Doers vs. Dealers
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, April 14, 2012
The Palm Beach Fine Craft Show was the last major Art event for the Palm Beach’s winter season. though it happened over a month ago, in my mind it remains a significant winner… Small in comparison to the earlier glitzy shows at the Coliseum, this gem of a show was not the usual do-it-in-the-kitchen and sell it at the church-craft-fair variety. This was a juried event by 120 artisans exhibiting in 11 categories ranging from Jewelry, decorative and wearable Fiber, leather, wood, ceramics, glass, and basketry. In other words, it covered the spectrum of creative arts. Exhibitors came from as far as Seattle, Ojai, California, Vermont and as close as our backyard in Florida: Miramar, Sarasota and Miami.
What made this exhibit different from the typical mega art shows in Palm Beach was that the artisans were presenting their own wares in each exhibit…. There were no dealers selling expensive art where the creator most likely had no financial gain form the enhanced value of his creativity… or was already dead… Prices were not in the church-fair category but neither was the quality.
While the show abounded in creativity, it is unavoidable to find similarities: hand loomed rugs, where the raw material dominates the craft and only the decoration separates one from the other - jewelry suffers a similar dilemma: there is always a plethora of wrought and twisted metal embellished with semi-precious stones (what I call the “hippy” look) - textiles are controlled by the limitation of the yarn and can become homogeneous to the viewer. However, this similarity is offset by the very imaginative use of other raw materials that distinguished so many of the artisans from each other.. It was refreshing to meet the artist and their willingness to share and explain their work instead of being huckstered by middlemen extolling a distant artist’s virtue.
Kenny Pieper lives in Burnsville, N.C. (not particularly know of it's craft movement.) He has been a glass blower since 1976. His work is elegant and traditional, comparable to the finest works being produced in the Mecca of glass blowing: Murano, Italy. His work stands in stark contrast to the more modern glass artists who have followed in the footsteps of Dale Chihuly.
I was delighted to see a hand-blown goblet selling for three hundred dollars or more and worth every penny. It was also refreshing to find glass artisans not working in the footsteps of Dale Chihuly. Wood-turners not producing salad bowls. Ceramic artists creating delicately carved porcelain vessels that were a feast for the eye, not intended for utility.
Another artist, working outside of the box, was Robert Woldow from Seattle, (where Chihuly is God.) Woldow spent his early adult life being a banker until he got the urge to escape the world of nine to five. His amazing geometric designs in bold vivid colors are refreshing interpretation in glass.
I was impressed by the bold textured ceramics of William Kidd, his studio is in Mirama on Florida's West coast.His bowls, vases and platters were creative eye-catching ceramics in vivid colors.
Elaine Unzicker started as a jewelry maker but expanded her knitted iron chain maille into wearable art, following in the footsteps of the medieval armory makers, Unzicker works in bucolic Ojai, California and sells to the glitterati of Hollywood and the chic ladies in Palm Beach
Natalia Margulis is an artist, living in Livingston, N.J. who has given a contemporary twist to the traditional art of needle work
Jennifer McCurdy lives on Martha's Vineyard, she uses the age-old techniques of porcelain turned on a potter's wheel and then carves into sculptures. Her inspiration has come from the disintegrated shells so abundant on the beaches near her home. Her work is in many permanent museum collections
Basket making is an ancient art, practiced by natives around the world. the results are varied from utilitarian to decorative to fantasy... what I like about Mary Jackson's baskets are the discipline and simple elegant shapes that terminate in a swoosh with the handle.
Ladies handbags are usually made out fine leather or cloth, never out of wood, until Kimberley Chalos from Evansville, IN came along... she has carved this amusing bags from exotic woods with funky lids
This brings up the eternal dialogue: Art vs. Craft (I am of the school that these categories mesh and are not separable) and I am naturally drawn to the artisan’s imaginative interpretation. (This argument is equally salient in my field: Furniture as art or furniture as utility???)
Fortunately, for my readers, there are craft councils sponsoring many similar events around the country. There may well be one near your home worth while visiting.
Porcelain vases - Jennifer McCurdy , Massachusetts,
Wood Handbags -Kimberly Chalos, Evansville, IN - www.handcarvedhandbags.com
Wood turner - Jim Keller, Richmond, TX - www.jimkeller-foxfire.com
Glass Waldo - Robert Woldow, Seattle, www.artscraftseattle.com
Glass - Kenny Pieper, Burnsville, NC, www.pieperglass.com
Wrought Iron Jewelry - Jaclyn Davidson, Vermont, www.jaclyndavidson.com
Mesh Iron Fashion - Elaine Unzicker, California, www.unzickerdesign.com
Ceramic - William Kidd, Miramar, FL, www.williamkiddceramics.com
Needlework - Natalia Margulis, Livingston, New Jersey,
Basket maker - Mary Jackson - (b. 1945)
Charleston, South Carolina – no Email