I would like to see weaves started CraftedSystems. But happening all over the country,” she decided to try working loshe says. cally in Portland, partly for the That’s a possibility. Craftedsake of convenience, but also Systems products are sold onbecause she thought it would line and in shops that specialize mean more to empower women in design and sustainability, but in her community. And she has Tu has also received inquiries seen emotional benefits firstabout big orders from furniture hand. “Many of the women manufacturers who want to have used the word ‘healing’ display the vases and tapestries when describing their work in their stores. Balancing profit, for us,” says Tu. helping, and sustainability is a At the Y, passersby who challenge, but Tu is committed see the women working from tohermission,theYWCA,andhand- the hallway pop in to comment assembly, no matter the city. on the objects they’ve made. Tu’s father, originally from "Those are awesome,” says one Vietnam, was an intrepid travvisitor. “That’s art!” says aneler, and the family lived in other. Tu’s assistant, Rebekka England twice when she was a Hannesdottir, a student at child. When she traveled on her Northwest College of Art adds, own in her 20s to such places as “This has been happening all day.” Dolly, a CraftedSystems Vietnam, Mexico, and Peru, assembler who wears her parka she began thinking about zipped all the way up to her partnering with – and
right: Small pendant light, 2010, waterjet-cut and handwoven wool felt, 9 x 9 in. dia.
CURVES AHEAD Furniture maker Vivian Beer hasn’t met a challenge she doesn’t like.
Winded Orange, 2006, steel, automotive paint, 1.8 x 6.2 x 2 ft.
story by Julie K. Hanus
All furniture photos: Vivian Beer, except where noted
portraits by Chris Callis vivian beer is fearless. that’s really the best way to describe her. The designermaker takes metal and cuts it. Bends it. Shapes, welds, grinds, and sands it. She transforms it – by hand and machine – from rigid raw material into impossibly curvy furniture and sculpture. And she does all of this, more or less, alone. Beer doesn’t find any of this daunting. On the contrary, “I’m always trying to push myself into harder territory,” she says. But whether that means making her designs more complex or adding more projects to the docket, Beer seems to know, more than most, how to run with a challenge. Two years ago, Beer took leave of her modest New Hampshire shop, Vivian Beer
Studio Works, and headed to Purchase College (part of the SUNY system) for a fivemonth residency. A couple of months into her stay, she was in the thick of producing multiple bodies of work (and pulling together not one, or even two, but three solo shows, one through Purchase, the others at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth, Maine, and Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia). Working in an academic setting allowed her to experiment with new materials and methods, she says. She cheerfully compares it to the “amazingly productive” time she spent at Penland (2005-8), where she produced notable works such as her undulating Ruffle Lounge, eye-catching Red Rocker, and whimsical Cloud Couch (all 2007). The years design 2013 american craft 097
afterward, by contrast, were more focused on gestation: creating designs, researching materials. The residency was “the racing gate opening,” she says. Infrastructure, one of the themes Beer developed at Purchase, is an exploration of architectural elements – bolts, I-beams, angle iron – manipulated into and merged with more anthropomorphic forms. The first piece in the series, Bridge Bench (2011), wears its steel framework on the outside; its smooth, segmented surfaces are made
of ferrocement. These are heavy, industrial materials – and in Beer’s hands, they’re suddenly sensual, the language of industrial architecture merged with that of the body. She also spent time pushing the envelope on her Anchored Candy series, lounges improbably bolted into blocks of metal. “I might be making the most curvy form I’ve ever made,” she confessed at the time. Told that’s a bold statement, given her already voluptuous work, she laughed. “I’m serious! I’m blushing even thinking about it.”
Part of the thrill was introducing aluminum forming, a new experience for the fan of steel: “I’ve been having this love affair with Delahaye French streamline-design cars for years, and I finally said, OK: I’m going to just build something in the exactsame way they would have built those.” For much of her sculptural furniture, Beer begins with a steel rod armature, a “model” that helps her define and measure the form. From it, she pulls flat patterns and cuts those shapes in sheet metal. If she’s
Beer is influenced by nature, but also by pop culture and the physical experience of everyday life.
