by William Sampson
November 11, 2022
Wharton Esherick was famous for his handcrafted furniture often featuring natural edges and sculpted details. The Pennsylvania-based artist built his studio, its furniture, and objects down to the utensils, by hand over a 40-year period starting in 1926. A new program by Craft in America takes you inside his home and studio.
View the bonus clip below of Esherick’s trap door, which he jokingly named after his twin sister “Dottie,” because she was always “hanging around.”
The new Craft in America season episode also features: Syd Carpenter honoring African American growers through her Farm Bowls series; curator and ambassador for craft, Helen Drutt English; craftsman and Ojibwe tribal member Biskakone Greg Johnson; North House Folk School; and architect and educator Sim Van der Ryn & the Outlaw Builders.
The program hosted a live screening of featured Philadelphia artists at the CraftNOW Symposium, Nov. 11, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia. Watch the full episode online.
Craft in America is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit arts organization founded in 2004 with the mission to promote and advance original handcrafted work through programs in all media. The Peabody Award-winning, Emmy-nominated Craft in America documentary series first aired nationally on PBS in 2007 and has produced twenty-seven hour-long episodes to date.
These programs are filled with artists, techniques, and stories from diverse cultures, blending history with living practice. In addition to the series, Craft in America’s organizational efforts include pbs.org/craftinamerica and craftinamerica.org, a YouTube channel, multi-disciplinary educator guides that adhere to national standards, and the Craft in America Center in Los Angeles. All of Craft in America’s multimedia educational content is provided to the public at no charge.
Learn more at craftinamerica.org.
November 10, 2022
PBS Broadcast Premier December 16, 2022, 10pm (check local listings)
Philadelphia artists Syd Carpenter, Helen Drutt English, and the Wharton Esherick Museum are cornerstones in Craft in America’s newest episode HOME, premiering November 1 on the digital platforms of PBS and Craft in America. The PBS broadcast premiere is December 16 at 10pm (check local listings). The episode HOME is part of the new season of Craft in America, the Peabody Award-winning documentary series on PBS discovering the beauty, significance and relevance of handmade objects and the artists who create them. View the full episode here
A free public screening happens November 11, 11:15am at CraftNOW’s Symposium, at the Moore College Art and Design. A panel with the featured artists follows. The Symposium is part of CraftMONTH in Philadelphia and coincides with the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.
Philadelphia artists Syd Carpenter, Helen Drutt English, and the Wharton Esherick Museum help viewers explore the many meanings of HOME. The word has taken on heightened importance in recent years. Craft in America’s episode embraces the many facets of Home—from the physical structure, to the belongings we cherish, to the meals we share with family and friends. “Through the artists and stories represented in this episode, HOME honors the significance of our surroundings, while also acknowledging the challenging histories that have shaped our ideas of it,” shares Carol Sauvion, Executive Director of Craft in America. Executive Producer Patricia Bischetti adds, “HOME offers a nuanced exploration of the environments we make and the personal, historical, and creative influences that shape them.”
Brenda Bonneville, editor
November 7, 2022
Maine ceramic artist Ayumi Horie is a central focus in INSPIRATION, the newest episode of Craft in America, the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentary series on PBS discovering the beauty, significance, and relevance of handmade objects and the artists who make them.
Based in Portland, Maine, Horie believes that handmade objects hold power, and together with the stories that accompany them, can drive change. She exemplifies leveraging the internet to influence contemporary craft – creating practical, usable ceramics combined with unapologetic activism.
“We premiere the episode during the holiday season when inspiration and human authenticity are at the fore. Fittingly, INSPIRATION visits communities and distinguished artists of varied disciplines impacting new generations of makers through their work,” shares Carol Sauvion, Executive Director of Craft in America. Says Executive Producer and Director Patricia Bischetti, “The episode INSPIRATION explores how the featured artists not only influence us today, but how they will continue to impact and inspire the next generation, other artists, and viewers at home.”
“Craft in America…[has a] knack for telling big stories… about the formation of culture, the purpose of creativity, the idea that the pursuits of beauty and utility are foundational to humanity.” – New York Times
Digital release: November 1, 2022
PBS Broadcast Premiere: December 16, 2022 at 9:00 pm
View episode here
By Molly Given
Posted on October 31, 2022
The symposium on the 11th (which takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) will additionally feature a series of presentations from the Peabody Award-winning PBS series ‘Craft in America’, The Center for Art in Wood, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, and more. The symposium will also include shorter talks by emerging scholars selected from CraftNOW’s recent call for papers.
