413: Pioneering Western Massachusetts
Fuller Craft Museum
Aerial East of Josh Simpson’s home and studio. Photo: Lewis Legbreaker Opposite page: Mark Shapiro’s Kiln Photo: Mary Schjeldahl
Front Cover: Jeremy May, The Pilgrim’s Progress, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7” x 5” x 1” Photo: Eva Chloe Vazaka
Cover (Left to right): JoAnn Kelly Catsos, Jo’s Back Pack Basket (detail), 1999. Photo: David Wiechnicki
Opposite Page: Andrew Hayes, Sail, 2015 Steel and book paper, 13” x 8” x 5” Photo: Steven Mann
Mara Superior, The Celadons (detail), 2016 Photo: John Polak
Josh Simpson, Portal to Another Universe (detail), 2014. Photo: Jacqui Proctor
Mark Shapiro, multiple vessels Photo courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum Silas Kopf, Puke-u-lele, 2015. Alder, maple, katalox. Photo courtesy of the artist
413: Pioneering Western Massachusetts
JoAnn Kelly Catsos • Silas Kopf • Mark Shapiro Josh Simpson • Mara Superior
Fuller Craft Museum August 20 – November 27, 2016
Fertile Ground Fuller Craft Museum is charged with representing the full spectrum of craft, from its timehonored traditions to the most visionary work being created today. This responsibility is both exhilarating and challenging. Each craft medium—ceramic, glass, metal, wood, fiber—offers boundless areas of investigation, while cross-material efforts and nontraditional practices vie for the spotlight. It is, without question, an embarrassment of riches for any craft curator. Yet limitations exist, and difficult choices are made with the realization that it is impossible to give an institutional voice to every worthy project, body of work, or emergent movement. Still, there
are certain exhibitions that cause us to ask ourselves, “What took us so long?” (413): Pioneering Western Massachusetts is one of those projects. (413): Pioneering Western Massachusetts spotlights a vibrant, creative ecosystem a mere 60 miles from our doors. The geographic region stretches from the New York State border to roughly the Worcester county line, covering nearly 3,000 square miles and encompassing Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties. With the Connecticut River driving down its center, the region is marked by rolling hills and verdant farms, the intellectual spirit of nearby
colleges, and a relaxed vibe. Life in “the 413” moves at a different pace than the nearby urban centers of Boston, Hartford, and New York City. Not surprisingly, it has evolved into a stronghold of contemporary craft, a field that holds tradition, a can-do attitude, and a collegial approach to making in high esteem. The pool of talented makers actively working in Western Massachusetts is deep and wide. (413): Pioneering Western Massachusetts does not serve as a sweeping survey; rather the exhibition celebrates five artists whose work shines with the area’s beauty, ingenuity, and skill. The project also spotlights efforts with
direct impact on the community’s development, whether through creative practice, communal actions, or a combination of the two. These artists include JoAnn Kelly Catsos (basketry), Silas Kopf (furniture), Mark Shapiro (ceramics), Josh Simpson (glass), and Mara Superior (ceramics). The countenance of any arts region relies less on the makers’ output than the individuals extending themselves, bringing others to work with them sideby-side at the kiln, in the hot shop, at the workbench, or in the gallery or classroom. The artists featured here have demonstrated this kinship time and time again. This unity expands the circle of those putting down roots in the local soil, further building the community of makers. What’s more, many artists have
established organizations and educational entities to support and sustain fellow craft artists, thus establishing their own legacy while strengthening the area’s creative muscle. These artists not only call the area their home, but the local spirit is manifest in their work, professional efforts, and the way they commit themselves to the ongoing development of American craft. Many individuals have been crucial to the realization of (413): Pioneering Western Massachusetts. Great appreciation is extended to the families and support staff of the artists, including Steve Catsos, Pam Thompson, and Jacqui Proctor. Additional thanks go to Mark Richard Leach for lending his insights, warmth, and collaborative spirit to the
project, and to Leslie Ferrin and Alexandra Jelleberg of Ferrin Contemporary for their expert guidance and support. Lastly, I am indebted to the five supremely talented artists: JoAnn, Silas, Mark, Mara, and Josh. It has been a joy to partner with them on this meaningful project. Through the many conversations, winding drives down the backroads, and object encounters, I have a renewed love for the area in which I was raised. Moving forward, their affirming expressions will continue to tell the story of Western Massachusetts, an extraordinary arts community that holds a singular place in the landscape of contemporary craft. Beth C. McLaughlin Chief Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Fuller Craft Museum
View from Josh Simpson’s Home and 5 Studio. Photo: Jacqui Proctor
