The First Emerging Voices Awards It’s All About Audience: Museums Rewrite the Rules It’s Alive! Linda Lopez Animates the Everyday
Perpetual Motion Lino Tagliapietra’s 70-year pursuit of what’s next in glass
americancragmag.org June / July 2015
Vol. 75, No. 3 June/July 2015
On the cover Lino Tagliapietra Angel Tear, 2011, 36 x 23.75 x 6 in.
Published by the American Craft Council www.craftcouncil.org
Photo: Russell Johnson
From the Editor
The art of reinvention.
Some artwork is precisely the sum of its parts. Monica Moses spots six artists whose process includes hunting and gathering, collecting and curating – assembling pieces into a whole.
A coin ﬂip determined Rae Dunn’s ceramics career. Grit, vision, and a singular aesthetic took it from there. Deborah Bishop visits Dunn at her sunny ceramics studio in the Bay Area.
In 1956, the American Craft Council went all-in, opening one of this country’s ﬁrst museums devoted to craft. Rachel Kirchgasler looks back at what the Museum of Contemporary Crafts meant for artists, audiences, and the ACC.
010 Letters Readers chime in.
Teacup photo: Wilfred Jones
Jeweler Katie Poterala’s sublimated surfaces and Wax/Surf Co.’s artful boards. Plus: A retail wonderland at Berkeley’s Tail of the Yak; Garth Johnson dishes on his new role at ceramics hot spot Arizona State University; new books, including Riikka Kuittinen’s Street Craft and Molly Hatch’s A Teacup Collection; summer shows to see; breezy goods for the season; and readers answer: What was the ﬁrst museum that had an impact on you?
Patty Roberts had always been successful, moving from painting to printmaking to encaustics and fused glass. But when she discovered pâte de verre, Diane Daniel reports, her career – and ingenuity – shifted into high gear.
Modern museum professionals navigate a landscape their forebears couldn’t have imagined, from impatient audiences to the distractions of consumer culture. We asked eight thinkers to tell us how the smartest museums are making the most of it.
092 Wide World of Craft In Oakland, California, the craft scene is electric – as makers in the explosively growing Bay Area strive to make art visible, viable, and accessible. Danielle Maestretti has the story.
104 One Piece What’s in the box?
Rae Dunn Teacup and Saucer, 2004, porcelain, stoneware, 4.5 x 4 x 4 in. page 032
Features 036 crafted lives
Collector with a Cause Numbering in the thousands, Forrest L. Merrill’s trove of objects deﬁes the imagination – and overﬂows his modest Bay Area home. Merrill doesn’t mind; to the ardent arts advocate and exhibition collaborator, living with craft means sharing it. Deborah Bishop has the interview.
044 Next Generation
058 Everyday Magic
066 Il Maestro
076 Follow the Thread
How do you deﬁne success? What’s needed most in this ﬁeld? The recipients of the ﬁrst American Craft Council Emerging Voices Awards share their thoughts.
Linda Lopez says she’s a late bloomer. If so, her captivating, colorful, biomorphic forms are proof that good things really do come with time. Sebby Wilson Jacobson talks to the Arkansas ceramic sculptor.
At 80, Lino Tagliapietra has spent a lifetime with glass – and his legacy reaches beyond the exquisite objects he creates. Joyce Lovelace connects with the tireless artist, teacher, and mentor.
Paula Kovarik’s intricate quilts trace big ideas about everyday life – its detours, discoveries, and interwoven serendipities, something she knows all about. Joyce Lovelace talks to the Memphis maker about the path that took her into the studio full time.
“My goal, always, is to strike a balance in my work of wearable craft, handmade jewelry, design, and fashion.”
Ashley Buchanan Brooch 399, 2011, hand-cut brass, powder coat, 3.5 in. dia. page 050
Photo: Ashley Buchanan
from the editor
for this issue, we chose the theme of museums. Throughout the departments of the magazine – from Voices and Inside Track to Origins and Ideas – you’ll ﬁnd noteworthy reading on that topic. We’ve talked to some key museum thinkers and explored what museums are doing today to make a difference in their communities. But there’s a subtheme in this issue, too, and that’s not something we planned. That serendipitous thread has to do with midlife, and the rich, sometimes transformational, time that it is. In our youth-obsessed culture, midlife is not always something to celebrate. And, to be sure, it has its challenges. First, there is the problem of staying current. You may scrap and strive in your younger years to accumulate knowledge and skills that, over the course of time, become utterly obsolete. Things you once knew for sure, with the certainty unique to young people throughout history, are suddenly murky and unreliable. Then there’s the 08 american craft jun/jul 15
physical piece, the weird aches and pains, the unconquerable aging process. Emotionally, you don’t feel any different, but you look in the mirror and a jowly stranger – eerily reminiscent of your mother – stares back. Midlife is nothing if not disorienting. And yet, in this confounding time, some artists have found fresh, authentic ways of being. They have discovered themselves all over again. They have forged new paths. For them, midlife is a time not so much of loss and confusion but rather of new beginnings and growth. Paula Kovarik was a graphic designer in the corporate world for some 30 years, specializing in internal communications. Then, two years ago, she chucked it all to make her quilting hobby into her full-time job (page 76). The result has been a new, passionate purpose she hardly could have imagined back when she spent her days designing pension-plan and health-care booklets. “I’m eager every day to be making, to create things,”
Kovarik says. “I’m amazed by the number of things that inspire me now – music, news, daffodils coming up, my kids, grandkids, everything. I have piles of ideas.” Then there is the story of Lino Tagliapietra, often hailed as the world’s greatest glassblower (page 66). A master of his craft at 21, Tagliapietra went on to a successful career designing lamps, vases, and other housewares for various highend Italian companies. For 13 years, until his mid-50s, he was the artistic and technical director for Effetre. Then things started to shift. “Tagliapietra realized his old mindset of ‘designer-thinker’ – creating objects to be manufactured in multiples, with the constraints that entailed – no longer served his purpose,” writes Joyce Lovelace. So he made a bold decision to quit his job and make one-of-a-kind pieces. With that decision came a new life: “It’s a totally different philosophy to make unique pieces, a different psychology,” says the 80-year-old artist. “And
I like it. It’s very satisfying for me to understand what I want, what is possible to express.” Tagliapietra’s second act has been signiﬁcant not only for him but also for the broader glass community. As Lovelace recounts, “He became not only a celebrated independent artist, but also a teacher and mentor whose inﬂuence is so profound, so widespread, that he is regarded as a pivotal – some say the pivotal – ﬁgure in the contemporary glass art movement worldwide.” Making the sort of mark Tagliapietra has means ﬁghting the midlife tendency to be cautious, to cling to what we know. The idea of starting over can be daunting, especially when you’ve got two or three professional decades under your belt. But the results, you’ll see as you read this issue, can be extraordinary.
Monica Moses Editor in Chief
Tagliapietra photo: Robbie McClaran / Kovarik photo: Robert Rausch
The Art of Reinvention
Glass master Lino Tagliapietra and quilter Paula Kovarik both switched gears in midlife.
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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 © 2015 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.
To The Editor
Rowland Ricketts’ public art project I Am Ai, We Are Ai was featured in our April/May issue.
I Know That Guy! Hey, it’s my professor from Indiana University [“Dirt to Dye,” Apr./May]. Good going, Rowland! ~Amy Patrick via the website Kristin Diener is a treasure – as are her works. [“Protection,” Feb./Mar.] Love! ~Joe B. Nickels via the website
Nebiur Arellano’s work is exquisite [“An Intricate Language,” Feb./Mar.]. A very talented artist; a beautiful person inside and out, and it shows in her work. ~Gabrielle via the website
Cozy Craft Jason Lewis’ rocker jumped from the magazine [“Warm Fuzzies,” Feb./ Loved meeting Cliff Lee Mar.] into my heart a couple [“Call of the Wheel,” Feb./Mar.] weeks ago. Seeing it today and really enjoyed talking to him soothes my mind on a cold, about his beautiful work. snowy day. ~Amy Hau via ~Cecelia Schmidt via 010 american craft jun/jul 15
The Right Move As a gallery co-owner and current ACC member, I want to say how wonderful a magazine American Craft has become. I love the shift to the community of makers, reinforced by the addition of online resources and community comment, from the older model of more academic, formal treatment. Our gallery (Iowa Artisans Gallery, in its 30th year) has found artists among the pages of American Craft. ~Astrid Bennett via email
I am a great fan of American Craft, and I read it from cover to cover. The letter from the editor is the ﬁrst thing I read – it’s always insightful. I scanned the one from the February/ March issue as I wanted to send it to a wider group of makers. Keep up the excellent reporting. ~Diane N. Sandlin via email Thanks for this commentary. I look forward to reading the books you cited. ~Susanne Williams via the website
Textile photo: © Rowland Ricketts
Maker’s Joy Thanks for putting into words the feeling we artists know well: the satisfaction that comes from working with our hands [“Making It Better,” Feb./Mar.]. During extended times away from home, I feel restlessness and stress creeping in. After work travel or even a week’s vacation, I can’t wait to get back at it, whether it’s the stove or the worktable. The need to create is primal. As a workshop instructor, I get a huge kick out of watching adults (re)discover their happy place while elbows-deep in their projects. ~Julie Richey via the website
In our April/May issue, William Warmus explored how the art world is changing – and why it behooves critics to be less judgmental – in his essay, “From a Tree to a Web.”
Kudos for Kindness So very glad to see American Craft magazine lead the way toward recognizing this new inclusive, expansive way of looking at our art world in the 21st century [“From a Tree to a Web,” Apr./May]. Kudos to the editor and staff for realizing its signiﬁcance. ~Tim Tate via the website Dale and I have known Bill Warmus for almost 30 years. Bill is a very smart guy, a terriﬁc writer, and an interesting thinker. ~Doug Anderson via the website
Collage: Paul Davis
This article really hits home with me. You can’t contain creativity – I would go crazy if I thought I had to make the same kind of art all my life. Part of the nature of being a creative and a maker is that change happens. One idea evolves into another, one craft grows and expands and starts again as something new – that is the excitement of being an artist. ~Cyndi Gonzalez via the website This is a real breakthrough work. It comes from personal observation and takes a real(natural) world model that
mirrors a learned behavior: art consuming. It is a very fresh way to analyze and maybe even predict success, or at least attention. The author makes a major assertion about the purpose of art criticism that is excellent. This “web theory” is superb: a much better way to organize our impressions. It doesn’t need to be a race, and art is not a zero-sum game. I’m very happy to see such an important piece of writing being ﬁrst revealed here. It speaks very well to the stature of contemporary craft and [reafﬁrms] that there is no real divide between this and the ﬁne art world. ~Paul Fisher via the website
Keep in Touch We’ll publish a cross section of your notes as space permits; they may be edited for length and clarity.
˝ Emerging Voices artist Jaydan Moore transforms silver-plated tableware.
In Origins (page 90), learn about the beginnings of the venerable Museum of Contemporary Crafts, now known as the Museum of Arts and Design. ACC librarian Jessica Shaykett and museum director emeritus Paul J. Smith culled a list of 10 memorable exhibitions from the MCC era to highlight online.
˝ MCC director emeritus Paul J. Smith
Imogen Cunningham, © 2015 Imogen Cunningham Trust
Great Moments in MCC History
ÓRuth Asawa, one of the many trailblazing women artists of the 1950s and ’60s.
American Craft is published by the nonproﬁt American Craft Council, which also presents craft shows in four cities each year, offers educational programming, and recognizes outstanding work through its awards programs. Read stories from the magazine, and ﬁnd these extras and more at
˝ Emerging Voices scholar T’ai Smith’s latest project explores textile diagrams.
Courtesy of handweaving.net
The American Craft Council has announced the recipients of its inaugural Emerging Voices Awards (page 44). The awards recognize one emerging artist, four ﬁnalist artists, and one emerging scholar or critic. Head online to see videos of the honorees: artist Jaydan Moore, scholar T’ai Smith, and ﬁnalists Ashley Buchanan, Thaddeus Erdahl, Matt Hutton, and Annie Vought, plus slideshows of their work.
Open Admission Blazing a Trail Female craft pioneers of the 1950s and ’60s inﬂuenced postwar visual culture by making art from so-called alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics, and metals. Today, however, much of their legacy remains unexamined. The Museum of Arts and Design sheds light on this work with its current exhibition “Pathmakers.” For the inside story, assistant editor Dakota Sexton talked with guest curator Jennifer Scanlan.
Expanding on our Ideas panel this issue (“Museums Reimagined,” page 84), American Craft editor in chief Monica Moses connected with Weisman Art Museum director Lyndel King and marketing expert Shelly Regan to ﬁnd out what the museum has done to engage and involve visitors.
Garth Johnson, Extended Cut
The ASU Ceramics Research Center
012 american craft jun/jul 15
ACC education director Perry A. Price caught up with Garth Johnson (page 25), the new curator of ceramics at the Arizona State University Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center. Johnson talks about his new role, his vision for the center, and more. There’s so much more that we’ve posted the extended interview on our website.
A timely survey of shows, views, people, and work
Katie Poterala carefully controls the decayed look of her work. There’s a delicate line, she notes, between distressed and sloppy.
Carlotta earrings, 2012, copper, cement, lab-grown rubies, sterling silver, 2.5 x 1 x .5 in. each
as a graduate student in metal at Arizona State University, Katie Poterala found herself questioning the meaning of value – including the value of her own making. “I wanted to reject the traditional notions of jewelry, like carats and precious metals,” says Poterala, 28, who returned to her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, to establish a studio after she graduated in 2012. “I wanted the pieces to look like they were in a state of decay. She wanted stones to “seem like growths or parasites instead 014 american craft jun/jul 15
of the focal point.” To achieve that look, she tapped into childhood memories of outdoor explorations, family snorkeling trips, and a fascination with sunken artifacts. “In my mind I had all these images of fungus and lichen and underwater scenes, especially from shipwrecks.” Indeed, her earrings, necklaces, and rings appear as if they could have been unearthed from a steamer trunk resting on the bottom of an ocean ﬂoor, their oxidized copper surfaces hinting at a former life of glamour. Many
are empty vessels, giving the impression that stones once inside have tumbled out, while others contain a seemingly scattershot array of misshapen gems, as if they’ve broken loose over time. Poterala achieves her surface effects by combining patina and powder coating, the latter a technique she learned from metal artist Michael Dale Bernard at a workshop at Arizona State. It’s usually sprayed on using static electricity for a very industrial look, she says, but she has devised her own process and instead applies it in
stages and layers. “I realized I could be very intuitive with it. I started experimenting with how thick I could get it on and how I could even make it drip.” She adds to the distressed look by melting down some of the edges, sometimes combining that with cutting and etching. “I’ll make these perfect bezels and spend more time making them look not perfect,” she says with a laugh. “In a way I’m making things look badly crafted. There’s such a delicate line there. I have to have enough parts that feel perfectly done
Photos: Katie Poterala
On Our Radar
Patina stud earrings, 2013, copper, cubic zirconia, 1 x 1 x .5 in. each
Poterala’s work is inspired by shipwrecks, fungus, and lichen. Stones, if she uses them, become “growths or parasites,” she says.
left: Grosvenor brooch, 2013, powder coat, green quartz, copper, 3.25 x 3 x .5 in.