Ruffle Lounge, 2007, steel, automotive paint, 2.75 x 1.8 x 4.75 ft. 098 american craft design 2013
Allison Swiatocha David Ramsey
using steel, she might work it in a hydraulic press with a series of forming dies. Aluminum is soft; she can manipulate it with a series of hand techniques and tools, roughing out the curves. After working the pieces with an English wheel (smoothing hammer marks and stretching them to their final forms), Beer welds them together, grinding and sanding the seams. The ferrocement pieces are the result of a different patient process, with layers of steel mesh supporting the mixture of Portland cement and sand.
above: Current, 2008, steel, automotive paint, 2.9 x 2.3 x 2.75 ft.
above right: Anchored Candy No. 1, 2008, steel, automotive paint, patina, 2.25 x 4.3 x 1.7 ft. Beer, working in the metal shop at Purchase College, shapes and sculpts a piece of aluminum with hand tools and an English wheel, which smooths and stretches the metal.
above: Ruffle Stool No. 5, 2008, steel, automotive paint, 2.4 x 3.1 x 1.6 ft. top right: Beer’s hands are a lovely shade of filthy after finishing stainless steel.
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You could get the idea that Beer is something of a motorhead – the juiced-up shapes in her work, the shiny auto-body finishes, her references to vintage cars – but you’d be wrong. She just loves metalworking – loves it. Which, she says, makes it impossible not to be interested in the history of automobile and aircraft design. And she relishes putting that knowledge to use. Take color, for example. Selecting from existing auto-body finishes, Beer manipulates a palette packed with cultural punch.
Hot-rod red. BMW silver. “If I’m using ’80s orange, it’s really different from a 2010 pearlescence,” she says, calling to mind Winded Orange (2006). The sleek steel bench is undeniably modern, yet its form – a hint of bicycle banana seat, a touch of wispy cirrus cloud, dressed in that Mazda ’80s hue – waxes nostalgic. Lie on it and you’d half-expect to be transported back to Madonna’s heyday, gazing in wonder at the sky. To Beer, these cultural forces, the signs and meanings we share – a red button signaling danger, for example – are as powerful, true, and beautiful as natural forces like wind-blown clouds. As a designer, she uses both in her work. “From the viewpoint of a gallery or a dealer, it’s what you wait for; it’s what you hope for,” says Bebe Pritam Johnson of Pritam & Eames gallery in East Hampton, New York. In Beer’s work, “there’s the economy, the flow, and the subtlety. It’s all there.” Beer grew up in rural Maine, an environment where using tools and making things soon became second nature. She studied sculpture at Maine College of Art, receiving a “very formal, Bauhaus-style art education” that continues to enrich her design practice with key methodologies, especially abstraction. After graduating, she merged into the craft world, took classes, and began blacksmithing, doing architectural ironwork. In 2003, she went for her master’s at Cranbrook, studying under Gary S. Griffin, who introduced her to the decorative arts, another source of inspiration. It was there that Beer fell in love with furniture – and all of its complexities. She ticks off the artistic distinctions: We experience furniture physically, to start. We also own our furniture in a more
Hands photo: Sarah Turner
Muscle Bench, 2008, steel, automotive paint, 2.8 x 7.9 x 2.25 ft.
Beer began using tools at such a young age, she says she can’t recall the first time she laid hands on a table saw.
No. 2 photos (3): Jay York
Beer revisited 2007’s Red Rocker (below center) when the Fuller Craft Museum requested one for its collection. N0. 2 (2009, left, below left and right) has subtle alterations in finish, form, and “sit” – the relationship between back and seat.