Crafting a Community by Mark Richard Leach (413): Pioneering Western Massachusetts undertakes to examine the formative conditions and artists whose careers and personal initiatives greatly contributed to the development of the region’s vibrant craft community. Included in the exhibition are JoAnn Kelly Catsos (basketry), Silas Kopf (furniture), Mark Shapiro (ceramics), Josh Simpson (glass), and Mara Superior (ceramics). This roster does not represent an exhaustive compilation of the artists who have and/or continue to reside or practice in Western Massachusetts. Nor does it reflect a comprehensive study of the early conditions and contributing factors that precipitated the rise of a craft community and cultural identity as such in Western Massachusetts. The ideas presented here do attempt to identify themes and conditions that these artists have observed and to provide a rationale for and a description of the ascent of the community of artists working in the craft discipline. Communities are a social construct and one of humankind’s most essential structures for they constitute a loose but necessary way-of-life agreement amongst its members. Whether centuries
whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. 2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
Josh Simpson, Vera Rubin’s Nebula, 2005 Hand blown dark amethyst glass with reactive silver decoration and crimson lip wrap. 30.5” dia. Photo: Lewis Legbreaker
ago or today, such collectives provide protection from the elements, diverse labor skills to forge, maintain, and improve the quality of life amongst members, and sanctuary from threats to group cohesion. Among the many qualities formative to such gatherings are a cultural and intellectual livelihood, plentiful resources and/or the means to procure them, and an economic system in and through which goods and services can be purchased, offered for barter, or provided freely for citizen’s benefit. According to dictionary.com, a community is: 1. a social group of any size
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the), e.g., the business community; the community of scholars; the cultural community. Beginnings The 1970s were, according to the artists featured here, an especially formative decade. Land in Western Massachusetts was relatively inexpensive. Vacant factory buildings left by the collapse of the textile industry throughout the Pioneer Valley provided ample and affordable studio space. The Five College Consortium, including Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, along with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, provided a vibrant arts and intellectual
climate. The agricultural base of the region yielded abundant harvests, and farmers markets abounded, providing a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, among other foodstuffs. Beginning a studio in this area and forging a career literally meant becoming a pioneer, for while there were many things to recommend in the region, beginning a studio often meant starting from scratch. Josh Simpson, for example, noted the abundance of large barns he described as suitable for developing studio space. The artist built everything, from kilns to gas burners, and a whole host of necessary tools to launch his dream studio. By contrast, Silas Kopf moved to Easthampton from Rochester, New York, where he apprenticed with artist Wendell Castle. The Leeds Design Workshop in Easthampton, established by English furnituremaker David Powell in an abandoned textile factory building, was a significant factor. There, according to the artist, he discovered a lively creative community and nearby Northampton with its intellectual life, cultural pursuits, and restaurants. For JoAnn Kelly Catsos, who lives in the Ashley Falls area of Sheffield with her woodworker husband Steve, it meant finding time apart from her responsibilities of child-rearing to
learn her passion and to fashion a working studio in her home. Notwithstanding the demands of family, she and her husband Steve learned where to find and how to harvest and transform freshly fallen black ash timber into finely hewn wooden strips capable of being woven into exquisite baskets. For ceramist Mark Shapiro, it meant forging a career and studio in the remote hills of Worthington, halfway between the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley. According to Shapiro, “Sam Taylor and Eric Weisbloom helped build my first kiln.” Describing their relationship, the artist noted that “By mutual aid, competition, and criticism, we were able to make careers for ourselves.” These artists and so many others faced hardship upon hardship building their careers and the community. Mara Superior’s trajectory began in 1970 in the university community, first at Hartford Art School, where she met and married her husband Roy. She subsequently enrolled at the University of Connecticut, studying painting and art history. The two relocated to the Pioneer Valley, where she enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to study ceramics. Formative to beginning her ceramic practice was meeting Leslie Ferrin, a Hampshire College student of her husband.
