CRAFT IN AMERICA: CELEBRATION ARTISTS’ BIOS
Friday, November 20, 2015 at 10:00pm* on PBS
Celebrations are handed down from generation to generation. Long-practiced traditions blend with new rituals to create festive ceremonies that give shape to what is most important in our lives. CRAFT IN AMERICA: CELEBRATION continues its exploration of the role of craft and the handmade in our nation’s diverse and distinctive winter holiday celebrations.
An early interest in Chinese arts led martial artist and historian Corey Chan to train in and document the ancient Chinese lion dances that are performed for many occasions, especially for Chinese New Year celebrations. Chan, along with fellow artists Thomas Chun, Jeff Lee, Travis Lum and Jared Young are dedicated to preserving and promoting the cultural legacies of lion dancing, martial arts and dragon dancing. They create and restore elaborate paper maché lion and dragon heads, using traditional handmade methods learned from master craftspeople in China and integrate the symbols, color palettes and stories that have been handed down for centuries.
Pewabic has been a beacon for artists since 1905, producing museum quality ceramics in Detroit for over 100 years. Founded by innovative ceramist Mary Chase Perry Stratton, this non-profit pottery and education center celebrates artists of all ages and skill levels. Pewabic, designated a National Historic Landmark, includes a working pottery, museum, archive and exhibition programs. Pewabic has played a role in the recent revitalization of the City of Detroit.
Kwanzaa is an African American tradition begun in 1966 celebrating family, community and culture. Based on African harvest festivals and observed from December 26 to January 1, it offers 7 days of self-affirmation and thoughtful reflection for African-American families culminating in feasting and gift-giving. The tenets are Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Chicago artist Babatunde Kenneth Graves creates a kinara (candle holder), traditionally crafted from natural wood sourced from one’s environs. Dr. Carol Adams of the DuSable Museum, Chicago celebrants at Chicago State University, and artist Malik Seneferu in Oakland, CA share Kwanzaa traditions as they are passed down and celebrated by their communities.
Yoshiko Yamamoto’s love of Japanese ukiyo-e informs her blockprint and letterpress art that she creates in her Arts and Crafts Press in Port Arthur, WA. Letterpress printing is a relief process, the oldest form of printing, and Yoshiko is self-taught in the craft. Her style is inspired by the European Arts and Crafts movement (1880-1910) founded by William Morris which favored craft production over industrial manufacture and emphasized strong line-driven designs sourced from nature. Committed to creating things of beauty, art for her is a way of life.
Holidays are met with abundant creative energy at Motawi Tileworks (Ann Arbor, MI) and in this episode, designer and owner Nawal Motawi collaborates with Yoshiko Yamamoto to create a special holiday tile. After learning her craft at Pewabic, Nawal began producing tiles 23 years ago in a garage studio and today designs and fabricates her colorful signature raised-line tiles for national distribution in a state-of-the-art production facility.
The annual San Francisco Chinese New Year parade delights an estimated one million spectators with a two mile long procession of 5,000 participants, 100 groups and clubs, and 26 lighted floats. East West Floats, led by master float builders Dave Thomas and Stephanie Mufson, lead artist Yumei Hou, and a staff of exceptional craft artists, create an armada of glittering floats made of metal, wood, Styrofoam sculptures, paint, imagination and passion.
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Photos courtesy of Mark Markley, C.F. Martin Archives/Greg Solomacha, Stephen Butler.
Additional images of all the artists’ work are available at: