March 20 2018

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you eventually became interested in starting crafts and living such a colorful life?

I’m Rachel Mae Smith and I run the blog The Crafted Life. I started blogging back in 2011 when I was overwhelmed with work and in need of a creative outlet. Before that, I had never used a camera or Photoshop, so it was all a learning process. In 2014, I was able to turn my hobby into a full-time job and have been running The Craft Life since!

As for color, I’ve always had a thing for color, but I started bringing it into my home more and more when I moved from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon in 2014. I missed the candy colored homes, so I sought out to make my home that place of colorful joy, regardless of what city it was located in.

Have you always been interested in crafts?

I have! I remember as a kid being obsessed with making those DIY loop potholders, friendship bracelets, and sand art. There was always something so exciting about turning simple materials into something real and usable. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Art History, so my love for the arts has been lifelong.

What is the best craft you’ve ever bought?

A pink and grey vase from Brian Giniewski

How do you display this craft?

I really love using it for flowers, but since I don’t always have fresh flowers, I use it to hold brushes and pens in my studio so that I can keep it out instead of putting it in a cabinet in between use.

What does this piece mean to you?

I just love Brian’s work in general, but I bought this particular piece from him during a maker fair that I curated and hosted. While being a beautiful piece on its own, it also has a fun memory!

Can you tell us about some of your current or upcoming projects?

My first book, Hello Color, comes out May 1st! It’s full of colorful projects that you can make for any room in your home. I’ll be going on tour in the month of July, driving and crafting my way across the country!

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February 27 2018

Installation and silk graffiti artist Aubrie Costello uses words to create art that moves: both physically and emotionally. Her designs are inspired by the people of Philadelphia and the words they use in their everyday lives. Here is her story.

I attended Moore College of Art & Design where I began completing installation work that correlated with my sketches. I shared a studio in North Philadelphia with Darla Jackson, a fellow Philadelphian artist, and it was incredible, but I eventually got to a point where I realized I didn’t like the studio setting. Instead of working I would just be writing down and listening to the conversations outside my window. This is where it all started.

One night I took strands of silk, a hammer, and some nails and tagged the walls with some words from my notebook in silk right outside my studio. It felt great! It wasn’t heavy.  It was quite literally this light way of talking about the same heavier topics like gender roles and socio-economic injustices. I was just writing on the wall – not a traditional graffiti way of doing the work. 

Philadelphia loves art and its artists, but it can be difficult to be a working artist. Most artists I know wear many hats. I have a day job although I’d rather put my full energy into this. 

Working at The Bus Stop Boutique has been amazing because my boss is also collaborator/ mentor/ friend. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders and she pushes me. I’ve even had the opportunity to collaborate with shoe brands because of her. What’s really invaluable is that there’s this common thread between my work and fashion. When I go to trade shows I’ll see cool color patterns and juxtapositions that inspire my work. 

The words and phrases used in my art are about 75 percent overheard from people on the street. I take their meaning then reinterpret it with silk. Silk has an emotional feel to it – almost a sadness. It’s interesting to play with other people’s words. I love playing with my own words, but sometimes I’m more excited to play with other people’s words.

I’ve always been concerned with reflecting the times. I’m more present and I want to talk about what’s going on right now. If I put a piece up in the neighborhood I want it to resonate and speak to the people who would interact with that specific piece and perhaps pose a thoughtful question to the viewer. 

I have always loved how accessible street art is, but I was a little apprehensive myself to make a piece and put it up. I put so much pressure on myself for me to be good enough. I want mine to be effective and beautiful.

Because of this, people often ask, why silk? I loved the material so much – loved the fabric. One day, I had a fiber/textile teacher at Moore who came into my studio. She said, “You need to let the fabric speak for itself.” My work isn’t canvas or paper, so I need to let it show its weight, let it hang. That tiny conversation with her has stuck with me through this entire process. 

I start my studio days walking around, writing, and observing. I note down what strikes and inspires me. After returning to my studio I figure out color, pairing, and scale.

For the Fringe Arts Festival 2017, I collaborated on a short film, dance performance, and site-specific art piece “Show Me What You Want Me to See.”  It flowed so naturally. We started with one piece and went from there to finish with a total of 14. We pulled out keywords that we felt would be the most interesting. The original purpose of the pieces was for the film to be in the apartment. Then the pieces became the set. I love this especially in my work “The Relic in the Thing.”

The whole film plays with subtitles, and these jarring moments you experience in loss. I wanted some to be fleshy quiet, some to interject that blood red – I wanted to showcase the dynamic emotional rollercoaster of experiencing loss.

Thanks to Conrad Benner, founder of Streets Dept, people connected the dots with the work and the artist who made it. I have a lot to thank him for. But Instagram has also been instrumental in this as well. I have been given a lot of opportunities for collaboration and to have a creative outlet. I can also use it to make merchandise or partner with other artists and businesses. 

I have also recently exhibited at Main Line Arts Center.  Happily Ever After was a selection of works by female artists. The exhibition is from post-feminist perspective in what it means to be a woman in modern times. We are questioning womanhood and gender.