Newest Episode of PBS Series Craft in America, HOME, Features Wharton Esherick Museum, Syd Carpenter, and Helen Drutt English
October 29, 2022
A Peabody Award-winning series, Craft in America explores “America’s creative spirit through the language and traditions of the handmade.” HOME, which takes on the intimate topic of home from many angles – as architecture, personal objects and effects, and as the site of our familial relationships — premieres on PBS on December 16, 2022. A free public screening of HOME will be hosted by CraftNOW Philadelphia at their Public/Private Symposium on November 11, 2022, followed by a panel discussion with WEM Executive Director Julie Siglin, Curatorial Director Emily Zilber, Research Director Holly Gore, artist Syd Carpenter, and craft icon Helen Drutt English moderated by Josephine Shae, Art Bridges Terra Foundation Initiative Curatorial Coordinator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“Through the artists and stories represented in this episode, HOME honors the significance of our surroundings, while also acknowledging the challenging histories that have shaped our ideas of it,” shares Carol Sauvion, Executive Director of Craft in America. Executive Producer Patricia Bischetti adds, “HOME offers a nuanced exploration of the environments we make and the personal, historical, and creative influences that shape them.”
“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary as a museum, we are delighted to share Esherick’s highly individual hand-built studio with new audiences through the Craft in America series,” says WEM Executive Director Julie Siglin. “Esherick considered his home to be his autobiography. Anyone who walks through the doors of his studio can feel the unconventional and joyful creative impulse he brought to every aspect of his life.”
By Helen Yuen
PBS Premiere Of Craft In America’s New Season
November 2022 (Digital Release)
December 16, 2022, 9pm and 10pm (PBS Broadcast Premiere)
Minnesota’s North House Folk School and St. Paul’s Hmong community are featured in the newest season of Craft in America, the Peabody Award-winning documentary series on PBS discovering the beauty, significance, and relevance of handmade objects and the artists who make them. The new episodes showcasing Minnesota artists are entitled INSPIRATION and HOME, streaming on the digital platforms of PBS and Craft in America in November 2022, with a broadcast premiere on PBS December 16 at 9pm and 10pm, respectively (check local listings). The highlighted Minnesota organization in the INSPIRATION episode is the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. The HOME episode honors Hmong artists Suzanne Thao, Tousue Vang, Chef Yia Vang, and Mandora Young.
|INSPIRATION premieres during the holiday season when inspiration and human authenticity are at the fore. Fittingly, INSPIRATION visits communities and distinguished artists of varied disciplines impacting new generations of makers through their work. The featured artists and organizations are Diedrick Brackens (Los Angeles, CA), Hmong Community – Suzanne Thao, Tousue Vang, Chef Yia Vang, and Mandora Young (St. Paul, MN), Ayumi Horie (Portland, ME), Maddy Inez Leeser, Mary Little, Simon Rodia and the Watts Towers, Alison Saar, and Betye Saar (all of Los Angeles, CA).|
|Hmong Community – Suzanne Thao, Tousue Vang, Chef Yia Vang, and Mandora Young (St. Paul, MN)The episode elaborates on the significant impact of immigrants on American creative culture, focusing in particular on the Hmong community of St. Paul, Minnesota. Viewers learn how the ancient practice of paj ntaub embroidery is an artistic and economic foundation for the Hmong, and how their culture continues to thrive and evolve.|
- Suzanne Thao is a master maker and instructor in the tradition of paj ntaub (“flower cloth”), a needlework technique practiced by Hmong women. Thao began learning the technique at age 7 from her grandmother, mother, and aunts. She has now been practicing and teaching this technique for over 50 years. Deeply committed to preserving Hmong art, Thao has shared the technique with her daughter, Chuayi Yang, and is the inaugural instructor of Project Paj Ntaub, the free monthly paj ntaub workshop offered through the Hmong Museum in St. Paul, MN.
- Tousue Vang is a Hmong American, storyteller, and image maker who has worked in the field for over ten years. Growing up, Vang was surrounded by traditional Hmong story quilts, and is continually inspired by the art and tales of his heritage. Vang’s practice combines traditional narrative with new visual language to tell unique stories.
- Chef Yia Vang was born in a Thai refugee camp and lived there until his family was able to resettle in Wisconsin. He is a renowned chef and founder of the Union Hmong Kitchen, an award-winning restaurant in Minneapolis that brings Hmong cuisine and food traditions to the local community. Chef Yia is a James Beard Award finalist and has been featured in Bon Appétit magazine, CNN, and National Geographic, among other recognition.
