Can A Craftsperson Succeed Today?

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American Craft Oct/Nov 2012 issue

It’s not realistic for most craftspeople to make a living working alone (on their craft). That was the provocative argument made by Garth Clark, award-winning historian, writer, dealer, and auction specialist in ceramic art, in the Oct/Nov American Craft Magazine. In the interview by Monica Moses, Garth urges crafters to emulate designers who partner with industry as a way to find success. American Craft asked him to elaborate in the interview – a few samples from the interview: 
You’ve said “the crafts are a threatened field,” suggesting that purely handmade work can’t compete with more scalable, cost-efficient work. What is threatening craft now? The big weakness is a failing economic studio model. Overheads rise constantly, but each maker has only two hands and can’t make more work to bring in more money. There is an output ceiling. This threat is self-imposed, coming from adherence to a medieval concept of craft and refusal to employ low-key industrial techniques to produce more inventory. Another threat: Craft galleries are withering and in some cases closing. Then, of course, there is the damage to the brand of craft done when institutions such as the flagship American Craft Museum [predecessor to the Museum of Arts and Design], drop the term craft and seek to join the fine arts world.

As you’ve suggested, for a number of years craftspeople aimed to be accepted in the fine art world, with limited success. Your view is that, in general, the design world is a more promising avenue for craftspeople. Why? Most crafters are not fine artists, even when they use fine art as their muse. The ones who have crossed over are about .0001 of the craft community. It’s a tiny handful: Ken Price, Josiah McElheny, Betty Woodman. The odds are hardly encouraging. On the other hand, designers and crafters do exactly the same thing; they make vases, jewelry, furniture, mugs, hats, fire irons. It’s exactly the same class of objects. Both are designed. The difference is the means of production: Crafters work by hand, while designers employ industry. Designers have learned to have it all – some unique works, some limited works, and some mass-produced works. Crafters can do the same. And the market is gigantic and growing.

What advice would you offer today’s aspiring craftsperson?

Decide what you want to be – be it fine artist, designer, or for that matter, crafter. And live there. If you believe you are, say, a sculptor and not a crafter, then the day you leave college, take the strengths of your craft education and head to a sculpture community and make your home there. Don’t remain in the relatively protected world of the crafts and whine that you are a misunderstood artist trapped in the craft world. Leave the nest, and learn to fly. 

Click here to jump to the full online version of the article – or look for in the Oct/Nov hard copy magazine at the shops. That American Craft issue also has a great review of the Smithsonian’s 40 Under 40 Craft Futures exhibit.

Garth Clark at lecture on Ai Weiwei at University of Sunderland, March 2012

Garth Clark is one of the leading experts on design and craft. The blog has posted previous lectures that Garth has had on the changing nature of craft. 

While at the University of Sunderland, the WGS Fulbright directors were able to attend Garth Clark’s lecture on Ai Weiwei Ceramics. The lecture was most interesting and gave great insight into Ai Weiwei’s work with clay.

Congrats on Creative Cohesion Relaunch

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Artists Phil Vickery and Roger Tye work in Creative Cohesion’s hotshop.

Last spring, Washington Glass School Co-Directors Michael Janis and Tim Tate were in the UK on their Fulbright assignment to the University of Sunderland and the National Glass Centre. The guys also held workshops at the City of Sunderland’s professional artist center “Creative Cohesion”.

Fulbright Scholar Michael Janis introduces the Bullseye Roll-up technique to artists at Creative Cohesion.
UK artists gather for a talk with Fulbright Scholar Tim Tate at the Cohesion Center in March.

 Creative Cohesion is a center for creativity in Sunniside, Sunderland, providing not only studios for artists, but provision for community, arts and business activities, as well as a retail outlet for art. Creative Cohesion runs monthly workshops for professional creative practitioners and is home to graduates from the University of Sunderland who are recipients of the ‘Sunniside Graduate Scheme’.