Mara Superior, Far Eastern Goddess, 2016 Porcelain, gold leaf. 16” x 5” x 5” Photo: John Polak
Upon graduation, Ferrin began in Northampton, making and selling her ceramics at Thorne’s Marketplace in exchange for studio space. Superior completed
her studies a year later, and, together with Ferrin and Barbara Walch, formed the partnership known as Pinch Pottery. Communities—A Formative Moment As each of the artists settled into their careers and operationalized their respective studios, they sought out others like them who worked in the area and were starting off themselves. In fact, Josh Simpson and Mark Shapiro each realized the benefit of taking on apprentices. This practice began a continuing initiative on each of their parts that has led to many of their apprentices settling in the region and beginning their own studios, thus bolstering a sense of community.
In those early days, as today, each of the artists expanded their network of friends and colleagues. This was beneficial in several ways. Guilds were formed and their monthly meetings became occasions for workshops, arts excursions, socializing, and sharing information and strategies helpful to selling their art works. Technical challenges, including creeping glazes, shattering glass, and a host of other unsettling incidents, were the subject of problem-solving discussions. This exchange was vital to each artist’s success and an expanding bond within the artistic community. Though a glass artist, Josh Simpson figured that glass and ceramic glaze shared many
properties, and thus he joined the Asparagus Valley Potters Guild where he made friends and exchanged technical information. The Guild developed a mapguided “pottery trail,” which features the members’ studios and is promoted to the public each spring during an open studios event. This exciting twoday pottery fest brings interested onlookers, collectors, and friends to the geographic corridor through which I-91 passes. Another group of potters situated in the hill towns between Westhampton and the Berkshires forged an alliance. Known as Hill Town 6, founding member Mark Shapiro and five ceramist colleagues developed their own consortium. They, too, produce an annual tour of their hill town ceramic studios. This alliance proved to be both commercially productive and to provide visitors with an intimate studio experience and an opportunity to meet and speak with the artists. JoAnn Kelly Catsos’s passion for basketry began at a community center where she first enrolled in a basket-making workshop. There were scant classes and professional opportunities in rural Sheffield. Thus she began to travel JoAnn Kelly Catsos, Babylon, Zena, Mini Kittenhead, and Mini Bread Basket, 2016 Stained and natural black ash splint. Various dimensions. Photo: David Wiechnicki
to find kinship with other basketry artists. She found a home in the Northeast Basketmakers Guild, originated in 1985 by five Connecticut basketmakers, and has participated in its varied activities while bearing witness to the group’s growth, stewardship of the craft, and attentiveness to nurturing new and young makers. For over 20 years, Mara Superior participated as a partner with Leslie Ferrin, Barbara Walch, and other business associates in Pinch Pottery, located in Northampton. As their business grew, so too did the community around which the gallery was located. She engaged with the Asparagus Valley Potters Guild and remains a member today. The artist is now represented by Ferrin Contemporary and remains supportive of the gallery’s extensive gatherings that connect artists with the community. Silas Kopf described the fraternity of woodworkers that he discovered in Easthampton as vibrant, active, and open. Kopf began as a resident at Leeds Design Workshop where he periodically taught workshops. The community of residents created in the factorybased environment included Silas Kopf, Laurel Satinwood Screen, 2015 Laurel, satinwood, turquoise, holly, rosewood, walnut. 72.375” x 1” x 82.75” Photo: David Ryan
conversational exchanges that were free-flowing, where one could learn by observing the technical practice of others, and benefit from insights on a variety of topics, including fairs, networks, and innovative approaches to problem-solving all manner of woodworking challenges. The continuing growth, addition of infrastructure essential to building marketplace capacity, and community socialization were tangible benefits enjoyed in the burgeoning Western Massachusetts craft experience.