- Mandora Young is an artist and educator specializing in traditional paj ntaub She teaches classes and workshops for all ages at librariesand schools, welcoming both Hmong and non-Hmong community members. Young is committed to passing down the paj ntaub cloth embroidery techniques as well as conveying the significance and history of the art form.
“Craft in America [has a] knack for telling big stories about the formation of culture, the purpose of creativity, the idea that the pursuits of beauty and utility are foundational to humanity.”
– New York Times
October 6, 2022
Wisconsin’s Ojibwe tribal member and craftsman Biskakone Greg Johnson is featured on PBS in a new episode of Craft in America premiering on the digital platforms of PBS and Craft in America starting November 2022, with a broadcast premiere on PBS on Friday, Dec. 16.
According to the series description, the Johnson episode is an exploration of handmade environments and hand built homes starting with the Ojibwe wild rice harvest in northern Wisconsin. Members of the Ojibwe tribe have been living in this region for generations, and tribal member and craftsman Biskakone Greg Johnson shares his mastery of the crafts and traditions of his people.
The Art to Wear movement was sparked in the late 1960s by a group of Pratt students teaching each other to crochet. They came from different disciplines, including Jean Williams Cacicedo, BFA Fine Arts ‘70; Marika Contompasis, BID ‘69; Sharron Hedges, BFA Art Education ‘70; Dina Knapp, Graphic Art and Design ‘70; and Janet Lipkin, BFA Fine Arts ‘70. Together, they fostered a shared passion for using textiles in art that was also fashion. In November 2019, the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened Off the Wall: American Art to Wear to recognize this American art movement. In a Craft in America: Storytellers episode on PBS, gallerist and collector Julie Schafler Dale discussed their influential work. Watch on Craft in America and YouTube.
“We were mentors and peers to each other. As one of us discovered a new concept, it inspired each of us to grow and develop our own styles.”Janet Lipkin, BFA Fine Arts ‘70, in an interview with Pratt.edu
June 24, 2022
Would you take a sledgehammer to the David? A flamethrower to the Mona Lisa? A
shredder to the latest Banksy? (Actually, scratch that last one.)
Why then, some people are beginning to ask, would you want to pulverize a piñata?
Alfonso Hernandez, for one, wants you to lower the bat and take off the blindfold and
appreciate the artistry of a form that dates back hundreds of years.
The Dallas-based artist has crafted life-size piñata sculptures of Mexican singer Vicente
Fernández and Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He wants the
public to help turn an industry into art.
“Piñata makers never treated it like an art form,” he says. “They’re taught to make it fast.
It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just hurry up because they’re going to break it.”
Unsatisfied with the generic mass production that has characterized their discipline for
decades, piñata makers are pushing the artistic limits of the party pieces. These piñatas,
bigger and more detailed, are made out of wood, foam, wire, and clay, and sculpted to
look like beloved icons and life-size low-riders. Some move, some are political, and some
even talk. Rihanna is a fan, as are, increasingly, art galleries.
For generations, the real cost of bargain piñatas has typically been borne by the piñata
makers themselves working long, arduous hours for less than minimum wage. By
proving that piñatas can be more than just clubbable party pieces, people like Mr.
Hernandez hope they can both create art and bring a wider respect and dignity to a craft
long viewed as cheap and disposable.
“It’s been an underappreciated art form,” says Emily Zaiden, director and lead curator of
the Craft in America Center in Los Angeles.
“Piñatas are so accessible. They speak to everybody,” she adds. But there’s also a flip
side. Piñatas “can be about appropriation, can be about, I think, the trivialization of a
A new generation of Hispanic artists, she continues, “see how much metaphorical
potential piñatas have, and how deeply it reflects their identities.”
By Edward Goldman
April 15, 2022
Another challenging exhibition I had the pleasure of seeing recently was the one at Craft in America Center on W. Third Street east of La Cienega. This first ever retrospective of LA artist, Ferne Jacobs (b. 1942), covers 50 years of her career focused on fiber sculptures. “Reinventing and advancing traditional techniques used for basketry, including knotting, coiling, and twining, Jacobs has generated an entirely new language of sculptural art.”
Looking closely at her small and medium-sized sculptures, it is difficult to avoid the temptation of touching them not just with your eyes, but with your fingers. Their texture, their color stays with you even after you’ve moved away. To my surprise, some of Jacobs’ abstract-shaped sculptures made me think about human bodies hugging each other. And all of them, either hanging on the walls or sitting on a pedestal, refuse to stand still. They have a hidden personality and energy of dancers ready to perform.