The exhibit opened on October 13, 2017.  I was really excited about this collaboration because it allows me to add more depth to my art in a way. I want to do more of this, although street art will always be my first love. 

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December 18 2017


Our 41st annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center raised $347,000 for the Museum! Thanks to the support of our sponsors, patrons and artists, the Craft Show has contributed more than $12 million over a 41-year period to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in many areas including education, acquisitions and special exhibitions.

We have grown from a showcase of 125 artists to 195 of the world’s finest artists in the craft field. This year our ten award winners represent some of the best and the brightest artists in the craft world across the country. Check out our interview with Pavel Novak, our Excellence in Glass winner, who uses the cold-working and color lamination technique to craft optical glass sculptures that change color depending on your perspective.

This year featured the return of the Guest Artist Program. A global enterprise that connects leading Asian artists, Soluna Living brought 25 of the finest contemporary craft artists from Korea, each showcasing a unique perspective, variety of materials, styles, and disciplines.

In addition, Philly artist and last year’s Excellence in Metal winner, Stacey Lee Webber, marked her return to the Craft Show as well. Webber is best known for her original penny art, where she cuts coins to create one-of-a-kind signature pieces.

See all the action from our 41th annual Craft Show by checking out our Facebook photo albums from the Show and the Preview Party. To view the full list of winners please visit

Save the date for the 42nd Annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show; November 2-4, 2018 with a Preview Party on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. 

Applications will be accepted for the 2018 PMA Craft Show by the end of December. For more information please visit

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December 04 2017

How sustainability and innovation have impacted the career of this lifelong jeweler

PMA Craft Show: Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got involved in craft?

Todd Reed: I have always been interested in the craft of putting things together. After high school, I was working as a leathersmith making hand-stitched clothing, craft couture and handbags with a local designer. We used many silver and deer antler ornaments in the pieces, which instilled a passion for expanding the metal components into buckles and jewelry items. After I successfully made my first concho, I realized I fell in love with metal. This inspired me to build a home studio, and that is when my career in jewelry design began!

CS: What compels you to use recycled metals and sustainably-sourced raw diamonds in your work?

TR: I started my company with a focus on forming meaningful relationships, not only with people, but also the environment.

At that time, there was no Kimberley process, which is a certification that verifies diamonds’ origins. Even though it was not popular to be responsible, it was important to me, so we did it. I started working with a vendor who made a commitment to source diamonds from non-conflict areas, and I still work with them to this day. 

We also work with a great company called Hoover and Strong, a refiner and manufacturer that has been providing socially and environmentally-responsible products for more than 95 years. We send them our scraps and get usable pieces of metal in return. In fact, all of the metals we use can be easily recycled. 

CS: You’re so committed to the environment and sustainability. Were you always interested in using diamonds responsibly in your craft?

TR: I’m constantly inspired by diamonds and reusing or reimagining materials. That’s just who I am. When I was younger I would use things like roadkill for leather; I think that “innovative lens” is just instilled in me. To this day when I look at diamonds in my workspace I’m inspired, they’re just so amazing!

CS: Your online presence is active. Do you have any tips for artists trying to get their name recognized using social media?

TR: Growing up I was always called “tenacious Todd.” You kind of have to be obsessive about something to make a presence when there’s hundreds of thousands of other companies and attractions for people to browse and select. It really must become your life. You can’t just put in 50 hours and expect it to happen - it’s just tenacity and a willingness to be unique and stand out.

The biggest key I would tell people trying to make art into a business is you have to constantly look and re-look at everything, with the end goal of pushing innovation. That, coupled with truly believing in the work you’re doing.

CS:How did you feel presenting your work in the 2017 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show as compared to your first time?

TR: I was excited about the work I created, as well as the opportunity to represent my brand to a new group of people. This is how I started the beginning of my career – getting amazing feedback from a diverse audience at the Craft Show.

Learn more about Todd Reed by visiting



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May 05 2017

After a dreary winter, we’re ready for spring. We’ve found a few activities and exhibits that may very well lift your spirits!

Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection

The latest exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art explores phulkari, meaning “flower work,” which are ornately embroidered textiles from Punjab, India. These pieces are traditionally hand stitched by women to be worn at special occasions. Witness the precise work and beautiful designs that have been created. The exhibit is currently open and runs until July 9th.

Collective Design Fair 2017

Looking for a fun craft weekend in New York City? The Collective Design Fair invites international artists to present their work and partake in a discourse on modern and contemporary art and design. This includes educational programs highlighting the creative process and current trends as well as curator-led tours. This year the Wexler Gallery from Philadelphia will participate! The Fair will take place from May 3 through May 7 at the Skylight Clarkson Square in New York City.

First Friday

First Friday is a Philly favorite all year long! Occurring on the First Friday evening of every month, the galleries of Old City open their doors to all. This free event allows people to relax, eat, and enjoy art featured in local galleries. First Friday activities run from 5pm - 8pm. A few can’t miss exhibits are featured below.