The Creative Cohesion building was damaged by high winds that caused the adjacent building to collapse onto the center’s roof  in April . 

Last Spring, high winds caused their neighboring building to collapse onto the center’s roof, resulting in a lot of damage. After months of disruption for the non-profit center and its tenants as the repair work was implemented, they are happy to be finally back in full working order, and are holding a Relaunch of the Center on Oct 18!

Artist Frank Styles was commissioned to create the visual graphics on the center’s exterior shutters.

Their celebrations continue in welcoming new tenants, a new logo for the center, the launch of their new website and completion of the center’s shutter artwork by graffiti artist Frank Styles.

There will be happy faces all round on the opening launch day with the building’s face lift, the opening of a new exhibition titled ‘Reconnection’ and entertainment with local glass blowers having a play day in the glass hotshop.

Congratulations to Creative Cohesion on making Sunderland a hotbed of creativity again!

Click HERE to jump Creative Cohesion’s website.

Review < > Renew Exhibit Celebrates VisArts’ 25th Anniversary

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VisArts  - Rockville’s non-profit arts center is hosting a 25th anniversary celebration to recognize the many artists, teachers, partners and collaborators who have been integral to their success. As part of this celebration, VisArts presents Review < > Renew, co-curated by Judy  Greenberg and Jack Rasmussen. This group exhibition brings together renowned artists who brought critical regional success to the fledgling organization, Rockville Arts Place (RAP). The artists selected for the exhibition all exhibited at RAP while Greenberg was President of the Board and Rasmussen was Executive Director. The works will be shown in two galleries, the Kaplan and the Common Ground Galleries. 

In the Kaplan Gallery, works by Lisa Brotman, Manon Cleary, Sam Gilliam, Tom Green, Margarida Kendall, and Joe Shannon will be on display. Early paintings and more recent works by the artists will be exhibited alongside Paul Feinberg’s photographs of the artists 25 years ago and now. The paintings and photographs are accompanied by interviews with the artists conducted by Feinberg. An earlier version of this exhibition, inspired by the early RAP/VisArts shows, was recently exhibited at the American University Museum, Washington, DC. 

The Common Ground Gallery will feature outstanding artists important to the history of VisArts working in glass and clay, including Margaret Boozer, Robert Devers, Tim Tate, and Mindy Weisel. 

October 28 – December 29, 2012 

25th Anniversary Celebration (tickets required)

Saturday, October 27 from 7:30 – 10:30 pm

(VIP Reception at 5:30 with Curators’ Tour)

(Free) Opening Reception Friday, November 9th from 7-9 pm

VisArts At Rockville / Kaplan & Common Ground Galleries

155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD  20850

Report From Penland School of Craft

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Penland School of Craft is a

center for craft education located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Tim Tate along with Sean Hennessey and  Rob Kincheloe have just returned from teaching a class at North Carolina’s Penland School Of Craft for a fall session titled: 21st Century Reliquaries. Here are some comments and photos from the class.

The glass studio at Penland.

The guys said they hit the ground running on Monday working doing demonstrations on Rubber Mold Making, Wax Casting, Plaster/Silica Mold Making, Lost wax, Dry Plaster Casting, Painting Glass, Cutting Glass, Glass etching, Flameworking. 

Sean Hennessey outlines the process for Dry Plaster Casting to create bas-relief imagery.
Robert Kincheloe shows how wax components are used to create forms in the Lost Wax process.

The WGS team talked through ideas with students, help shape the directions of work, encouraged, excited, and admired all their interest and energy. 

Tim Tate outlines the process for creating personal reliquaries.
The class learned new techniques and worked at making artwork from the objects made.
Penland Boardmember Glen Hardymon shows off his new glass slippers made in the lost wax process.
Some surprises for the class – a special flamework demo by

Simone Crestani.

The class techniques taught included pretty much everything except glass blowing. But since the absolutely incredible glass artist Pablo Soto was teaching a glass blowing class in the next room, he had his class make domes for the reliquary class.

