Who moved my….

Like we said before…Handful of Salt‘s got a brand new site, a whole new look, and new features (but the same great profiles and interviews of makers, designers, craftspeople and more.)

But you’ve gotta get there first.

If you’re hitting this page, you’ve probably followed a link or a bookmark that brought you here. Make sure that you’re going to (and bookmarking!) www.handfulofsalt.com (instead of handfulofsalt.wordpress.com).

And if you’ve subscribed to the blog in the past, make sure you sign up to stay firmly in the loop. We tried to convert everyone, but…(FYI, if you received our last newsletter, you’re already subscribed.) We’ll make sure you’re not getting hit twice: our friendly newsletter system should help us kick out duplicates.

Where to sign up? Check out the upper right hand corner of our new home page: the part that says Be in the Know. Give us your deets (which won’t be shared with others, of course) and you’ll keep getting the news. Thanks….and let us know what you think!

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Hot Press, Cool Events: April 2011

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…upcoming! And it’s all good!

Starting next month, you’ll be seeing a whole new look to the Handful of Salt site…more features, more ways to get the scoop on what’s going on, and way more inspiration. But have no fear, we’ll still be featuring profiles on amazing DesignCraft heroes and heroines. We’ll also be publishing Hot Press, Cool Events via a monthly newsletter and also have another newsletter (called The Mix) that points you to all the latest on Handful of Salt. So if you’re not a subscriber already, sign up now and we’ll make sure your subscription goes through without a hitch.

We hope you like the changes because we’re really excited about them…and please, let us know what you think!

(PS. With luck…..the new site will go live early next week. Stay tuned…because you know how these things go!)

Northern California

Marcia Stuermer, SOMA Spring Open Studios Event

April 2nd and 3rd,2011 @ Fossil Faux Studios, 1268 Folsom St, San Francisco

Come out for Fossil Faux Studios, founded by artist/designer Marcia Stuermer, SOMA Spring Open Studios Event. The event will feature new works in resin, wine, shuffleboard and more. Can’t wait until Saturday? The opening reception is on Friday April 1 from 6-9.

Public Glass Artists and Artisan Benefit Auction

April 16th, 2011 @ First Unitarian Universalist Church, Franklin at Geary, San Francisco

Public Glass, San Francisco’s center for glass art, invites you to its 7th annual benefit auction gala, ARTISTS & ARTISANS. The gala will feature the exquisite creations of more than 60 local national and international glass artists, all up for bid via live and silent auction. The event is Public Glass’ biggest fundraiser of the year, providing vital financial support for three shops, used by 66 resident artists,  and for its education program that reaches more than 300 students a year. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Purchase tickets here.

Shibumi Gallery presents Darcy Miro’s Sculptural Jewelry

April 2, 2011 – May 29, 2011 @ Shibumi Gallery, Berkeley

Shibumi Gallery in Berkeley will be showcasing the fabulous sculptural jewelry of Darcy Miro. The artist reception will be held on April 2 from 4-7 pm with an informal talk from the artist herself about the works displayed and the process from 4-5 pm.

San Francisco Center for the Book: Earth Day

April 23rd @ SFCB, San Francisco

Join SFCB as they celebrate Earth Day with fun and sustainable printing activities for the whole family. This year’s Earth Day will include the celebrating “Squid Printing” with two big, beautiful Pacific Humboldt Squid donated from the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. We’ll be inking them up and laying them out on paper to create fascinating imprints of their bodies. We will also be teaching a simple and sustainable book binding method to make your own journals, as well as vegetable carving to make uniquely printed greeting cards. Local book arts vendors will be on hand with their wares.

Exploding the Codex: Gallery Exhibition

March 1, 2011 – April 2, 2011 @ 142 Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley

Exploding the Codex is a show of artists’ books currently on view at Throckmorton Theater Gallery. Discover the theater of books! From the collection of Mary Austin, co-founder of San Francisco Center for the Book, this selection of sculptural artists’ books explores theather and story in structure outside of the traditional codex.

San Francisco Center for the Book Workshops

Ongoing in the month of April @ SFCB, San Francisco

Sign up for one of the many spring workshops San Francisco Center for the Book has to offer. Engage your creative spirit with workshops from textural letterpress printing to bookbinding with leather, they have something for everyone!

Architectural Photography Exhibition

March 3, 2011 – April 22, 2011 @ AIA San Francisco Gallery 130 Sutter Street

AIA San Francisco and Center for Architecture + Design present Architectural Photography, an exhibition featuring the creative work of a group of talented Bay Area architectural photographers. These images convey more than pictorial representations of a static building or space: they are expressions of the architect’s vision through the photographer’s filtered camera lens. It is an artistic endeavor that focuses on the photographer’s role to decide what information to include and what information to leave out, what is the best way to convey the architect’s vision, what emotions to elicit from the viewer, and ultimately what best captures the soul of the building or space. Participating photographers include, Keith Baker, Bruce Damonte, Joe Fletcher, Timothy Griffith, Emily Hagopian, Muffy Kibbey, David Duncan Livingston, Sharon Risedorph, Cesar Rubio, John Sutton, Matthew Millman, Ethan Kaplan, Michael David Rose, and Rien van Rijthoven.

AIA Design Awards Gala

April 14th, 2011 @ San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, Green Room, 401 Van Ness Ave

Join AIA San Francisco and the local architectural community in celebrating the winners of the 2011 AIA San Francisco Design Awards. The 2011 Gala honors the best of Bay Area architectural design and recognizes achievement in a broad range of architectural work. $55 AIA SF members – $65 General Admission. Purchase tickets athttp://aiasfgala.eventbrite.com


Crafting Architecture: Concept, Sketch, Model

February 16, 2011 – May 29th, 2011 @ Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco

Handmade and digitally fabricated architectural models and mockups provide insight into the role of craft in the architectural design process in this pop-up exhibition presented by the Museum of Craft and Design (MCD). The exhibition features models from over 20 San Francisco Bay Area architects and landscape architects and is located at the MCD at 201 Third Street in the heart of San Francisco’s museum district.

Eva Hesse: Studiowork

Through April 10, 2011 @ Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley CA.

http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/When we ask our interviewees who inspires them, Eva Hess’s name crops up time and time again. Now the Berkeley Art Museum is holding an exhibit of her work.  The exhibit features work made from a diverse range of materials, and includes pieces never before seen. This should be good.

Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave

Feb. 5 – Jun. 5, 2011 @ the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave is a painter by training, but textile and costume are her muses. Working in collaboration with leading costume historians and young fashion designers, de Borchgrave crafts a world of splendor from the simplest rag paper. Painting and manipulating the paper, she forms trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by rich depictions in early European painting or by iconic costumes in museum collections around the world.  The Legion of Honor is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave.

7th Annual Wearable Art Show and Sale

April 30, 2011 @ Lucie Stern Community Center, Palo Alto, California

Featuring unique artisan-made clothing, jewelry, and accessories, this year’s showcase welcomes a host of new and returning artists from throughout California and beyond, live models, and a chance to meet the designers in person.

Southern California

One by One: An Exploration of Book as Medium

March 3rd – May 14th, 2011 @ Craft in America Study Center

The Craft in American Study Center will be celebrating contemporary Book Arts with our exhibition “One by One”, an exploration of the book as a medium. This exhibition will gather the works of some of the most influential book artists and will be on view at the Craft Study Center. Complimenting this exhibition are a number of events and receptions, INSERT LINK

Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Affair With Textiles

Oct. 3, 2010 — Apr. 3, 2011 @ the Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California

Mingei International Museum collaborated with Zandra Rhodes and her studio to organize this exhibition of haute couture garments from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. The pieces reveal her process and worldwide influences.