Elemental” is a current exhibit at the Lacey & Phillips Gallery in collaboration with InLiquid, a local nonprofit dedicated to expanding and promoting visual culture. The featured artists have taken inspiration from the four elements: water, earth, fire, and air. You can see “Elemental” now until May 27.

“Small Favors: Think Inside the Box” is an exhibit at The Center for Art in Wood in collaboration with The Clay Studio. The exhibition has challenged new and experienced artists to produce a piece of work that will fit within a 4-inch acrylic cube. Over the past 10 years, thousands of artists have participated in this boundary challenge, and have created some truly amazing small-scale sculptures. “Small Favors” runs through May 27.

The Snyderman-Works Galleries presents Mediations, which features three artists who have created their “own language by allowing time and repetition to dictate the movement of each piece.” Artists SaraNoa Mark, Samantha Mitchell, and Rowland Ricketts will display not only their finished product, but the steps and processes it took to make each work. Mediations runs now through May 13.

Surface Forms

Are you a fan of textiles and design? Check out Surface Forms at the Fabrics Workshop and Museum. Explore the vibrant work of high school, college, graduate, and post-graduate students who have taken part in The Apprentice Training Program over the past three years. Surface Forms is on display now through June 25.

Let’s Make! Intro to Wheel Throwing

Do you like creating things with your hands? Have you ever wanted to learn to use a potter’s wheel? Head over to one of The Clay Studio’s Saturday workshops “Let’s Make! Intro to Wheel Throwing!” and spend the afternoon learning to throw clay and create your own item that will be fired and processed. No experience necessary; all materials are provided. Just show up ready to work!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about happenings in the Philadelphia area.

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April 04 2017

Steve Noggle, a woodturner from North Carolina, has over 40 years of experience working with wood. He has been a timber cruiser and furniture industry engineer; currently he owns and operates his own studio. His work can be found in galleries throughout North Carolina and Tennessee.

How do you go about picking a piece of wood? Is there a time of day or season that is best?

The best season to get logs is the winter when sap is low, creating less water in the tree. In these conditions, there are fewer problems with cracking deformity, especially when you carve a bowl. However, I get logs year-round because most wood that I use I don’t find in nature. Because I’ve been in the industry for years, individuals seek me out to sell me logs. If that didn’t happen, it would take me forever to search for the right kind of piece. In addition to logs, I also use burls, which is the growth deformity that you see on sides of trees.

The kind of wood I like to work with best are from the local maple, walnut, and cherry trees that are in the big woods in my area (North Carolina), although maple is my favorite. Eucalyptus wood from Australia is nice to work with as well as it is highly textured, has cool colors, and is highly figured.

Are there different logs for different pieces?

When I first started, I used my local wood since I wasn’t too familiar with what made wood pretty; I would take anything I could get my hands on. At the time, I wasn’t working with logs, but instead thick flat boards to make shallow pieces.  

After I moved onto logs - well the sky’s the limit! You can make both tall and deep bowls. The biggest difference when making bowls out of logs is that the bowl is going to deform, since it dries unevenly on different sides. These pieces are called “natural edge bowls,” so it’s okay that this occurs. When the piece is finished (after sitting for a week to dry) it deforms somewhat. It’ll move in one direction over the other. It’s okay because this gives the bowl an organic, natural effect.

What is the name of the machine you are using in some of the pictures? How does that help the process?

The lathe is a machine that constantly rotates the piece I am working on so I can shape it more accurately. It moves the piece at speeds of 500-600 rpm.

The tailstock is a tool that tightens the piece against the other end by turning the handle. When it’s tight, I turn my tool rest on and the wood starts spinning. Simultaneous to the piece is spinning, I am quickly carving it to form the bowl’s initial shape. I form the outside of the piece, which determines what the inside will look like. Since all my pieces follow the same contour, these first steps are essential to the piece's success.

What about cutting - are there different methods for cutting that lead to different types of bowls?

If you want to make a piece kind of round you should use a chainsaw while cutting. The chainsaw is used before the lathe, which is a machine that allows me to shape a piece more accurately.

How long is the selecting and initial cutting process?

I can’t tell anything from just looking at a tree, but I can tell a lot when it’s in log form. The sellers send me a photo from the end of the log after a fresh cut, and I can tell everything I need to know: color texture, grain - really anything that would be pertinent to my work.

How long does that process take?

I probably spend a half hour or more cutting up a piece in the yard and studying it before making the first cut. After the piece goes on the lathe; depending on the size, it could take anywhere from an hour to almost three hours to properly carve. After this is complete, the bowl dries for about a week before it undergoes sanding and other finishing touches.

How do you know when it’s done?

The sanding process is the final step. I start at 80 grit (which is coarseness of the sandpaper) then go up to 320 grit, which is a power sand. After the 320 grit, it’s ready to be oiled. I hand rub multiple coats of tung oil (drying oil); typically, it takes three days of applying one coat per day. After that third coat, it’s ready!

What is your approach each day?