Pablo Soto’s hot glass class blew the glass for the domes.

After the techniques were taught, learned, and employed, the part of the class where artists pulled it all together was explored – making the reliquaries. Stories of regret were created, stories of anger, stories of triumph, religion, lamenting the death of bees, cheering the death of squirrels, issues of money, sexuality, and hope were all created. 

After the students created their works, a “Show & Tell” exhibit.

Yes, thats a real (taxidermied) squirrel with a glass hand grenade.
The class made and presented Tim with a special reliquary. The “F” inside refers to Tim’s prolific use of ‘f-bombs’ in his banter.

All in all a fantastic experiencefor all involved – we’d highly recommend taking a class there!

Dragging From He to She -or- "How did Michael become Micaela?"

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The wax figures show how our butchie-boy Michael Janis would look like as a girly-girl.

Washington Glass School blog outlines the transformation in “The Process” series.

Bit of back story  - Tim Tate is working on new cast glass sculptures and he often models the imagery on objects that he is compelled by. Tim had made a casting of Washington Glass School co-director Michael Janis previously, created to be an element in the collaborative work that he and Marc Petrovic had made in their work Seven Deadly Sins - as the top finial to the sin of  “Envy”.

Tim Tate & Marc Petrovic “Envy”

Tim wanted to create a cast glass, and he uses the lost wax process to form his elements. As the scale was similar, the original mold of Michael’s head was correct, but he needed to transform from dude to dudette. 

Michael Janis’ mugshot.

A wax mold of the original “Michael” undergoes ‘the chop’ to the has the extraneous bits – losing his soul patch and porkpie hat.

Original clay figure of Michael’s head.
Michael’s head as cast in green glass in  top finial to “Envy”

The hat is replaced with a perky new ‘do, the lips are made fuller, and Michael’s chiseled features softened.

The wax head is modified, with a new perky ‘do replacing the pork pie hat. And the soul patch is removed as the lips become softer and fuller.

The new wax Micaela is covered in plaster/silica and the wax melted out. The mold is then filled with glass and fired in the kiln. After annealing, the plaster is removed, and Micaela is revealed in her glory.

The new head in wax. Next, a plaster/silica slurry is poured around the head, hardened and the wax melted out. The form is then loaded into a kiln and glass melted into the void.
After firing, the molds are removed and the glass divested.
The new Michael… or is it Micaela?

 Other artists have dabbled in cross-dressing – notably:

Mick Jagger,  Andy Warhol,  Bugs Bunny

Ok – to finish out the blog post – The Kinks performing “Lola”

American Craft Council Interviews Chris Shea

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ACC interview with Chris Shea is online – click HERE.

Perry Price – the American Craft Council‘s new Director of Education interviewed master metal artist Chris Shea for the ACC’s American Craft Week. 
The “5 Question” format gives a too-brief glimpse into Chris’ thought process, but includes his thoughts of the DC area and the Washington Glass School:

The Renwick Gallery has been a special source of inspiration and encouragement for me as have the members of the James Renwick Alliance, the support organization for the museum. The Washington Glass School, created by Tim Tate, Michael Janis, and Erwin Timmers is a second creative home for me, and for many other people, too. It’s a kind of energy bank where I go for a spark of comradeship, collaboration, competition – and to find that special luminescence that glass can bring to the darker, heavier tones of forged metalwork. (ok, emphasis is mine, but still, phwoar!)

Chris recently had some of his forged steel furniture acquired by the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery – click here to read about his process. Congrats (again) Chris!

Click HERE for the American Craft article.

The American Craft Council (ACC) is a national, nonprofit educational organization founded in 1943 with a mission to promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft. The ACC celebrates the remarkable achievements of the many gifted artists today who are working with a variety of materials.