Tour Heath Ceramics with Adam Silverman

April 10, 2011 @ Heath Los Angeles, 7525 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Like Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman, Heath Ceramics has a long history of producing quality wares that enrich our daily experiences. Meet Heath Los Angeles studio director and potter Adam Silverman for a tour and learn more about Heath’s unique approach to creating products that improve the lives of both their users and makers. RSVP in advance to RSVP@folkarteverywhere.com. This is a Folk Art Everywhere Happening. 2:00 – 3:30pm • FREE at Heath Los Angeles, 7525 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Oregon

Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

March 17 – July 30, 2011 @ the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Oregon

Portland based designer-craftsman Laurie Herrick created widely recognized weavings from the 1940’s until her death in 1995. This retrospective exhibition explores weaving as a living craft. Selected patterns by Herrick will be available on the web for weavers worldwide to interpret and share via Flickr. Five contemporary artists will participate in Museum residencies, creating personal responses to Herrick’s patterns and adding to this traveling exhibition.

East Coast

Smithsonian Craft Show

April 14-17,  2011 @the National Building Museum, 401 F St. Washington D.C.

120 juried artists, including DesignCraft Heroines Christina Goodman and Peggy Loudon, will sell their fine American craft from April 14th-April17th. Daily admission is $15 or $6 after 6pm on Thursday and Friday.

A Bit of Clay on the Skin: New Ceramic Jewelry

March 15 – September 4th, 2011 @ the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City

This exhibit explored the manifold appeal of ceramics, especially porcelain, in jewelry. It showcases the versatility and allure of the medium, which can be modeled or cast, used alone or with metal, wood and stone, and vary in color and texture. The exhibition showcases the scope an ingenuity of the more than one hundred works on view and features the work of 18 cutting-edge jewelry artists, including Peter Hoogeboom, Evert Nijland, Ted Noten, Gesine Hackenberg, Marie Pendaries, and Shu-Lin Wu. This is an AWESOME exhibit.

Yanick Lapuh: Your Ladder Is On Fire

March 12- July 10, 2011 @ Fuller Craft Museum, Massachusetts

Your Ladder is on Fire is an exhibition of approximately 15 bas-reliefs which revel in the space between painting and sculpture. They combine a series of symbols, shapes, and proxies into compositions painted with an exquisite control of color and tone. Lapuh painstakingly fabricates the individual elements of his compositions, forming an active three-dimensional structure rather than simply a passive surface. Many of his new works featured refer to the ancient traditions of jewelry making as a means of expression. Fuller Craft will celebrate the opening with a public reception on April 10th from 2-5 pm at the Museum. The reception is free for members and free with museum admission for all others.

Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffman, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche: Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900

Feb. 24, 2011 – Jun. 27, 2011 @ the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art, New York

Major works by fine artists Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele will be on view, as well as furniture by architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, and decorative artists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. There will be a special emphasis on fashion, with loans of key clothing and accessories from the period. The exhibition will also explore the overlap with new attitudes towards gender and sexuality that surface in Viennese literature and psychology at the time.

TENacity

Feb. 4 – Apr. 17, 2011 @ the Pittsburgh Glass Center (Hodge Gallery), Pittsburgh

For 10 years Pittsburgh Glass Center has been growing a community of glass artists. PGC’s newest exhibition, “TENacity”, will showcase the talents of glass artists in the region. Artists will reflect on events from the last 10 years ranging from 9/11 to the election of the first black president in the U.S. and create new work based on a historic event.

Loom and Lathe: The Art of Kay Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale

Feb. 5 – Sep. 11, 2011 @ the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts

This exhibition of fiber art and woodturning showcases the long and distinguished careers of Kay Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale. Married for over thirty years, each supported the other’s work, while becoming renowned in their separate fields.

Furniture Divas: New Work by Contemporary Makers

Feb. 19 – Oct. 30 2011 @ the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts

Curated by Meredyth Hyatt Moses, “Furniture Divas” presents the contemporary work of a dozen women in the field of studio furniture. The exhibition celebrates the contributions of these women to studio furniture and provides a snapshot of contemporary developments in the field. “Furniture Divas” celebrates the following artists: Vivian Beer, Polly Cassel, Gail Fredell, Jenna Goldberg, Barbara Holmes, Kristina Madsen, Sarah Martin, Wendy Maruyama, Judy Kensley McKie, Alison McLennon, Sylvie Rosenthal, Rosanne Somerson, Wendy Stayman, Leah Wood, and Yoko Zeltzerman-Miyaji.

SOFA New York

April 14-17, 2011 @ Park Avenue Armory in New York City

The 14th International Exposition of Sculpture Objects & Functional Art is a gallery-presented, international art exposition dedicated to bridging the worlds of design, decorative and fine art. Works by emerging and established artists and designers will be presented by international galleries and dealers.

United Kingdom

Meltdowns: Standard Bronze Casting Course

March 3 – April 5, 2011 @ Meltdowns, Ramsgate, Kent

Meltdowns have a new bronze casting course. With two dates in the diary for March – April and October 4th-November 8, 2011, this is a great chance to join an exciting workshop and learn the skills of bronze casting.

COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects

May 6-9, 2011 @ Saatchi Gallery, London

COLLECT is a highlight in the cultural calendar for anyone passionate about buying the very best in contemporary craft. This prestigious fair presents a selection of UK and international galleries representing dynamic work by their portfolio of artists. This year, COLLECT will feature 37 selected galleries showcasing the very best ceramic, glass, jewelry, textile, wood, furniture, silver and fine metal work by over 300 new and established artists from around the world.

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DesignCraft Hero: Donald Fortescue

A year. That’s how long it took to finally meet Donald Fortescue: artist, designer and teacher.

But then again, he was never exactly off my radar during that time.

Image courtesy of Donald Fortescue

Lawrence LaBianca, who had first mentioned him to me would,  from time to time, inquire whether I’d spoken to him. And from his years of teaching at California College of the Arts (where he also chaired the Furniture Program for over ten years) he seemed to have built up quite the fan club.

If his name came up in discussion (as it did with several Handful of Salt heroes and heroines) eyes would light up, voices would soften and smiles widen. (Being the cynical contrarian, I must say, these things had me narrowing my eyes a bit.) And finally, there was his very moving work (sculptural wood) – quiet, powerful, elemental and technically and emotionally refined – which would crop up at exhibits and galleries I’d walk into.

Image courtesy of Donald Fortescue

All roads, it seemed, led to Donald, and yet…….

Fast forward. One grizzly (intermittently grey + drizzly) afternoon, the road I was driving on was finally the one that would lead me to Donald’s home and studio in Oakland, CA.

So much for my cred as a cynic, but I soon started to understand how the fan club felt. Because this tall, graceful ex-Aussie is the real deal. Deeply intellectually curious, a natural teacher, he’s a passionate advocate of craft, and an instinctive, generous connector of people and ideas. (In the course of our time together, he reeled off the names of at least 8 people I needed to meet. Pippa Murray, mosaicist and DesignCraft heroine – and referred to us by Donald – called him “one of those hub people”.)