Mark Shapiro, White Stoneware Bottle Group, 2015. Wood-fired, salt-glazed white stoneware Tallest 30.5” x 5.5” Photo: Beth McLaughlin
Community-Building and Social Practice As a direct result of the interactions between the growing concentration of artists in Western Massachusetts, the need to continue the region’s creative development of specific and expansive educational opportunities arose. Schools that provided for youth instruction, professional development of the artist community, and an appreciation across the regional population grew. In addition to the Five-College Consortium noted above and its varied arts-based curriculum, other community organizations have emerged. “Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program” was first founded in Augusta, Maine in 1982 by ceramist Jane Sinauer. Known originally as “Horizons: The New England Craft Program,” it began as a summer craft program for teenagers. Glass artist Josh Simpson has been involved in various capacities throughout, and early on lent his mobile glass studio so that it could become an area of study. In 1986, the school relocated to Williamsburg, taking up residence on the 50-acre Snow Farm. In 1987, the program affiliated with Elderhostel to offer adult workshops. In an ever expanding role, Snow Farm now provides instruction to approximately 1000 students a
year. Students 13 years and older enroll annually in 200 studio classes that address various craft techniques and media.
Ceramist Mark Shapiro is now working to create a sustainable apprenticeship program to enable emerging talent to grow outside of the economic pressures of day-to-day living. With collaborators, Shapiro has also initiated Pots on Wheels, a mobile program to provide artbased experiences for youth and disadvantaged populations. Basketmaker JoAnn Kelly Catsos now travels nationally to provide instruction at craft schools such as John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina and Arrowmont School of Craft in Tennessee. True to her community-building spirit, she and her husband Steve traveled to the Caribbean island of Saba to help recreate a lost basket tradition. Working with a basketmaker from the island’s Carib tribe, they aspire to teach high schoolers about their lost heritage, provide them with a marketable skill, and enable them to carry on their basket tradition. Ceramists affiliated with the Asparagus Valley Pottery Guild, like many other guilds throughout Western Massachusetts, participate in social causes such as Hungry Bowls, a program to help feed the hungry.
View from Josh Simpson’s Home and Studio. Photo: Jacqui Proctor
The craft community takes care of its own, too. In the early days, artists faced hardships of all types, and there has forever been a spirit of charity amongst the greater craft community. Perhaps the first example was Josh Simpson’s “passing of the hat” to help fellow artist Tony Beverly, whose truck had broken down. Simpson began to realize that financial hardships of all kinds were the rule and not the exception, and that there needed to be a coherent way to deal with artist emergencies. The artist remembers finding Rhinebeck Craft Fair-organizer Carol Sedestrom at the close of one of the fairs. Their discussion led to an on-site brainstorming session on how to meet this perennial need. Over the next several weeks, Sedestrom worked
to find an attorney who would voluntarily create the structure to launch what is now known as the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, or CERF+. Today, CERF+ offers emergency relief assistance, business development support, and resources and referrals on topics such as health, safety, and insurance. The pioneer spirit is alive and coursing through the veins of Western Massachusetts artists as much as it is in the communities developed through their cultural expressions. Central to its rise has been unselfish leadership, widespread willingness to mentor and steward emerging artists and youth interested in this vibrant sector, and uncommon works of art that are gifts to our eyes, our homes, and life’s daily rituals. As noted earlier, this subject is
complex and varied. And this discussion is intended not to be exhaustive but rather to serve as an introduction to some of the people, key factors, and organizations that have stimulated this cultural region’s growth, spirit, and reputation. The crafts are a vital industry and an integral partner in the region’s economic development and quality of life. For the artists who have settled and participated in building this internationally acclaimed arts community, pioneering is a way of life, a discipline, and an investment in the communities in which they live. Mark Richard Leach has served as Executive Director of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in WinstonSalem, North Carolina and was Founding Director and Chief Curator of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, North Carolina. Leach writes about the visual arts and is an independent curator and consultant. A native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he currently lives with his wife Laura in Matthews, North Carolina.