S.O.F.A. Chicago Art Fair 2012 Features Studio Glass

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SOFA CHICAGO From Technique to Artistic Expression

The critically acclaimed international art fair SOFACHICAGO returns to historic Navy Pier Friday, Nov 2 through Sunday, Nov 4, 2012, with an Opening Night Preview on Thursday, Nov 1.  The exhibition features masterworks of contemporary and modern arts and design, sculpture, functional art, and visionary art, plus related special exhibitions and lecture series. SOFA CHICAGO promises to be the world hot spot for international studio glass art. The American Studio Glass Movement is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year and the acclaimed art and design fair at Navy Pier will be center-stage. New this year, iPhone and iPad users can use the free SOFA FAIR App to browse the works on display at the show and identify works or contact galleries, simply by pointing their phone at artworks and adding them or instantly receiving information about that work. To download the SOFA FAIR App visit sofaexpo.com.

Harvey Littleton,
Yellow Crown II, 1984, glass

From the SOFA CHICAGO 2012 website: Art “dealer Maurine Littleton of Maurine LittletonGallery (Washington, D.C.), daughter of Harvey Littleton reports that half her booth space (#408) will feature “a selection of rarely seen (and first-time offered) pieces” by her father, including a “spectacular example” from his signature Arc series entitled Yellow Crown II (1984), direct from its exhibition at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wis. Littleton says it is the only one of its type still available; similar works can be found at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery of the American Art Museum and in major national public and private art collections.”
Michael Janis, Eclipse, 2012, glass powder imagery

Works by Michael Janis and Allegra Marquart will be amongst the artists featured in the other half. 
Allegra Marquart, Monkey Girl, 2012, glass

Tim Tate will be featured in Habatat Galleries space (#1200) – which has expanded their SOFA booth to accommodate 18 solo exhibitions!

Tim Tate,
The Deconstruction Of George Melies,2012, Cast and Blown Glass, Video

Additionally, the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation will screen their new documentary, The Toledo Workshop Revisited, 1962-2012. In a March 2012 residency, three young artists at the Toledo Museum of Art rebuilt a small glass furnace modeled after the one Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino designed 50 years earlier. 

The 1962 workshop launched the Studio Glass Movement, and made it possible for individual artists to work directly with glass. This new film documents the week-long residency that honors the past and celebrates the future of creative experimentation in glass. Screenings will be followed by Q&A with Robert Minkoff, Managing Trustee of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation; Andrew Page, Director of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation.

SOFA Chicago 2012
Nov 1 - 4, 2012
Festival Hall, Navy Pier

600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611

Flux Studios Host Workshop for JRA Distinguished Artist Jason Walker

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This past weekend, Flux Studios – next door to the Washington Glass School – held a workshop with ceramic artist Jason Walker, as part of the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Artist Series.  Jason Walker is known for his ceramic sculptures which offer narrative in both two- and three-dimensional forms. He uses such technological images as light bulbs, plugs, pipes, tubing, juxtaposed with nature imagery such as birds, insects, leaves and trees to explore how technology has changed society’s perceptions of nature.

Jason Walker demonstrates his painting technique. photo by Miriam Rosenthal, Third Eye Photography

Jason demonstrated his techniques of handbuilding with porcelain, and talked about his painted imagery with his three-dimensional forms. After the demo, the workshop gave a hands-on session with underglaze decoration on a porcelain tile.

(L- R) Inga Hamilton, Jason Walker, Pat Arnold. Inga is here from Northern Ireland for a residency at Flux Studios. photo by Miriam Rosenthal, Third Eye Photography
Flux Studios director Novie Trump introduces Jason Walker at the Smithsonian’ Renwick Gallery.

On the Sunday, Jason Walker talked about his work in the Grand Salon at the Renwick Gallery. Read more about Jason in a recent article about his work in American Craft.