I do a little of everything each day. This morning I cut three big chunks out, which took an hour and a half. I’m going to make big salad bowls out of them. I won’t do any more today- the chainsaw can be exhausting. The lathe is much easier to physically operate although the dexterity can be tricky. I’ll do lathe work and then I’ll do some sanding.

Do you do anything else outside of your studio?

I co-own a co-op gallery called Ariel Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina. I work there three days a month and the other 12 co-owners also work there three days a month year-round. Other than that, I work on my craft every day. I have worked in eight or nine galleries and I do about six or so shows a year.

Learn more about Steve Noggle by visiting his website or checking out his recent segment on Carolina Impact

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March 30 2017

Today we are celebrating our future and the kickoff of the next phase of our Facilities Master Plan designed by Frank Gehry. Between now and 2020, we will bring you 90,000 square feet of new galleries and public spaces plus new public programs and community initiatives as we fulfill our strategic vision for the Museum’s future as the cultural heart of our great city.

Check out the video of how this transformation will happen

Learn more about the future of the Philadelphia Museum of Art by visiting

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March 06 2017

Artist and painter Phyllis “Fifi” Fleming was a co-chair of The Women’s Committee for the first Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in 1977.

You were one of the first co-chairs of The Women’s Committee; how did the idea for the first Craft Show come about?  

When I joined, The Women’s Committee consisted of a network of women who worked in sub-committees, all of which benefited the Museum in some way. At the time, I was a painter who recently moved to Philadelphia from New York City. My first role was to work with the Committee's rental program which took art from the galleries in town and leased it to local offices. When it came time to think up a fundraiser for the Museum, we thought we could use our relationship with the galleries, as well as the rise of craft in the Philadelphia, to put on a Craft Show.

What is your favorite part of the Craft Show?

The part I like best is meeting the artists and getting to know their work. For the first three years, artists mailed in their artwork, which meant not only were we physically familiar with the art but we became close with the participating artists as well. It also helped that the Show’s original venue was at Memorial Hall, which was the perfect setting at the time.

In the beginning, how did you set up and prepare for the Craft Show?

My friend, Mary Lee Lowry, and I were leading the charge of the committee during the start of the Craft Show. We had a secretary and a tiny office in the Museum for the first year or two. Eventually we did get someone who was more like a manager than a secretary, but for the first few years we did all the finances on my dining room table!

How was working on The Women’s Committee? Are you amazed by how the Craft Show has grown over the years?

The Women’s Committee is the most effective working committee that I have ever encountered. Everybody contributes. The committee is really a great group and that has made all the difference. As years went on the event took off! It was a very good idea and I am delighted to have been involved from the beginning.

The Vice President’s wife came to the first Craft Show in 1977. Did you get a chance to meet her?

Oh, yes, Joan Mondale! She was the Second Lady of the United States to Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s Vice President. She was very interested in craft and spent a lot of time advocating for the arts. I think her nickname was ‘Joan of Art’. She was more than willing to help out and promote craft. It worked very nicely with timing of our first Show.

How did this experience shape you?  

The first year we were putting tape on the floor, the roof was leaking, our husbands were serving drinks, and we had the Vice President’s wife on the way. Afterwards, we were all thinking, “How did we pull this off?” We settled in after the first year. We knew what we had to do.

From my point of view, it was a great experience. We all grew up a lot during this time; we really learned how to run something in the world.

How has craft changed from 1977?

I think the first year was auspicious. The timing was excellent; in the late 70s people were trying to get craft considered as an art. We had the first craft exhibition with top craft artists of their time in the art world. Originally, it was very hard for the Museum to show Craft as an art form worthy of collection. Nowadays it’s a whole different story.  As a result of our efforts and an evolved thinking towards craft, there are a lot of folks specifically interested in craft arts and collecting of craft.  

To learn more about the history of The Women’s Committee and the Craft Show please visit 

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December 14 2016

Thank you to our patrons, sponsors, and all who attended the 2016 PMA Craft Show!

Our 40th annual Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center raised $344,000 for the Philadelphia Museum of Art!  Proceeds directly support the Philadelphia Museum of Art in many areas including education, acquisitions and exhibitions. 

Pictured above: 2016 Show Chair Gwen Goodwill Bianchi (middle) and Nancy O’Meara, Show Manager (right), presented a check for $344,000 to the Museum’s Director & CEO, Timothy Rub (left)

Our ten award winners represent some of the best and brightest in their fields. Check out our interview with Ani Kasten, our Best in Show award winner, whose work focuses on the exploration and intersection of the natural and man-made spaces. 

This year featured incredible talent from across the nation as well as two international artists. Matin from Turquoise Mountain showcased the ancient Afghanistan ceramic techniques of Istalifi pottery. Learn more about Matin, a professor and master potter with Turquoise Mountain, by visiting and Newsworks.

In addition, Anna Trzebinski joined us this year with stunning fashion design that reflects a variety of African influencers including traditional Maasai beading.

Congratulations to the winner of the $200 gift certificate giveaway, Judy Wilson (middle).  She purchased work by two ceramic artists: Elizabeth Pechacek (left) and Jennifer Martin.