Opposite page: JoAnn Kelly Catsos, Snowflake Sewing Basket, 2013 Natural and stained black ash splint, maple rims 5.5” x 10” x 10” Photo: David Wiechnicki Mara Superior, Americana, 2016 Porcelain, gold leaf 15” x 19” x 2” Photo: John Polak Josh Simpson, Inhabited Vase, 2007 Hand blown deep azure turquoise glass with melted metallic silver veil 22” x 9.75” Photo courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum Silas Kopf, Laurel Satinwood Screen, 2015 Laurel, satinwood, turquoise, holly, rosewood, walnut 72.375” x 1” x 82.75” Photo: David Ryan Mark Shapiro, Roped Bowl-Alkaline Blue-Green, 2016 Stoneware. Photo courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum
JoAnn Kelly Catsos _______________
JoAnn Kelly Catsos JoAnn Kelly Catsos is a traditional basketmaker living and working in the southwest corner of Massachusetts in the bucolic Ashley Falls area of Sheffield. A self-proclaimed “farmer’s daughter,” Catsos was raised to believe that if you needed something, you made it. This steadfast work ethic still exists today in her creative practice and teaching career. Catsos took her first basket making class at the urging of her woodworker husband, Steve, as a respite from the demands of parenting small children. From the first class, she was hooked. She recalls, “About 25 years ago, I took my very first black ash basketry class with Martha Wetherbee, a woman who rediscovered Shaker basketry as an art form. The whole way home from the class I held the basket in my hands with a stupid grin on my face. It was a turning point. The fact that you could go out in the woods and harvest a tree and follow it all the way down to this beautiful, functional piece of art that you could hold in your hand was just magic.” From that point on, Catsos has focused primarily on weaving
New England and Shaker-inspired splint basketry, using material harvested from Black Ash trees in the southern Berkshire mountains. The artist is involved from the earliest stages, as the husband and wife team harvest and process the material from the first cut in the forest to workable splint, which Catsos then expertly transforms into pristine, functional art objects. Her work references the simple forms, clean lines, and subdued palette of traditional New England basketry. Yet Catsos’s own stamp is clearly applied as she plays with scale and proportion, while introducing unexpected patterning and intricate details, such as her zig-zag pattern and miniature baskets woven with splint that is a mind-boggling 1/64” thick. In addition to her basketmaking, Catsos travels around the world to share her knowledge and Western Massachusetts resources with others. Her rigorous teaching schedule means her creative output is limited, topping off at approximately five baskets annually.
Opposite page: JoAnn Kelly Catsos, Jo’s Back Pack Basket, 1999. Black ash splint, maple, leather straps 18” x 13” x 11” Photo: David Wiechnicki
Silas Kopf For the past 43 years, Silas Kopf has worked as a furnituremaker and marquetry artist in the mill town of Easthampton. Originally from Warren, Pennsylvania, Kopf graduated from Princeton University in 1972 with a degree in architecture. His keen interest in design coupled with a desire to make something with his hands led him to a career in woodworking. He found his first job knocking on doors in Rochester, New York, and ultimately apprenticed with renowned furnituremaker Wendell Castle. Motivated by an early interest in French Art Nouveau furniture and a desire to find a “signature” for his work, Kopf discovered marquetry, an inlaid technique using small pieces of wood of various shapes and colors to form decorative designs or pictures, often as embellishment for furniture. He began by creating small boxes and jewelry cases after hours in Castle’s studio, and is now considered by many to be one of the leading marquetry artist in the United States. Kopf has focused his lengthy career on building furniture with prominent marquetry. He is largely self-taught, opting to
learn from books and through a process of trial and error. He studied the intarsia technique in Italy, about ten years into his career; this technique, whereby various types of wood are fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to create dimensionality, remains prominent in his current practice. Other common themes for Kopf are exacting trompe l’oeil work that “fools the eye” and a lively sense of humor in his imagery. Today, Kopf is a key figure in the local community, having worked in downtown Easthampton for over four decades. His community development impact is perhaps most keenly evidenced in his 2001 purchase and subsequent renovation of an historic 1885 firehouse, saving it from a near-certain fate as yet another coffee shop or restaurant. In reflecting on preserving the cultural vitality in his hometown, he offers, “It’s all about creating this big mosaic that everybody can fit into one way, shape, or form so that the whole is bigger than its parts.”