Edges softened by the west cost, he still has that disarmingly direct Aussie way of asking questions and delivering opinions.  A master craftsman and artist, of course.  Actually, a master human being and thus, a rare creature.

Over tea, in a living room graced with his work and with the work of CCA graduates (now that’s what I call a job perk) and in his garage studio with a rather massive steamer for bending wood (check out his blog for visuals), we chatted about it all: the state of craft, the craft of life, and pretty much everything in between.

 

Were you one of these people who wanted to be working with your hands as you exited the womb? No, I was more of an academic bookworm. My first degree was in botany and zoology and I ended up working in the botanic gardens in Sydney.

I can see the botanical influences in your work, though. I can also see Japanese influences. Yes. I traveled to Japan and it really did change my life. When I came back I realized I didn’t want to work in a lab all day. And I became a crafter: I did raku, I knitted my own clothes.


Why? It was a lot of things, but probably in large part a reaction to popular culture. I didn’t want to be in a uniform of Levi’s and black t-shirts.

I also worked at Tokyo Disneyland there in the ‘80s.

(Beat.)

And did Disney change you life? (I don’t really see any Disney influences in his work. Perhaps I am unimaginative to not see it, but I am certainly grateful.) Something like that. I was the first Goofy at Tokyo Disney. (How’d you get that job?) I auditioned for it of course! But it was great, I was working with all these 18-20 year old kids who also didn’t want to be corporate clones. There’s that amazing subculture in Japan, that world separate from the rest of “known” Japanese culture is so fascinating. Me and the Three Little Pigs used to swap manga backstage. (Pause for moment to picture this, please. Quite wonderful.)


OK, so take us from your life as a botanist and as Goofy-san to life as a teacher and artist. When I got back, I did woodworking classes, and at some point, I had that quintessential “craft moment”: when a day had gone by and I hadn’t even noticed it. It was that feeling of flow….when people experience that for the first time, it’s just incredible.

So I just decided to go to art school at 27.

Brave. How was that? Oh, it felt way too late to be retraining but it’s what I wanted to do. And you studied…Woodworking and furniture design. I did well at school…one of the pieces I did at school was collected by a museum in Sydney.

Furniture design vs. science. Discuss, as they say. I liked the people I met in my new vocation. In the science, they were more “special” you might say…Seriously, the older crafts people I knew are just awesome. I loved to hang out with them. And I liked the idea I could never retire. It’s your life, not your career. The relationship between life and work would be seamless. Of course now that I’m getting older I’m starting to wonder about that. (Aren’t we all?)

Anyway, I got a grant….I had my first solo show, sold some work, commissions started to come my way. It just grew and flowed from that. Did that for about 5-6 years. Then I got sick of being in the studio all the time, so I started to do some teaching, and ended up at the Jam Factory in Adelaide. Then I came here, haven’t looked back.

Going from doing to teaching…being gentle about it, not everyone makes that transition so well. You know, but I enjoy the teaching. I didn’t imagine myself as a full-time instructor but I like the variety and stimulation. I’m a quick problem solver and have been trading on that ability for most of my life. Trying to find a way into a student’s problem, solving it with them. I love that, and I like that kind of interaction, that collaboration.


What is it about CCA that keeps you there? CCA is wonderful. It has a great buzz around it, and a great energy. But what keeps me here is that it’s reinventing itself all the time. Formally, there are new majors like animation, curatorial, and interaction design. We have the Design MBA. But more than that, they give me the ability to try new things within existing programs.  Every year I get to design teach classes that I’m actually interested in. An example is CraftLab, in which we explored theories around craft, embodied learning, and the role of tradition in contemporary practice. (Lawrence LaBianca was one of his guest lecturers). Another program I got to run was Shelter, which was about exploring the design and building of minimal habitats. It’s great to be able to try things like this.

What have you found about the students? Overall, they’re wonderfully creative. But I will say that at the beginning stages, there’s a lot of helping people understand how to work with their hands. That’s something a lot of people have to relearn.

What’s exciting you these days? I’m excited by what I’m seeing from students. People are exploring all kinds of different things, and there’s a great deal of interdisciplinary exploration at CCA. Say more. I’m interested in furniture as a metaphor for the body. Fashion and furniture as related. I don’t know many furniture people who’ve used tropes from the fashion world, yet. But I like what I’m beginning to see in this direction.

Do you think there’s such a thing as a Bay Area style of design and craft? I love the idea of terroir….a flavor that comes from a place…that’s very important to me. So in terms of a Bay Area style…physical environment is very much embedded in the Bay Area and there’s a strong sense of place…There’s a way culture gets expressed…a looser way of thinking about it all. It’s liberal. There’s the ocean. It’s a small enough place that there’s cross-fertilization. There’s the use of natural materials, patinas…a West Coast Japanese influence. So maybe yes. (For more on Donald’s POV on place and craft and process, check out his blog. I’m a huge fan of an intriguing little section called Oblique Strategies.)

Your work embraces both art and function. Talk about that. I did all functional work before I came here. When I came here, I started making more sculptural work, drawing on history. I do do some functional work particularly now by commission, such as (quietly lovely) sculptural outdoor benches. I’ve also got this strain of work, based on histories of collecting….cabinets of curiosities. (Dr. Fortescue’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Quite perfect.)

Image courtesy of Donald Fortescue

Image courtesy of Donald Fortescue. Work in collaboration with Lawrence LaBianca

Who would play you in your Biopic? Cate Blanchett. If she can play Bob Dylan, she can play anyone. She’s got the accent already (nothing worse than a non-native speaker “bunging on” an Aussie accent.) And I love the thought that she would have to hang out with me as part of her research.

Genre. Sci-Fi of course. The Day the Earth Stood Still… BladeRunner… Alien…. The Life of Donald – great company. (Cate Blanchet as Deckert in BladeRunner the remake. Though I realize that were it not for Cate, I should be shot for uttering the words remake and BladeRunner in one sentence.)


What’s on my reading table at the moment? Quite a pile actually. But I’m ACTIVELY reading Tim Ingold’s “Lines: A Brief History”. It’s a fascinating cultural anthropology of the line and its role in wayfaring, music, language and art.  And the novel “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell – because I was an 18th Century navigator in a previous life

What’s the first thing you reach for each morning? I reach for the cafe latte my wife Sandra has kindly made me, followed by my glasses and iPhone.

And finally, what objects define you?

My ever-ready, always comfortable, Blundstone boots,

My RM Williams black jeans,

My Akubra hats (the Aussie boy lives on),

The aforementioned iPhone, and

My moleskin notebook and fountain pen.

A pile of brand names – sheesh.

Nico

Details

www.donaldfortescue.com

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DesignCraft Heroine: Pippa Murray

The artisan lines up a small piece of limestone on a sharp chisel edge mounted on a log, and taps. A perfect cube of limestone drops onto the log. Line up, tap, repeat. Line up, tap, repeat. With a lot of thought, meticulous planning, and painstaking (backbreaking) work, these tiny pieces will become a mosaic that will grace a grand public space, or perhaps a smaller, more intimate domestic setting.

A scorching day in dusty ancient Crete? No: a cinder block workshop (part of an old school, actually) on a brisk, piercingly clear winter’s day in Sausalito, California. The artisan? Blonde, black-wearing artist and mosaicist Pippa Murray, who uses ancient techniques for contemporary public and private spaces. They range from large-scale projects, such as a floor for the Bay Area Discovery Museum or a 1,000 square foot floor for a home in Marin, to smaller-scale pieces of art, such as murals, driveways, pools, spas, benches, and tables.