See all the action from our 40th annual Craft Show by checking out our Facebook photo albums from the Show and the Preview Party. For a full list of winners please visit

Save the date for 2017's PMA Craft Show; November 9-12, 2017 with a Preview Party on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. 

Applications are also now being accepted for the 2017 PMA Craft Show! For more information and to apply, please visit

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November 04 2016

Congratulations to our first two winners of the 2016 PMA Craft Show Ticket Giveaway! 

Molly Pitcher from Cherry Hill, New Jersey won the first giveaway, and Sara Borden from Glassboro, New Jersey won the second.

Would you like to join us on November 10-13th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for free? We still have one more chance to win tickets and something extra! Starting November 4th through November 10th we will be giving away another pair of tickets as well as a $200 gift card good towards any purchase(s) at the Craft Show. Enter our final giveaway by visiting  

Didn’t win tickets? Tickets are available for purchase via our website. Buy a single or multi-day pass by clicking here.

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October 25 2016

The Women’s Committee’s commitment to craft reflects Philadelphia’s heritage as a national trailblazer in arts and culture. The city has been home to prominent crafters from its earliest days. From Colonial Philadelphian Richard Humphrey, to Daniel Pabst’s extraordinary furniture, the tradition of high quality craftsmanship in Philadelphia is essential to the city’s identity.

By the start of the 20th century, Philadelphia had already established itself as one of the prominent regions for high craft in the nation. This was in part due to well-respected members of the craft community establishing programs and organizations in the Greater Philadelphia area, such as Henry Mercer’s Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, and metalsmith Samuel Yellin’s renowned classes at the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Design (now University of the Arts). These individuals, and others, helped to bring Philadelphia to the forefront of the craft movement.

Gothic ironwork reborn in Samuel Yellin’s lock set. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Colleges took note of the influx of craftsmen making a way for themselves in the area and revised their curriculums accordingly. The early 1950’s marked the first time that craft courses were elevated from electives to majors, causing the movement be taken more seriously by both professors and students. Academic craft programs began to attract major talent to the city, many of whom would make a name for themselves by creating innovative galleries, demonstrations, and programs. Due to this and the rise of advocacy and awareness organizations like the Philadelphia Council of Professional Craftsmen (PCPC), by the mid-1960’s the City had become a “vital center for the craft movement.

Craft was introduced to the mainstream in Philadelphia in the early 1970’s when PCPC collaborated with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Franklin Institute to form major exhibitions. These exhibitions also reiterated Philadelphia’s importance as an international craft leader by highlighting the breadth and depth of local artists.

The Women’s Committee was a driving force in ensuring the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a part of the craft trend and advocated for the Philadelphia Museum of Art to include contemporary craft in its acquisition program. In addition, members of The Women’s Committee noticed the revival of small, exoteric shops and galleries in the South Street and Headhouse area of Philadelphia. Seeing a positive and enthusiastic response to this type of craft from the public, The Women’s Committee became inspired to create an event that would both celebrate craft tradition and innovation in Philadelphia, thus launching the first craft show in 1977.

And the rest is history. Stay tuned for a future blog examining how the Craft Show has evolved over the past forty years!

For tickets to 2016’s PMA Craft Show please visit


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September 27 2016

We visit Ryan Greenheck, a ceramist in the 2016 PMA Craft Show, in his Strawberry Mansion studio. Located near Fairmount Park, Ryan has called his space home for the last 6 years. We spent a few hours with Ryan to learn a little more about his craft and the process that goes into each one of his intricate ceramic designs.

Ryan got his start in ceramics in his high school art class in Wisconsin. He witnessed his new 3D art instructor work the potter’s wheel and instantly knew that was something he wanted to do. This experience inspired him to look into ceramics programs, eventually landing him at the University of Wisconsin. During his Sophomore year, Ryan realized that ceramics was his passion; this paved the way for him to pursue a career in the arts.

As we enter Ryan’s studio he explains the three major steps in creating a ceramics piece. “First you have throwing, which is wheel work. 

Next is trimming, the art of crafting the tops of pieces. This is typically done using a kemper or dolan trimming tool (like the ones seen below)

The last step is glazing, which is my art’s distinguishing factor. I make all my glazes in the studio; for me glazing is the culmination of the process and all the work that goes into each piece."

When creating new pieces, he typically uses a regimented process he’s perfected over the years, with subtle tweaks depending on the size, shape, and scope of the piece in question.

“When I was first starting out I would sketch out each piece on paper beforehand. Now, I have a pretty good idea of how to create a specific type of pot or jar from muscle memory. The exception to this would be when I’m glazing or scoring – I find it helpful to draw everything out on the piece using precise measurements and pencil lines.”

Before scoring, Ryan carefully measures out the exact position of each button.

When glazing, Ryan tends to work with similar color schemes and patterns. One of his signature styles is a yellow and blue combination, which can be seen in his many jars, pots, and cups throughout his studio.

So how long do pieces like these take? “I would say it takes about three months to see a piece from start to finish. Throwing takes one to two weeks, trimming about the same. The glazing process takes a bit longer, usually three to four weeks. Then of course there’s the time allotted to allowing the pieces to dry out.”  