Decadent Dipped Excavation earrings, 2014, powder coat, bronze, sterling silver, cubic zirconia, 2.25 x 1.25 x .5 in. each
and look just right. Otherwise, it’s either a big, sloppy mess or it looks too clean.” Poterala works out of an industrial ofﬁce trailer across from her father’s metal fabrication shop, but she didn’t start out following him into metal. She originally was interested in drawing and attended a visual arts high school. “I’d never done anything three-dimensional and became really drawn to that, mostly in ceramics. When my teachers encouraged me to try metalwork, at ﬁrst I wasn’t interested,
because it seemed so normal to me. But I thought, OK, I’ll try it. And as soon as I did, I felt so comfortable working with the materials, and I was just hooked.” As demand for Poterala’s jewelry grows, she struggles to ﬁnd a balance between production work and one-off pieces. “I’ve had to take my more sculptural concepts and make them more salable,” says Poterala, whose work is carried in several contemporary art galleries. “Since I’ve been out of college, my main goal was to set up the studio, be able to produce,
For her MFA show, Poterala afﬁxed jewelry to mirrors, delighting visitors with their adorned reﬂections.
and be able to make a living. My end goal is to ﬁnd time to make one-of-a-kind conceptual pieces.” One of her memorable creations, part of her master’s thesis show, were “jewelry mirrors,” which featured strategically afﬁxed sculptural adornments. “When you walk up to the mirror, it looks like you’re wearing the necklace,” she explains. “People loved doing it. I constantly think of it, so I don’t think I’m ﬁnished with that.” ~diane daniel katiepoterala.com jun/jul 15 american craft 015
when michael farley and Tyler Jorgenson went surﬁng together for the ﬁrst time in 2013, they used borrowed boards, but they quickly decided they had to build their own. The Brooklyn duo, who met while studying architecture at the University of Arizona in Tucson, have an insatiable passion for making useful things, after years of collaborating on furniture and renovations in their spare time. “It’s nice to have something that you shaped under your feet,” says Farley, who works as a fabricator at an architecture ﬁrm. “We would have been defeated to buy boards off the shelf,” adds Jorgenson, who works in architecture as a project manager and was previously in the military. The two 29-year-olds taught themselves how to make surfboards, a process that involves meticulously carving and shaping a foam blank, covering it with ﬁberglass cloth, and then coating it with resin, in a process called glassing. They started out making boards for themselves – they surf year-round in New Jersey and Long Island, among 016 american craft jun/jul 15
The Wax/Surf Co. founders at Rockaway Beach after a frosty winter session in the surf.
other places – but soon they were working for clients, charging anywhere between $500 and $1,200, the going rates for custom surfboards. Their business, which they named Wax/ Surf Co., grew through word of mouth, and in the past couple of years they’ve made hundreds of boards in various shapes and styles. In addition to the skill required for shaping and glassing a board, there’s also a decorative component, as the two add painting, stenciling, and graphics to each board in their rented workshop space in Williamsburg. Their motifs range from geometric patterns and images of moons and astronauts to ombré color schemes and boards that look as if they were dipped in paint. “Every board progresses our skill, and there’s such a uniqueness to it. There are inﬁnite levels of design to express through each shape,” says Farley, who is also rebuilding a 1980s Honda motorcycle in his spare time. They work with each client to design a board that suits the client’s skill level and the kind
below: Chevron longboard, 2014, polyester resin, ﬁberglass, polyurethane foam, 8.5 x 1.8 x .2 ft.
they estimate it took 50 hours. of waves that he or she likes “Darker boards are more difﬁto ride; they often end up surfcult,” Jorgenson explains. “The ing with their clients. It can be glossing had to be perfect, withstressful when an experienced out a single scratch. The board surfer requests a board of a was so highly polished, it was precise weight – buoyancy is like a mirror”; the matte stripes everything in surﬁng – because were achieved using high-grit the shaping process isn’t an sandpaper. exact science. On the other So far, making surfboards hand, sometimes their clients is a side gig for the two men, give them great freedom in whose day jobs are full-time. terms of design, or they come They are in the workshop ﬁve in with exciting ideas. nights a week, and on Saturdays One client, who is now a and Sundays for anywhere friend, wanted a red and turbetween 2 and 15 hours each day. quoise board, with the colors Even though they’re working blended in an abstract, waternearly full-time hours on Wax/ color-like pattern. Farley and Surf Co., they’re wary of makJorgenson, who usually prefer stencils, straight lines, and order, ing it their sole enterprise; for now, they enjoy not having to were thrilled to try something worry about paying their bills. new. “I’ll never forget the feelWhatever they’re working ing of blending those colors, on, you won’t ﬁnd them chilling crazily and spontaneously, as out in front of the TV on any if we were Picasso. The board given weeknight. “Of course came out looking so cool,” we want to spend time with Jorgenson says. our loved ones and our dogs,” Another surfer wanted an Jorgenson says. “But building all-black longboard with two things is our humanity.” matte black stripes wrapping ~liz logan around the center, to match his chic, all-black beach house. The waxsurfco.com project was one of the most Liz Logan is a Brooklyn time-intensive that Jorgenson freelance writer. and Farley have taken on;
Portrait: Rhys Stover / Other photos (5): Tyler Jorgensen
left: Grande longboard, 2014, polyester resin, ﬁberglass, polyurethane foam, 9 x 1.8 x .2 ft.
above: Chevron Quad, 2014, polyester resin, ﬁberglass, polyurethane foam, 6.2 x 1.7 x .2 ft.
below: Chevron Fish, 2014, polyester resin, ﬁberglass, polyurethane foam, 6.2 x 1.7 x .2 ft.
El Simple, 2014, polyester resin, ﬁberglass, polyurethane foam, 8 x 1.8 x .2 ft.
jun/jul 15 american craft 017
´ David Ellsworth at Peabody Essex Museum
MN / Duluth Tweed Museum of Art Resurfaced and Reformed: Evolution in Studio Ceramics to Aug. 1 d.umn.edu/tma More than 75 masterworks by ACC Fellows Jun Kaneko, Karen Karnes, Peter Voulkos, Warren MacKenzie, and dozens of other luminaries offer a panoramic view of ceramics since the mid-1950s. (Panoramic views of Lake Superior are also available nearby.)
Ï Peter Voulkos at Tweed Museum of Art
´ Bennett Bean at the American Museum of Ceramic Art
018 american craft jun/jul 15
Ó Jody Alexander at Minnesota Center for Book Arts
© Jes Lee
MA / Salem Peabody Essex Museum Audacious: The Fine Art of Wood from the Montalto Bohlen Collection to Jun. 21 pem.org In some 100 works – 47 of them recently donated by Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen – artists have taken wood beyond its traditional frontiers, carving, painting, turning, and burning it to create vessels and sculptures with gorgeous forms and surfaces.
CA / Pomona American Museum of Ceramic Art Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: AMOCA’s 10th Anniversary to Jun. 28 amoca.org AMOCA’s permanent collection of more than 7,000 objects represents the best of world and British ceramics, American studio pottery, and ceramic sculpture. As it celebrates its ﬁrst decade, the museum is honoring its generous donors with a dazzling display of treasures from its collections, among them baroque vessels, teapots and cups, ﬁgures, animalia sculptures, and experimental works.
MN / Minneapolis Minnesota Center for Book Arts The Contained Narrative: Deﬁning the Contemporary Artist’s Book to Jul. 26 mnbookarts.org Boxes, wrappers, spines, stitching, bindings, digital devices – where does a book’s cover end, and its contents begin? What is a book, anyway? More than 70 artists reimagine the form in 100-plus works in this show, which runs through MCBA’s Book Art Biennial (July 23 – 26) and is part of the center’s 30thanniversary celebration. NE / Lincoln International Quilt Study Center & Museum Ambiguity & Enigma: Recent Quilts by Michael James Jun. 5 – Feb. 23 quiltstudy.org Michael James has been exploring the eloquence of quilts for more than 40 years. He designs and digitally prints his fabrics, manipulating images to arrive at new ones that are evocative, often profound, and all his own. The dozen or so new works here well from the emotional and physical demands of caring for his wife, who has Alzheimer’s disease, making them among James’ most deeply personal.
NM / Santa Fe The William & Joseph Gallery Kiss My Glass Jul. 1 – 31 thewilliamandjoseph gallery.com Sean Hennessey and Jason Chakravarty go their own ways in subject matter: Chakravarty’s recent cast-glass work tends toward the semi-autobiographical, while Hennessey explores spiritual matters and the search for enlightenment in his wall relief sculptures. What they share in this joint show: an afﬁnity for mixing glass with other mediums, a narrative eye, and a fresh attitude that invites viewers to think or to laugh.
View the complete shows and events calendar at craftcouncil.org/event-calendar.
Voulkos photo: Eric Dubnicka / Apfelbaum photo: Andrés Ramírez, courtesy of the artist and Clifton Benevento, New York
Ï Stuart Mortimer at Peabody Essex Museum
Jennifer Walker Graham
Shows to See
Ó Polly Apfelbaum at Museum of Arts and Design
zoom ˝ Sonya Clark at Southwest School of Art
Ï Sean Hennessey at the William & Joseph Gallery
TX / San Antonio Southwest School of Art Selﬁes: 50 at 50 to Jul. 5 swschool.org For ﬁve decades, this school has been a creative hub, attracting established artists to share their work and knowledge, and launching new ones. Some of these artists, among them Boris Bally, Sergei Isupov, Akio Takamori, and Ilze Aviks, were invited to create self-portraits to mark the anniversary. In these 50 or so works in clay, paper, metal, ﬁber, and other mediums, the artists become both participants in the show and virtual onlookers. ˝ Jana Brevick at Bellevue Arts Museum
WA / Bellevue Bellevue Arts Museum Jana Brevick: This Inﬁnity Fits in My Hand to Aug. 16 bellevuearts.org Jana Brevick’s metalwork and jewelry could occupy the space in a Venn diagram where art, math, science, and a wry sense of humor intersect. The laboratory and the cosmos supply imagery and inspiration for rings set with
NY / New York City Museum of Arts and Design Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today to Sep. 27 madmuseum.org In the 1950s and ’60s, recognition in painting, sculpture, architecture, and art history was almost exclusively reserved for men. That didn’t stop pioneering artists such as Lenore Tawney, Alice Kagawa Parrott, and Sheila Hicks (all ACC Fellows) from powerfully shaping postwar modernism in ﬁber, metal, clay, and other “alternative” mediums. Along the way, these artists helped build the nascent studio craft movement – and were a harbinger of the feminist movement that grew in its wake. In fourscore works, this show traces the vast and too often overlooked impact of these women in their own time and in ours, in their own country and across borders.
vacuum tubes or with metal spheres that look like tiny planets, a brooch inspired by the periodic table of the elements, even a necklace with a robot ﬁgure that has a complex hidden interior. This is her ﬁrst solo museum exhibition. WI / Neenah Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass Arts Festival Jul. 19 bmmglass.com In a city best known for its paper mills, the BergstromMahler Museum of Glass, housed in a historic stone mansion, has more than 3,500 objects, ranging from contemporary art to early buttons; it also claims the world’s most representative collection of glass paperweights. The festival, in its 41st year, offers a juried art fair, food, family activities, and a beer garden (it’s Wisconsin, after all) on the museum’s lovely lakeside grounds.
Ï Michael James at International Quilt Study Center & Museum
jun/jul 15 american craft 019
zoom The Short List
Street Craft: Guerrilla Gardening, Yarnbombing, Light Grafﬁti, Street Sculpture, and More By Riikka Kuittinen Thames & Hudson, $30
three-dimensional grafﬁti – including, as Street Craft’s subtitle notes, guerrilla gardening, yarnbombing, and street sculpture – is more ubiquitous than ever. And still this revolutionary,
The New Artisans II By Olivier Dupon Thames & Hudson, $50
olivier dupon opens the New Artisans II with an attractive assertion: “Craft – with a capital C – is no longer a trend; it is at last enshrined in contemporary life.” The skeptic’s reply
A Teacup Collection: Paintings of Porcelain Treasures By Molly Hatch Essay by Kathleen Morris Chronicle Books, $17
in 2011, ceramist molly Hatch was invited to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to examine the largely unviewed porcelain teacup collection of Francine and Sterling Clark. Captivated by 020 american craft jun/jul 15
often political (and almost always illegal) art form continues to evolve. Curator Riikka Kuittinen’s new book covers the gamut, from artists such as Magda Sayeg, the “mother of yarnbombing,” who has been taking her craft to the streets for 10 years now, to emerging artists including Isaac Cordal; the inventive Spanish sculptor makes miniature cement statues
of world-weary businessmen, placing them in puddles and grass and on the sides of buildings throughout Europe. With detailed photos and personal statements from artists around the globe, even familiar projects (such as Sayeg’s iconic knitcovered bus) are seen anew in this refreshing, comprehensive look at a radical craft practice. ~jessica shaykett
is that there’s still ground to gain. And yet this volume, with 60 proﬁles luxuriously dispersed over 300-some pages, is persuasive. It spans mediums, aesthetics, business models, and continents. It features established artists – Diana Fayt, for example, a ceramist for some 30 years – alongside
relative newcomers, such as Ladies & Gentlemen studio, founded in 2010 (a year before Dupon’s ﬁrst New Artisans release). And it succeeds in revealing the threads that connect them all. The composite image is that of a global movement – one that’s growing only stronger. ~julie k. hanus
the 270 cups in the collection, most from the mid-18th to early 19th centuries, Hatch took pictures and made notes, certain something would come of the visit. What emerged, ultimately, is this charming book of almost 100 teacup paintings that celebrate the sort of vintage decorative patterns we associate with Hatch’s work. Many of the teacups Hatch
painted are accompanied by documentation – year of origin, factory, painters – in quaint hand-lettering. An essay by curator Kathleen Morris recounts how the Clarks came to acquire the teacups, along with paintings, drawings, and silver. A Teacup Collection is sure to delight tea enthusiasts, teacup collectors, and Hatch fans. ~monica moses
Book photos: Mark LaFavor
Collected & Curated
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Ï Brookes Boswell Millinery Brooklyn-based milliner Brookes Boswell started her eponymous line of hats to celebrate “the great millinery tradition of New York City.” But that doesn’t mean she sticks only to the classics: The Marketmore hat is just one of many looks informed as much by contemporary fashion as it is by history. brookesboswell.com
Young & lay
˝ Gallant & Jones Fueled by a love for the classic British deck chair, friends Tamra Gallant and Gwyneth Jones banded together in 2009 to produce a North American version in Vancouver, BC. Their success has led to other fair-weather furniture and accessories, from beach chairs to blankets. gallantandjones.com
Courtesy of Mohop
´ Chris Fong To perfect his Florastero line of ceramic vases, rooted in his student days at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles designer Chris Fong experimented with interdisciplinary techniques ranging from paper folding to 3D printing. For a chic, summery sheen, each vase is airbrushed by hand. chrisbasilfong.com
˝ Mohop In 2005, Annie Mohaupt challenged herself to make sandals that could be worn for 100 miles with nary a blister. Fast-forward to today, and Mohaupt’s Chicago business boasts footwear from vegan materials; not only is it comfortable, but also it can be customized with “inﬁnitely interchangeable” ribbons. That’s a tall order for a pair of high-heeled shoes. mohop.com
Ó Lilian Asterﬁeld Though Boston designer Nicole Deponte grew up in central Massachusetts, she was always enamored with horses and the Southwest. She describes her alter ego, Lilian Asterﬁeld, as a “feisty, free-spirited, modern Victorian with a splash of cowgirl.” The Falcon collar captures this cultural mash-up. lilianasterﬁeld.com Ni
Ï Lee Coren Not far from the storied Jaffa ﬂea market in Tel Aviv, textile designer Lee Coren produces scarves, bags, and purses with abstract patterns as well as prints of wanderlust-inducing landscapes. Coren photographed the Dead Sea for this clutch. leecoren.com
Tail of the Yak 2632 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705 510-841-9891 facebook.com/tailoftheyak
above: Lauren McIntosh (left) and Alice Erb of Tail of the Yak in Berkeley, California. top: Decorative ceramic doll heads, made in Japan around 50 years ago by a master artisan.
for many locals, tail of the Yak is a wonderland. The shop in Berkeley, California, is home to elaborate displays of everything from antique jewelry and handmade paper goods to textiles from around the world. Perhaps more unexpected than the elaborate décor and the handmade goods, however, is the store’s longevity: Tail of the Yak opened for business more than 40 years ago. Owner Alice Erb, who runs the store with her business partner, Lauren McIntosh, has been a ﬁxture at the boutique since the early 1970s. She ﬁlled us in. Can you tell us a little of the history behind Tail of the Yak? We opened in 1972. It was started by three students of Tibetan 022 american craft jun/jul 15
Buddhism – they started the store in order to provide income for Tibetan refugees living in India who were making their traditional crafts, and also to bring in traditional crafts and devotional items for students of Tibetan Buddhism here in the United States. How did you get involved? I had just come back from Asia and happened to see this intriguing store that hadn’t been there three months prior. So I went inside, and there were all these wonderful things, which were quite exciting. So I introduced myself, and I became friends with the owners. Then it was sort of logical that I step in. I ﬁrst became one of their suppliers and took over in 1974.
I was traveling and collecting textiles and jewelry from Asia at the time and bringing them back and selling them, and there was a very rich community of people in Berkeley who were interested, especially in textiles. I was bringing a lot of textiles back from central Asia – lots of ikats and suzanis and things like that, which, back then, in the early ’70s, people were learning about but hadn’t actually seen. How would you describe what Tail of the Yak sells today? We have things from all over the world – objects that are true to the culture and somewhat unusual. I don’t like things that are made in China that look like they should be from France. I try to ﬁnd things that relate
bottom: These 19th-century ceramic vessels are made of parian, a type of unglazed porcelain.
to each other, and that’s sometimes a provocative pursuit, trying to put together a story. It’s constant editing and constant sleuthing – always trying to go into obscure places and ﬁnd both new and old. Do you work with any local designers or makers? We work very closely with several craftspeople, including Anandamayi Arnold, who has been making things for us since she was a teenager;
Photos: Lori Barra and Sarah Kessler / Hair and makeup: Isabel Allende
she’s now about 40. She is our paper master. Her “surprise balls” are incredible: They go from simple ones we sell at Christmas for about $25 up to very complex, botanical ones that are several hundred dollars. She only does things that are botanically appropriate to the season that she’s making them in; she won’t make watermelon in the winter, but she’ll make narcissus and pineapple guava and other appropriate things. top: One of the store’s distinctive 19th-century mannequins, wearing a pleated paper dress by Anandamayi Arnold. right: Enameled copper eyes, made in India, intended for use in holy statues.
above: Erb sources handmade blouses such as these from Mexico. She imports other fashion from Ukraine.
top right: A trio of Anandamayi Arnold’s “surprise balls,” which the local artist has been making for more than 20 years. bottom right: Erb ﬁnds ornate handmade paper in Nepal and Bangladesh.