Pippa is keeping alive (and stoking demand for) this ancient craft (labor, time, and soul-intensive), when the rest of the world is all about speed and cheapness. As Pippa says,  “Most people go in for pre-fab mosaic on mesh sheets that comes largely from China and the Middle East in boxes. The pieces for these commercial mosaics are cut by machines, industrial saws and water jet machines and are installed by your local tile contractor. In contrast, all of my work is done by hand from design to installation, and the result is a different creature altogether. 99.9% of the people don’t really see the difference but they can sense it.”

And it’s true. Look at Pippa’s work closely. What you won’t see are perfectly squared off little pieces. What you will see is a kind of planned and delightful irregularity to the tesserae, where the pieces (ever-so-slightly smoothed and rounded) manage to relate to each other and to the design (also created by Pippa). The result feels warmer (we’re talking about stone, after all), more expressive, more alive, more sensuous even. And, as Pippa explains, as the pieces are ‘hand finished’ in place, you’re able to get a buttery smoothness not achievable with machine-cut, pre-fab sheets.

Pippa also happens to be one of the more extraordinary people I’ve met: vigorously committed to her art (and life), thoughtful, emotional and uncontrived, with an infectious lightness and joie de vivre. She’s extraordinarily inner-directed—as opposed to the rest of us who can be a bit too swayed by what’s going on around us. Seriously inspiring.

This is a woman for whom the past and the present are deeply intertwined: she has a way of talking about the classical world that makes it feel energetic, vital and alive, not musty and remote. (For anyone who’s  steered clear of the classics, this is actually nothing short of miraculous.)

It’s really no surprise that Pippa came to a life and career where the past is so powerfully present. Her father is an art historian specializing in architecture (French Gothic) and she grew up scrambling around cathedrals and hearing stories about their construction and the people who used them. This kind of thing has a way of getting under your skin.

But how’d she actually get started in mosaics?

“When I was a freshman (at Columbia) I heard that one of the professors there needed an artist on a dig in Crete. So I knocked on the door of his office, clutching a watercolor I’d done of horse. Next thing I knew I was the artist on the dig, drawing all our finds. The whole experience just blew my mind. We were restoring a building from the Byzantine era, and wanted to place a mosaic patio in front. And they asked me to do it. (Had you ever done this before?) No!

(So what happened?) I gathered pebbles, based my designs on things I’d been drawing. But I really didn’t know what to do, and really couldn’t do internet search. But I’m one of these people who isn’t comfortable doing anything unless I’m 100% sure of how to do it. So I went back to the ancients–Vitruvius and Pliny [the Elder]–to find out how. (As one does, of course.) So much was there, the chemical components, all the details and techniques. And that was the beginning.”

She went on to get a BA in visual arts/art history from Columbia, and a MS in Classical Archeology from the University of Edinburgh, specializing in Greco-Roman mosaic technique and design. Love–and an interest in creating, not just conceptualizing and theorizing–brought her to CCA in California.

A few more things to know about Pippa, lest you think she’s a dusty classicist who has her head in books.  She lives with her husband and daughter Ithaka on a boat (not a houseboat, mind you): it’s a 1964 American marine motor sailor teak boat. She finds time to ride (horses. The show ribbons in her studio indicate that she also does this rather well. Is there no end to her skills?) She’s an artist through and through: her studio also features her graceful, careful, drawings and watercolors; her intricate sculptures of horses; and her intriguing furniture. And she’s a bit of a science geek: alongside the drawings are images of Laue Diffractions (a way of looking at the atomic structure of crystals, so I learned…and images for works in progress.)

See what I mean about inner-directed?

Was art in your blood? Yes, I always knew I was going to be an artist. As a child I was always doing watercolors and making things out of wire. My grandmother taught me how to sew and do crochet too, though I can’t knit.

After your degree from Edinburgh, you went and got your MFA from CCA. What was that like to go from more conceptual to craft? Oh, the best thing about CCA was seeing people’s ideas, all the stuff going on, the gestalt of the place. I loved the undergraduate classes. And you went from mosaics into the wood program. Why wood? Oh, it was the intersection of craft and art…..and wood is all about cutting things up, putting them back together again. (Aha.) I also loved that it was more about making things and not so conceptual. There was room for there to be both art and craft. It’s all about cohabiting. And the breadth was great. I even took a glass blowing class. It was fun, little tastes of things.

Growing up, was there one place that really moved you? Oh yes! (No need for Pippa to ponder this question for long.Amiens Cathedral: going up the spiral staircase, looking down at the floor, see all those surfaces, the light, the texture of the stone, etc. I remember my pop carrying me up the spiral stairs. I was maybe 4….I remember seeing the wear on the stairs, and the light coming through the slits on the wall. It was really magical.

You’ve worked on commissions of all sizes including one that was 1,000 square feet. What was that like? It was great, really complex, required a ton of organization from ramp up to fabrication to installation. At one point, we had 17 people working on it, and I loved the flow that you could get. Where’d you get the talent for the job? I hired from all over, including CCA and Italy. I learned a lot about managing.

And what have you learned about yourself in this career? That I must like heavy, dirty work! I love that I’m making things that will be there for a long time. I remember looking at something beaded in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC…It was a valuable object because of the labor. But I really do love everything I do. I love the drawing, the people, the project management, I love working with Daniel Purbrick [her colleague of several years and another CCA MFA alum], problem solving. My weaknesses are things like business, marketing. (Oh no, never heard that before.)

What’s your favorite material to work with? Limestone. Because it takes wear and gets a patina, that’s part of the its beauty.

Do you have time to read anything for fun? (Her studio library is something to behold…including her thesis from Edinburgh University, which she still refers to in her daily work.) I have a lot of forever books, you know? One I can think of is Dinner with Persephone which I dip into. It’s a book about traveling in Greece.

What do you go to recharge? Going to the [horse] barn, at one point I’ll be going back to Greece. I’m getting the sense that Greece is your spiritual home.Greece is definitely one of my spiritual homes. The light, the culture, the old rocks, the people, the food, the water. I even like the things no one likes, the crowded streets or the fact that no one is ever on time.

Tell me about horses and riding. Have you always ridden? Always–not surprising since my mother is a horse-mad Irish woman! I was on the saddle in front of my mother when I was a tiddlywink, took lessons at 4, and my pony arrived at 6.

And how’d you decide to live on a boat? It can’t be easy with a child. Yes, but we love it.  You know, I think it’s the same thing I like about horses: there’s a freedom to be able to get our home out on the bay, and all of a sudden, the world opens up and it’s lovely. It’s also the perfect opposite of my working life which is about stones that don’t move. And it fits into how we feel about things. We love that it was made by hand. And we love doing things ourselves, knowing where things are, understanding the systems that support our lives, having a small footprint. You know what your impact on the environment is in a really profound way. It’s complex simplicity, simple complexity.

So who gets to play you in the movie of your life? Kate Winslett and Cate Blanchett.

And type of movie (I think I can guess this one)? Historical fiction, that would be my movie. I also like animated stuff, anything by Pixar. We loved Rome the mini series. And Pillars of the Earth, that was amazing. I grew up reading lots of Mary Renault.