Jason Walker talks of his work to the audience at the Smithsonian. photo by Miriam Rosenthal, Third Eye Photography

Jason’s solo show “Corporeal Perspectives” at Cross MacKenzie Gallery will be on exhibit through October 31.
Jason Walker received a BFA from Utah State University and an MFA from Penn State University. He has taught at numerous places nationally and internationally, such as Haystack Mountain School for the Crafts, Penland School for the Crafts, Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China and the International Ceramic Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary. He spent two years as an artist- in-residence at The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, where he was the recipient of the Taunt Fellowship award. He has also been awarded an NCECA International Residency Fellowship for a residency in Vallauris, France. He has work in major collections such as the Fine Art Museum of San Francisco: De Young, the Carnegie Mellon Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Arizona State University Art Museum, Ceramic Research Center, Tempe, Arizona.

Ben & Giselle Huberman = American Style

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The Fall 2012 issue of American Style Magazine features DC contemporary art collectors Ben and Giselle Huberman.

The new Fall issue of American Style Magazine is now out, and one of the feature stories is about Giselle and Ben Huberman and their amazing contemporary art collection that showcases their support of area artists.

Ben & Giselle Huberman have been strong supporters of artists of the Washington Glass School, including Erwin Timmers, Chris Shea, Michael Janis, Sean Hennessey and Tim Tate.
The American Style photo of the Huberman’s Potomac, MD residence shows Michael Janis’ glass sgraffito panel “Cubans Dreaming of Liberty
Giselle and Ben Huberman. Giselle is the president-elect of the James Renwick Alliance.

Within the article (written by Marilyn Millstone with photos by Timothy Jacobsen) are references and glimpses of work by Chris Shea, Michael Janis, Sean Hennessey.
Tim Tate’s “Ode to Joy” has a detailed description. In the mixed media sculpture, cast glass hands spell out in sign language the words to “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. A video of a tenor singing Beethoven’s work is inside the domed glass, but without sound – which is how Beethoven would have experienced the song – as he became deaf.

The article has a detailed sidebar about Tim Tate’s “Ode to Joy” sculpture (photo below by anythingphoto.net).

Tim Tate “Ode to Joy” blown & cast glass, original video, electronics

A video of a tenor singing Beethoven’s work is inside the domed glass, but without sound – which is how Beethoven would have experienced the song – as he became deaf. An interesting note – the tenor featured within Tim Tate’s work is artist Sean Hennessey. Besides being a glass/concrete mixed media sculptor, with work in the Huberman’s collection, Sean is an accomplished tenor. Below is the video of Sean singing that is incorporated into the sculpture. Have a look for the magazine at the newstands now!


Untitled from Tim Tate on Vimeo.

Tate, Kincheloe & Hennessey Teaching at Penland

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Penland School of Craft – the national center for craft education located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Some of the Washington Glass School instructors are preparing to teach a Fall Course at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, starting October 7, 2012.

Tim Tate will be leading a class on “The 21st Century Reliquary”, where the class will explore concepts for contemporary reliquaries – both the ideation and creation.

Robert Kincheloe will be handling the torchwork aspects for the class.

Teaching assistants Sean Hennessey and Robert Kincheloe will help the students complete the necessary technical glass components as they work. 

Sean Hennessey will be helping the students make molds. The process that Sean uses to take life-casting is the same as he will be teaching in the upcoming Washington Glass School course – “Life Casting” that starts in December.

Sean Hennessey takes a casting of his hands in an alginate mold.
The mold material sets up quick and is ready for the fill material within 10 minutes.
For this casting – a demo piece for the Penland class – Sean uses concrete as the fill material.

The last time Washington Glass taught at Penland was in the 2008 Affecting Plate Glass with Tim Tate and Michael Janis. That was a fun class, and we have stayed in touch with many of the students. 

2008′s Affecting Plate Glass Class @ Penland

Jennifer Lindstrom was the teaching assistant for that class and she made sure the students were kept in line.

Jennie “helps” student Joyce Knott. (Students – this image shows the importance of reading the liability waiver.)
What we do in the name of art.

Said Tim of the upcoming class – “Going to Penland is to me, like going home – I hope that we can all experiance that kind of love and growth in this course”.