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intimate way than we possess other kinds of art. And furniture’s forms are rich with familiar references – the social rituals of domestic life, memories of other pieces we have known. She speaks so enthusiastically that the prospects seem endless. Last year, Beer was honored in “40 Under 40: Craft Futures,” a prestigious show organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Nicholas R. Bell, the Renwick’s curator of American craft and decorative art, selected Slither.walk.fly (2008) for the show. “I’m excited to see her moving to the next level,” says Lewis Wexler, co-owner of Wexler Gallery. “You don’t see a lot of young, great, female designers in the United States, and here’s this young, great designer – who’s got so much potential and is so committed to her craft – creating these incredibly welldesigned, well-crafted pieces. That’s a powerful combination.” For Beer, putting the most into her work is simply what she does. “I’m just a furniture maker and designer. It’s just sitting down,” she says. “But how do you fill that with power and with beauty – with a physical-cognitive reaction to something that has to do with desire and who we are? To me, that’s what furniture should be.” It’s a tall order, but she’s up for it.
above left: Spine, 2008, stainless steel, 2.3 x 2.9 x 2.5 ft. above right: Scion, 2004, fabricated sheet and bar stock steel, 2.2 x 1.9 x 2.1 ft.
vivianbeer.com Julie K. Hanus is American Craft’s senior editor.
Slither.walk.fly, 2008, steel, automotive paint, 3.2 x 3.8 x 7.9 ft.
Beer’s impeccable craftsmanship, design savvy, and drive have captivated gallery owners.
“I feel like I make with two different hearts,” Beer says: rural and urban, industrial yet hand crafted. In her hybrid creations, she merges disparate influences into singular objects.
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Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Company Twenty years after learning the lathe, Joshua Vogel has made woodturning his full-time pursuit, with sleek, sculptural results.
Joshua Vogel with a work in progress. His tools, some of which were his fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, hang tidily on the wall.
Vogel envisions his turnings in homes and thinks that what could be put in the bowls, vases, and boxes is as interesting as the forms themselves.
the name of joshua vogel’s business – Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Company – suggests an old-time general store, and that perception seems just fine with him and his partner, Kelly Zaneto. The tone hints at the desire for a slower lifestyle that led the couple to leave New York City several years ago and settle near Kingston, New York, where they opened BCM&T in September 2010. (They borrowed the first part of the name from a stream near their Hudson Valley home, the Swarte Kill – old Dutch for “black creek.”) 106 american craft design 2013
The spartan, garage-like woodshop is enviably pristine, even with a pile of shavings under the enormous lathe in the center of the studio. A large bank of windows, partially frosted for privacy, diffuses the sunlight and gives everything – the rows of tools hung on the wall, the new table saw, the worktables loaded with freshly turned vessels – a soft glow. Vogel leased the 1,600-squarefoot space, part of a converted 1917 factory, determined to make a go as a solitary craftsman. It’s a big change for the 40-something, who, not long
ago, oversaw no fewer than 20 people in the workshops of BDDW, the Manhattan-based handcrafted furniture company he co-founded, and where he supervised all manufacturing. At BCM&T, he crafts alone; Zaneto handles the business end. A New Mexico native, Vogel was first introduced to the lathe in 1991 at the University of Oregon – not as part of his curriculum (he studied architecture), but as a leisure activity, through a class at the student union’s Craft Center. After learning basic operating and safety rules, Vogel taught
Photos (2): Rose Callahan Photography
himself how to turn, working through the center’s back issues of Fine Woodworking and Woodshop News. Through the magazines he came to know the work of legendary woodworkers such as Ed Moulthrop, David Ellsworth, and Rude Osolnik. In 1995, he went to New York to work with Tyler Hays, and out of that partnership came BDDW (incorporated in 1999), where he applied his woodworking skills and architectural eye to furniture. One of the company’s earliest successes was a turned stool, or “stump,” a loose riff on Charles and Ray
above: Vogel explores an array of shapes and sizes in his work. These maple, sycamore, and catalpa vessels range from 7 to 20 inches tall. left: A catalpa bowl with plinth, just after its rough turning stage. The bowl is 22 inches across.