What’s the best gift you’ve received? My husband gave me this pocket Athena’s owl. It brings me strength and wisdom.

And the best you gave? I sent my mother a print of a wolfhound, that made her cry. It was a 1930s print.

What’s the first thing you reach for in the morning? A cup of coffee, which Zach brings me. He makes me coffee every day. (Very nice.)

So, you know what’s coming. What objects define you? This is a tough one because things change. But for today….

  • Definitely that pocket owl.
  • And my journals: I have them dating back to high school.
  • My truck, I have a F250 diesel named Tiny. (Tiny?) Yes, it’s short for Iktinos, architect of the Parthenon. (Naturally.)
  • And I love my belt buckle. It’s a rodeo belt buckle. (It’s huge and oval and very shiny). I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen but I’d bought a bunch of them. Then one day I put it on, and it made me feel great. I have a plate in my arm for coming off a horse, so I figure I deserve it.
  • And my ancient cellphone, which is dying. I drop it just about every day. I dropped it into a bucket of water and it survived.

Details

Pippa Murray Mosaics

http://www.pippamurray.com

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The Big Picture: Crafts Council (UK)

No surprises here: we adore contemporary craft, want to see more of it out there, want to see it evolve, and yes, want the people who are involved to make a living (a good one, even) from doing what they love.

But it ain’t easy.

“Craft”–the Rodney Dangerfield of the arts world–suffers from a bit of an image problem. Many understand (well, kind of) the “value” of art, and “get” lowest common denominator mass goods, but have no clue what value to ascribe to craft. Plus, the economy hasn’t exactly done us any favors. And then, there’s the strong independent tradition among makers that makes collective action–like the promotion of craft–just a little difficult. “Like cat herding,” said a person who’d know.

So it got us thinking: how do you move the needle on a whole category of art or culture, such as craft? Can you? In the US there’s the American Craft Council and magazines and conferences, galleries and museums, and shows and fairs and Etsy. OK, but we all know it’s not quite cutting it, not really. So what else is there?

I got a hint that there might just be another way when I was looking at the site of the Crafts Council (UK) to find UK makers for our profiles. Immediately, I was impressed (OK, blown away) with an enormous, searchable database of makers, arts organizations and agencies, and employment/award opportunities. (This was the hub that I’d been looking for the in US but hadn’t–still haven’t–found. Or am I missing something?)

But I didn’t really have a handle on what they were up to until I got to have a long chat with Jill Read of the Crafts Council in London.

Yes, there too, crafts have traditionally suffered from an image problem. The conversations about “is craft really art” have been going on for decades, though craft is also a more integral part of the culture of the UK. (In fact, there are at least three major craft organizations in the greater UK: the Crafts Council, which promotes contemporary craft, and the Heritage Crafts Association, which promotes more traditional craft forms. AND there’s also the vibrant CraftScotland, showcasing contemporary craft beyond whiskey and woolens.)

And despite a more traditionally activist role in the arts, UK government funding of the arts is facing unprecedented reductions as part of the fiscal emergency surgery underway. In the US, some of the arts funding slack is taken up by the philanthropic sector, which isn’t quite as developed in the UK (because it didn’t have to be): according to Jeremy Hunt, the UK Culture Secretary, those in the US who earn more than £150,000 [approximately $250,000] give eight times more than those in the UK.

Despite all this, the Crafts Council is finding a way to get people talking about, caring about, making and buying high quality contemporary craft in the UK. It is about money, but it’s also about smarts, about having the right building blocks in place:

  • big thinking (my more wonky business and social change friends would call this “systems” thinking);
  • a clear, sophisticated vision;
  • smart, targeted programs;
  • a collaborative, pragmatic approach; and
  • periodic refreshes of strategy and focus, not just to meet budget constraints but to meet real, on-the-ground needs.

The overall approach seems to be making things happen, even in times of austerity and constraint. It’s incredibly inspiring. And very thought-provoking.

Jill and I sat down to unravel how the Crafts Council does this and some of the tough realities the world of craft faces.

How would you characterize the state of contemporary craft in the UK today? It is in a healthy state. We estimate there are over 30,000 contemporary craft makers working in the UK today. The craft industry contributes £3 billion Gross Value Added to the UK economy each year – greater than the visual arts, cultural heritage or literature sectors.

Your mandate is clear: “To make the UK the best place to make, see, collect and learn about contemporary craft”. Talk about each of those components. Let’s start with MAKE. We have a programme of maker development called Collective that works to ensure that we support makers at every stage of their career from makers straight out of college through Hothouse to those who are mid-career through Artistic License.

(These programs are a combination of grants, mentoring, and coaching in business and similar skills. Throughout the Crafts Council programs, there’s a strong pragmatic streak based on the understanding that without strong business and management skills, craft won’t survive. We also like their Portfolio program that recognizes that makers often have to support themselves by having a portfolio of jobs…like teaching: one program helps makers learn how to become better teachers. Smart, that: it’s about the whole crafts person/maker and not just about what goes on in the studio.

We also appreciate that they do market development and trade promotion in the UK, US and throughout Europe.

Under the SEE theme, we work with partner venues to develop exciting touring exhibitions of contemporary craft (in order to help change peoples’ perceptions of craft and expand interest in it–from makers to collectors–especially outside of London). Some of these include Lab Craft (digital meets craft), Breath Taking (pushing the boundaries of glass) and Craft Cubes (rentable, traveling trade show-like booths that feature edgy contemporary craft exhibits).

We also have one of the largest collections of contemporary craft in the UK. We’ve acquired over 1,300 objects since the early 70s, and maintain many schemes to encourage museums to loan these objects – long term or short term.

Through our COLLECT program, we’re helping build the market for contemporary craft and find the collectors of the future through our two flagship selling events COLLECT: the international art fair for contemporary objects and Origin: the London Craft Fair.

We believe that the future of craft lies in nurturing talent and we put this to work in our LEARN programs. One of our key tasks is to help children and young adults learn about craft at school. It’s been taken off many curriculums and we need to get craft back onto them. Our current Participation and Learning initiatives include Firing Up! and Craft Club to help community members teach craft skills to kids.

Craft Council is also an advocacy organization, isn’t it? Yes. We’re effectively the voice of craft whether it’s in media or government. We want to make sure that people are thinking about us, and are continuing to value what we do. (To help spread the word, they also have a beautifully produced magazine called Crafts.)


Craft in the UK (and Europe in general) seems fresher and more conscious of design (and therefore more likely to fit into people’s lives) than it is in the US…to what would you attribute that? I think that there is cross-over between craft and design and many craft makers work with industry in a way that benefits both.

So how does the Craft Council relate to the DIY craft movement? In the UK here, we call them crafting, and it’s all still evolving. At this point, our organization is focused on supporting people who are professional makers, people making a living off of craft. We love the energy of crafters, though, and hope that our programs inspire and help them as well.

You put a lot of emphasis on working with other arts organizations and universities to deliver programs. I like that it’s not just about you, but about craft in general. Thanks. We do think we play the role of facilitators and finding the best resources to help with whatever the need is. There are many great organizations out there, and we both work with them and help them as we can.

Talking to Jill you get the sense that while not all is perfect in the world of contemporary craft in the UK, there’s a ton of energy and good will that’s been established.  And the thoughtfulness, breadth and organization of the ideas was impressive. Most important, though, was their humility and willingness to admit that what they do evolves and will continue to evolve–in response to what works for both collectors and makers, new directions in contemporary craft, and the broader culture of culture. Well done.