Lauren McIntosh joined you in running the store in the mid1980s. Who does what? I’m the person who is mostly responsible for doing the sourcing and the buying. Lauren makes silkscreened cards and other goods that we sell at the
store, is involved with graphics and doing our annual calendar, and does all the visual arrangements. I ﬁnd the things, and she puts them out in really beautiful displays. What’s the story behind the store’s name? It was named by a Tibetan holy man. The yak tail is an important part of the animal – it’s particularly auspicious – and the yak is a very important animal to the culture. The name is no longer quite as appropriate [because the shop offers goods from around the world], but we’ve kept it all these years. ~dakota sexton Dakota Sexton is American Craft’s assistant editor. jun/jul 15 american craft 023
ﬁne arts weren’t something I had much exposure to as a child. My ﬁrst memorable museum experience was the Atlanta Cyclorama in the mid-1980s. The Cyclorama is basically a Civil War museum. I’m not sure I completely grasped the concept of the conﬂict; I was fascinated, though. Most interesting was a massive painting (accompanied by a diorama) that depicted the Battle of Atlanta. It was around 350 feet wide and, from my understanding, the largest oil painting in the world. From the perspective of a young child, artistic endeavors seemed conﬁned to 8-by-10-inch construction paper. This was my ﬁrst realization that creative pursuits aren’t necessarily bound by convention. ~ryan barr, designer, Atlanta
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the earliest memories I have are of the Museum of Appalachia just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. I remember the grass bending over the dirt pathway, the stairs creaking up to a tiny attic, and the barn with its low overhang. I remember being able to touch things like the silvered pine siding, aging into both soft and hard like buttery stone, and seeing nooks everywhere perfect for forts or magical hideaways. ~serra victoria bothwell fels, artist, Brooklyn
Craft is tightly interwoven with ethnology and natural history at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.
my fondest memories are of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. My college was literally nextdoor, the museum was free, and I would wander through the galleries during breaks or free time. The MIA’s collection was incredibly diverse, with works from all around the world, prehistoric to the present. Some of my favorite pieces to contemplate were the sort of humble, utilitarian artifacts made by unknown crafters centuries ago. ~amber jensen, designer/maker, Marshall, NC
the high museum in Atlanta forever changed how I view an exhibition. A contemporary glass display included a glass casting by Bertil Vallien. I recalled seeing Bertil make this piece at Pilchuck Glass School several years earlier: how particular he was with the placement of the several inclusions, and how a small trapped air bubble concerned him at the time. The bubble was still there in the piece; I wondered if he achieved what his vision was the day he made it. I no longer look at museum pieces as artifacts, but as an expression of creativity captured in time when the piece was made. ~bryan ethier, glass artist, St. Paul, MN
the museum that made a marked and measurable impression on me was the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. Discovering all kinds of objects – textiles, totem poles, painting, carving, craft, beadwork, design – in a location especially designed for this specialized collection was remarkable to behold. The seamless blending of context, lifeways, objects, people, and story created an immersive and tangible experience that was both craft and science museum, technology and ethnology, art and natural history. My visit there has informed my views on exhibition making, objects, and storytelling. ~nicole nathan, deputy director and curator of collections, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR
Exterior photo: Courtesy of UBC Museum of Anthropology
What was the ﬁrst museum that had an impact on you?
Feels Like Home
Illustration: Tina Berning, cwc-i.com / Interior photos (2): Craig Smith, courtesy of the ASU Art Museum
garth johnson has been a record store owner, laboratory signage designer, ceramist, professor, and blogger; a decade ago, he started extremecraft.com, the blog that helped establish his quirky, genuine voice in the craft ﬁeld. In December, he was named curator of ceramics at the Arizona State University Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center. Johnson, 42, took a moment to speak with us about his new role and what makes the center special. What is it like to take the reins from Peter Held, who for the past 11 years shaped the center into what it is today? I’ve been saying that I’m covered in bruises right now from pinching myself every morning, walking past the [Robert] Arnesons and the [Toshiko] Takaezus en route to my ofﬁce. It’s amazing, you know: We just settled into a brand-new building; I get to walk in every day and be surrounded by all
of my heroes. Peter’s ﬁngerprints are everywhere in this institution, for the depth and breadth of things that he has undertaken over the years. So I have incredibly big shoes to ﬁll. And I think Peter and the museum have been incredibly accommodating in terms of creating a space for me to make my own mark and to
Garth Johnson, curator of ceramics at Arizona State University Art Museum
put together programming that comes through my unique lens. What is your vision for the center? My role plays to my two greatest interests, which are the history of the studio craft movement and the history of post-World War II ceramics in America, so I get to look at the collection as “These Are Some of My Favorite Things,” the farewell exhibition curated by Peter Held, Garth Johnson’s longtime predecessor, who retired in 2014.
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zoom a whole as my lens for my own historical interests. But the institution is also forward-looking, and I feel like I’m one of the people in the country with a voracious interest in history who is also looking at the contemporary scene and continuing to provide opportunities for young artists. The ﬁrst exhibition that is happening on my watch is called “Recorded Matter: Ceramics in Motion,” and it consists of 10 young artists who use video in a very natural way to document what they’re doing or as an integrated part of their studio practice. It’s alternately meditative and hilarious and transgressive and encompassing all of the things that interest me about ways that young artists are moving the ball forward. What do you make of the current infatuation with ceramics in contemporary art, something that has historically waxed and waned? It has absolutely waxed and waned. Some people are treating this new adoption of ceramics as an entirely new phenomenon, but the Museum of Modern Art and other major institutions in New York have periodically put together really interesting shows based on ceramic artists, and there have always been a handful of artists who have punctured the selfstyled hermetic bubble of the art world.
What is left for you to conquer in your path toward ceramics domination? I can genuinely say that there has always been a gap between my own talent in terms of making things with my own hands and my way of thinking or writing about things. Over the course of my career it’s been a long progression toward privileging the picking apart and writing and providing platforms for other people to ﬁnd artistic expression over the making of things myself. When I was an undergraduate in college, there was no way that I could have seen a path toward becoming a curator in a museum. That path has been circuitously lived, and I feel like I’m ﬁnally home and this is totally where I want to be for a long, long time. If I can oversee a handing-off of the torch to generations younger than mine and help foster a body of knowledge that is genuinely transmitted to a younger generation, then that’s the thing that I want to conquer above all else. ~perry a. price asuartmuseum.asu.edu For an extended version of this interview, visit craftcouncil.org. Perry A. Price is the American Craft Council’s director of education. A view of the open storage area of the Ceramics Research Center.
More of a Kind spotted by
´ Tim Tate’s Opulent Surveillance applies Victorian ornamentation to a contemporary dilemma: Today, we’re all being watched. The assemblage, of cast polyvitro, glass, and video, features six blinking eyes. “All of our actions are under surveillance of some kind,” says the Washington, DC, artist – a situation that helps ensure public safety even as it intrudes on individual privacy. timtateglass.com
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´ New York photographer Barry Rosenthal collects trash along New York Harbor and arranges the debris by color, type, or theme for his Found in Nature series. He positions the pieces so that they speak to each other, creating new, often whimsical, forms. barryrosenthal.com
Ï Chicago artist Diane Cooper learned to appreciate wrapping and packaging when she lived in Japan for ﬁve years. Since that time, she has tapped her large collection of used, dyed, and painted textiles to fashion the conﬁgurations of her ongoing Bundles series. dianecooper.org
Tate photo: Pete Duvall, anythingphoto.net / Cooper photo: Tom Van Eynde
Some artists work not by perfecting one piece but by gathering multiple pieces in a telling composition. Like curators, they ask themselves how each part plays off the others, working toward a satisfying whole.
ÓGiselle Hicks started making pinch pots in a search for a more direct approach to clay after spending years with a multi-step, technical slipcasting process. Against the simplicity of the pinch pot, “all
Dam photo: Courtesy of Steffen Dam / All other photos (3): By the artist
´ Laurel Lukaszewski, a Washington, DC-area artist, describes herself as an incessant doodler who loves to play with positive and negative space. You can see the scribbles – and a love for composition – in The Garden at Night, made of extruded black stoneware knots she has plaited and ﬁred. laurellukaszewski.com
my other work felt suffocated and overworked,” says the Montana artist. Sometimes she presents the pots individually, but often she arranges them in groups, like little still lifes. gisellehicks.com
Ï Steffen Dam brings the sensibilities of a marine biologist to his glass creations. The Danish artist says his Biological Panel contains what “at ﬁrst glance appears to be plausible specimens, but after a closer look it’s clear that it’s a parallel and ﬁctive version of what you can ﬁnd if you submerge yourself in the sea.” www.steffendam.dk
Jump-Start Pâte de verre has propelled Patty Roberts to new heights. story by Diane Daniel
Photos: Daniel Fox, Lumina Studio
Breezy Bowl, 2014, glass, copper, 10 x 17 in. dia.
when patty roberts showed her sculptural pâte de verre glasswork last year at La Quinta Arts Festival in California, she had no idea what to expect. “I was so nervous because it was a new medium for me. I started with about 35 pieces and had so few left that I had to cancel the show I was doing the next weekend. It was just stunning and really exciting,” says Roberts, who lives in Marysville, Washington, about 40 miles north of Seattle. “People told me they’ve never seen anything like it.” The technique of pâte de verre – literally, “glass paste” in French – was popularized in France in the 19th century. The process begins with creating a model – of clay in Roberts’ case – making a mold, and layering it with crushed glass before ﬁring it in a kiln. The work comes out rough, looking like ice stuck to the bottom of a freezer, and is polished to whatever texture is desired. With that foundation, Roberts creates richly hued pieces that she embellishes with copper. Decades of work in color and materials inform her pâte de verre creations. She has drawn all her life, moving 030 american craft jun/jul 15
from painting to printmaking to encaustics. In the 1990s, Roberts started a framing and gallery business that she later sold to a national chain. The following decade she made embossed fused-glass home and garden furnishings. Her husband, Larry Roberts, learned welding to create metal bases for her fused-glass work, and later became a full-time metal sculptor. They now enjoy sharing the festival circuit. Roberts came to pâte de verre by happenstance, admiring glass vessels online, particularly the work of Alicia Lomné. “I love glass in general, and the medium was so different from what I’d seen before. I usually try things ﬁrst myself, but in this case I realized I needed a class,” says Roberts, who ended up learning the basics from Lomné herself in 2012 at a weeklong workshop
Green Stitched, 2014, glass, copper, 10 x 8 x 7 in.
Amish Basket, 2014, glass, copper, 8 x 10 x 6 in.
Fringe, 2014, glass, copper, 10 x 12 in. dia.
Blue Boat, 2014, glass, copper, 10 x 25 x 6 in.
at Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland, Oregon. “We learned the basics, and Alicia also showed us how to include other pieces of glass in the work, something she does. But I wanted to create something that was all my own, and since metal is part of my world, that felt natural to use,” she says. “It gives a sense of something old, but also contemporary. I use all copper, and when it goes through the kiln, it oxidizes, and that adds to the effect. I think some of the pieces could almost look like something dug out of a ruin, but at the same time they look great in your living room.” Achieving anything even presentable, much less worthy of the two festival awards she received in 2014, took close to two years, Roberts says. “After Bullseye, I spent about a year and a half ruining
every piece I made. I kept trying to go large, and I didn’t know how to pack the glass so it wouldn’t slide down the mold. There was a lot of trial and error. The color was a whole other challenge, sifting crushed glass in for different shades and surface colors.” When the festival acceptances poured in, she knew her months of “spectacular disasters” had paid off. “Some of the shows I’d been doing with encaustics were mid-range ones. With this work, all of a sudden all the doors were open. It’s been an incredible whirlwind.” Roberts’ work continues to grow, in size and sophistication. “I’m planning on joining some pieces together to get larger work, incorporating sections of metal and cast glass. The combinations are pretty much unlimited. I feel like I’m just kind of blooming – I could run with it forever.” pattyrobertsglass.com Patty Roberts will be at the Des Moines Arts Festival (June 26 – 28) and Denver’s Cherry Creek Arts Festival (July 3 – 5). Diane Daniel is a writer based in the Netherlands and Florida. jun/jul 15 american craft 031
A Certain Fluency
Le Petit Prince, 2011, stoneware, 7 x 4 x 2.5 in.
Rae Dunn’s quirky ceramics reﬂect a lifelong love of language and the tactile. story by
if a coin had landed heads rather than tails 23 years ago, Rae Dunn might be manipulating colorful glass rather than tending to a kiln in her sunny ceramics studio in Berkeley, California. A self-described Luddite who likes to get her hands dirty, Dunn was trained as a graphic designer but jumped ship when that ﬁeld started to skew more digital than tactile. While riding the merry-go-round in Golden Gate Park one day, she spotted a cobblestone-clad building with a fairy-tale aspect. It was the Sharon Art Studio, which offers classes in everything from sculpture to printmaking. “I knew I had to do something in that amazing building, so I ﬂipped a coin – stained glass or ceramics – and ceramics won.” The minute Dunn’s hands touched the clay, she was hooked. “I fell in love with the idea that you could make stuff out of dirt.” She slowly gained her ceramic chops, taking classes and learning how to throw, but ultimately found her calling in hand-building vessels. Within a year after she started, Dunn began making plates embellished with a single image or word stamped into the glazed white clay; within a couple of 032 american craft jun/jul 15
Photos: Rae Dunn
An array of Dunn’s ceramics stamped with her hallmark words and images.
Little Teapot, 2013, Spanish black stoneware, 7 x 5 x 2 in.
years, she started carting them from store to store in an old suitcase, racking up accounts. “That’s when I realized, ‘Hey, maybe I can make a living at this clay business.’ ” Because the public studio did not allow production work, Dunn made her early pieces in her kitchen, then drove them to a kiln to be ﬁred. She worked continuously, not only making, glazing, and ﬁring every object, but also seeing to the shipping and bookkeeping. When Dunn was approached in 2005 by Magenta, a Berkeley manufacturing and distribution company, she had hopes of reclaiming some time to explore new ideas and focus on one-of-a-kind gallery objects. But as her production pieces began to fill shelves in hundreds of boutiques and stores – including Crate & Barrel and ABC Carpet & Home – demand also continued for her handmade goods,
which she insists on crafting herself. “I know I could make a lot more money if I had an assistant. But if my name is on it, I feel my hands have to be on it, too – and I like to work alone.” Thus it seemed that fate intervened in 2011, when Dunn was invited to apply for an artist-in-residence program in the French town of Vallauris, far from the daily stress of production schedules. “It’s this poor, working-class town near Cannes, full of potters, artists, and painters, where Picasso made his ceramics.” The residency provides lodging and a studio for six weeks, and culminates in a show. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. I had such an acute craving to make something I wanted to make, rather than what people expected of me.” jun/jul 15 american craft 033
A proliﬁc sketcher, Dunn also Dunn has returned to ﬁlls journals she dubs À la MinVallauris every year. “Every day ute (each sketch takes less than a I run to the sea, stop at the farmminute) with scenes from her er’s market, paint, and make travels, be it that morning’s croiswhatever I want.” The most sant or a striped beach umbrella. recent residency resulted in Although Dunn prefers work“Made in France,” a show at the ing solo, she is never solitary. Roscoe Ceramic Gallery in OakFollowing the sunbeams around land this past fall. The nearly her studio is Wilma, a Jack Russold-out collection included sell terrier who is the subject of ceramic cooking utensils and thousands of photos taken by non-functional vessels made Dunn and star of her own blog. from dark Spanish clay and pale “I’m no photographer, but people Limoges porcelain, adorned kept telling me that I should with stripes, dots, harlequin diamonds, and stamped typography, make a book about her,” says Dunn. Wilma’s World, a collecincluding snippets of poems by tion of snapshots and captions Jacques Prévert. “I’ve always devoted to the winsomeness of had an obsession with words Wilma, was published by – not just their meaning, but also Chronicle Books in March. the way they look.”
Dunn seems to make something graceful out of everything she touches, from a nearly translucent porcelain bowl piled with mandarins to her large acrylic paintings hanging on the studio’s brick walls. A few years ago she designed a line of children’s clothes using textiles derived from her French drawings. And although her dream is to create more “useless” objects – whose only mission is to be admired – for now, she continues to imbue even the most utilitarian object with an undeniable je ne sais quoi. raedunn.com Deborah Bishop is a writer and editor in San Francisco.
above: Dunn recently published Wilma’s World, featuring her eponymous Jack Russell terrier. Based on her whimsical blog starring the pup, the book is ﬁlled with canine portraits, anecdotes, and advice.
Dunn ﬁlls her À La Minute sketchbooks with watercolor images from her travels.
Angel Vessel, 2004, porcelain, 8 x 6.5 x 3 in.
Portrait: Laura Flippen / 2006 Angel photo: Wilfred Jones / Other photos (3): Rae Dunn
Angel Vessel, 2006, porcelain, 11 x 8 x 3 in.
Forrest L. Merrill has made a mission of sharing the objects he loves. interview by Deborah Bishop photography by John McDermott
Collector with a Cause
Forrest L. Merrill sits in his book room and communes with a few favorite objects: a stoneware head by Ken Dierck, an antique Gouda lamp from the Netherlands, a 1930s earthenware plate by Glen Lukens, and a Satsuki Annino bowl made of micaceous clay.
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■■■■ some collectors are driven by a desire to own beautiful things and keep them close. Forrest L. Merrill is not one of those collectors. Although the Berkeley, California, resident does possess a messianic appreciation for hand-wrought vessels – and the artists who throw, carve, forge, enamel, glaze, turn, weave, and sculpt them – he is seized with an equal zeal to share his trove with the public. (Around 4,000 objects have already been catalogued, with almost as many waiting to be documented.) Merrill was in high school in 1950 when he bought a slumpedglass salad set by ceramist Glen Lukens for $40. Since that ﬁrst artistic foray, he has not only elevated collecting to an art form, he has loaned thousands of pieces to some 110 exhibitions around the country, with ﬁve more in the works as of this writing. “It’s not just about getting something into LACMA,” he says. “Yes, I’ve had pieces there, and that’s great. But it makes me happier to think how many more people we’ve reached at the minor museums, the state colleges, the airport exhibitions – places that aren’t in the cultural forefront.” At the SFO Museum in the San Francisco airport, Merrill and curator Tim O’Brien are working on their fourth collaboration, an exhibition of pottery by Marguerite Wildenhain and the history of Pond Farm (opening in December). “With millions of people passing through every year, the airport is an ideal place to reach large numbers of people and whet their appetite for art and design,” says O’Brien. “Forrest not only shares that mission, he’s an involved and passionate partner.” “If a show can turn even two kids on to the possibilities of what art can bring to their lives,” echoes Merrill, “that’s a great accomplishment. It will have made everything worthwhile.” 038 american craft jun/jul 15
Merrill’s collection has grown in real time.
above: Merrill has been a longtime collector of the work of Sausalito enamel artist June Schwarcz. The pieces here (left to right) date from 2014, 1988, 1978, 2012, 2014, and 2000. left: Sculptor David Gilhooly, a leader of the Bay Area funk art movement, made these papier-mâché peccaries in 1968. They lounge atop the armoire in Merrill’s living room. lower left: Selfportraits by ceramic sculptor Ken Dierck (left) and printmaker Roi Partridge (right, 1907) ﬂank a portrait of potter Rex Mason painted in 1949 by Don Wiggins. opposite, far right: A Clyfford Still painting (1949) overlooks a Laura Andreson porcelain pedestal bowl (1973), Merry Renk’s brass Petals, Knud Kyhn’s stoneware monkey (1927, made as a prototype for Royal Copenhagen) and a Steuben Glass lamp.