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Vogel (left) and partner Kelly Zaneto stand with vessels stacked on the kind of wood from which Vogel turned them; smooth trunks yield subtle rings, while hearts of wood where multiple branches connect create the wild grain visible in his cylindrical forms.
Eames’ iconic turned stool. Vogel never abandoned the lathe, but BDDW’s growth left little time for personal work. Now Vogel has all the time in the world to create. And he has turned out a series of generously scaled, crisply geometric forms, including wide bowls, spherical bottles, abstract double-gourd vases, and fetching boxes. The aesthetic is undeniably modern, yet betrays his reverence for the material. “One of the things I love about my work is the connection with wood,” he says. “A tree, [before it becomes] wood, is a living thing … using it as a material in an art form eternalizes it.” Earnest and soft-spoken, Vogel grows animated when he talks about his medium – how the growth of a tree and its harvesting, for example, produce tensions visible in a turned piece that aren’t always evident in a sawn board. His large-scale sculptural designs celebrate the subtle surface variations caused by branches, fungus, even unintended splitting, which he often sutures with a butterfly joint. For Vogel, adapting to wood’s often unpredictable nature is part of the beauty of the material: “If it cracks up, to me it’s not worth throwing out, it’s worth fixing.” A large crotch of oak, relieved of thick branches and certain fate as firewood, sits on the concrete floor of his workshop like a piece of statuary, awaiting its turn on the lathe. Vogel prefers working with local woods such as catalpa, maple, walnut, and sycamore, and traditional, “close to the wood” finishes. Tung oil, along with bee and carnauba waxes are BCM&T staples. For a set of turned boxes in sycamore, an unremarkable wood on its own, he went to elaborate lengths to carve radiating
Photos (2): BCM&T
Small Maple Turning (2006) is a celebration of irregular grain. It measures 6 inches tall, 8 inches across.
grooves into the soft surface, which he then ebonized and brushed back to a mellow graphite color. Like Moulthrop (also an architect by training), he has started using a polyethylene glycol bath to cure large walnut pieces – a time-consuming
Vogel’s lathe-turned Beech Ball (2010) is a monumental sculpture, weighing 250 pounds. It measures 25 inches in diameter.
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As Vogel and Zaneto see it, having wood in our homes is a chance to connect with natural material – in an increasingly plastic world.
A stack of unfinished cutting boards await carving on the handles. They’re a clever use for scrap wood.
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blackcreekmt.com Caroline Hannah is a design historian in New York City.
Photos (3): BCM&T
process that stabilizes the wood by replacing moisture in the cells. Other times he leaves pieces raw; the constant is that all are handcrafted and the surface preparation is never rushed. Vogel envisions his finished work in people’s homes (admittedly, spacious, loft-like ones) rather than galleries or museums, and imagines that what could be put in his vessels is as interesting as the forms themselves. This unprenteious spirit carries through to BCM&T’s business strategy. The plan is to sell through furniture stores and design showrooms. Karkula, a design shop in Brooklyn, was the first to pick up his work. The BCM&T line also includes limited editions, such as sculptural kitchen tools (page 38), hand-carved skulls, and wood knot puzzles, as well as assorted small goods, including sleek cutting boards and customblend conditioning oil, sold in glass bottles sealed with wax. This diversified approach is meant to ensure the company’s appeal to a wide market. Not that Vogel seems all that concerned; for now, the lathe has him well-occupied. Vogel can’t bear to part with the “troubled” wood he uses in his turnings. Anything too small to turn he uses to create distinctive collages (detail above).
BCM&Tâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cutting board oil is a custom blend of mineral oil, lemon essential oil, and bee propolis. Some customers find the packaging, with its hand-applied wax and ribbon seal, so pleasing theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re loath to open it.