So, maybe there is another way for craft to get its day in the sun. Granted, government support works differently in the US, but I’d say that Crafts Council’s success is only partially about money. It’s just as much about good ideas, focus, and smart execution.

All images courtesy of the Crafts Council.

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Hot Press, Cool Events, March 2011 Edition

Northern California

Multiples: Printing on Clay, featuring Nancy Selvin

March 4th, 2011 @ the  Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek

Master ceramicist Nancy Selvin will demonstrate her screening process of transferring printed images onto clay, which has been the focus of her research over the years. A slide presentation will illustrate the evolution of Ms. Selvin’s personal history and influences that have shaped her approach to clay. Participants can bring small (4”x5”) examples of text or line art on transparent sheets to create their own screens during the workshops. Workshop participants receive free gallery admission on the day of the workshop, so arrive early to view the current exhibition!

Host: An Installation by UK Furniture Maker David Gates

February 23rd 2011 – April 3, 2011 @ Velvet Da Vinci, San Francisco on Polk St

With this exhibit, the wonderful Velvet da Vinci is doing what it does best: pushing boundaries. Working in collaboration with well known US and UK-based jewelers and metalsmiths, (including work by Helen Carnac, Robert Ebendorf, David Clarke, Thomas Hill, and Katy Hackney). Host is part furniture installation and part intervention into the architecture of the gallery. Gates’ woodworking employs traditional methods of furniture making, but also incorporates recycled and reclaimed materials. Davis Gates worked first from London then in San Francisco on this collaborative project that will eventually be completed on site in the gallery. The installation’s end result will be a lack of obvious authorship or hierarchy of work. The installation will challenge traditional jewelry display methods by presenting ambiguous furniture as a structure for jewelry and object display.

Contemporary Crafts Market

March 12-13, 2011 @ Fort Mason, San Francisco

Not always our cup of tea but it’s always good to see people making a living out of craft. This year’s Market will showcase the work of over 200 of the nation’s finest artists, ranging from intricate jewelry and unique glassware to hand-painted textiles and more. Featured are a number of artists who use sustainable and repurposed materials. All items on display and for sale have been jury-selected for their exceptional quality. It is a unique opportunity to meet the artists that create these fine crafts.

Crafting Architecture: Concept, Sketch, Model

February 16, 2011 – May 29th, 2011 @ Museum of Craft and Design, San Francisco

Handmade and digitally fabricated architectural models and mockups provide insight into the role of craft in the architectural design process in this pop-up exhibition presented by the Museum of Craft and Design (MCD). The exhibition features models from over 20 San Francisco Bay Area architects and landscape architects and is located at the MCD at 201 Third Street in the heart of San Francisco’s museum district.

Family Tree: Fine Woodworking in Northern California

Jan. 21 – Mar. 13, 2011 @ The Petaluma Arts Center, Petaluma

Handmade or “studio furniture” has been a strong presence in California since 1945. To celebrate this movement, curator Kathleen Hanna has traced the lineage from pioneers Bob Stockdale, Arthur Espenet Carpenter, Arthur Hanna and J.B. Blunk to the present graduates of the wood furniture design program at California College of the Arts. This exhibition features 25 artists whose work has influenced California’s contemporary fine woodworking movement. Also on exhibit will be faculty-selected works by students from the Furniture Design Program at California College of the Arts. Throughout the exhibition will be weekend demonstrations, lectures and events.

Eva Hesse: Studiowork

Through April 10, 2011 @ Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley CA.

When we ask our interviewees who inspires them, Eva Hess’s name crops up time and time again. Now the Berkeley Art Museum is holding an exhibit of her work.  The exhibit features work made from a diverse range of materials, and includes pieces never before seen. This should be good.

Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave

Feb. 5 – Jun. 5, 2011 @ the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave is a painter by training, but textile and costume are her muses. Working in collaboration with leading costume historians and young fashion designers, de Borchgrave crafts a world of splendor from the simplest rag paper. Painting and manipulating the paper, she forms trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by rich depictions in early European painting or by iconic costumes in museum collections around the world.  The Legion of Honor is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave.

Southern California

Design Loves Art

March 23 – 24, 2011 @ the Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

Design Loves Art at Pacific Design Center is pleased to celebrate Westweek on March 23 and 24, the Pacific Design Center’s largest annual design industry event that combines keynote lectures, showroom programs, new product introductions and book signings. Design Loves Art explores design as an extension of studio practice with a special tribute to renowned Dutch designer Tejo Remy. In addition, site specific installation by New York-based artist Olek in collaboration with PDC showroom Mimi London, along with programming by artists, curators, filmmakers and architects in seventeen project rooms will also be on view, including MonoVisioN, and exhibition of architectural photography by Scott Frances.

Make a Scarf with Tanya Aguiniga

March 20th, 2011, 2-5 pm. Craft and Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

Tanya Aguiñiga transforms traditional materials into contemporary objects of warmth and function. We’re huge fans of Tanya’s work and here’s a chance to work with her on a project. Spend the afternoon learning about wool and felting techniques with Tanya and design a gorgeous, unique scarf.

Sonya Louise Barham: A Search for Heartbreaking Beauty

March 4th – March 6th, 2011. Reception, March 5th, 6-9 @ Fifth Floor Gallery, Los Angeles

Sonya Louise Barham has sold all her belongings and is soon leaving on a two year trip around the world with just her camera, the clothes on her back and only the vaguest of itineraries. She has titled her endeavor, A Search For Heartbreaking Beauty, and will be sharing the search with us on her blog. To help support her goal Fifth Floor is holding this exhibition of her photographs.

Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Affair With Textiles

Oct. 3, 2010 — Apr. 3, 2011 @ the Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California

Mingei International Museum collaborated with Zandra Rhodes and her studio to organize this exhibition of haute couture garments from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. The pieces reveal her process and worldwide influences.

Oregon

Laurie Herrick: Weaving Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

March 17 – July 30, 2011 @ the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Oregon

Portland based designer-craftsman Laurie Herrick created widely recognized weavings from the 1940’s until her death in 1995. This retrospective exhibition explores weaving as a living craft. Selected patterns by Herrick will be available on the web for weavers worldwide to interpret and share via Flickr. Five contemporary artists will participate in Museum residencies, creating personal responses to Herrick’s patterns and adding to this traveling exhibition.

Lecture: Robin Petravic + Catherine Bailey of Heath Ceramics

March 10, 2011 @ the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Oregon

The MFA in Applied Craft and Design hosts the owners of Heath Ceramics for a public lecture as part of the 2010-2011 Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series. In 2033, husband and wife team Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey purchased Heath Ceramics, one of the few remaining mid-century American potteries still in existence today. Their mission was to revitalize the company. Since their purchase, Heath Ceramics has been a finalist in 2009 for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards and is featured in permanent collections of MOMA AND LACMA.

East Coast

A Bit of Clay on the Skin: New Ceramic Jewelry

March 15 – September 4th, 2011 @ the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City

This exhibit explored the manifold appeal of ceramics, especially porcelain, in jewelry. It showcases the versatility and allure of the medium, which can be modeled or cast, used alone or with metal, wood and stone, and vary in color and texture. The exhibition showcases the scope an ingenuity of the more than one hundred works on view and features the work of 18 cutting-edge jewelry artists, including Peter Hoogeboom, Evert Nijland, Ted Noten, Gesine Hackenberg, Marie Pendaries, and Shu-Lin Wu.