Opposite page: Silas Kopf, Cuckoo Clock, 1993. Cherry, cherry burl, and marquetry. Photo: David Ryan
Mark Shapiro Mark Shapiro is a studio potter specializing in wood-fired functional ceramics. For the past 25 years, Shapiro has worked out of his studio in Worthington—a quiet, undeveloped hill town 20 miles northwest of Northampton. His property includes a farmhouse, two wood kilns, a gallery, and a studio. Mere steps from his studio is a large stone pool built by Russell Conwell, a turn-of-the-century preacher, educator, and founder of Temple University. Conwell was born in the farmhouse, a building that is rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. What’s more, Shapiro has discovered shards of local pots on his property, further driving his inquiry into historic pottery from the early 19th century. Shapiro’s prolific practice includes a range of domestic tableware— bowls, bottles, pitchers, mugs, platters, and more recently, large scale forms. His focus remains on producing functional ceramics, yet there is profound creative expression in his approach. Evidence of his touch abounds through his marking, scraping, rolling, and cutting into the surface of the clay. This imprinting
enlivens the surface, emphasizes the immediacy of his handwork, and records human contact. A connection is established that defines the maker-user relationship and drives the potter’s creative practice. Shapiro cares deeply about the quality of the objects with which we perform our daily culinary rituals, aiming for a balance of purpose, beauty, and intimacy in his graceful forms. Shapiro maintains, “Pots are perhaps the hardest working objects in the art business. They have to look good and work well in so many settings: on your table, in the dish-drainer or the cupboard, on the mantel, or on a pedestal in a gallery. Most tellingly, they have to please and engage during intimate contact with your body: in your hand and even brought to your lips. It’s a lot to ask of anything, and there are so many ways to fall short. But what a challenge and opportunity. Literally in your face. What other art form can say that?”
Opposite page: Mark Shapiro, Tall Bottle Group, 2014 Wood-fired, salt-glazed stoneware 39” x 7.5” – 50.5” x 7” Photo: Beth McLaughlin
Josh Simpson ___________
Josh Simpson There was a time that Josh Simpson’s inspiration came from ketchup bottles. It was the early 1970s, when most of his creative output resembled the small condiment bottles he used growing up. Since then, his career has expanded in miraculous and unexpected ways. Simpson is a true pioneer in the field of glassblowing. He is best known for his planets made with layers upon layers of luminous glass encasing teeming seascapes, mysterious landscapes, and entire universes —all contained in an object that can fit in the palm of your hand. These seductive specimens draw us in and offer something new with each engagement. For the past 40 years, the artist’s glass studio has been housed in a big, red barn perched on a hill overlooking Shelburne Falls. In many ways, this idyllic location is the perfect place for Simpson’s studio with ample inspiration to be found in the natural surroundings. Case in point, while the original idea for his planets came from a simple marble, they are very much inspired by the expansive night sky of Western Massachusetts,
a spectacular display that he observes during late night walks. He describes, “Every night, the last thing I do before going to bed is walk from the house to my studio to check on the furnaces. Sometimes seeing an aurora borealis, watching a thunderstorm develop down the valley, or just looking at the sky on a perfect summer night, compels me to translate some of the wonder of the universe into my glass.” For all the inspiration Simpson has gleaned from the region, he has given back to the community ten-fold. Simpson was instrumental to the beginnings of “Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program” (originally founded as “Horizons”), an educational institution that continues to thrive today. He also helped found the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, or CERF+, as a grassroots effort to support fellow artists in need of extra assistance. These organizations, the vitality of the surrounding community, and all the artists that have been impacted by working with Simpson, are true testaments to the difference that one determined innovator can make.