â€œI discovered some of these wonderful artists as they were creating, and we evolved together.â€? from top shelf, left to right: Earthenware vessels by Liza Riddle, Gertrud and Otto Natzler, and Linda Haggerty; porcelain bowl by James Lovera, June Schwarcz dish, and Thomas Hill wire bird sculptures; a pair of ceramic and turned wood vessels by Victor Ries and another Natzler bowl; a Mark Goudy earthenware vessel with an enamelon-copper dish by Rex Mason; Renee Adams wooden seed pod, with ebony and honey locust turned vessels by Bob Stocksdale; and, last but not least, a Stocksdale turned teak bowl. right: Standing 28 inches high, this forged steel and parchment lamp was made by Carl Jennings in 1964.
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Merrill has made a priority of lending to small institutions
left: Studio potter and sculptor Mary Lindheim’s Atomic Nightmare (1955). right: The stoneware bowl, plate, and bottleform vase are by Peter Voulkos, all from the early 1950s. The orchid is set in a porcelain vessel by Lana Wilson. The crater-glazed lamp is by Gertrud and Otto Natzler.
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so that everyone, not just the crowd at major museums, has access to art. What was the ﬁrst exhibition you contributed to? I was approached by Lloyd Herman, a curator at the Renwick Gallery, for a show on Otto and Gertrud Natzler in 1973. But loaning out work is even more important now. Art programs have largely been defunded from our public education system, which is tragic. When artists create, they produce a demand for materials, they work on the cutting edge of creativity, they change how people think; to take that away is just an outrage. And that’s why I’ve put a lot of effort into lending things to small arts centers in addition to major museums. My own eyes were opened at a small museum in Pasadena, before it was the Norton Simon. For me, it didn’t translate into making things with my hands – but I’ve tried to make something with my heart.
above: Kay Sekimachi vessels wrought from leaves and paper (including antique Japanese paper), made between 1985 and 2012. right: Arthur Espenet Carpenter created this wooden cabinet, with enamel inserts by Ree Mantz, in 1962. It is home to an English holly and ebony guinea fowl by Emile Norman (1959), a June Schwarcz enamel vase (2013), and a stoneware egg form on a rosewood base by Harrison McIntosh (1972).
Thinking about how young you were when you made your ﬁrst artistic purchase put me in mind of Ronald Lauder, who reportedly bought his ﬁrst Egon Schiele at 13, with funds from his bar mitzvah. What inspired you to spend your lawn-mowing money on art? Well, I do recall someone suggesting I should buy a baseball mitt. And it never once occurred to me to buy a baseball mitt. I was in high school, and I had this wonderful art teacher who had studied with Lukens. Her class changed my life by showing me the possibilities of what art could do and how it could impact the way you think about the world. So that was part of it. Fortunately, I bought something I really like, even to this day. And it gives me a great sense of satisfaction that I didn’t discover the ’50s aesthetic in the 1980s, with a checklist of things to buy. I discovered some of these wonderful artists as they were creating, and we evolved together. jun/jul 15 american craft 041
■■■■ You collect the work of so many artists: June Schwarcz, Kay Sekimachi, Bob Stocksdale, Robert Arneson, David Gilhooly, Rex Mason, Art and Tripp Carpenter, Toshiko Takaezu, Ralph Bacerra, Simon Levy, Ron Kent, Mary Lindheim, Anne Hirondelle, Gertrud and Otto Natzler, and Merry Renk, to name just a very few. As you walk me through your home – telling stories about many of the objects and the artists – I almost have the
sense of looking at someone’s family photos. There is such intimacy, not only between you and the objects, but you and the artists, many of whom are your dear friends. The associations that I have been able to form with the people who make these objects are very valuable to me. I feel fortunate that I’ve had an opportunity to give these things I love a public life through exhibition. But it’s the friendships that have really come back to bless me and
above: Wire ﬁsh by Thomas Hill swim over a James Haggerty earthenware bowl (2015), a red bottle-form vase by Gertrud and Otto Natzler with a copper reduction glaze (1965), a burl-wood bowl by Bob Womack (2002), and a 1950s Natzler lamp.
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right: A ﬁtting message – Merrill holds Art Works by ceramic sculptor Robert Arneson.
Merrill feels fortunate to have given his collection
enrich my life. And to me, that’s where the value really is. You seem to make new discoveries every week – during your travels, meeting friends of artists, and attending clay and glass shows. As you acquire, do you ever divest? I do occasionally sell something because I have a duplicate, or I have a changed interest. For a while, I got quite interested in English ceramics. And then I thought, who is going to look
to me to borrow a piece of English ceramic? I don’t think anyone will knock on my door for that. So I found new homes for my pieces by Hans Coper and Lucie Rie, and I kept the potters such as John Ward, Mary Rogers, and Jacqueline Poncelet, because I thought I had selected some great examples of this second tier, and maybe that could be useful to someone. That makes me curious about your approach to collecting,
right: Still life with the collector: Merrill cradles an earthenware bowl by the Natzlers, who also made the blue vase with crystalline glaze and the vessel with the ﬂowing crater glaze. The slumpedglass plates are by Glen Lukens. Behind Merrill are a large vessel by Vivika and Otto Heino, and a row of turned bowls by Bob Stocksdale.
a public life, but, he says, “it’s the friendships that have really come back to bless me.” which is somewhat idiosyncratic. Tim O’Brien remarked that you have no interest in anyone else’s idea of what a comprehensive collection should be, which he ﬁnds such a refreshing way to approach art. I do like to collect in depth, but really, you can have three Natzlers, and have a good Natzler collection if they’re the right three pieces. But I have never wanted to be conﬁned to an artist’s so-called iconic or expected work. I’ll
give you an example. I was visiting Ron Kent in Hawaii, on Oahu. As we talked, I noticed these pieces across the room on a cabinet that I thought were probably Scandinavian. But no: He said that he had made them and that no gallery wanted them, because they were not his “iconic” work. He had added texture to the outside of these bowls because in most cases they had been repaired. And so he had salvaged something and made a beautiful object of it.
Well, this excited me. I said, How many do you have? I would like to acquire them all. When you take the time to focus on an artist’s work, you have the liberty to go where they’ve been, or follow little exciting adventures that they have explored. And that’s the kind of journey that interests me very much. Out of all of your treasures, how do you decide what to keep close, and what to store?
Well, some things just have a lot of personal meaning. And it depends upon what shows are coming up. I brought another one of Ralph Bacerra’s animals home, because I’m shipping some out for a retrospective at the Otis College of Art and Design, and I wanted them to get to know each other. Wait, I’ll put them together so they’re nose to nose. There! Now that has a lot to say right there. forrestlmerrill.com
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We are thrilled to introduce the recipients of the American Craft Council Emerging Voices Awards. In this program’s inaugural year, jurors Jean W. McLaughlin of Penland School of Crafts, Lowery Stokes Sims of the Museum of Arts and Design, and ACC’s Perry A. Price faced a rich roster of nominees, all still developing and deﬁning their careers. The winners – one artist and one scholar, along with four ﬁnalist artists – represent an exciting vision of this ﬁeld’s future.
Emerging Voices winner Jaydan Moore takes familiar objects, like the silver-plated platters and utensils of Specimens (2013), and through alteration gives them new meaning.
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a turning point arrived during Jaydan Moore’s second year of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The artist was creating a series of trophies incorporating found objects, working out ideas about commemoration, memory, and meaning. He discovered that trophies, in fact, originated as table-service ware – think platters, goblets, cups. It was a revelation – thrift shops are heaped with untapped history – that prompted Moore to delve deeper into everyday objects. “It became clear to me that I no longer wanted to fake the imagery of use and wear, but instead mine the thousands of objects that were already around us,” Moore recalls. “If I hadn’t made that decision to head to the thrift shop, I don’t know if I would be using the silver-plated platters as my material today.” Today Moore’s work ranges from intricately reconstructed platters to prints of their surfaces, ghostly images that prompt the same kind of unknowable longing as unlabeled tintype portraits. In deconstructing and reassembling, Moore calls on the past while creating something new. As he puts it: “Nothing is lost, only given a new history.” 046 american craft jun/jul 15
Portrait: Michael Mauney / Specimens, Ends, and Platter photos: Jim Escalante / Other photos (2): David Stover
Traces, 2014, found silverplated platters, 24 x 24 x 5 in.
new history jaydan moore Penland, North Carolina
left: Moore mines the histories of everyday objects, creating works that speak to ideas of memory, commemoration, and nostalgia.
What’s the most rewarding part of your work? Taking an object and altering it to give it a new meaning – and the technical challenges that can come with each step. Working with found tableservice ware, I want to make sure that what I do to alter the object affects the piece in a positive way. Being able to take something that might have been lost and create a new conversation with the object and its history really motivates me.
above: Katrina, 2013, intaglio print on paper, 22 x 30 in.
Ends, 2012, found silverplated platters, 38 x 20 x 3 in.
What’s challenging? Making that ﬁrst decision of how to use the material. As I said, I want to make sure my alterations add to the piece, but that desire can also be debilitating. Sometimes the best course of action is to just cut the material up and see what happens. Talk about a favorite piece. What makes it signiﬁcant? The ﬁrst piece that comes to mind is Ends. That piece was one of those technical ideas that made sense to me right from the beginning. Making this continuous
right: Platter #2, 2011, found silverplated platters, 15 in. dia. x 2 in.
loop of leftover platter trim spoke so much to me of the silverplated platters’ own mining of objects from the 18th century – that platters themselves are mass-produced objects trying to replicate a history. Ends was very simple in its idea, but it poignantly hit upon concepts I wanted to discuss. The other notable piece would be the ﬁrst print I made with the silver-plated platters. It was that idea that pops in your head that you’re not quite sure about, but instead of letting it go, you take 10 minutes to give it a shot. Every time I have an idea that I’m nervous about, I look back at that moment. Who have been your biggest supporters? What makes their support valuable? All of the professors with whom I have worked have been so helpful and supportive. And my family has been so supportive through the years that it is hard to even put into words. Support, to me, is willingness to have a discussion. The feedback will be challenging and critical. But the professors I’ve had are strong in their statements – and then ready to explain and discuss. They look at what the work is saying to them, listen to what
you are trying to say, and push you in the best direction. Also, a bit of cheering you on and pushing you forward always comes in handy. How do you deﬁne success? Hitting upon an idea that you want to share, as best and as eloquently as possible. Also: discussing an idea and touching upon all of its different forms, challenges, faults, and possibilities. The artists whom I see as successful are the ones who have pushed themselves to see an idea from all facets. Their work shows how meaningful an idea is to them, and affects the viewer emotionally and conceptually. Rewind to the beginning of your career. Have things gone as you planned or hoped? When I was younger, I had a very focused plan of how my career would go. That has not been how my career has gone at all, but all for the better. Altering your path to ﬁt the direction that better suits you can be very helpful. That isn’t to say some of those early goals couldn’t come back, but there’s a beneﬁt in knowing the right time for each portion. jaydanmoore.com jun/jul 15 american craft 047
Tell us about your areas of interest. What excites you about them? The spaces where concepts get materialized, or where material things and processes reveal or generate abstract thought. It’s 048 american craft jun/jul 15
What are you working on? Oh, gosh – too much! I’m in the beginning stages of a book project that will look at tailors’ diagrams and sewing patterns, as well as frock coats and dresses, alongside the discourses of political economy and philosophy in the 19th century. As I map out the chapters and the argument, it feels like I’m working on three or four things simultaneously. One more contained essay I’m currently writing is about the “Textiles U.S.A.” exhibition at MoMA in 1956 – a glimpse into a world in which new, synthetic threads and then-futuristic uses of fabric signaled the
write crag t’ai smith Vancouver, British Columbia
Smith’s Bauhaus Weaving Theory (left) was published last year. She’s now in the early stages of a book that looks at sewing diagrams – such as this 1857 diagram of a dress – alongside the discourses of political economy and philosophy in the 19th century. She delved into the subject in a recent essay for Art Practical.
Portrait and book photo: Birthe Piontek / Diagram image: Courtesy of T’ai Smith
t’ai smith didn’t plan on being a scholar. When she entered the PhD program in visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester, she had been working in photography and drawing; she expected to emerge as an artist. “But it changed the way I think,” she says, “and about halfway through I realized I had found a new craft: research and writing.” The ﬁeld is richer for it. Smith’s insightful work on textiles, craft, and design has appeared in publications such as the Journal of Modern Craft, along with catalogues and compilations. Her ﬁrst book, Bauhaus Weaving Theory, was published in 2014. This past year, she’s been in residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia, where she’s an assistant professor. As a Wall Scholar, Smith has been cross-pollinating with scientists working on climate change – thinking about everything from polymer ﬁbers to the explosion of stuff under capitalism. As for making art? “I sometimes see it as a sad consequence that I’ve become successful at my scholarship and that I’ve given up that way of approaching the world,” Smith says. “But at the same time, I know I can go back to artmaking and will no doubt do so in the future. Hopefully before I retire.”
why I love writing about this area called craft! For example, I’m currently obsessed with various kinds of diagrams used in different textile-based practices, like weaving notation and sewing patterns. I love the way diagrams provide a visual schema that mediates between abstraction and materiality. It’s also why I love reading poetry and philosophical writing. I really dig that switch that happens in my brain as I grapple with the materiality of words on a page and the incalculable or ungraspable quality of the meaning generated out of an especially opaque sentence. My current hobby (or perhaps an aspect of my research – I can’t really separate them) is to wander through random websites, from quilting blogs to corporate pages on polymer ﬁbers, to locate traces of this material abstraction. My favorite line of late is on the “Performance Plastics” page of the Dow Chemical website: “Exceptional cloth-like haptics, drapeability, and low noise.” Based on the image they use, this line apparently refers to baby wipes or diapers – something truly mundane. But this phrase also opens up worlds in my brain. Especially given how pernicious that company has been over the years …
promise (and collapse) of American utopianism. Here, textiles made by craft practitioners were set alongside textiles made for the military-industrial complex. The contradictions there are fascinating. What’s the best or most rewarding part of your work? Of course I revel in the research, the moments when questions are forming around new discoveries. But the most rewarding aspect of my work always seems to emerge in the editing stage – after I’ve vomited forth a lot of thoughts and I’ve struggled to piece them together into a semicoherent argument. I sit down and reexamine what I have, and through a process of combing, I’m able to draw out the connections, often through subtle changes. In this stage, I’m able to see the bigger picture, to begin to understand the stakes in what I’ve written. And so, indeed, editing is a reward. Before that, the whole writing thing can be pure hell. Speaking broadly: What does this ﬁeld need more of? I’m frankly not sure. My instinct is to say it needs more speculative writing and genuinely critical criticism. But maybe I just say that because that’s what I strive to do. I actually think the craft world has been generating some really important work and writing. It just needs to continue. How do you deﬁne success? When I’ve won an award! Or when I get an email from someone I don’t know telling me how useful she has found a text I’ve written. Success is knowing I’m not speaking into a void. What are three words people would use to describe you? It depends on whom you ask, of course. My friend just gave me these three words and they seem about right to me: creative, efﬁcient, direct. But I’d like to add one more: baroque. jun/jul 15 american craft 049
in balance ashley buchanan
Johnson City, Tennessee
Continuous Bangle Bracelet, 2013, hand-cut brass, powder coat, sterling silver
12-Piece Gradient Chain, 2015, hand-cut brass, powder coat, 6 in. dia.
Selective Piercing Cuff, 2013, hand-cut brass, powder coat, sterling silver
ashley buchanan’s jewelry is elegant, restrained – and yet anything but simple. Those sleek, contemporary designs? Buchanan, who holds a BFA from the University of Georgia, is calling on the history of jewelry and iconic decorative motifs. In the studio, she combines labor-intensive, old-school handwork – cutting each silhouette with a jeweler’s saw – with modern technology, such as 050 american craft jun/jul 15
powder-coating and digital photography. The result is a body of work that reﬂects the present and speaks to the past, as it propels art jewelry into the future. Why jewelry? I actually began in sculpture in college, but after taking the introduction to metalsmithing class, I changed my major – I felt I could better control my
work in jewelry. I’m also interested in how jewelry relates to the body and how that then relates to society, culture, and relationships. I also respond well to metal – the strength, the delicacy, the movement, the history. Four years ago, you quit your side job at a restaurant and became a full-time jeweler. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
I love many aspects of what I do – connecting with people whom I otherwise would never meet, the relationships I have with other artists. But most of all, it’s being responsible for all aspects of my work – knowing that it begins and ends with me, that I have to make it happen in order for it to happen. That may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s very exciting and fulﬁlling.
Portrait: Joshua Dudley Greer
Folded Bangles, 2014, hand-cut brass, powder coat
Object photos: Ashley Buchanan
What’s challenging? The same thing: being responsible for everything. If I don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done. I have to wear every hat – making, marketing, accounting, shipping, traveling. It can be a lot sometimes. Talk about a favorite piece. What makes it signiﬁcant? Right now I’m in love with this new gradient chain. Sometimes
I make pieces that feel different – they turn out exactly how I intended and mark sort of a turning point. My goal, always, is to strike a balance in my work of wearable craft, handmade jewelry, design, and fashion. Speaking broadly for a moment: What does this ﬁeld need more of? Tough, honest, and productive criticism. Also, diversity.