DRAFTED: The Evolving Role of Architects in Furniture Design

March 10, 2011 at 7 pm @ The Museum of Arts and Design, New York City

Like experienced chefs preferring their ingredients to come from local sources, architects would have the most to gain from a stronger American design scene. The Architect’s Newspaper Executive Editor, Julie Iovine, hosts a roundtable discussion and Q&A with top minds including Michael Graves, Calvin Tsao, Gisue Hariri and Jeffrey Bernett on their experiences, strategies and needs when it comes to making American design happen.

CRAFTBOSTON

March 25 – 27, 2011 @ The Society of Arts and Crafts, Massachusetts

Craftboston is the premiere New England exhibition and sale of contemporary art, craft and design. The shows will feature 200 of the most outstanding artists of our time, showcasing one-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces in baskets, ceramics, decorative fiber, wearables, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper and wood. Additionally, Craftboston Spring features work by emerging artists from leading schools and universities, an artist mentor program, a bookseller, an educational lecture series, and informational booths promoting non-profit craft organizations.

American Craft Council Show, Atlanta

March 11-13, 2011 @ the Cobb Galleria Centre, Two Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, Georgia

More than 200 of the country’s leading craft artists will gather under one roof to present their latest designer, handmade work at The American Craft Council Show in Atlanta, the largest juried, indoor craft show in the southeast. The highest quality of handmade jewelry, furniture, clothing, home décor, and more, will be available for purchase. Or get a sneak peak at what the show has to offer by attending the Preview Benefit Party on March 10, from 6-9pm.

Contemporary British Ceramics Symposium

March 10th, 2011 @ The Mint Museum in North Carolina

Learn about contemporary ceramics from the leading British scholars, art critics, and artists featured in the exhibition Contemporary British Studio Ceramics: The Grainer Collection, on view through March 13, 2011. A panel discussion follows the visual presentation.

Yanick Lapuh: Your Ladder Is On Fire

March 12- July 10, 2011 @ Fuller Craft Museum, Massachusetts

Your Ladder is on Fire is an exhibition of approximately 15 bas-reliefs which revel in the space between painting and sculpture. They combine a series of symbols, shapes, and proxies into compositions painted with an exquisite control of color and tone. Lapuh painstakingly fabricates the individual elements of his compositions, forming an active three-dimensional structure rather than simply a passive surface. Many of his new works featured refer to the ancient traditions of jewelry making as a means of expression. Fuller Craft will celebrate the opening with a public reception on April 10th from 2-5 pm at the Museum. The reception is free for members and free with museum admission for all others.

Nordic Models + Common Ground (Art and Design Unfolded)

Oct. 29, 2010 – Mar. 09, 2011 @ the Scandinavia House, New York

The American-Scandinavian Foundation continues to celebrate its centennial year with Nordic + Common Ground, an exhibition featuring new Nordic architecture and design, curated by the hot Norwegian architecture firm, Snøhetta (recently chosen to work with SFMOMA on their expansion). Selecting the work of 35 artists and designers who hail from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, the firm’s principal Craig Dykers highlights the impact that Scandinavian designers are making worldwide.

Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffman, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche: Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900

Feb. 24, 2011 – Jun. 27, 2011 @ the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art, New York

Major works by fine artists Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele will be on view, as well as furniture by architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, and decorative artists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. There will be a special emphasis on fashion, with loans of key clothing and accessories from the period. The exhibition will also explore the overlap with new attitudes towards gender and sexuality that surface in Viennese literature and psychology at the time.

By Local

Feb. 4 – Mar. 26 2011 @ the Pittsburgh Glass Center (Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery), Pittsburgh

This exhibition, dedicated to showcasing the work of Pittsburgh glass artists, highlights the talent, aesthetic variety and technical mastery existing in the local glass community. Participating artists include Judy Charlson, Brian Engel, Jason Forck, Arthur Guilford, Drew Hine, Adam Kenney, Michael Mangiafico, Gillian Preston, and Heather Joy Puskarich. The exhibition continues through March 26, 2011. Opening reception Friday, Feb. 4 from 5:30 to 9pm.

TENacity

Feb. 4 – Apr. 17, 2011 @ the Pittsburgh Glass Center (Hodge Gallery), Pittsburgh

For 10 years Pittsburgh Glass Center has been growing a community of glass artists. PGC’s newest exhibition, “TENacity”, will showcase the talents of glass artists in the region. Artists will reflect on events from the last 10 years ranging from 9/11 to the election of the first black president in the U.S. and create new work based on a historic event.

Loom and Lathe: The Art of Kay Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale

Feb. 5 – Sep. 11, 2011 @ the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts

This exhibition of fiber art and woodturning showcases the long and distinguished careers of Kay Sekimachi and Bob Stocksdale. Married for over thirty years, each supported the other’s work, while becoming renowned in their separate fields.

Furniture Divas: New Work by Contemporary Makers

Feb. 19 – Oct. 30 2011 @ the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts

Curated by Meredyth Hyatt Moses, “Furniture Divas” presents the contemporary work of a dozen women in the field of studio furniture. The exhibition celebrates the contributions of these women to studio furniture and provides a snapshot of contemporary developments in the field. “Furniture Divas” celebrates the following artists: Vivian Beer, Polly Cassel, Gail Fredell, Jenna Goldberg, Barbara Holmes, Kristina Madsen, Sarah Martin, Wendy Maruyama, Judy Kensley McKie, Alison McLennon, Sylvie Rosenthal, Rosanne Somerson, Wendy Stayman, Leah Wood, and Yoko Zeltzerman-Miyaji.

United Kingdom

Meltdowns: Standard Bronze Casting Course

March 3 – April 5, 2011 @ Meltdowns, Ramsgate, Kent

Meltdowns have a new bronze casting course. With two dates in the diary for March – April and October 4th-November 8, 2011, this is a great chance to join an exciting workshop and learn the skills of bronze casting.

COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects

May 6-9, 2011 @ Saatchi Gallery, London

COLLECT is a highlight in the cultural calendar for anyone passionate about buying the very best in contemporary craft. This prestigious fair presents a selection of UK and international galleries representing dynamic work by their portfolio of artists. This year, COLLECT will feature 37 selected galleries showcasing the very best ceramic, glass, jewelry, textile, wood, furniture, silver and fine metal work by over 300 new and established artists from around the world.

Lights On: Visual Art Exhibition

Jan. 21, 2011 – Mar. 13, 2011 @ Siobhan Davies Studio, London UK

In this installation, light comes to the fore, showing its great potential in shaping our perception of space. Curator Nuno Coelho presents work that intervenes within the public spaces of Siobhan Davies Studios by creating light installations in different areas of the building, taking full advantage of the darkness of the winter days. The exhibit presents the works of six emerging designers with very distinct approaches, Eelko MoorerFreddie YaunerHenny van NistelrooyJesse VisserJordi Canudas and Mathias Hahn.