Yet for Ryan, he is constantly turning out new work. Each day he either throws, trims, or glazes while carefully maintaining his pieces that are in-between steps. This streamlined process helps both keep him on schedule as well as provides variety in his days.

“I typically work seven days a week anywhere from six to fourteen hours a day. I’ve been lucky that I live above my studio, and was able to completely redesign the first floor studio space. It was important for me to be able to live near my workspace, so this is really my ideal set up. I can listen to music while I work, typically high energy tunes while throwing, and more subdued music during glazing. I’m also fortunate that my studio is near a park; if I need a break I’ll go over and be in nature for a bit.”

When not in his studio, Ryan teaches ceramics at the University of Pennsylvania and at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.

“It’s funny how it worked out,” Ryan said. “When I moved here 12 years ago, I wasn’t planning on staying for long, but now I consider it my home. The art scene here is great! The PMA Craft Show in particular is a huge asset to this community, and was a big incentive for me to move here. The Show allows me to plug into new trends in art; it really keeps me in the loop and introduces me to so many different types of exciting craft. I always take my students so they can get a feel for what it’s like to be in a premier craft show.”

In addition to finding Ryan Greenheck at 2016’s PMA Craft Show, you can also stop by his annual studio holiday sale December 9th through 11th at his Strawberry Mansion studio. For more information on Ryan check out his Instagram or his website.

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September 15 2016

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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August 31 2016
In part three of our Favorite Craft series, we met with Conrad Benner, an arts journalist & enthusiast who founded the popular photo-blog Streets Dept.  

Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and your blog? 

In my early 20s, I was a freelance journalist who ran my own blog focusing on my interests: music, art, nightlife, and politics.  When I was 24, I was working at a coffee shop and decided to start a new blog about one of my passions, street art. And thus the Streets Dept blog was born!
Streets Dept is a photo-blog that aims to support and celebrate artists. I use it to document street art, graffiti, and urban exploration in Philadelphia. Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated with street art and graffiti. My blog is a convergence of the two things I’ve always loved. My Instagram account has become an extension of the blog; I use it both to document street art in the city in real-time as well as architecture, people, and public spaces, both in Philly and in my travels.

How did you become so intrigued by street art and graffiti at such a young age?

I was always interested in art, and growing up in Fishtown [in Northeast Philadelphia] meant that street art and graffiti were easily accessible. As I got older, I started checking out books about Banksy (a graffiti artist from England), other graffiti artists, and started following street art blogs, which is what really started my passion for this art form. I particularly liked the open, unpretentious nature. Street art is made to invite you in, whether you’re walking to work, the el [Market-Franford Line], to school - it’s everywhere. 

Where is the best place to see street art in Philly? Are there any new street artists who are exciting you?

There is a boutique hotel at the intersection of 5th and Bainbridge that’s undergoing construction. Artists are constantly putting up work there, and since the building owner and construction team enjoy the artwork, pieces can stay up for extended periods of time. 
If I had to pick one artist that’s exciting me right now I’d say Aubrie Costello. She’s a new silk graffiti artist and her work is awesome!

Do you have a favorite craft that you own?

Yes, my favorite craft is something that I obtained just a few months ago at a fundraising event at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. The event was for Community Integrated Services (CIS), an organization that works with adult artists with special needs. A lot of the adults participating used art as an outlet to express themselves in a rewarding manner, but for some it’s the only way they earn a living. I met some incredible and enthusiastic artists at this event, which ultimately lead me to purchase my current favorite craft, a bright pink crochet wall hanging. 

What does this piece mean to you?

This craft is a constant reminder that I am so lucky to be in the position that I’m in and I am able to receive the opportunity to support all types of artists. 

Where do you keep this piece?

I keep the wall hanging at the foot of my bed, near my bookshelf, my plants, and a few other pieces. For me this is the perfect place since I see it first thing every morning. Typically, the foot-of-my-bed is the place where I display my warmest art pieces. When I look at the pink crochet I feel good energy.  

Can you tell us about some of your current or future projects?

I want to work with CIS in some way; I may interview one of the artists for my blog and do a street art installation with him or her. My whole blog is about supporting, celebrating, and elevating artists. Working with CIS is another great way to support artists in the area.
Currently, I have a really exciting project in the works with Arterial Agents, a small grocer and coffee shop near the Liberty Bell with a dynamic magazine section! I’m working with the owner on a series of Streets Dept postcards that will include my own unique flare of some of my favorite images on my blog. 
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August 10 2016

In the 1980s and 1990s, furniture artists relied heavily on wood.

Artists valued the quality and style of the wood with upmost importance, tweaking their work until each piece of furniture came alive. A response to the bright plastics of the late 1970s, the 80s in particular featured light wood tones to create an array of vibrant and dramatic styles.

Daniel Mack, First Prize winner at the 1987 PMA Craft Show, used a distinct rustic style with his furniture. Focusing on the roots of Americana furniture making, Mack emphasized the idea that naturalistic contact has a soothing and spiritual effect in his work. Mack writes that for some of his fans and friends, “the chairs represent the romance of the forest ... something they wanted to bring into their house or a room they were doing."