How do you deﬁne success? How will you know when you’ve made it? Right now I would say being happy, making a living, being proud of what I make, conﬁdent in what I make. When I’ve made it? When I’m able to make what I want to without worrying about how I will sell it.
As it comes together, Buchanan’s work is a balance of labor and concept, tradition and innovation.
ashleybuchananjewelry.com jun/jul 15 american craft 051
Hutton hoists one of his Crop Circles coffee tables on a family stroll. His wife, Erin, who is also an artist, is his biggest supporter, he says. “Our dialogue has evolved from simple suggestions to entirely designing projects together.” left: Crop Circles coffee table, 2014, walnut, 1.4 x 4.4 x 4 ft. below left: Crop Circles end tables, 2014, ash, white oak, 1.6 x 1.6 x 1.9 ft. each
devotion may huyon
you could say matt hutton is in it for the long haul. The woodworker likes process, planning: “I enjoy stepping back and organizing the steps in my head for a large project,” he says. “It’s a long-term, linear way of thinking.” That clarity of vision ﬁnds expression in his appealing curvilinear furniture; it is also evident in his career. Since 2002, Hutton has been an associate professor at Maine College of Art; in addition, for the past 10 years, he has run Studio 24b. And with endurance comes rewards. “Just recently, I have felt a conﬁdence in designing that, I believe, comes from many years of making,” Hutton says. “My work feels mature, researched, and reﬁned.” 052 american craft jun/jul 15
What’s frustrating? Wood movement. Dull blades. Impatience. Tell us about a notable piece. What makes it signiﬁcant? I once made a grouping of headboards for an exhibition, and they all stood freely in the gallery. These pieces crossed boundaries of craft, installation, sculpture, and furniture all at the same time. It was not a dramatic moment, but the attributes that those works possessed still come to mind every time I am designing new projects. Crop Circles mirror & cabinet, 2014, white oak, 3.5 x 3.5 x .75 ft.
Who has been your biggest supporter? My wife, Erin, who is also an artist. She has an ability to offer honest advice, remain positive, and see the big picture. She’s an
excellent problem solver. Our dialogue has evolved from simple suggestions to entirely designing projects together. What’s missing, invisible, or underserved in the craft world? I think we’re quick to be enamored with technology and the new. As a result, fast, and often bad, work is pushed to the forefront – work that is made just because it can be. I would like to see us maintain a high level of respect for and engagement with the hand and mind in craft. How do you deﬁne success? I look at success in small increments and in various ways. Sometimes it comes from ﬁguring out a difﬁcult technical aspect, other times it’s monitoring larger issues such as keeping my concepts, projects, and practice cohesive. There is always an intuition or reaction that I have when something is working well. I often trust those moments and move forward accordingly. studio24b.com
End tables photo: Jay York / Portrait and other photos: Michael Wilson
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? I enjoy seeing pieces come to completion. No matter how much planning and designing I’ve done, there is a whole new aspect to them when they are complete and people use them.
character thaddeus erdahl
Princeton, New Jersey
As a ceramic artist, Erdahl creates modern, mythic characters – with a special emphasis on those found at the margins and the underbelly of society.
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thaddeus erdahl remembers when Arthur Gonzalez, the iconoclastic sculptor, visited the University of Northern Iowa, where Erdahl was majoring in ceramics and art education. “I realized I didn’t have to make pots,” says Erdahl, who went on to an MFA from the University of Florida. “It was like being given permission to make what was in my head. After that, I never looked back.” What compels you about clay? Its versatility, responsiveness, and its ability to mimic other materials. What’s the best or most rewarding part of your work? The physicality of the work –
What’s frustrating? Working in clay is often not fast enough for me. The material requires a certain amount of patience, and sometimes I don’t have patience.
in the studio. She also works in ceramics and understands the rigors of studio work and balancing commitments. My parents and family have always supported my decisions, whether those decisions were to join the military right out of high school, double-major in undergrad, or take a leap of faith and go to graduate school. They’ve always been there, always supportive.
Who has been your biggest supporter? My wife, Stephanie Stuefer. She’s always been there, behind the scenes, helping me with everything from writing my artist statements to reassuring me when I’m overwhelmed
Speaking broadly for a moment: What does this ﬁeld need more of? Patrons who understand its signiﬁcance. There are certainly patrons of the craft world, but not enough who see it for more than “crafts.”
and the manic moments in the studio creating the sculptures. I love those moments when the idea is rough, and you have to work and struggle with the clay to ﬁnd the sculpture.
Bear photo: Alan Wiener, courtesy of Greenwich House Pottery
Portrait: Courtesy of Charlie Cummings Gallery / Other photos (2): Thaddeus Erdahl
How do you deﬁne success? How will you know when you’ve made it? When someone writes a really bad review about my work and I don’t care. Rewind to the beginning of your career. What could you not have predicted? I never thought that as my artistic career began to ﬂourish, I would simultaneously have a baby and be teaching pre-K– fourth-grade art full time.
above: King for a Day Queen for the Night, 2014, clay, underglaze, slip, glaze, encaustic, 31 x 30 x 25 in.
Private Dazzle (2014) was part of Erdahl’s recent exhibition at Greenwich House Pottery, “Yes Sir No Sir This Way That.” The show delved into his military experiences and “the surreality of being a soldier.”
below: Barrett the Bear (detail), 2014, clay, underglaze, slip, glaze, encaustic, 41 x 19 x 12 in.
Finally: What are three words people would use to describe you? Animated, tall, hairy. tjerdahl.blogspot.com jun/jul 15 american craft 055
inner voice annıe vought
Gosh I’ve Been Here Before, 2014, hand-cut paper, 3.25 x 4.1 ft.
“we’ve been using paper as a vehicle for communication, in one way or another, for centuries,” Annie Vought points out. And yet, how often is it so utterly transformed? Vought, who has an MFA from Mills College, pays homage to the handmade with her work. Under her X-Acto knife, paper becomes impossibly delicate – a perfect medium for the transmission of incomplete stories and inner thoughts, the swirling and fragile narratives of human experience. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? I have found my strongest sense of self through my 056 american craft jun/jul 15
artwork. No matter how my work changes, and no matter the medium, it is the most grounding aspect of my life. When I have anxiety, fears, or self-doubt, I can refocus my internal dialogue by imagining how I could translate those feelings and experiences into a project. Art is a source of relief for me. What’s challenging? Sometimes I feel like my work isn’t conceptual enough, but my hope is that the source material and the aesthetics draw people in enough to take time with the work and to discover that there’s complexity and meaning there.
Talk about a favorite piece of yours. What makes it signiﬁcant to you? I just ﬁnished a piece, Gosh I’ve Been Here Before. It was by far the most detailed, longest project I have ever worked on. Much of my work has been an investigation into people’s inner lives and the ways they express their thoughts through writing. But through this piece I was able to put a ﬁner point on what I am trying to articulate. In basically all of my work, the text is never legible. I put so much effort and labor into it, and yet you can only read bits and pieces. You get fragments. It’s a reﬂection of how we struggle to express ourselves through
language, sometimes successfully and sometimes not; sometimes we just get fragments of meaning. How do you deﬁne success? How will you know when you’ve made it? I am not sure I will know. My intent is to just keep making work. I have goals I would love to achieve; hopefully I’ll just keep crossing them off my list for as long as I can. What are three words people would use to describe you? My husband says: “Kind, spontaneous, and unique.” annievought.com
Gosh photo: Rebecca Jay / Detail photo: Annie Vought / Portrait: Airyka Rockefeller
Early in her art career, Vought would make collages when she felt stuck. That practice â€“ alongside a growing interest in storytelling â€“ led her to the kind of work she does today.
Ac cola d
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to ceramist Linda
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ry objects. ordina n i rk spa g vin a li
Sebby Wilson Jacobson portraits by
Some Things Need Nothing, 2013, ceramic, wood, ink, watercolor, paper, 26 x 24 x 11.5 in.
covered with dozens of pendulous lobes, the moplike blobs look as if they could slither along an ocean ﬂoor or swish across a kitchen ﬂoor. Over the past two years, these biomorphic creations have starred in solo shows and surveys of contemporary ceramics, oozing their way into galleries and museums throughout the United States, from Houston, 060 american craft jun/jul 15
San Diego, and Santa Fe to Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, DC. Sometimes the forms stand alone or beside domes sprouting thickets of spaghetti-like strands. Often these clay pieces share space with ink drawings in assemblages displayed not on pedestals but on simple wooden shelves, tables, or plant stands.
Though humble in scale and material, they’re bringing major – and unexpected – acclaim to their creator. “It’s very strange. I’m not sure what’s happening,” says Linda Lopez. Describing herself as “a late bloomer,” the 34-yearold says she was 20 when she took her ﬁrst art class and 26 when she committed to becoming an artist.
“I just keep making work and putting it out there,” Lopez says of her newfound success. “Maybe it’s persistence.” Curators and critics often credit her drawing and sculpting skills, her distinctive mix of elegance and roughness, and her ability to create forms that feel both alien and intimate. Two years ago, in search of underrecognized American
Lopez is lauded for creating forms that feel both alien and intimate.
Untitled (Mini Still), 2014, ceramic, wood, 7 x 8 x 3.5 in.
All object photos: Courtesy of the artist
below: Untitled (Studio Still 2), 2013, ceramic, acrylic, 18 x 18 x 9 in.
artists, Chad Alligood, curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and its then-president, Don Bacigalupi, visited about 1,000 artist studios during a 100,000-mile road trip. Just 30 minutes from the museum, they discovered Lopez in her studio near the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where she is an instructor, and her husband,
Mathew McConnell, is an assistant professor of art. “Many ceramists across the country are exploring the medium as sculpture, as ﬁne art,” Alligood says. “She was unafraid of expressing the domestic quality of everyday ceramic objects … and addressing the long history of their functionality.” Lopez was among a select group of 102 artists repre-
sented in “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” which closed in January. Alligood explains the choice: “To be able to ﬁnd the magic in the everyday is the power in her story.” And the story of Lopez’s career conﬁrms the transformative power of the everyday. Born to two immigrants, one Vietnamese and the other jun/jul 15 american craft 061
left: In addition to ceramics, Lopez produces vibrant drawings in ink, watercolor, and gouache.
right: Lopez at work in her home studio, situated next to her 1977 log house on a couple of wooded acres near Fayetteville, Arkansas.
By 2006, she had a BFA Mexican, Linda Nguyen Lopez in ceramics and a BA in art edugrew up in Ivanhoe, a farming cation but was unsure whether town in central California, feelto become a teacher or an artist. ing like a typical American kid. So she spent a year as a nomad, Her mother, Ngot Nguyen, she says. “I tried to do everywas a cook at a nursing home. thing I could to absorb art. I Her father, Rosalio Lopez, earned a living picking oranges – went anywhere I could sleep on somebody’s couch or ﬂoor,” while also tending his own garshe says, recalling visiting her den, where he grew a wide now-remarried mother in Vietrange of crops, including corn, nam and dropping in on friends cactus, cherries, nectarines, and in New England and New York. strawberries; they also raised “I was trying to ﬁgure out what chickens, goats, cows, and, for the next step was going to be.” major celebrations, the occaThat step turned out to be sional pig. an MFA in ceramics from the Young Linda loved hanging University of Colorado Boulout with friends in her father’s der, appealing because of its garden after school. Years later, interdisciplinary approach. having completed two years at a local community college and wondering what to major in at California State University, Chico, she took an aptitude test. And to Think It All The resulting recommendation – Started with That, 2012, ceramic, wood, become a farmer – didn’t appeal 12 x 13 x 6 in. to her. Because she’d enjoyed an art history course she’d taken, Lopez declared art as her major. At Chico, earning a B in a ceramics course, instead of the A she expected, goaded her into taking another class. “Technically and conceptually, clay was a challenge,” she says. “That’s how I got hooked.” 062 american craft jun/jul 15
There she explored other media, honed her drawing skills – and was radically changed by the advice of professor Richard Saxton: Stop playing it safe, he said. Be the quirky, weird person you are. In a hardware store soon after, Lopez found her imagination captured by dust mops. They made her think of ﬁngers – so she bought latex gloves, cut off the ﬁngers, and ﬁlled them
with plaster. Deciding they looked too stiff, she got “balloons that clowns use,” ﬁlled them with sand, and relished the sense of movement. Eventually, she says, “thoughts about the relationship between dust and the objects around us evolved.” So did her growing sense of ordinary household objects – mops, buckets, armchairs – as mysterious, living beings with their own histories and feelings. Although Lopez says her ethnic roots are not a major inﬂuence on her work, she credits her upbringing for this vision. “Because my parents were immigrants and English was their second language, conversation was minimal in my household,” she recalls. When her mother did speak
Untitled (Pink Horseshoe), 2015, ceramic, 7.5 x 9.5 x 8 in.
to her in English, “she would animate everything to me. She’d say: ‘Don’t put too much toilet paper in the toilet, or it will choke.’ She’d give characteristics to objects as if they were alive: ‘Don’t eat on the couch, or the crumbs will make the couch sick.’ ” Making her mother’s verbal mannerisms visual, Lopez vowed, “Let me animate the inanimate.” Armed with that idiosyncratic mission and her MFA, Lopez spent summer 2010 as a visiting artist in Auckland, New Zealand, with McConnell, then the two moved to Philadelphia. When the University of Arkansas offered McConnell a tenure-track position, she was reluctant to leave Philadelphia’s vibrant arts
assemblages – but have distincscene and agreed to move on tive styles. the condition that he buy her McConnell’s work comes something she missed from from “a more art-centered her childhood: a goat. approach to making – my work Three years later, Lopez is is certainly ‘art about art’ in a still goatless. But she revels in way that hers is not,” he says. the lively and booming arts com“It’s as if Linda can rely on a munity in northwest Arkansas, natural set of reﬂexes, while I her job teaching ceramics and have made a study of reﬂexes.” foundation classes at the univerLopez would agree. “I do sity, and the 1977 log house she and McConnell recently bought. feel like a California artist deep down. I think there’s a speciﬁc It sits on 2 acres of woods, with approach to making that doesn’t ample room for a chicken coop require words … that’s a little and, someday, goats. bit more intuitive, playful.’’ For now, she’s delighted “I like to start off not knowwith what’s there: a 2,000ing and allowing myself to square-foot studio with two get lost.” kilns, where she can work closely with her husband, lindalopez.net also a ceramist. They share ideas and support one another’s Sebby Wilson Jacobson is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher work – he, for example, builds in Rochester, New York. the wooden structures for her
Lopez imagines ordinary household objects â€“ mops, buckets, armchairs â€“ as mysterious, living beings.
A Pair for My Pair, 2013, ceramic, 5 x 4.5 in. dia., 14.5 x 12 in. dia.
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“i would like to make glass that’s timeless, that stays forever young,” says Lino Tagliapietra, a youthful 80-year-old who has been making glass in a timeless fashion for close to 70 years. He pauses, then adds, “I’m not sure if it’s possible.” Maybe that’s how a true master views his craft: as an unending quest, an ideal to be pursued relentlessly, if never quite achieved in his own estimation. It’s often said that Tagliapietra is the best glassblower in the world – indeed, one of the best in history. His surname means “stonecutter,” but he was born to blow glass, as a native of Murano, the fabled home of Venetian glassmaking since the 13th century. His story, by now, is legend. Eternally fascinated by glass – as a child, he’d build little furnaces out of mud and bricks, light a ﬁre and melt glass bits for fun – he began working in local factories at the age of 12, was apprenticed to master blower Archimede Seguso, and attained the status of maestro (literally, “master”) himself at 21. Throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, he had a successful career designing innovative lamps, vases, and other products for various Muranese companies, including Galliano Ferro, Venini, and Effetre International.
opposite: Born on the island of Murano, home of Venetian glassmaking for 800 years, Lino Tagliapietra started working in glass factories at age 12. below: Fuji, 2015, 41.25 x 21.5 x 7.5 in.
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Fuji photo: Russell Johnson / All object photos: Courtesy of Schantz Galleries
Lino Tagliapietra has been captivated by glass from his earliest years. At 80, his passion still knows no bounds.
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right: The installation Endeavor at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass in 2012. below: Made of blown, cut, and gilded glass, this Masai d’Oro piece (2011) was inspired by the decorated shields carried by Masai warriors of Africa.
Each piece manifests not only exceptional skill but also a quest for new discoveries.
left: Africa, 2014, 23.5 x 17.25 x 10.5 in. right: Avventura (2009), made up of 102 blownglass elements, pays tribute to the glassmakers of ancient Rome.
Masai photo: Francesco Allegretto / Other photos (3): Russell Johnson
Then at midlife, almost by chance, he embarked on an extraordinary second act. He became not only a celebrated independent artist, but also a teacher and mentor whose inﬂuence is so profound, so widespread, that he is regarded as a pivotal – some say the pivotal – ﬁgure in the contemporary glass art movement worldwide. In short, Tagliapietra is a rock star in the glass world, one not content to play only his old hits. He still brings an unbridled enthusiasm to his work, using his command of centuries-old techniques to create sensuous, sculptural blown forms, full of vibrant color and pattern. “We see in Lino’s art not only the highest level of skill and mastery of material, but a personal quest for new discoveries with each piece,” says one of his dealers, Jim Schantz, who with his wife, Kim Saul, owns Schantz Galleries in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. “At 80, he continues to challenge himself by ﬁnding the most exciting or most sublime, striving for new forms of expression and creativity. His latest works, which we saw him make at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma in February, were some of the most powerful he has made.” “I like to research new ways to try to express myself – not only the idea, but the technique. They go together,” Tagliapietra says in his charmingly accented English, which he began learning in his mid-40s when he ﬁrst visited the United States. For him, discipline and innovation go hand in hand. “It must be both. You must be very disciplined, have respect for the rules. Other times, you break the rules – but always with a respect for the material.” His strong work ethic was instilled during his early years at the factory in postwar Italy, when “we needed to work in a very serious way.” Forgoing school, young Lino put in long hours, sometimes from 5 o’clock
in the morning to 7 at night, six or seven days a week. “It was no joke. If you made a mistake, after a couple of times, you could receive some big, big, punishment – physical, too. It was a tough education,” he says. As he matured, Tagliapietra was drawn to the larger world of art – not just the Old Masters, but also modern work he’d see at the Venice Biennale by American painters such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Ellsworth Kelly. It stirred in him a creative urge to venture beyond the sophisticated commercial designs he was doing for the factories. “I had always the idea that I could do something new.” Then, in 1979, he met a young American glassblower named Benjamin Moore, who had come to Murano to work at Venini. Moore arranged for Tagliapietra to travel to the United States and give a demonstration at the Pilchuck Glass School north of Seattle, the center of a vibrant but still nascent glass art scene. At Pilchuck, the Americans watched, dazzled, as Tagliapietra put on a stunning display of technical wizardry. “To see someone with that insane command of the material – the speed and virtuosity and ﬁnesse, working on a very small, delicate level as well as doing huge, massive things – was just mind-blowing,” Moore remembers. The maestro was less impressed with the Americans’ work. “He was appalled at the craftsmanship; we were all selftaught,” Moore says. But “what he saw was this no-holds-barred attitude in the American approach, which I think he found rather refreshing.” “The technique, they were very poor,” Tagliapietra recalls. “But the energy, they were fantastic.” He generously shared traditional Venetian techniques, giving the Americans a foundation of basic skills – how to properly jun/jul 15 american craft 069
Photo: Kim Saul
Under Tagliapietra’s inﬂuence, many now-prominent Northwest glass artists blossomed.
gather glass, the right temperature at which to work, the design of furnaces, how to set up the benches. “These things made a huge impact in those early years for all of us, particularly in the Northwest movement,” says Moore. “It enabled people like William Morris and Dante Marioni and Preston Singletary – you can go down the line of prominent Northwest artists and look
how their work blossomed and took this huge leap after having spent time watching Lino. It was huge, really big. A big deal.” “He imparted the language that nobody knew of, nobody could speak,” says Marioni. When he met Tagliapietra in 1983, he was 19, an “uneducated glass zealot” who had been blowing since he was 15. “It was still a bunch of hippies
blowing glass then, everybody ﬁguring it out as they went. The lack of skills sort of lent itself to the prevailing aesthetic of the day, which was loose, goopy stuff. Then Lino showed up. He could make things that looked machine-made, and that wasn’t anybody’s intent back then. The hippies weren’t into that. They wanted to make it look funky and cool and handmade,” Marioni recalls.
Tagliapietra reďŹ‚ects on the undulating shapes of his Metamorphosis (2014) at the Schantz Galleries booth at last yearâ€™s SOFA Chicago art fair.
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deco Venetian glass. He began to envision a more artistic, expressive direction for himself, as well as a potential market for such work. By 1990 he had left Effetre, where he had been artistic and technical director since 1976, and was ready, as Moore puts it, “to bust a move.” Tagliapietra realized his old mindset of “designer-thinker” – creating objects to be manufactured in multiples, with the constraints that entailed – no longer served his purpose. So he made a bold personal decision to change his approach and make one-of-a-kind pieces. “After that transition, I made things a different way,” he says. “It’s a totally different philosophy to make unique pieces, a different psychology. And I like it. It’s very satisfying for me to understand what I want, what is possible to express.”
top: For Concerto di Primavera (2000), Tagliapietra created 17 one-of-a-kind vessels and designed the table they sit on. bottom: Fenice, 2012, 22 x 26 x 9.25 in.
Concerto photo: Courtesy of Schantz Galleries / Fenice and Africa photos: Russell Johnson
“But I sat up and took notice. I couldn’t believe human beings could shape molten glass like that. It set me on my path and has for countless other people.” (Most importantly in Marioni’s view: “Lino is a role model, a gentleman, always polite and kind to everybody. I mean, he is the world’s greatest glassblower. That goes without saying. He’s a fantastic artist. But to be a nice person on top of that is really an A-plus.”) While Tagliapietra empowered the Americans, their free spirit inspired him. Soon he was spending more and more time in Seattle. He expanded his travels and teaching to Asia, Australia, and South America. Starting in 1988, he worked with Dale Chihuly on the latter’s famous Venetians, a series of elaborate, colorful blown forms that paid homage to art
Stromboli photo: Russell Johnson
Rather than sketching, it’s handling hot glass directly that guides his creative process. “I need to work, to move my hands.” There’s been no end to his innovation since. John Kiley, who worked on his team from 1994 to 2011, recalls the challenge of keeping up with Tagliapietra when he was in an experimental mood: “There would be some new technique he’d dream up, or new tool or mold or idea or pattern or shape. We’d be scrambling, trying to ﬁgure out what he was doing, because none of us had seen anything like it.” To this day, whenever Kiley watches his former boss in action, “I fully expect to see something I’ve never seen before.” Though obsessive about his work, Tagliapietra was always genuinely interested in
his crew members and enjoyed hanging out, Kiley says. “The conversation usually wasn’t about glass. We’d talk about art, cooking, music, love, politics, philosophy, travel. When I was real young, he’d say to me, ‘You know, Kiley? Yeah, it’s important to study technique, to be a good glassblower. But it’s also important to walk in the woods, to drink good wine, eat good food. Take time to understand things outside of blowing glass, because that’s where your inspiration will come from.’ ” Asked for his advice to aspiring artists, Tagliapietra replies, “If you want to make art, you must be passionate. And then study. Curiosity. Never stop being curious. Then you must have patience, because you don’t become famous right away, you don’t make money right away. My personal
above: Africa, 2013, 10.25 x 19.25 in. dia. below: Stromboli, 2015, 35.25 x 10 x 8 in.
experience, it took me almost 50 years. Also, you need a little bit of luck, of course. Me, I’m very lucky – when I came to the States, it completely changed my life.” And it has been, he reﬂects, a “very good life.” He and his wife of 56 years, Lina, the daughter of a prominent Muranese glass family, split their time between an apartment in Seattle and a modern house on the water in Murano. (Their three grown children reside in Italy, and none blow glass.) “I live in Seattle when I’m in Seattle, and I live in Venice when I’m in Venice,” is how Tagliapietra puts it, not counting his frequent travels. He makes his pieces at various studios around the United States – “I feel grateful, very good working here. I have a good team, nice people, really fantastic” – and jun/jul 15 american craft 073
during his guest demonstrations at hotshops around the globe. When he’s not making glass, he’s often reading about it. “I have a thousand books. I like Roman glass, Islamic glass. I like the history of glass, because I feel if you know the past, you will know the future. To make new things, you must know the old things.” At events like the annual Glass Art Society conference, he enjoys the camaraderie and dialogue and new work, loves seeing what a vibrant, important art medium glass has become. He’s a fan of all craft forms, especially wood, and owns several vessels by the late Ed Moulthrop, the noted woodturner. “It doesn’t matter what material we use,” Tagliapietra says. “We need the technique, we need the idea. And then we need the poetry, the love that
transforms the material into a piece of art.” After a lifetime in glass, after decades of achievement and acclaim, Tagliapietra clearly still feels that love. But does he feel satisﬁed? “Oh, no, never, never, never,” he says, sighing softly. He repeats the word “never” eight more times, emphatically. “In the moment, you are satisﬁed. Maybe you’re happy with what you did. But tomorrow, or even today, is another time. You make one work, and the next piece is the new challenge.” So what’s next for him? “That’s a good question. I’d like to know,” says the maestro, chuckling. “I’m running to be there.” linotagliapietra.com Joyce Lovelace is American Craft’s contributing editor.
left: Barene, 2012, 6.6 x 4 ft.
above: Osaka, 2011, 18 x 13 in. dia. opposite: Watching Tagliapietra work is revelatory, even for his experienced crew: “I fully expect to see something I’ve never seen before,” says recent team member John Kiley.
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Object photos (3): Russell Johnson
below: Tasmania, 2013, 8.75 x 20.75 x 2.75 in.
Master technique, yes, he tells young artists. But also walk in the woods, drink good wine, and eat good food.
thread sometimes, when she’s deep in the ﬂow of stitching a quilt, Paula Kovarik will tap into what she has come to think of as a fourth dimension. “I search for that collective unconscious that I believe is there, in the air,” says Kovarik, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee. “Artists talk about being in that zone of a creative, different consciousness, of being in the painting or in the sculpture or in the quilt – that zone that I strive to ﬁnd. If I’m lucky enough to get there, if I feel like I’m seeing the piece properly and moving it forward, I will perceive a different dimension. It’s from within. It’s not a visual thing. It’s a feeling.” Maybe it’s that extrasensory zing that makes her quilts so engaging, pulls us in. Certainly it’s the amazing stitchery. Kovarik draws with thread, using the quilt as a canvas for incredibly detailed worlds, crammed with odd little shapes, structures, and creatures, real and imagined. Her style could be described as a mash-up of Dr. Seuss, Kandinsky, and Where’s Waldo, yet it’s all her own. Quirky as they are, her quilts explore big ideas about love, psychology, nature, politics. The unifying thread, so to speak, is the notion of life as a complex web of seemingly
random energies and events, things that connect in ways both obvious and unexpected. “I don’t try to make a clear narrative statement. I like it to be a little chaotic. Inputs and inﬂuences and vibrations and all kinds of things that we’re not aware of are affecting us, and I try to channel those,” she says. “I want to ﬁnd beauty in chaos, but also show that chaos sometimes has order.” Some of her most heartfelt quilts are about the natural world. “Nature provides us such beautiful chaos,” she says. “I’m constantly amazed by the intricacies of natural forms, how certain ones are repeated over and over again.” In Stream of Consequences (2013), her homage to the work of Memphis’ Wolf River Conservancy, stitches form rhythmic, textured swirls over a changing landscape of city, suburbs, farmland, and wetlands. For Round and Round It Goes (2012), she transformed a stained white tablecloth into an epic vision of Earth in the balance, the effects of human vagary – war, pollution, economic collapse – on every imaginable resource and living creature. In Global Warming, the Great Unraveling (2009), frayed edges and a satiny border made from a worn baby blanket lend tenderness and emotional impact.
In her dazzling and detailed quilts, Paula Kovarik traces big ideas about life on Earth. story by Joyce Lovelace portraits by Robert Rausch
Foundations, 2005, 6.6 x 1.7 ft. left: Paula Kovarik draws with thread, letting imagery unfold in a free-motion stream of consciousness. Do the Doodle (2011) riffs on such connections of the mind.
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City photo: Gary Culley / Other photos (2): Allen Mims
“I want to ﬁnd beauty in chaos, but also show that chaos sometimes has order.”
top: Kovarik’s Face Value (2014) features a cast of characters drawn by her grandsons. She named each one based on what they looked like to her. “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek,” she says, “with a little social commentary.”
above: City, 2008, 3.4 x 3.2 ft.
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Other pieces ponder modern life on a more personal level. Same But Not (2011) is a yin-yang design: On one side, a single white line travels an unbroken, labyrinthine path on a black background, while on the other, a black thread takes a similar – but different – trip on white fabric. Connecting Fantasy to Reality Proved Difﬁcult (2010) is a meditation on how our best-laid plans morph and change, start as one thing but become something else entirely. In Worry (2011), large black circles represent the burdens of anxiety, tiny opposing arrows our conﬂicted thoughts, and fractured stitchwork the mounting pressure of it all. Lately, she has been incorporating into her work children’s drawings submitted by readers of her blog. “They’re really inspiring to me,” Kovarik says. “Between 4 and 6 years old, children’s drawings are really soulful. Their art is serious and bold. About the time they go into school, they start trying to make it ‘look like’ something. It’s interesting to see that transition.” Kovarik herself has been in a kind of transition. She was a graphic designer for some 30 years, specializing in internal communications for corporations, things like booklets on health care and pension plans. Then, her objective was to present information in a clear and engaging manner. Even now, with quilts, “I don’t let that go,” she says. “Symbols, structure, layout, form, and color are all critical to a piece.” Since becoming a full-time artist two years ago, she’s feeling freer, more spontaneous. “My life as a graphic designer was ruled by the grid. It was all about creating structure for content. And I love the grid. I feel comfortable using a grid underneath everything that I do. But I always like to break it, too, for a little extra tension.”
right: Made of a worn tablecloth, Round and Round It Goes (2012) is Kovarik’s most ambitious quilt to date. She stitched the spiral ﬁrst, then began the mind-boggling work of “puzzling in” the sections. It took her about four months.
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right: Kovarik created Keeping up with the Dow Joneses (2009) during the height of the recent housing crisis.
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was diagnosed with leukemia, and everything changed. “We were lucky enough to be handed over to St. Jude’s. We had no money, no insurance. They covered everything,” Kovarik says of the famed Memphis hospital, a “mythical, wonderful place” where children are treated regardless of a family’s ability to pay. After three years of chemo and radiation, Damien was declared cancer-free. Today, at 36, he has two boys of his own and works for St. Jude’s fundraising arm – “a great circular story,” as Kovarik says. That sudden catastrophe, and eventual miracle, led Kovarik and her family to settle in Memphis in the early 1980s. Jim became a grant writer in community development, while she started her graphic design business; they had a second son, Miles (now 26 and studying to be a nurse). She always did art on the side, painting or knitting or crochet. Around 2002, she took up quilting, inspired by her mother, an avid quilter in retirement. She took a six-week crash course at a local quilt shop, but disliked the constraints of traditional patterns. “One day, I took a piece I’d started and thrown into a corner because it was boring, slashed it up and sewed it back together the way I wanted it to be. I thought, ‘This might work.’ ” Soon Kovarik’s interest shifted from alternative piecing to a purposeful exploration of the stitch. Quilting went from hobby to obsession. She’d come home from work, eat a quick dinner, then head out to her backyard studio and quilt until midnight. She did it for herself, with no real desire to show her work. Then in 2008, a friend urged her to enter Quilt National, the prestigious competition held at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Ohio. Kovarik had never heard of it but went ahead and
Quilt photos (4): Allen Mims
above: A stained, torn baby blanket became the binding for Global Warming, the Great Unraveling (2009). Arrows stitched at the bottom show average temperatures since 1950.
She starts each quilt with a basic idea, a rough sketch. She lets the fabric tell her what it wants to be: Whole-cloth quilt? Pieced composition? Increasingly, it’s the stitch that takes center stage. “I leave spaces for myself to draw, so my piecing is minimal. If I add too much piecing, I lose the thread.” She then begins the slow work of moving fabric under the needle of her well-worn Bernina 153 sewing machine. Pictures and patterns emerge stitch by stitch, maybe a square foot’s worth on a typical workday, “if I’m lucky.” Some elements are recognizable, such as animals or trees. Often, though, Kovarik simply doodles, letting her unconscious, or as she likes to think of it, the thread itself – guide the way, almost like automatic writing. Shapes and forms repeat themselves “whether I want them there or not.” Spirals, branches, ladders, and clouds recur. So do towers, spires, steeples, and antennae, structures that reach for the sky and transmit messages. “I let it be a journey, let one stitch inﬂuence the next. I have to let the line have its own voice,” she says of her free-motion method. Kovarik’s own path has had its twists and turns. Born in 1953, she moved around a lot growing up, whenever her father, a Sears executive, got transferred – to Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, and ﬁnally Chicago. She majored in graphic design at Southern Illinois University and married in 1975. She and her husband, Jim, moved to southern Illinois and worked various jobs for a few years; then, like many idealistic young people of their generation, they made an adventure of going back to the land. They bought 10 acres in southern Illinois, designed and built a house, and became vegetable farmers. Then, in 1981, their 3-year-old son, Damien,
“I search for that collective unconscious that I believe is there, in the air.”
left: Stream of Consequences (2013) is an homage to the work of Memphis’ Wolf River Conservancy. Stitches rhythmically unfurl over a changing landscape of city, suburbs, and farmland.
above: Kovarik allows her fabric to inform her designs. For Worry (2011), the material’s ragged, bumpy weave brought life’s complications to mind.
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top: Shattered, 2015, 34 x 34 in.
above: Beacons, 2009, 51 x 26 in.
right: Look closely: On each side of Same But Not (2011), the thread that forms the sphere is one continuous line.
submitted a piece. It not only got in but was chosen for the catalogue cover. At the opening, “I met all these artists who had incredible work. I thought, ‘These are my people!’ ” The year 2013 brought another turning point, in which Quilt National ﬁgured once again. Her mother had fallen ill and was in hospice in Kovarik’s home. Kovarik got a call from the organizers of that year’s show: Round and Round It Goes, her most ambitious quilt to date, had won a prize. She hung up, went into her mother’s room, and shared the news. “Mom was ecstatic, just crying with joy,” she recalls. “Two hours later, she died.” Within weeks, Kovarik decided to close her graphic design business and focus on her art. “Bleary-eyed” with emotion, she went to Quilt National to accept the Award of Excellence. “It brought a certain closure to my mom’s death and afﬁrmed the direction of my life and the choice I was making.” Now the thread of life – that long, strange trip – is the subject of Kovarik’s art. “You just move forward, keep taking steps,” she says. “It’s been a great journey, and continues to be. All of it informs my work. It makes me dig deeper, gives me more considered thoughts about what I’m doing, what’s important in life.” She still ﬁnds it hard to say “I’m an artist,” but it’s getting easier. Quilting “has created a passion for me. I’m eager every day to be making, to create things. I’m tireless at it, and I’m also breathless,” Kovarik says. “I’m amazed by the number of things that inspire me now – music, news, daffodils coming up, my kids, grandkids, everything. I have piles of ideas. “I just feel like I’m in the right space. This is right for me now.” paulakovarik.com
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Photos: Allen Mims
“I let it be a journey, let one stitch inﬂuence the next. I have to let the line have its own voice.”