The Brit Insurance Designs of the Year Awards

Feb. 16 – Mar. 15, 2011 @ the Design Museum, London

“The Oscars of the design world” showcase the most innovative and forward thinking designs from around the world. Last year’s winner was the Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi that revolutionizes a humble, but essential, piece of everyday equipment. Stephen Bayley chairs the jury and is joined by art and design curator Janice Blackburn OBE, graphic designer Mark Farrow, novelist Will Self, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University Penny Sparke and Simon Waterfall co-founder of digital agency Poke. The finalists in each category have been announced. Awards night at Design Museum is March 15.

Heritage Craft Association Spring Conference

March 19, 2011, 10-4 pm, Sackler Center, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Britain’s HCA supports traditional crafts–from boatbuilding to chairmaking, stained glass to cutlery–throughout the UK. The day-long conference will feature speakers such as Professor Tanya Harrod, well-known authority on crafts, journalist and author of The Crafts in Britain in the 20th Century, to Mark Henderson and Stewart Linford, who will share their genius for marketing traditional crafts as luxury products in the 21st century. There will also be a lecture on agricultural, domestic and industrial crafts of the BBC’s Edwardian Farm’s Alex Langlands. For more information, contact info@heritagecrafts.org.uk

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DesignCraft Hero: Matthias Pliessnig

You know when you see something and it just makes your heart beat faster? That’s how it was when I first saw the work of Philadelphia-based Matthias Pliessnig on Dezeen, one of my go-to design blogs. The piece I saw – a bench (though not like any bench I’d ever seen before) – was gutsy, audacious, emotional, technical. It swooped, it soared, it grooved.  It’s crazy. It was just stunning.

And this was wood? Uh huh.

And then, I kept seeing his work: it was stalking my consciousness. Finally, I saw his name pop up on a list of Knight Fellows grant recipients and…well, here we are.

Are you an artist, a designer, or an artisan? Oh I don’t know. It’s been a struggle my whole life to figure out how to talk about what I do. I’m at the intersection of art, design and craft. (Excellent. That was a trick question. We just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.)

How do you sell your work? I was with a gallery when I got out of grad school. But now I work directly with a lot with architects and decorators. They show me CAD drawings of the space I’m designing for, the flow of the space, and I design pieces around that. For example, my current piece is for a firm in Boston. The building is on the Lower East Side and the piece is for the area between the entrance and restaurant.

How do people find you? Mostly through publications and magazines. In grad school, I learned how to promote myself. I realized that design blogs have a submit a link button….so I just submit a link. As soon as I get coverage on a blog, I get publications calling, and then architects. (That’s the way to do it. But again….it helps that the work is amazing.)

You were recently awarded a USA Knight Fellowship from US Artists Foundation: congratulations on that. How did that happen? It came from out of the blue, a weird surprise. About 7-8 months ago, got a letter for US Artists saying I’d been nominated anonymously for the fellowship, and then I waited…and then I got another letter saying I’d received one. It’s a pretty cool process. They’re an awesome organization. They want to make a social network with the artists to help them get funding, which I think is great. Was it for a single piece of work, the bench, maybe? No, the fellowship was for the whole body of work.

 

What inspires? Well in addition to all the clichés (like the arts, nature, material, structure, the human body, etc.)…for me, a big part of the inspiration is the process. Each piece progresses in complexity. It’s a combination of craft and process.

Whose work do you admire? Anish Kapoor. Martin Puryear: someone using material in a different way is always a good thing.

You’re a designer: would you consider licensing your designs to others–I’m sure you’ve been approached? Not really interested in a straight licensing deal. I don’t think I trust others to make the piece. But….there are a couple of companies that I’m looking at working with….there’s a concrete manufacturing firm and a rattan company I’ve started to talk to. (That’s quite a range.) I’m interested in lot of what you can do with different materials.

OK, let’s go back to the beginning. Is your family artistic? I guess so, but their careers didn’t reflect it. Growing up I was encouraged…I was always drawing….I didn’t make a lot of things, though. My father’s from Austria and my mother’s from France.

How’d you get your start? I went to high school in Nebraska. At some point, I realized I didn’t want to go to college and study something like math or science. I wanted to do something different. My art teacher told me to go to art school, and that sounded like a good idea. I got into the Kansas City Art Institute.

Did you go to study something in particular? I went for illustration. But it turned out that they had a good foundations program, which gave me a really great opportunity to try lots of things. I was getting into working with metal, doing a lot of welding when I realized I didn’t want to do illustration, so I went into design and sculpture. It was great: the school embraced the design-build ethos….but then the school kind of changed course. So I transferred to RISD in furniture design. The thing is that there, they don’t start with metal: they start with wood. At first, I found the machines daunting and thought of the medium as really restrictive. But it’s good because they make sure you learn the rules before you break them. And did you buckle down and learn the rules? I did. And then I fell in love with wood, and then I figured out how to make wood behave like metal.

So much of your work is about bending wood into these amazing forms. How did that start? It’s another long story: I went to grad school in Wisconsin and it was during that period that I learned to bend wood. I also used that time to explore a lot. I took a lot of risks, trying different materials, etc. But then I got frustrated, I kind of didn’t feel focused…so I built a boat over the summer. That experience opened my eyes to a whole new way of working with wood. Once I got back, I just put my head down. I just started focusing: it was really healthy.

In addition to making, you also teach. Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out the balance between commissions, teaching, etc. Last year I taught at RISD (the first class where I discovered wood) and let’s say it was grueling. I’ve taught workshops at places like Haystack….felt like a vacation comparatively speaking. So right now, I’d say that teaching workshops makes more sense. Like anything, it’s about focusing on what you want to do, and then making time to do it. (Oh yeah.)

So how’d you end up in Philly? Well, I was trying to figure it out after Madison. When I graduated, it was Brooklyn, Providence, or Philly. In Brooklyn, I couldn’t find affordable living right after grad school. With Providence, it was like going back to school. Philly was much more affordable. I like the fact that each neighborhood has its own culture.

How big’s your team these days? It changes based on the work I have. I have two people working for me when I have large projects. But usually it’s just me or me and one other person working.

Image Credit: Gene Young, Smithsonian American Art Museum

What do you listen to while you’re in the studio? I’m listening to the Poisonwood Bible. And Pillars Of The Earth. I love that book. (Great taste.)

What’s coming up in the future? Right now, I’m designing a bench for a new landscape project in Rhode Island….landscape architects are really innovative and are open to collaboration. That’s one area I see myself going in. It’s a place to combine metal and wood together. Down the road, I’d like to do more large scale public sculpture and architecture.

So…who would play you in the movie of your life? Oh I don’t know. Maybe Adrien Brody. I have no idea. And what’s the genre? Probably drama, but I’d also think about anime. I’d like to say that.

What did you learn recently that was meaningful to you? Finding my fiance. Best thing that happened last year.

What’s the best thing you’ve given to someone? The best gift I’ve given was a mechanical wooden duck I made for my niece.

And the best gift you’ve received? Education.

5 things that define you? Wheels, wings, hulls, sails, and bridges. I collect anything I find that is interesting… always small tiny things. ie. baby horseshoe crabs, dried plant buds, toy soldiers, typewriter parts, avocado pits…

What’s the first thing you reach for in the morning? My fiance.

What do you do to dial down? Right now, I don’t! Maybe just have a beer. During the nice season, taking my boat out to the lakes. But right now, it’s been crazy, hectic. I also like watching anime….Miyazaki films are great, really crazy, and full of imagination.

Now who would that remind me of?

Details

http://www.matthias–studio.com

 

All images courtesy of Matthias Pliessnig.

 

 

 


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