Sunday, January 25, 2015

Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show Reflections - The Three Graces of Contemporary Fine Craft

Last autumn, I had the very special honor of exhibiting my work as an Emerging/Wearable Fiber Artist at the esteemed Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. It was an unforgettable experience, a milestone, a marvel. Around the time of the show, I wrote a little essay about the show, its artists, and this world I adore so much -- that of fine craft. I didn't get a chance to share it earlier, but, now, here it is. I hope you enjoy the words and the sights.


Those who gathered for the 38th Annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center November 6-9, 2014, were in for a sumptuous feast of an experience. There were extraordinary vessels of clay, wood, metal, and fiber; beguiling jewelry that undulates and caresses the body; uncommon furniture that does not merely occupy space but commands it; and, clothing exquisitely fashioned out of the finest fibers. Each of the 195 exhibiting artists came from unique backgrounds, having mastered a distinctive set of skills, and works in a different aesthetic framework than their PMA Craft Show neighbor. Yet, as they work year-round in their studios in Maine, Illinois, California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, each piece they chisel, forge, wheel throw, and weave is a sign of worshiping the three graces of contemporary fine craft – form, surface, and storytelling.

Form Transformed

Artwork by PMA Craft Show 2014 artists: (Top Row, L-R) Jennifer Martin, Richard Judd, David Fraser, (Bottom Row, L-R) Chunghie Lee, Valerie Jo Coulson, Lulu Fichter

PMA Craft Show artists across different media celebrate three-dimensional expression and the exuberance of form and line. Taking their cue from the classical and traditional, these artists trans-form shapes and objects that defy conventions, question the equilibrium, and devise their own rules of proportion. The objects of desire they create, whether they fit in the palm of your hand or are larger than life, are wondrous, exciting, enticing.

Surface Exposed

Artwork by PMA Craft Show 2014 Artists: (Top Row, L-R) Kathleen Dustin, Jill Hurant, Simon van der Ven, Michael Mikula, Rob Sieminski, Robert Rickard.

PMA Craft Show artists mine the depths and expand the boundaries of their materials to reveal surfaces that invite touch and expand the tactile vocabulary. From creating complex patinas to concocting textile-like patterns in porcelain or wood, the spectrum of surface design possibilities was on abundant display at the Show. Crevices, layers, and the juxtapositions between hard and soft, ruled the day in virtually every booth at the Show. The “right” and “wrong” sides, recto and verso are often equally important, each carrying its own textural delight and meaning.

Stories in Conversation

Artwork by PMA Craft Show 2014 Artists: (Top Row, L-R) Christine Schukow Rodrigues, Roberta and David Williamson, Robert Farrell, (Bottom Row, L-R) Cathy Rose, Kina Crow, Ken and Julie Girardini.

One of the primary reasons audiences flock to an experience like the PMA Craft Show is to see, hear, and read stories told by objects, as augmented by conversations held between visitors and exhibiting artists. Whether firmly representational or strictly figurative, the individual necklaces, teapots, cabinets, hats, and baskets audiences encountered at the Show held the artists' narratives. Their bodies of work as well as individual brushstrokes, carving marks, and stitches are fragments of their makers' stories. These are tales “to be continued” – both when you as a visitor interact with the artists, and when you acquire their work to make it part of your own story, in your home, your collection, your wardrobe.

Written by Elena Rosenberg, an Emerging Artist at the 2014 PMACraft Show. Elena is a New York based wearable fiber artist, knit fashion designer, and an advocate for fine craft and art. She serves on the Boards of Directors at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and Surface Design Association. She is an artist member of American Craft Council, TAFA, and ArtsWestchester. From 2012 through 2014, she was on staff at Fiber Art Now magazine. Elena works on strategy, marketing, content development, and curatorial projects with artists, organizations, and small businesses.

Elena Rosenberg Wearable Fiber Art online POP-UP SHOP is now open.


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