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Stay connected, visit craftcouncil.org Get the latest on interesting artists, fabulous objects, terrific shows and events
Nick Offerman, star of NBCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Parks and Recreation and master woodworker
IDEAS Fresh thinking on consumer culture, sharing trade secrets, craft vs. design, and creativity
Shop Till We Drop Bargain buys, it turns out, aren’t such a good deal. Ellen Ruppel Shell, the author of Cheap, explains the high cost of discount culture. interview by Shannon Sharpe one winter several years ago, Ellen Ruppel Shell did something unremarkable, for the average American – she went shopping. The Boston University journalism professor and Atlantic correspondent already had an outfit for a New Year’s Eve party she planned to attend. All she needed was a pair of boots to go with it. The store’s selection was disappointing, until she asked the manager if he had anything special. He produced a pair of handmade leather boots. Shell fell in love. Then she looked at the price. I can’t afford that, she thought. So she settled on a pair at a fraction of the cost. She wore the uncomfortable, badly made boots to the party, and on New Year’s Day tossed them in the back of her closet. Then she did something, well, remarkable: She reflected on her many years of bargain purchases – the spade that broke as soon as it hit dirt, the iron that ruined a shirt on first use – and decided to pull back the curtain on what “cheap” really buys us. Shell embarked on a two-year quest, speaking to everyone from
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economists to farmers, product designers to retailers. Cheap goods are an illusion, she discovered. While we tell ourselves, especially and understandably during hard times, that we need bargains to sustain our quality of life, in the long run these products aren’t helping anyone – in any socioeconomic bracket. To sell cheap goods, companies need cheap labor, which keeps wages low. Discount goods also entangle us in foreign manufacturing and labor practices, which may run counter to our ethics. There are environmental costs, both in how we produce cheap goods and how quickly we discard them. And bargains disguise the fact that, in recent decades, prices on housing, insurance, and childcare – what we spend most of our money on – have skyrocketed. Shell published her sobering findings in Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (Penguin, 2009). She recently took time to talk to us about her book, America’s bargain obsession, and how we might begin to change course.
Book photo: Mark LaFavor
One of your chapters is called “Death of a Craftsman.” In it, you explain that as goods have become more disposable, demand for craftspeople has shrunk – making handcrafted objects more rare and expensive. But is it elitist to expect people to pay a higher price for handmade items? We’ve become a little bipolar. In one way, we view handcrafted objects as available only to the wealthy. But in the past, we made things by hand because it was economical. We grew up with grandmothers who knitted – and that’s the opposite of elitist. Those who view craftsmanship as elitist don’t realize that craft doesn’t need to be precious; it can be functional. A well-made table will last for years, but craftsmanship takes time, and that’s the enemy of discount stores. In the postindustrial age, capitalism is about making things available to as many people as possible, which means as cheaply as possible. Mass production has led shoppers to view a table as just a table, a vase as just a vase. Many people don’t expect to find craft in everyday objects. With well-crafted goods, there is a relationship attached to the object. Craftsmen rely
on skill, commitment, and judgment. Choosing to purchase something well-made that someone has invested time and skill in is rational, not elitist. As a culture that prioritizes bargains, how do we learn to determine quality? While Americans love low prices, they are capable of demanding true value. You can see this in the automobile industry. When it comes to buying a car, Americans aren’t looking for the cheapest. They’re looking for cars that will last and not cost them more in future expenses such as gas and maintenance. We’ve set our own standard for quality in cars, and we can do this with all goods. Does a weak economy increase the appeal of discount goods? Those who own discount stores, and who have never had to buy cheap goods, are the ones who believe that. Working-class folks in particular have felt burned by discount culture for a long time. They would prefer to have better product choices. They would prefer to be able to shop at places other than Walmart. Now, with the troubled economy, people outside of the working class are feeling
In an attempt to appeal to a larger audience, some craftspeople have added manufactured pieces to their collections. Does this practice in any way undercut the value of their handmade items? I think it depends on the circumstances of the manufacturing. There’s a difference between mass production overseas and smaller batches being manufactured locally. I believe slow manufacturing is a great hope for America’s future. Local small businesses that make high-quality work are a great way to get people back into business. The question of whether a craftsperson is diluting their brand is a question that each needs to address personally.