Opposite page: Josh Simpson, Centripetal Gravity, 2012. Blown colloidal silver glass with a crystal overlay. 14.5” dia. Photo: Jacqui Proctor
Mara Superior ___________
Mara Superior Mara Superior grew up in New York City just steps from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She took full advantage of this gift from fate, frequently visiting the Roman and Greek galleries to develop her fascination with ancient vessels. She later graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in studio art. A sixweek ceramics course following graduation quickly turned her attention to clay. A painter at heart, Superior discovered that pristine porcelain provided the perfect white surface upon which she could create her illustrative imagery. Her wares are slab-built or pressmolded, and the ceramic body often plays a supporting role to her densely woven scenes. She constructs her narrative work using underglaze decoration and “sprigging,” a decorative application of small, individually formed designs. Through these techniques, the imagery remains poised on the ceramic body, much like a painting on canvas. Superior has developed a visual vernacular, giving voice to themes that have captured her attention: seaside fantasy, European culture, the history of ceramics,
domestic life, and political events, to name a few. She addresses serious material in her exquisitely rendered works. Yet there is also sweetness and naiveté, suggesting a folk art sensibility with undeniable sophistication. For Superior, beauty reigns supreme. The influence of her early years in Western Massachusetts is reflected in pastoral scenes with flora, fauna, birds, domestic bliss, and a regular cast of bovines. Surprisingly, she was initially opposed to relocating to the rural region with her husband, furnituremaker Roy Superior. She recalls, “I was 24 when I moved here, and I never wanted to leave [New York City]. I came kicking and screaming. But then I got this house, and I was so excited to explore everything domestic. It was a huge learning curve to learn about gardening, plants, and the animals. It really was a reversal—the city girl comes to the country and embraces it, and discovers gardens and farms and historic houses.” Opposite page: Mara Superior, The Celadons, 2016 Porcelain, Celadon glazes, gold leaf 10.5” × 4” × 5” Photo: John Polak
JoAnn Kelly Catsos is an award-winning black ash splint basketmaker and teacher from the Ashley Falls area of Sheffield, Massachusetts. She has been teaching basketry full time for almost 30 years at a variety of venues, including art institutions, craft schools, fiber/basketry conferences, local guilds, and private groups across the country. Catsos’s baskets have won numerous awards, including Viewer’s and People’s Choice at industry conventions and group exhibitions. Her baskets are in many private and public collections and are featured in a number of books and magazines, including the 2007 publication of 500 Baskets (Lark Books, 2006). In 1999, Catsos was honored to have an ornament on the official White House Christmas tree. She received her Certificate of Excellence in Basketmaking from the Handweavers Guild of America in 2003, becoming one of the first two recipients in the country. Silas Kopf is a furnituremaker specializing in the art of marquetry. Born in 1949, Kopf graduated from Princeton University in 1972 with a degree in architecture. In 1988 he was the recipient of a Craftsman’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and used the award to study traditional marquetry methods at the École Boulle in Paris. Subsequently, Kopf had the opportunity to travel overseas to study marquetry and inlay, thus expanding his understanding of the European marquetry history in the decorative arts. Kopf was named Master of the Medium for 2015 by the James Renwick Alliance of the Smithsonian Institution. His work is found in museums and private collections around the world. Mark Shapiro was born in New York City in 1955. Early on, he was educated at New Lincoln School, New York City; Woodstock Country School, Vermont; and Amherst College, Massachusetts. He later studied at Penland School of Crafts, North Carolina and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine. He is a frequent workshop leader, lecturer, panelist, scholar, curator, writer, and mentor to fellow potters. His pottery is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the Mint Museum, North Carolina; the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; and Alfred Ceramic Art Museum at Alfred University, New York. His interviews with Karen Karnes, Michael Simon, and Paulus Berensohn are in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, and he is an editor of A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
Josh Simpson has been a glass artist since 1971, when he was a senior at Hamilton College. Simpson is a past president of the Glass Art Society and founder of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund. His work is in the permanent collections of museums around the world including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; the Corning Museum of Glass, New York; the Mint Museum, North Carolina; Fuller Craft Museum, Massachusetts; and the Decorative Arts Museum, Prague. PBS Television has produced two documentaries about his work. He has shown in solo and group exhibitions both nationally and internationally, and traveled extensively to teach glassblowing. His apprentices have gone on to start multiple studios, and many have been recognized in their own right.
Mara Superior was born in 1951 and currently resides in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. She attended Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford (1970 â€“ 71), the University of Connecticut (BFA, 1975) as well as the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she earned an advanced MAT in Ceramics in 1980. She has received fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is in the collections of the American Museum of Ceramic Art, California; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts; the Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery, Washington D.C.; and the White House Collection at the Clinton Presidential Library, Arkansas. She also is the co-founder of Pinch Pottery in Northampton, Massachusetts.
