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Textures and Textiles in Crafting America

Crafting America exhibition installation
Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

In Crafting America, Crystal Bridges’ current temporary exhibition, craft comes front and center, featuring 120 works in ceramics, textiles, fiber, wood, metal, glass, and more unexpected materials. Learn more about the creative mediums used in these works of art, from tin to glass, art is brought to life through American craft.

Wood and Tin

Ronald Lockett
Sarah Lockett’s Roses

Ronald Lockett, Sarah Lockett’s Roses
Ronald Lockett, Sarah Lockett’s Roses, 1997, tin and paint on wood. Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

Ronald Lockett created Sarah Lockett’s Roses to memorialize his late great-grandmother, Sarah, who was a gardener and quilter. For this homage, he gathered discarded metal materials from their neighborhood. Each tin rectangle features a dense texture and a centered, stylized rose, all painted. Lockett’s layering technique and use of color create a vibrant and rhythmic pattern resembling the construction of a quilt.

Ceramics

Maija Grotell
Vase

Maija Grotell, Vase
Maija Grotell, Vase (center), 1943 or earlier, platinum design on unglazed blue stoneware, Credit Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

Maija Grotell, an immigrant to the United States from Finland, joined the faculty at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Under her direction, the ceramics program at Cranbrook flourished, and she encouraged students to develop individual styles. Grotell embellishes this roughly spherical pot with rhythmically placed chevrons.

Kathy Butterly
Color Safe (left) and Black Plaid (right)

Kathy Butterly, Color Safe (left) and Black Plaid (right)
Kathy Butterly, Color Safe (left) and Black Plaid (right), 2018, clay and glaze, credit courtesy of James Cohan. Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

Kathy Butterly packs a punch into each of her compact ceramics. She tucks, twists, and otherwise coaxes her clay into complex and convoluted shapes, then adds layer after layer of slip and glaze. Her works do retain a connection to the vessel—they sometimes sport handles and usually culminate in sensuous lips at the top. Their main function, though, is to provide a rush of visual pleasure.

Glass

Andy Paiko
Reliquary Group

Andy Paiko, Reliquary Group
Andy Paiko, Reliquary Group, 2020, blown, sculpted, etched, lacquered, and assembled glass; twine; and wax. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

Andy Paiko creates reliquaries, sometimes left empty, sometimes filled with handmade “specimens” evoking those of a historic curiosity cabinet. Within these enclosed microcosms, time seems suspended, creating an opportunity for extended reflection in all senses of the term.

“The visual gravity of Paiko’s blown-glass reliquaries pulls viewers into their orbits. Elegant canisters, pedestals for fragments foraged or fabricated, they bend light to the will of the contemplative imagination, concentrating vision into meditation, concealing as much as they reveal. His are alchemical creations that nudge us off-balance. In our flailing attempts to recenter ourselves, they compel us to recalibrate what we might think and what we might know.”

―Bernard L. Herman, “On Reliquaries and Self-Evident Truths,” Crafting America: Artists and Objects: 1940 to Today

Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick
Fruit Bowl

Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, Fruit Bowl
Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, Fruit Bowl, 2000, blown glass, wood, and paint, courtesy of the artists.

Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick have collaborated since 1979 in creating a body of innovative work made from blown glass. With Fruit Bowl, the artists go big and bold, infusing each piece of fruit with brilliant color. Their technique is unique, as they build layers of color on their glass forms by sifting colored glass powders onto the hot glass during the blowing process. This enables them to create realistic colors and textures.

Jewelry

Merry Renk
“White Cloud” Wedding Crown

Merry Renk, “White Cloud” Wedding Crown,
Merry Renk, “White Cloud” Wedding Crown, 1968, formed and pounded 14k yellow gold sheet, wire, cultured pearls. Credit Museum of Arts and Design, New York; gift of the Johnson Wax Company, through the American Craft Council, 1977.

“People ornament their bodies for many reasons: to demonstrate status, to fit in with prevailing styles, or just to be attractive. Studio jewelers reflect on these basic instincts while exploring the communicative range and sheer complexity of bodily decoration. In Merry Renk’s gold and pearl headpiece [seen above], we see elaborate historical forms—medieval wedding crowns and Baroque lace collars—approached with the structural exactitude of industrial design, which was the original professional discipline of both of these jewelers.” ―Crafting America: Artists and Objects: 1940 to Today

Fabric

Nick Cave
Soundsuit (left)

Jamie Okuma
Coat (right)

Nick Cave, Soundsuit and Jamie Okuma, Coat
(left) Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2009, fabric with appliquéd crochet and buttons, knitted yarn, and metal armature, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.; (right) Jamie Okuma, Coat, 2016, 13/0 cut beads on wool cashmere with purple ring cowrie shells and hand-appliquéd silk ribbon work, courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

Nick Cave’s celebrated Soundsuits series, of which this work is one example, serves as a tool of liberation. The adorned objects, including the hundreds of hand-attached buttons here, become sonically animated when put in motion through dance—hence the name Soundsuit. Cave creates each suit from a huge array of tex­tiles and found objects. He choreographs performances in which dancers wear these elaborate outfits, drawing from African ceremonial practices as well as contempo­rary theater and street pageantry.

Jamie Okuma, a California-based fashion designer, has been a vocal critic of the appropriation of Native traditions. She employs motifs drawn from her Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock heri­tage, and her own personal experience, in her extrava­gant creations. Her garments take off from historical patterns into new flights of the imagination. The impressive beadwork, ribbon work, and cowrie shell design of this coat show the confluence of rich Native traditions and couture fashion.

Written by Kat de Sonnaville, communications intern, Crystal Bridges.