I don’t think that global companies like Walmart are going out of business anytime soon. They spend a lot of money on maintaining their image. The question we have to ask is whether the system is sustainable, and the answer is no. We can’t continue this forever for basic environmental and economic reasons. I’m not an economist; I’m an observer. And right now people are rethinking the consequences of their purchases. Ten years ago this wasn’t happening. We don’t have the American Dream anymore. Many people are wondering about the future for their children. The next generation has fewer opportunities than their parents did. We’ve gotten to a point where people are realizing this. There was an article in the New York Times about the number of young people who are turning away from the corporate world – college-educated young people, going toward something their grandparents did. People are trying to get their hands on something.
How realistic is it to think Americans will stop shopping at discount retailers? [Laughs.] Don’t get me wrong.
ellenruppelshell.com Shannon Sharpe, former deputy editor for American Craft, is managing editor of Metropolis.
this frustration as well. People who had much better-paying jobs in the past no longer have options. They’re stuck. The recession brought a new swell of anger from the middle class – and this is a cycle that can be broken when people start to think about it.
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Open Book Natalie Chanin designs covetable clothing and goods – and then shares the instructions for making them. interview by
to natalie chanin, alabama Chanin is not a business; it’s a lifestyle. Through her company’s practices and products (which range from couture clothing to tea towels), she’s sharing a vision of a well-crafted life – a slowed-down, balanced one, with emphasis on sustainability, community, and skill. And she shares her ideas freely. You can buy an Alabama Chanin shirt – or go to a library, check out one of her books, and learn how to make it yourself. During last year’s New York Fashion Week, Chanin hosted makeshift, a convening that explored the energy of that model – the innovation “increasingly found in collaborations between makers and users, crafters and designers, designers and manufacturers, and in the loosening of the boundaries between them.” makeshift is slated to happen again this year (May 13 – 19); watch alabama chanin.com for details. In the meantime, we asked Chanin to tell us more about her decision to do away with trade secrets. 116 american craft design 2013
in your most recent book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, you wrote, “Good design should be available to all,” explaining why you choose to publish your designs and signature techniques. That’s a powerful conviction, especially since good design (or design at all) is so often perceived as one and the same as expensive design. What is the value of good design? Why should it be available to all?
I’m not sure the value of good design is quantitative, but I do think people benefit mentally and emotionally when they find their surroundings appealing. Design is very personal; if you choose to occupy a space, why not make it comfortable? I think the modern consumer, however, has a misconception that is deeply ingrained – this idea that good design is only for the super-wealthy, that it’s
unattainable for the average person. Most of us possess the power to make things for ourselves and – much more often than not – people find the process of making to be deeply satisfying. Through open sourcing, sharing designs and techniques, we can help make things more beautiful for everyone. Many people told me that open sourcing would be the nail in Alabama Chanin’s coffin, yet
Chanin portrait: Robert Rausch
Julie K. Hanus
Book photos (5): Mark LaFavor
Chanin published her first how-to book in 2008, and has released two more titles since, including 2012’s Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Some predicted the books would hurt product sales; instead Chanin’s business and brand have bloomed.
we’ve seen our business and our brand grow exponentially since we began sharing our methods. I think this idea of sharing is very beautiful. We all take from and are inspired by the efforts of others; it is the personal touches, the individual interpretations that separate our work and force us to keep pushing the envelope.
Natalie Chanin and her daughter, Maggie. The 2012 makeshift conference was “an eye-opener about the hunger – across all disciplines –for discussions around design, craft, and making,” Chanin says.