He also adds humor and illusion to his pieces. Mack observes the different shapes and textures of trees and separates each from the forest in order to truly represent the individual tree in his work. By doing this, he is able to instill a quiet grace and beauty in his work. This falls in line with his overall personal mantra of “you make what you are.” Mack has his own philosophy on furniture making, and reveals that he intends to make his chairs dance by blending “the growing tree with the personality of the builder.”

In the 1990s, furniture became more durable and functional, rather than decorative. Minimalism was in, putting an end to the loud colors and designs from the past.

John Wesley Williams, winner of the Wharton Esherick Prize at the 1999 PMA Craft Show, values wood for its historical importance and natural allure. The photo on the left has minimalistic qualities, which emphasizes the purity and functionality of the piece. While Williams’ furniture embodies the inherent beauty of wood, it also contains a unique tactile nature. He values craftsmanship and argues that his furniture designs are not fads. Instead, it’s made for those who love wood and understand that its beauty must be felt.  

Artists that introduced their artwork in the beginning of the 21st Century continued to focus largely on smooth lines, curved edges, and material blends, while simultaneously adding their own twists.

Ray Kelso won the Wharton Esherick Museum Prize for Excellence in Wood at the 2003 PMA Craft Show. Kelso expresses, “I do not feel bound by the confines of the straight line or by any other conventions of classical furniture design.” Instead, he believes that furniture is an “intimate part of our lives,” and that “it needs to manifest the natural and playful world of which we are a part.”

While the PMA Craft Show’s artists are still using wood in the furniture making process, in recent years’ artists have been experimenting more with a variety of mediums, such as metal, to create their pieces. Reflecting the more current trend of mixing different materials, the 2016 Craft Show artists highlight some of the more innovative trends in this field.

The photo on the left is a piece by 2016 artist Elizabeth Rand, who builds bent, welded, painted, and gilded metal furniture. Her designs are the product of a collaboration with an artist, Bennett Bean, who has a contrasting style, making for compelling designs. By joining an additive versus subtractive attitude, Elizabeth Rand’s collection offers unique designs of all different shapes and structures.

The photo on the right is by 2016 artist Luke Proctor, an artist who uses traditional blacksmith techniques to form contemporary furniture. His work is a result of Danish Modern and Shaker styles, a trend that emphasizes craftsmanship and clean cut lines, which has become increasingly popular in the 21st century.

2016’s Artists also are putting fresh spins on past trends.

​Minimalism, a popular 90s aesthetic with a simplistic feel, can be seen in Eben Blaney’s artwork. Blaney has brought this restrained style back in by using his “subtraction” process. He pares away excess mass or unnecessary elements that are not complementary to the function of a piece. He finds elegance and usage of his furniture to be of utmost importance. His approach that “less is more” and his use of traditional hand tools in conjunction with modern machinery allows him to successfully incorporate minimalism, into his 21st century designs.

We are so excited to see the different styles and trends that the furniture artists bring to this year’s Craft Show! Take a look at more craft trends over the past 40 years by visiting

See a full list of the 2016 artists by visiting


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August 03 2016

In part two of the Favorite Craft series, we met with Janice Waitkus, community relations and Store Director of LAGOS in Philadelphia.

Have you always fascinated by jewelry?

A graduate of University of Maryland, I began my career in retail as a buyer for Woodward & Lothrop department stores, where I learned for 10 years, in Washington, D.C. before becoming General Manager for Lord & Taylor, for five years. There were only four women store managers out of 50 stores, quite a different moment in time. At this time, I was more focused on textiles and apparel, which had been my first passion.  

I relocated to Philadelphia in 1994, and joined Neiman Marcus in King of Prussia as a Merchandise Manager. One of the areas of responsibility involved jewelry. Neiman’s allowed me to really get familiar with various jewelry designs and artists, which is how I met Steven Lagos, a then up-and-coming jeweler. Through my work as a buyer, my love of the craft, and my relationship with Steven, jewelry became a focus and passion. This is my 13th year working at LAGOS. 

How has your appreciation for jewelry changed as a store director?

My experience in jewelry and merchandising with national accounts is a major reason why I’m in the incredible position I am today. Steven, the staff, and I have re-branded the store by focusing on building community relations and creating a signature product, which is the Caviar Collection.

I have a lot of pride about running this business. I love giving advice to the customers and helping them build a collection that has meaning. Whether they’re in the market for themselves or a loved one, it’s truly satisfying and rewarding experience to watch and assist someone pick out a piece that reflects their own personality. 

What is your favorite craft that you own?

My LAGOS bracelets are my favorite craft since they really encompass my career and my passion. I acquired my first Caviar bracelet in 1996; the handcrafted beauty, the attention to detail, the quality of the materials, and the creative inspiration are all absolutely astonishing.

