Critic’s Pick TV Picks: ‘Powerless,’ ‘Craft,’ ‘Who,’ ‘PuppyCat,’ ‘Garden Wall’
By Robert Lloyd
October 31, 2014
“Craft in America” (PBS, Sunday). This handsome series about people who make things, as a life or a living, and the things people make is not exactly prolific — this week’s episode, “Service,” is only the 13th since the series began in 2007 — but a bounty when it does arrive. Though the title makes no claim to art, evading the unresolvable question of what it is or isn’t and allowing for a range of work — there is an army saddler in “Service” — the word is used throughout the series, and the distinction, given the many beautiful things on display, finally seems meaningless. Mostly, it’s a matter of mediums — glass and wood and fabric and ceramics and hand-worked metal, whose very nature may be part of the message — and the potentially useful nature of some of the work. (You might drink out of it, or wear it, or put a flower in it; though much more has no practical use at all.) The episodes are arranged conceptually: “Forge,” “Community,” “Crossroads.” The latest, “Service” has a military, or post-military theme, and along with the people it profiles, it gives due praise to the GI Bill, which has sent many a soldier to art school and scans the history of arts and crafts within the American military, as pastime or therapy. The work here is all informed, explicitly, metaphorically or aesthetically by the experience of war; makers profiled include leathersmith Eugene Burks Jr., who makes horse tack for the caissons that carry caskets to Arlington National Cemetery; and papermaker Pam DeLuco, who collaborated with servicewomen to make a book of paper dolls — on paper actually made from their uniforms (literally beaten to a pulp, someone observes); and ceramicists Ehren Tool (Gulf I) and Judas Recendez (Gulf II). Tool makes what might be called dark commemorative cups: “A cup is a little thing,” he says. “It’s not confrontational — it’s just a cup…. A cup’s the appropriate scale to talk about issues of war and violence, and the shape is just a shape that feels good in my hand. There’s nothing I do I think is going to change the world, but there’s nothing in the world that releases me from my obligation to try.” You may want to have a handkerchief handy. Also available to see via www.craftinamerica.org as of Monday.