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design and the craftsperson
For Designer-Makers, the Future Is Now interview with Garth Clark by Monica Moses off and on, for decades, many craftspeople had a kind of inferiority complex. Making a living could be difficult, and fine art got all of the attention. Well, the picture has changed, says Garth Clark, award-winning historian, writer, dealer, and auction specialist in ceramic art. The future is in design, and the craftsperson who can marry strong skills with an of-the-moment design sense can achieve success. In this interview with American Craft editor in chief Monica Moses, Clark urges craftspeople to emulate designers who partner with industry. We asked him to elaborate. You’ve said “the crafts are a threatened field,” suggesting that purely handmade work can’t compete with more scalable, cost-effective work. What is threatening craft now? The big weakness is a failing economic studio model. Overheads rise constantly, but each maker has only two hands and can’t make more work to bring in more money. There is an output ceiling. This threat is self-imposed, coming from 118 american craft design 2013
adherence to a medieval concept of craft and refusal to employ low-key industrial techniques to produce more inventory. As you’ve suggested, for a number of years craftspeople aimed to be accepted in the fine art world, with limited success. Your view is that, in general, the design world is a more promising avenue for craftspeople. Why? Most crafters are not fine artists, even when they use fine art as their muse. The ones who have crossed over are about .0001 of the craft community. It’s a tiny handful: Ken Price, Josiah McElheny, Betty Woodman. The odds are hardly encouraging. On the other hand, designers and crafters do exactly the same thing; they make vases, jewelry, furniture, mugs, hats, fire irons. It’s exactly the same class of objects. Both are designed. The difference is the means of production: Crafters work by hand, while designers employ industry. Designers have learned to have it all – some unique works, some limited works, and some mass-produced
Books by Garth Clark Author of a number of books about ceramics, Clark is also a historian, dealer in decorative arts objects, and commentator on craft and design.
works. Crafters can do the same. And the market is gigantic and growing. How do we know that craftspeople will be accepted as designers?
Book photos (6): Mark LaFavor
There is not a border guard for design the way there is for the fine arts. Fine art is an artificial market, kept alive not by the intrinsic worth of the art – there is none – but by the aura of glamour and privilege and genius. Entry is carefully monitored. On the other hand, anyone with design talent can enter design. If you have talent, you are in. Becoming successful is another matter, of course. You’ll need hard work and the occasional stroke of luck. There is lots of competition, some of it brilliant. Let’s talk history. The field of modern craft, like the field of modern design, emerged in the 20th century as something of a reaction against cookie-cutter industrialization. They have common roots. Where did the two part ways, and what can craft learn from design?
Craft and design are twins separated at birth. They share ancestry: the mid-18thcentury reform movement. One group decided to fight the ugliness of industrial products from within (modern design) and the other from without (modern craft). Even a hundred years ago it was clear which of the two would triumph. Given that, what can craft learn from design? Live in the now; do not create work that relies on the rustic sentimentality of ye olde crafter. Make fresh, vital visual objects that are culturally relevant in the moment in which you are living. Does design have anything to learn from craft? Yes. One cannot beat the intimate understanding of material, process, and form that comes from a craft education. All designers should go through a few years of hands-on material training. It would make them better designers.
Monica Moses is American Craft’s editor in chief. design 2013 american craft 0119
to CREATIVITY :
In 1996, Wendell Castle published his “10 Adopted Rules of Thumb,” a gleaned guide to creativity that quickly became a classic among artistic types. True to form, however, the iconic furniture designer-craftsman didn’t stop there. Seventeen years later, here are 11 new adoptable rules from Castle’s current list-in-progress:
1. Distrust what comes easily. 2. You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. 3. Bring conflicting attitudes to bear on the same problem. 4. We should never know for whom you’re designing. 5. Always listen to the voice of eccentricity. 6. The whole secret to design- ing a chair is applying the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.
7. The problem with taking life in your own hands is you have no one else to blame. 8. If your mind is not baffled, your mind is not fully employed. 9. Imagination, not reason, creates what is novel. 1 0. Jumping to conclusions is not exercise. 11. Keep knocking – eventually someone will look down to see who’s there.
Portrait: Matt Wittmeyer
the ROAD MAP
Design with soul: intriguing makers, one-of-a-kind furniture & accessories