The Panel Caroline Baumann director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, which reopened in December after a three-year renovation
MusEuMs reiMagiNEd. “Museums came of age during the Industrial Revolution, when large, time-intensive efforts to create one-size-ﬁtsall experiences like exhibitions worked remarkably well,” says John H. Falk, co-author of The Museum Experience Revisited and one of the experts we consulted about contemporary issues confronting museums. “Clearly today this approach does not work so well.” Today, museums face not only a fractured, often impatient audience, but also competition from a host of leisure activities – from shopping to movies to social media. They have to balance their role as protector of artifacts with the need to welcome the public. They need to provide space for contemplation – and interaction. They need to probe the past even as they look to the future. We asked eight thinkers who have wrestled with these very quandaries to answer three questions, considering how museums can be as relevant and essential as possible in our culture. Here’s what they had to say. 084 american craft jun/jul 15
John H. Falk professor, Oregon State University; co-author, The Museum Experience Revisited Holly Jerger senior curator of public engagement, Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles Nina Simon executive director, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History; author, The Participatory Museum Sree Sreenivasan chief digital ofﬁcer, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cindi Strauss assistant director, programming, and curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Scott Stulen curator of audience experiences and performance, Indianapolis Museum of Art Namita Gupta Wiggers former director and chief curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon; ACC trustee
What is one way that museums can balance education and entertainment in their programs
Sree Sreenivasan: The Met is successful because we are able to maintain our scholarly standards while being accessible to the public. The key is storytelling. Our video series 82nd & Fifth is an example of how we are able to educate and entertain at the same time. A hundred curators talk about their 100 favorite objects, in two minutes each.
Brunch photo: Nathaniel Edmunds Photography / Baumann photo: © Erin Baiano / Sreenivasan photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Other portraits: Courtesy of panelists
John H. Falk: Far too much ink and angst have been wasted within the museum community debating the false dichotomy of education and entertainment. Museum visitors seek both to learn and enjoy themselves. The difﬁculty is in developing educationally oriented experiences that are at appropriate levels of interest and intellectual challenge for the wide diversity of people who visit museums. Seeking a single, common-denominator solution is not the answer. A more successful way to accomplish this seemingly impossible balancing act is to create different museum experiences targeted at different audiences – for example, some experiences might be designed for a knowledgeable hobby group while another might seek to appeal to those
aesthetic or emotional engagement. For still others, it’s about igniting curiosity. To me, there is no universal prescription for how a museum should program – as long as it has a mission and focuses ruthlessly on it.
Chefs prepare plates for an Avant Brunch, a quarterly multisensory dining experience at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
who have never even thought about a particular topic. In this way the museum can collectively meet the needs of a large and diverse set of audiences but avoid the trap of trying to satisfy every person with every experience. Nina Simon: Stop worrying about the difference between education and entertainment. As long as people are engaged with your mission, you’re doing your work properly. For some museums, that means creating amazing learning environments. For others, it’s about
Caroline Baumann: We’ve turned the museum inside out by creating a dynamic and immersive environment that invites participation, not just observation. Cooper Hewitt’s new visitor experience includes the high-tech Immersion Room where we’re using cutting-edge technology to bring to life our historic collection of wallpaper. In this space, visitors can explore digital images of the museum’s wallpapers and see them projected onto the walls at full scale, as they were intended to be viewed, or sketch their own designs. The interactive experience is married with relevant interpretation, including the ability to browse through more than 200 historic wallpaper samples and watch short videos where design professionals speak about what inspires them. By sketching their own wallpaper designs, visitors can better understand the importance of design elements, especially how patterns, repeats, and colors can have a major impact in a room. Visitors have been lining up for their chance to play designer and sharing their creative designs on social media. Holly Jerger: Craft is in a unique position to address
the blending of education and entertainment, as people often make things in their leisure time. At CAFAM, we value our visitors making something while they are here as much as we value people experiencing our exhibitions. The opportunities for making are often directly connected to the artworks on display and add layers of enjoyment and understanding to our exhibitions. Namita Gupta Wiggers: Education and entertainment are not mutually exclusive. Smaller, nimble museums, such as the Craft and Folk Art Museum and Museum of Contemporary Craft design experience into their curatorial projects. The Denver Art Museum’s incorporation of interactive stations throughout the museum is exemplary – and includes both stand-alone and embedded spaces for active process within exhibition galleries.
“Fun does not need to be frivolous, nor does smart need to be boring.” scott stulen
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q1 continued Scott Stulen: Museums can balance entertainment and education by grounding everything in their mission, while making the experience of going to the museum into an engaging social outing. One way is by making unexpected juxtapositions to ﬁnd new connections between the museum and everyday life. For example, at the IMA, we offer an ARTxFIT class, which explores physicality in art through a combination of ingallery lessons and aerobic activity. We host quarterly Avant Brunch events that merge quietly listening to unreleased music, eating an exclusive menu by a local chef, all set in an unusual space within the museum campus. These programs bring together different creative ﬁelds and showcase the museum as a hub of diverse activities, not just a static collection of objects, while creating a memorable experience that could only happen at the museum. Our motto is that fun does not need to be frivolous, nor does smart need to be boring. Cindi Strauss: Our goal is to offer our viewers engaging experiences through our exhibitions, programming, and special events. If we are successful, they should be equally informative and enjoyable. There is no magic formula. It is all about understanding your audience and establishing initiatives that best serve them and the mission of the institution. 086 american craft jun/jul 15
are a slow medium, taking months and even years to put together. Yet people increasingly demand real-time information. What’s one way that museums can resolve that conﬂict
The CityRacks design competition, a joint project of Cooper Hewitt and the New York City Department of Transportation, explored a timely, practical issue: how to promote public interest in urban cycling.
Cindi Strauss: There are many types of museums, many of which have shorter lead times for exhibitions than large, encyclopedic museums like the MFAH. These more nimble institutions tend to be noncollecting and therefore operate much closer to real time in their exhibition programming. That said, for larger institutions like mine, there are a number of strategies that we are employing in addition to using our website, cell-phone tours, in-gallery programming and tours, and apps to provide up-to-date content. These include having short-term, pop-up-like installations that
“The bravest exhibitions aren’t ‘done’ on opening night; they grow and morph until they close.” nina simon
present a signiﬁcant current work for a month or so. These installations occur throughout the museum, allowing for unexpected and lively exchanges with the public. Namita Gupta Wiggers: It is imperative that curators have time to delve deeply into projects. Research is foreshortened all too often to accommodate running the museum as a business. However, there are ways to rethink how museums employ their spaces to develop new exhibition models with different durational limits – and those can reveal curatorial process. What could exhibition
media with the same thoughtful attention devoted to collectionbuilding and exhibitions.
prototyping look and feel like? Could small spaces be used to explore topics of current interest and research-in-progress in quicker rotation versus the longer exhibitions requiring large amounts of dedicated space? What might happen if the spaces within museums were used differently – turning dedicated galleries for speciﬁc periods into ﬂexible, adaptable spaces? Social media is an obvious answer to the public desire for rapid responses. But curators are trained for marathons, not sprints. This makes social media outlets seem irrelevant and a distraction for many. Museums must treat social Monika Sosnowski Photography
Caroline Baumann: Museums showing contemporary work absolutely compete against the real time of the internet and need to be creative in ﬁnding ways for spontaneity in exhibition installations and programming. As a design museum, we work to be very responsive in how we collect and exhibit objects that are current and relevant right now, from newly released designs to prototypes, or projects that address timely issues. One example is our 2008 partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation, where we exhibited the ﬁnalists in a contest to design a more functional bike rack and raise the proﬁle of cycling as both a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation. John H. Falk: Museums came of age during the Industrial Revolution when large, timeintensive efforts to create onesize-ﬁts-all experiences like exhibitions worked remarkably well. Clearly, today this approach does not work so well. The next-generation museum education solution has yet to be invented. Museums are left to experiment with alternative strategies, strategies that can more nimbly meet visitor needs. One promising solution that many museums have been experimenting with is to create the shell of an exhibition with objects and interactives but replace the labels with digital tools such as cell phones or loaned tablets. This allows the “interpretation” to be constantly updated and customized while leaving the core of the experience stable. Only time will determine whether this or any of the many other solutions being tried at the moment prove to be a suitable longterm answer.
Holly Jerger: Incorporating interactive components where visitors can express their ideas about the exhibition themes can make the experience more relevant to them. Nina Simon: Think about exhibitions as a time-based medium. They can evolve and change over time if they are designed to do so. That can take the form of asking artists to engage differently with the space over time (through new work, workshops, or performances). It can also take the form of opening up space for visitors to contribute their stories and perspectives to the exhibition. The bravest exhibitions aren’t “done” on opening night; they grow and morph until they close. Scott Stulen: The answer is going digital. While the painstaking process of developing exhibitions remains unchanged, many museums are responding to the demands for real-time information through savvy and timely use of social media platforms. The ability to use social media to contextualize works in the collection, respond to current events, and solicit dialogue among patrons makes the museum feel alive and connected to the outside world. It is more than a marketing platform; it’s a place for audiences to share their experience and give honest feedback. I have personally used social media as a real-time survey of programming successes and failures. Problems with ticketing, amenities, or even event content can be identiﬁed and addressed immediately by scanning Twitter trafﬁc, often while the event is still happening. Sree Sreenivasan: Just having great exhibitions isn’t good enough anymore. You can tie current events to almost any exhibition through social media. Basically, you want to give people a reason to pay attention. jun/jul 15 american craft 087
The collective Yarn Bombing Los Angeles helped the Craft and Folk Art Museum take art outside museum walls and into the broader community.
members tend to be older and white. What’s one way that museums can be more relevant to visitors who are younger and more diverse
Namita Gupta Wiggers: Stop asking the question of the same people, and start asking questions of the communities you need to serve. Consider models such as the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Paciﬁc American Experience, where the community is built into the process of creating exhibitions and programs. This means shifting power structures and longstanding paradigms, asking tough questions, and responding to the answers with real change that may not result in museums that look like museums today. On a pragmatic level: Do the hours of your museum meet the work schedules of the communities with whom you want to connect? Is public transportation or the cost of admission a barrier to 088 american craft jun/jul 15
visitation? What makes new visitors feel welcome? How can you engage staff – at all levels – to actively ask, listen, and act toward change? Nina Simon: Spend time learning about your audiences of interest – who they are, what they seek, what inspires them, what they need, what skills they have to offer. Many museums make the mistake of trying to force-ﬁt existing programming to new audiences. Being successful means ﬂipping the formula. When you develop programming based on authentic community needs and assets, your programming becomes responsive and relevant. Sree Sreenivasan: Every museum can easily be more attractive to diverse groups in the community by demonstrating it’s an open, welcoming place. Your programming, your staff, your art need to be diverse if you want a diverse audience. You can’t do what you’ve been doing for 50 years and then complain the audience is evolving. Cindi Strauss: For most museums, relevance begins with reaching out to school-age children of all socio-economic groups in the hope that it will make them lifelong museum visitors and that they will, in the short term, bring their families and friends back with them. But museums have to do more than this; they must break down perceived as well as
economic barriers to entry and ﬁnd ways to turn one-off visits for exhibitions and special events into repeat attendance. Scott Stulen: In general, younger audiences are not seeking solitary activities, but rather opportunities to gather with friends to socialize around something unique. Inventive programming is the vehicle to make the museum more accessible, playful, and conducive to social interaction.
This is not a rejection of the content in the museum, just a new way to frame the museum. At the IMA I have started a division called ARTx to introduce more experimental programs of this nature. It’s early, but the programming is drawing younger and more diverse audiences and is attracting more of our “traditional” members. If you can create a program that both the hipsters and board members are attending, that is a huge win.
Photo: Martha Benedict
Holly Jerger: Take the artwork outside the museum’s walls. At CAFAM, we’ve been working to do this through our outreach program, Folk Art Everywhere, and by activating our streetside presence with artists’ projects on the museum’s façade and in our front windows. Through Folk Art Everywhere, workshops and artwork are offered in the places people work and live, and the program manager collaborates with those communities to develop the programs. The ﬁrst CAFAM façade project, “Granny Squared,” was proposed and executed by Yarn Bombing Los Angeles, a collective that meets monthly at the museum. That project had a huge impact, and it really inspired us to think outside the normal exhibition space.
Caroline Baumann: At Cooper Hewitt, we’re committed to providing stellar design education to our community, from toddlers to adults, including a wonderful initiative called DesignPrep, which brings free in-depth design education programs to more than 600 New York City high school students each year. Through active engagement in the design process, students understand the many ways designers think and make, and gain important
21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving. At the 2013 Teen Design Fair, more than a third of the attendees identiﬁed themselves as Latino, followed by 28 percent African American, 13 percent multi-racial, 11 percent Asian, and 8 percent white. By reaching out to this generation, we help youth from many backgrounds learn about viable careers in design, ultimately improving the diversity of the many ﬁelds of design.
“You can’t do what you’ve been doing for 50 years and then complain the audience is evolving.” sree sreenivasan
John H. Falk: Over the years museums have invested considerable effort in attempting to broaden their audiences. Overwhelmingly, these efforts have been framed around demographics, despite growing evidence that this approach is not particularly successful. Demographic categories are too broad to sufﬁciently describe, let alone predict, why people do or do not visit museums. Although currently the demographics of museums skew toward older, white visitors, these individuals are not visiting because they are older and white. People visit museums in order to satisfy their own needs and interests. If a person feels that a museum is a bad ﬁt with their needs, they won’t visit. If museums want to attract individuals who currently do not visit, regardless of age or raceethnicity, they need to better understand how these individuals deﬁne their needs and interests and determine how they can cost-effectively reframe their exhibitions, programs, and marketing to better ﬁt those needs. jun/jul 15 american craft 089
The Museum of Contemporary Crafts was a change-maker for artists, audiences, and the ACC. story by
Decades before most museums started thinking about a balance of education and entertainment, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts made its reputation with imaginative exhibitions.
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enjoyed rising popularity among the public at large; at the same time, an increasing focus on “the original” sought to celebrate work wrought by the hand of the individual craftsperson. The MCC was a place to explore that atmosphere of creative dichotomy, a venue for its emerging trailblazers. Organized by Tibbs, the debut exhibition, “Craftsmanship in a Changing World,” educational element assumed confronted this cultural tension a greater role in the galleries. head-on, featuring the work “We were creating shows that of craftspeople who were blurwere imaginative, and perhaps ring the boundaries between art, not as formal for a museum, but design, and craft. reached people and new audiThe MCC would go on ences,” Smith says. not only to mount innovative exhibitions, but also to develop fresh educational programbelow (3): ming for a new kind of visitor The debut exhibition, experience. When Paul J. “Craftsmanship in a Changing World,” Smith, a member of the ACC’s explored the blurring education staff, was appointed boundaries between MCC director in 1963, that art, craft, and design.
Photos: American Craft Council Archives
on the evening of september 20, 1956, the doors of a renovated brownstone on New York’s West 53rd Street were unlocked: The American Craft Council’s new Museum of Contemporary Crafts had opened to the public. The staff of the museum, a predecessor of today’s Museum of Arts and Design, had given their all to prepare. In her autobiography, ACC founder Aileen Osborn Webb recalls their effort: “I arrived [an hour before opening] at 7:00 to ﬁnd director Tom Tibbs exhausted, saying that all he was good for was to push a broom around.” What compelled them? Why did the ACC, an organization established in the early 1940s with an educational mission, put so much energy into founding a museum? The American Craft Council (known then as the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council) already had a venue to promote artists. Its retail outlet a few blocks away, America House, featured a rotating selection of work by makers from across the country. The group also had a foot in formal education, as founders of the School for American Craftsmen (today the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology). The museum offered the organization something different – and timely. The post-World War II era was a time of great growth and change in the United States. Industrial design and mass-produced products
above (3): Forget “Do not touch”: Permission to play was the heart of the museum’s 1964 exhibition “Amusements Is.”
One of Smith’s early exhibitions, “Amusements Is” featured a plethora of fun, humorous, and fantastical objects – and permission to participate, to play. The museum became “a total educational
zone,” as Smith recalled in a Bard College oral history project. Such direct audience engagement upended the traditional museum edict – “Do not touch” – and visitors couldn’t get enough. Smith, who remained director through 1987, still marvels at the memory: “The success of that show – and the fact that I wasn’t ﬁred, that I got away with it . . . ” Even as the museum provided new opportunities
for makers and audiences, it was also opening up new possibilities for the American Craft Council. Establishing a museum lent weight and authority to the still-young organization. With its emphasis on “the new,” on what was current in the ﬁeld, the MCC – and in turn, the ACC – quickly gained a reputation as the voice of contemporary American craft. “Reporting on ‘the new’ wasn’t a tightly orchestrated or policed policy,” explains Smith, “but it was very much part of the idea for the museum.” The museum had a modest permanent collection; its primary emphasis was as a venue for innovative, emerging work from across the nation. At the time, “the studio craft movement was growing so rapidly, and so much was happening, ” Smith says.
The brownstone on West 53rd no longer houses the museum. Over the decades, the institution moved to progressively larger buildings and changed its name twice – ﬁrst to the American Craft Museum (which in 1990 became an independent entity) and, in 2002, to the Museum of Arts and Design, or MAD. But that drive to reﬂect the new, to serve as the leading champion for contemporary craft, is something the museum and the ACC have never lost. Head to craftcouncil.org to browse catalogues, photographs, and other documents from the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, courtesy of the ACC Library’s Digital Archives. Rachel Kirchgasler is ACC education coordinator.
