Grown Up Art & Crafts
After I left the legal profession but before going to design school, I immersed myself in handicrafts. I have always loved making things -- I learned to knit when I was 10, to sew when I was 12 -- and longed while working late into the night at law firms to get back into these things. That first year after I left law, I refinished and painted a bedroom set and made at least a dozen throw pillows. I still dabble. Mostly, I start projects that lay idle for years. But I always find time to marvel at others' work by going to craft shows.
The shows I attend aren't local church holiday fairs. They are juried shows of contemporary crafts by exceptional artisans. One of my favorite shows, Craftboston, was this past weekend. It's produced by The Society of Arts and Crafts, the oldest non-profit craft organization in the U.S. The show features the work of jewelry makers, potters and ceramicists, glass, fiber, metal and mixed media artists and studio furniture designers. The work of the furniture designers and ceramicists is my favorite. Here's a taste of the exceptional work I viewed this weekend.
The ceramics of Takashi and Theresa Ichihara of Yume Studio are influenced by age-old Japanese ceramic arts. Their pieces' graceful curves and simple glazes are spare and modern. No fussiness here. Just refined beauty and elegance.
Compare Yume Studio's work with that of Sarah Heimann. Sarah starts with raw clay pots. In a multi-faceted process, she draws intricate patterns, carves them, lays on slips, carves the patterns more, fires the pots, and then adds dimension by layering on glaze. The outcome of all of this work is stunning.
Equally complex is the pottery of Adero Willard. Adero works in terra cotta clay and is influenced by textile designs. She hand paints the clay and adds color and pattern through layered slips and wax resists. Her pieces have such a light, playful quality.
Photo from www.aderowillard.com
Although I'm partial to ceramics, I couldn't help but drool over the work of Dan Mirer. Dan is a glass artist who creates tabletop and decorative pieces. His glassware features subtle applications of gold leaf which fashion subtle highlights. But I was mostly captivated by the pieces he creates with his bubble-trapping technique. The bubbles create hollows that lead to luminous, and at the same time, whimsical pieces.
In the fiber arts, I always look forward to the hand-tufted wool carpets of Meg Little. Her rugs are laden with color and pattern and work as well when hung on the wall as lain on the floor. Here is Meg amidst her strike off samples.
And here's one of her playful patterns.
Craft shows showcase the furniture creations of woodworkers with the ultimate respect for wood as a medium. I'm struck by the beautiful surface treatments they create from the figuring inherent in different woods. Take, for example, this dresser exhibited by Dan Klein of Klein Woodworking. It's made from quarter sawn cherry and figured cherry veneer. Notice the wave form and unique drawer pulls. This is not a piece you'd find in a furniture store or even a trade showroom.
Other favorites of mine are Bonnie Bishoff and J.M. Syron. Collaborating for 25 years, this pair creates one-of-a-kind pieces that are more art forms than furniture -- mandating space and focus to work in vernacular architecture. Many of their pieces combine surface treatments of polymer clay. This chair, exhibited at Craftboston, reflects this technique.
Craftboston produces two shows a year, at holiday time and in the Spring. Both are musts! And another favorite, not to be missed, is the Paradise City Arts Festival. I love going to this show in Northampton, Massachusetts on Columbus Day weekend. What a great time to take a drive in New England and see the sights.