My Favorite Craft with Bruce Hoffman

How long have you been working in the local art community?

I’ve been in the business for more than thirty years! I have a degree from the Tyler School of Art and have been in the Philadelphia area ever since. I’ve worked in various galleries for more than 20 years, and in 2012, created Fiber Philadelphia. Throughout my career, I have been devoted to taking a more personal approach to the craft world; for many, galleries are seen as being appointment only or closed door. When I began curating at Graver’s Lane I made sure that the space was welcoming to children, teens, artists, and folks just passing by. Keeping an open, friendly environment has always been instrumental for me.

How has working at Graver’s Lane allowed you to grow as a curator and an artist?

Working with founder and CEO Ken Goldenberg has been great. Working with Ken, we have been able to successfully work and collaborate with many nonprofits such as the People Helping People Foundation, as well as giving back to the Chestnut Hill community.

What is your favorite craft?

About thirty years ago, I bought a piece from the influential ceramicist Karen Karnes. This is actually the first piece I ever purchased from the PMA Craft Show, and I still love it every day!

Where do you display Karen’s piece?

Karen’s piece lives on top of my IKEA shelf alongside other pieces that have meaning to me. I keep my house very much like my gallery; displaying a juxtaposition of diverse objects in a thoughtful manner. I knew from the moment I saw Karen’s piece all those years ago I wanted it in part because it’s a functional piece. I use it when I cook; if it breaks it breaks, but I’ll never forget the history, memory, and love behind it.

What does Karen’s piece, and her work as a whole, mean to you?

Karen is the guru, she’s the greatest! She’s one of the driving forces behind the innovation of the Black Mountain College. She served as the leader of a ceramist movement during an integral time period. Growing up Jewish in New York, Karen witnessed the migration of European and Asian ceramists to the US due to World War II. These artists were some of the best in their field, and were very instrumental in influencing Karen as well as US ceramics and textiles movements.

For me, Karen’s work is unprecedented. I love all art; I’m a painter by nature who views art through the Eastern Philosophy. This way of thinking essentially means that I believe every kind of artwork holds deep meaning regardless of the medium. A cup or bowl in your kitchen holds just as much importance as a painting on the wall. Western culture to this day is still learning and adapting to the studio art movement, including the importance of art’s physiological, emotional elements. We’re so driven by “fast plastic culture” that we don’t have the element of appreciation for the little things.

That’s incredible to hear how Karen’s piece fits not only into your collection, but how her work reflects many styles and movements.

Exactly. Some people buy art thinking they’ll be able to make a profit from it. For me it doesn’t matter – I’m never going to sell her piece.

Recently, you curated the critically acclaimed exhibition “The Faces of Politics: In/Tolerance” at Boston’s Fuller Craft Museum. Can you tell us a little about that process?

I had two years to figure out how this show would look. I had a feeling early on that 2016 would be a huge, divided election full of hot button issues. Ultimately, Faces of Politics stemmed from Freddie Gray and grew from there. One of the most moving pieces in the show was Joyce Scott’s “Lynch Tree.” She’s a respected beat artist from Baltimore who created a powerful twenty feet high bead and glass work that is both provocative in theme and tone, but is awe-inspiring due to the beauty of the female figure.

Now that Faces of Politics has come to an end, I’ve been focusing on an entirely different type of event, Graver’s Lane Gallery’s upcoming event, the Harry Potter Festival.

What can we expect at this year’s Harry Potter Festival?

This year promises to be the biggest yet. Chestnut Hill has partnered with Septa to provide a special Hogwarts Express train for us. Gravers Lane Gallery will have a few art pieces in honor of this festival including book art from Valerie Savarie, paintings, and wax works. 

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