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wide world of craft
Made in Oakland In the East Bay, artists are working to make
craft visible, accessible, and economically viable.
story by Danielle Maestretti
wide world of craft
wide world of craft
terms that also describe the craft scene in Oakland. Here, artists are working to make their labors visible, to make art accessible, and to make craft economically viable. And the city has their back: Oakland’s newly elected mayor, Libby Schaaf, even included a “Made in Oakland” festival as part of a week of inauguration events.
With innovative performances such as Hot Couture (left, above, and overleaf) and community-oriented classes (such as an allgirls welding workshop with students of Edna Brewer Middle School, top), the Crucible aims to make it possible for anyone to enjoy the ﬁne and industrial arts.
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Crucible photos (3) and overleaf: Heather Hryciw
his is how artists do fashion shows in Oakland: Live snakes. Live music. Stilt-walkers. Trampolines. Clothes featuring feathers, bones, antlers, LED lights, and metal. Acrobats and aerialists. And ﬁre – so much ﬁre. This was Hot Couture 2015, an annual “fusion of fashion and ﬁre” held at the Crucible, an industrial arts space in West Oakland. The runway was ﬁlled with elaborate wearable pieces incorporating ﬁre in quirky ways, complete with ﬁreﬁghter-models to put them out. Flaming whips were snapped and maneuvered while diligent ﬁre safety team members hustled about; there were a couple of moments where runway-adjacent guests feared they might lose their eyebrows. The pieces were soulful, invigorating, and innovative, the atmosphere brimming with enthusiasm and energy – all
Beasley photos (2): © Terry Lorant Photography, courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California
wide world of craft
In 2014, West Oakland sculptor and community activist Bruce Beasley bequeathed his studios, sculpture garden, and archives to the Oakland Museum of California, a rare gift from a living artist.
Industrial arts West Oakland’s industrial roots run deep; the massive cranes at the Port of Oakland are probably the best-known aesthetic feature of this part of town. It’s no surprise, then, that West Oakland is home to the city’s industrial arts corridor, where active warehouses stand among those that are now artist spaces. Renowned sculptor Bruce Beasley has two blocks’ worth of studio space, archives, and a sculpture garden, which he recently bequeathed to the Oakland Museum of California.
Just up the street from Beasley’s studio complex, the Crucible’s warehouse looms large, literally and ﬁguratively: Its 56,000-square-foot space hosts classes from blacksmithing, ceramics, and glassblowing to – of course – ﬁre performance. “You’ll ﬁnd anybody and everybody inside the walls of this building at some point,” says Nick Fynn, former communications manager. Rents are rising with alarming speed and ferocity in the Bay Area. However, the Crucible works hard to boost the accessibility of the arts: The organization reserves 20 percent of its classes and summer camps for neighborhood youth who couldn’t otherwise afford them. Local families also know the Crucible for its regular Bike Fix-a-Thons, when neighborhood kids can bring in their broken bicycles and watch – and learn – as they’re repaired. jun/jul 15 american craft 095
wide world of craft
The success of these programs has boosted demand for courses in frame building, restoration, and the craft of the custom art bike, says education director Kristy Alﬁeri. And it turns out to be a pretty cool way to interest kids in welding. Says Fynn: “In the big picture, we’re trying to talk about creativity as something that in and of itself is valuable; we want people to be creative here regardless of their economic background.” About a mile away, on Mandela Parkway, there’s another giant in Oakland’s industrial arts scene: American Steel Studios, whose cavernous space attracts metalworkers and other artists (especially those who work on a very, very large scale).
Heart of craft Head north on Broadway and you’ll ﬁnd California College of the Arts. Formerly known as California College of Arts and Crafts, it was founded in 1907
Feleciai Favroth sells her Skincare by Feleciai line at Oakland events such as Art Murmur First Fridays at the 25th Street Collective in Uptown.
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Dziedzic portrait: Marion & Rose’s Workshop / Favroth portrait: Joseph C. Kerr
Kory Dziedzic of Red Dog Turnings is one of the many local artisans and makers represented at Marion & Rose’s Workshop in Old Oakland.
San Pablo Ave
St an fo rd Av M.L.K. Jr Way e
Mountain View Cemetery 40th St adw
San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
1. The Compound Gallery 1167 65th St. thecompoundgallery.com
2. Øgaard 5861 San Pablo Ave. ogaard.org
6328 San Pablo Ave. averbforkeepingwarm.com
3. A Verb for Keeping Warm
4. California College of the Arts 5212 Broadway cca.edu oo Br
UPTOWN / LAKE MERRITT
yn Ba sin
5. 25th Street Collective 477 25th St. 25thstreetcollective.com
6. Mercury 20 Gallery 475 25th St. mercurytwenty.com
7. Creative Growth Art Center
9. Marion & Rose’s
13. The Crucible
15. Gray Loft Gallery
461 Ninth St. marionandrose.com
4200 Piedmont Ave. iloveneighbor.com
1260 Seventh St. thecrucible.org
2889 Ford St. grayloftgallery.com
8. Oakland Museum of California
10. Crown Nine
14. American Steel Studios
16. Faultline Artspace
1000 Oak St. museumca.org
515 Ninth St. crown-nine.com
3980 Piedmont Ave. lireille.com
1960 Mandela Pkwy. americansteelstudios.com
815 High St. faultlineartspace.com
355 24th St. creativegrowth.org
Morey photo: The Compound Gallery / Wood photo: Courtesy of Øgaard
For Ido Yoshimoto’s Astral Planes series, Tessa Watson of Øgaard textile gallery dyed wood with indigo.
and with its San Francisco campus today enrolls some 2,000 students; its Oakland campus is home to programs in ceramics, glass, jewelry/metal arts, sculpture, and printmaking. The impact the school has had on contemporary craft is immeasurable: Ceramist Viola Frey taught there, as did glass artist Marvin Lipofsky, who founded the glass program in 1967. Ceramist Peter Voulkos and ﬁber artist Kay Sekimachi are among its prominent alumni,
as is furniture maker (and Oakland icon) Garry Knox Bennett, whose workshop is near Jack London Square. Creativity overﬂows into the areas around the campus. Nearby Piedmont Avenue is full of appealing shops; visitors can browse home and garden goods at Neighbor, for example, or covet the jewelry at Lireille.
Meet the makers Oaklanders love to gather for semi-organized community
outings, and artists are increasingly taking the chance to show their wares and tell their stories. The nonproﬁt Oakland Art Murmur has been a major force in this arena, organizing a First Friday gallery walk with more than 40 participating galleries, from Uptown’s Creative Growth, an art center for adults with disabilities, to Old Oakland’s Marion & Rose’s Workshop, a small retail space with a wellcurated selection of art and craft. The Art Murmur vibe
The Compound Gallery recently showed work by ceramist Crystal Morey.
depends a bit on which neighborhood you’re in, but in general, it’s a happy mix of artsy types, adventuring families, and party-seekers, all talking about art in a decidedly nonstuffy atmosphere. jun/jul 15 american craft 097
wide world of craft
Artists can track hours spent at the Compound Gallery’s 3D-printing Art Lab on this vintage time clock.
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left: Rebecca Peters leads a letterpress workshop at the Compound Gallery, a North Oakland ﬁxture that provides classes, studio space, and other supportive resources for a wide range of 2D- and 3D-focused artists.
if First Friday isn’t always a great night for sales, Kurihara says, “I’m telling a lot of stories.” At the same time, Kurihara and 25C are working to create economic structures that allow artists to make a living from their work – and allow them to stay in Oakland, even as it grows more expensive. Another nonproﬁt, Oakland Makers, aims to bring together
the city’s diverse artisans to celebrate their contributions, facilitate sharing tools and skills, and serve as “a centralized, supportive organization that can help weave together the group,” says Kurihara, also an Oakland Makers co-founder. When someone needs a CNC router or is looking for a partner to help share the cost of bulk fabrics, they have a one-
stop way to do that. “It’s the No. 1 thing that people want: connections with other makers,” says Kurihara. The collaborative spirit driving Oakland’s art and craft scene feels urgent because of rising rents, but it also feels exciting – there’s a sense that there’s room to keep growing, instead of fears over competition or limited audience.
Crown Nine photos (2): Crown Nine / Letterpress and time clock photos (2): The Compound Gallery
above: Crown Nine is the ﬂagship boutique of jewelry designer Kate Ellen, who also represents more than 20 other jewelry artists, plus makers of other handmade goods.
First Friday galleries are especially concentrated in Uptown, but there are clusters throughout the city, as well as related offshoots on other designated days. In East Oakland, for example, the Jingletown neighborhood has a 2nd Friday Art Walk, where participating galleries host receptions, demos, and live music. Hiroko Kurihara, a textile artist and founder of the 25th Street Collective in Uptown (known as 25C), notes that people are eager for connections to makers and to the meaning behind what they’re making. “Seeing the manufacturing is more alluring,” she says. “It gives people a connection to what they’re buying.” So even
wide world of craft
left: Visitors take in Ruth Tabancay’s “Geometricity” exhibition at member-run Mercury 20 Gallery.
“Geometricity” photo: Manon Vergerio / Corbé photo: Marion & Rose’s Workshop / Vejar photo: Sara Remington / Carriere photo: Courtesy of Gray Loft Gallery
right: Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm, which offers classes in natural plant dyeing, spinning, quilting, and other ﬁber arts.
We want people to be creative here, regardless of their economic background.” nick fynn
above: Marion & Rose’s carries state-themed porcelain baking trays made by husband-andwife duo Corbé. right: The “Inhabiting Space” show at Gray Loft Gallery featured work by ﬁve artists (such as Renee Carriere) who have been in conversation for more than 40 years.
“I feel like there’s a lot of respect for all the different sorts of art and artists that belong in the community, and I feel like that deep respect really helps cultivate this idea of collaboration,” says Alﬁeri. “What’s good for one is good for all of us.” Danielle Maestretti, a frequent contributor to American Craft, lives in Oakland. jun/jul 15 american craft 099
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The Community Issue
The American Craft Marketplace showcases artwork, galleries, events, products, and services. To place a Marketplace ad, please contact Joanne Smith | 612-206-3122 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Classified advertising is $3.95 per word, minimum 20 words. Name and address count as words. Example: “A.B. Smith” is three words. Full payment must accompany order, mailed to American Craft, 1224 Marshall Street NE, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55413. Or contact Joanne Smith at email@example.com when placing classified ads using credit card payment. Deadlines: June 5 for the August/September 2015 issue; July 31 for the October/November 2015 issue. Ceramic Artwork Needed Ceramic artwork needed to fill 700 cubic-foot wood-fired anagama kiln, able to accommodate 36” x 48” pieces. Kiln space available in exchange for helping out with firing-assistance & wood preparation. Space also available for cash. Bathhouse, accommodations, WiFi, lessons, & outdoor studio space available on site. Convenient location 1931 Strawberry Fields, York, PA, 17406. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ad Index American Craft Council ...2, 4 , 27, 100 Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts ................................ 4 Artful Home .......................... Cover 2 Artisan Home Tour .........................27 Bonhams .........................................11 CERF+ ......................................... 102 Cheongju International Craft Competition ............................ 1 Corning Museum of Glass ............... 4 Crafts America ............................... 13 Gravers Lane Gallery ............. Cover 3 Greater Denton Arts Council ....... 102 L’Attitude Gallery.................. Cover 3 Marketplace ...................................101 Max’s ............................................... 7 Michele Tuegel Contemporary ....................... Cover 3
Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery.................................. 26 Myra Burg ....................................... 7 Penland Gallery ............................... 7 Penland School of Crafts .............. 102 Penland School of Crafts Auction ................................ 3 Peters Valley School of Craft ......................................... 102 Pilchuck Glass School .................... 26 Pittsburgh Glass Center ................. 13 Richard Opfer Auctioneering ......... 13 Schantz Galleries ............................. 9 The Grand Hand Gallery ....... Cover 3 Traver Gallery ....................... Cover 4 Weyrich Gallery/The Rare Vision Art Galerie .................. Cover 3 White Bird Gallery ................ Cover 3
american craft council The American Craft Council is a national, nonprofit public educational organization that traces its inception to 1941. Founded by Aileen Osborn Webb, the mission of the Council is to champion and promote the understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft. Programs include the bimonthly magazine American Craft, annual juried shows presenting artists and their work, the American Craft Council Awards honoring excellence, a specialized library, conferences, workshops, and seminars. 1224 Marshall St. NE, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55413 Phone (612) 206-3100; (800) 836-3470 Fax (612) 355-2330 email@example.com www.craftcouncil.org Membership Services: (888) 313-5527 Magazine: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.americancraftmag.org Library: email@example.com 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday Shows: firstname.lastname@example.org (800) 836-3470 A Funding Source This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Board of Trustees Stuart Kestenbaum, Chair Deer Isle, ME Barbara Berlin Potomac, MD
Ayumi Horie Auburn, ME
Bruce W. Pepich Racine, WI
Kevin Buchi Malvern, PA
Michael Lamar Providence, RI
Sylvia Peters Knoxville, TN
Sonya Clark Richmond, VA
Stoney Lamar Saluda, NC
Judy C. Pote Philadelphia, PA
Chuck Duddingston Minneapolis, MN
Lorne Lassiter Charlotte, NC
Robert Duncan Lincoln, NE
Kathryn LeBaron Lincoln, NE
Sidney Rosoff, Honorary trustee and counsel, New York, NY
Libba Evans Winston-Salem, NC
Wendy Maruyama San Diego, CA
Kelly Gage Hamel, MN
Lydia Matthews Brooklyn, NY
Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez Boston, MA
Marlin Miller Reading, PA
James Hackney Jr. New Haven, CT
Alexandra Moses Wellesley, MA
Charlotte Herrera Webster, NY
Gabriel Ofiesh Charlottesville, VA
Josh Simpson Shelburne Falls, MA Thomas Turner Kalamazoo, MI Damian Velasquez Albuquerque, NM Barbara Waldman San Francisco, CA Namita Gupta Wiggers Portland, OR Patricia A. Young Silver Spring, MD
American Craft Council Staff Leadership Team Christopher H. Amundsen Executive Director email@example.com
Gregory E. Allen Director of Finance and Administration
Pamela Diamond Director of Marketing and Communications
Monica Moses Editor in Chief, American Craft
Elissa Chaffee Director of Development
Melanie Little Director of Shows
Perry A. Price Director of Education
take us with you
Recently acquired by Fuller Craft Museum, this untitled sculpture by Ruth Asawa is an example of her tiedwire work. Asawa developed the complex, branching structure in sketches (below).
jonathan fairbanks saw the box ﬁrst. The director of Fuller Craft Museum, he is also trustee of the late Joan Pearson Watkins’ extensive craft collection, helping to distribute the works of art to appropriate public institutions. At that moment, he and some museum colleagues were sorting through a temporary storage unit. “We were about to stop for the day,” Fairbanks recalls. “And I saw a box with the big word ‘ASAWA’ on it.” 104 american craft jun/jul 15
Inside: a treasure. Ruth Asawa, who died in 2013, is a giant among American sculptors, known worldwide for her exquisite wire works. The piece Fairbanks and his team uncovered is an example of her tiedwire sculpture, a series Asawa began when the structure of a desert plant proved too tangled for her to draw. She had to construct it in three dimensions to understand it – and once she did, it opened her eyes to the possibilities of the medium.
Visitors to the Fuller can This particular sculpture do just that. The piece, a 2014 hangs on the wall; it spans gift to the museum from the 2.5 feet. “I am amazed at the Joan Pearson Watkins Trust, complexity of this piece and its fragility,” Fairbanks says. It had is currently on view as part of been packed, with extreme care, its “Crafting a Collection” exhito preserve each delicate strand. bition. The show, which runs through July 12, highlights sigAlso inside the box were drawniﬁcant acquisitions the museings Asawa had made to map um made between January 2012 out the elaborate structure. and September 2014. The Asa“If you get up close,” Fairbanks wa is among its gems. “When says, “you’ll see that these we got it out,” Fairbanks says, branches are conﬁgured in a “I just knew that it had to come systematic, almost mathematiinto our collection.” cal, way to enclose space.”
Photos: Courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum
CØNTEMPØRARY CRAFT — “Asymmetrical Asparagus Necklace” by Lindly Haunani at Michele Tuegel Contemporary. Polymer, wire cable and plastic tubing. 2014. 28” long; largest bead 4.5”x.5”
“Seated Figure” by Rick Beck at Gravers Lane Gallery. Cast glass, cast-glass table top/steel base. 78” x 23” x 23”
“In the Chute” by Wayne Potratz at The Grand Hand Gallery. Cast bronze, Tama-hagane steel, ﬁshskin, birchbark. 16” L x 5” W x 10” H
GRAVERS LANE GALLERY 8405 Germantown Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19118 (Historic Chestnut Hill ) (215) 247-1603 www.graverslanegallery.com
MICHELE TUEGEL CONTEMPORARY 320 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 823-1100 www.mtcontempo.com
WEYRICH GALLERY THE RARE VISION ART GALERIE 2935-D Louisiana NE Albuquerque, NM 87110 (505) 883-7410 www.weyrichgallery.com
L’ATTITUDE GALLERY 211 Newbury St. Boston, MA 02116 (617) 927-4400 www.lattitudegallery.com
THE GRAND HAND GALLERY 619 Grand Ave. St. Paul, MN 55102 (651) 312-1122 www.thegrandhand.com
WHITE BIRD GALLERY 251 N. Hemlock St. Cannon Beach, OR 97110 (503) 436-2681 www.whitebirdgallery.com