413: Pioneering Western Massachusetts Exhibition Checklist JoAnn Kelly Catsos Anna’s Button Basket, 1997 Natural black ash splint, maple handle and rims 3” x 4” x 4” Jo’s Back Pack, 1999 Black ash splint, maple, leather straps 18” x 13” x 11” Migraine, 1996 Dyed and natural black ash splint, maple handle and rims, leather 1.5” x .625” x .5” Mini Lidded Knife, 2013 Dyed and natural black ash splint, maple handle 3.5” x 3” x 4” Potbelly Cat, 2013 Natural black ash splint, maple handle and rims 3” x 2” x 2” Snowflake Sewing Basket, 2013 Natural and stained black ash splint, maple rims 5.5” x 10” x 10” Tea Rose, 2004 Dyed and natural black ash splint, maple handle and rims, leather 2” x 2” x 2” Copper Diamonds, 2012 Stained & natural black ash splint, maple 2” x 2” x 2” Mini Trinket, 2013 Stained & natural black ash splint, maple 1.5” x 1.5” x 3”
Starry Starry Night, 2005 Stained & natural black ash splint, maple 3.5” x 4” x 4” Babylon, 2008 Stained and natural black ash splint 3” x 4” x 4” Zena, 2015 Stained and natural black ash splint 5” x 2.5” x 2.5”
Mark Shapiro Three Handled Jar, 2016 Wood-fired, salt-glazed stoneware 13” x 10.5” White Stoneware Bottle Group, 2015 Wood-fired, salt-glazed white stoneware, tallest 30.5” x 5.5”
Mini Kittenhead, 2014 Stained and natural black ash splint 1.5” x 1” x 1”
Tall Bottle Group, 2014 Wood-fired, salt-glazed stoneware 39” x 7.5” – 50.5” x 7”
Mini Bread Basket, 2014 Stained and natural black ash splint 1.5” x 2.5” x 2.5”
Cup Group, 2016 Wood-fired, salt-glazed stoneware approx. 3.25” x 3.5” each
Jubilation, 2006 Natural and stained black ash splint 8” x 6” x 6”
Roped Bowl-Alkaline Blue-Green, 2016 Stoneware 5.5” x 14 dia.
Aquarium, 2011 Cherry, aspen crotch, granadillo, and marquetry with wood, brass, motherof-pearl, and stone 47” x 38” x 16”
Brownian Motion, 2009 Colloidal silver glass, crystal overlay 21.5” dia.
Cuckoo Clock, 1993 Cherry, cherry burl, and marquetry 21” x 13.5” x 6”
Centripetal Gravity, 2012 Blown colloidal silver glass, crystal overlay 14.5” dia.
Puke-u-lele, 2015 Alder, maple, katalox 25.5” x 7” x 4”
Energy Momentum and Mass, 2010 Blown colloidal silver glass, crystal overlay, zinc inclusions 19.5” dia.
Laurel Satinwood Screen, 2015 Laurel, satinwood, turquoise, holly, rosewood, walnut 72.5” x 1” x 82.75”
Inhabited Vase, 2007 Hand blown deep azure turquoise glass, metallic silver veil 22” x 9.75”
Portal to Another Universe, 2014 Tektite meteorite formula glass, an amethyst and reactive silver core, a layer of 24K gold leaf 11” x 14” x 12” Vera Rubin’s Dream, 2009 Blown colloidal silver glass, crystal overlay 21.5” dia. Vera Rubin’s Nebula, 2005 Hand blown dark amethyst glass, reactive silver decoration, crimson lip wrap 30.5” dia. Verdant Megaworld, 2012 Solid glass sphere, fused murine, furnace-worked, plied filigrana cane, applied decoration, applied gold foils, dichroic glass strips 12” dia. Mara Superior A Collection of Celadons, 2016 Porcelain, gold leaf 14” x 16” x 2” Far Eastern Goddess, 2016 Porcelain, gold leaf 16” x 5” x 5” Americana, 2016 Porcelain, gold leaf 15” x 19” x 2” English Delftware, 2016 Porcelain, gold leaf 12” x 15” x 2” Catalogue Design by Titilayo Ngwenya © 2016 by Fuller Craft Museum Brockton, Massachusetts
Above: Silas Kopf, Aquarium (detail), 2016 Cherry, aspen crotch, granadillo, and marquetry with wood, brass, mother-of-pearl, and stone 47” x 38” x 16” Photo: Alex Hochstrasser
Fuller Craft Museum 455 Oak Street Brockton, MA 02301 508.588.6000 www.fullercraft.org
Let the art touch you
Published on Sep 4, 2016
This catalogue accompanies the exhibition "413: Pioneering Western Massachusetts" on view at Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA, August 20 -...