I particularly find the methodology behind this bracelet to be special. Using an “old world” technique, the design is first created in pencil, then transformed into a wax mold. This is when the metal is poured in, allowing the max to melt away ("loss wax process").  There is so much more to all the moving parts of this complex jewelry making and intricate designs. 

How do you display it?

Janice models her stack of bracelets from the Caviar Collection.

I would say a huge part of why Caviar is my favorite craft is because of the display. As a jewelry aficionado, part of my personal aesthetic is creating the perfect bracelet stack.

I play with the colors and textures on my wrists each morning when I get dressed. My stack reflects not only my outfit for the day, but also reflects my larger personal style and brand. My favorite is mixing black and white bracelets, but I’m also known to mix up the textures by adding a linked or beaded bracelet in the middle of my stack for some extra flare.

I oftentimes have customers or friends ask me about stacking, since this is an increasingly popular way to display these pieces. When wearing a few bracelets, it’s best to wear them in odd numbers. Personally, I like to work in a new and an old piece to the stack since it’s a great way to evolve a personal collection and continue to develop your aesthetic. For me, the best part about the stack is that each person can create it differently; the sense of individual identity and empowerment from displaying your favorite jewelry in this manner is incredibly satisfying.

What meaning does your jewelry have to you?

Each bracelet I own has a story to tell or marks an occasion. For example, I have a few garnet pieces, which hold a special significance because that’s my birthstone. Then there is my Fluted heart necklace, which is the first piece I ever received from Steven. Each piece represents a pivotal moment in my life – I truly treasure them.

Jewelry has emotional value. If you receive it as a gift, it’s something memorable, personal, and unique. You remember the day you bought it, or and who gave it to you. Jewelry has a story, a deeper meaning, or sometimes even a sadness from inheritance. It could even be that it was from a gumball machine and you’ve held onto it all these years. Helping my customers pick out a piece of jewelry is a wonderful experience. Jewelry is so special to me, and I feel so fortunate that I am able to share and spread my craft with a larger audience. 

Janice’s collection of LAGOS jewelry over the years.

Check out more from our My Favorite Craft series by visiting

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July 19 2016

As the Craft Show celebrates its 40th anniversary, 195 artists will sell their high-quality handmade pieces of art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show kicks-off its 40th Anniversary Show with the announcement of this year’s 195 contemporary presenting craft artists hailing from 34 states. These artists have been chosen from more than 875 applicants to showcase and sell their unique, one-of-a kind, museum quality pieces at this year’s show.

David and Roberta Williamson create works that reflect their appreciation and love of the natural world. The consistent themes of their works include nature, garden, and home.

Below, we highlight three artists who represent the breadth and depth of the 40th annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show:

Roberta and David Williamson – Mixed Media

As artistic partners for nearly 45 years, the Williamsons’ will be participating in the PMA Craft Show for the 35th time this year. What brings them back year after year? Their mutual love of connecting with artists and attendees from across the country.

 “As artists, our work is our voice and we treasure the incredibly meaningful conversations we have with the attendees at the show,” they said. “It is a privilege to be part of such an extraordinary group of artists who are continually pushing the limits and setting the trends.”

Christopher Jeffries executes his unique designs that embody the beauty of hand blown glass art in his wall installations.

Christopher Jeffries – Glass

A first-time artist from Laguna Beach, CA, Christopher been enamored with glass ever since he started working with it in college. His first wall installation was his Rock Wall Series that was inspired by the riverbeds in northern California. His excitement for the show is twofold; he is both “honored to showcase his work while being surrounded by a great variety of artwork and artists with so much talent.”

Christopher enjoys working on a larger scale with a spacious format and having a wall to use as a canvas so that he can create a unique environment as he personalizes the color and style of each piece of glass.

Stacey Lee Webber works with found materials that physically display some form of historical relevance. Her artwork is inspired by American families and the blue-collar work ethic that binds the heart of the United States.

Stacey Lee Webber – Mixed Media

After moving with her husband to Philadelphia five years ago, the couple originally didn’t plan to stay long. However, the idea of using the city as a “stepping stone to moving to New York,” quickly faded away. “The longer we live in Philly, the more we realized it is the best decision we could have made.”

To prepare for the 40th annual PMA Craft Show, Stacey will give herself “two or three months” to get ready, instead of the usual month. “At retail shows like this, I tend to sell… more substantial, one-of-a-kind work.” Stacey designs and creates her pieces, and tries to make it so that her artwork appeals to a broad audience. “We’re working harder than we’ve ever worked, but it’s incredibly rewarding.”

The PMA Craft Show provides attendees with a unique opportunity to meet 195 of the country’s finest craft artists, to learn about the skill that goes into creating the artwork, and to purchase handcrafted pieces. Visitors will be exposed to a variety of categories of work, including: glass, baskets, jewelry, both wearable and decorative fiber, metal, paper, leather, furniture, ceramic, wood, and mixed media.

“We are excited to kick-off our 40th Craft Show with the announcement of our jury selected artists joining us this year,” said Gwen Goodwill Bianchi, Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show Chair for 2016. “The art promises to be a mix of traditional, cutting edge, and innovative pieces from long-time artists, emerging artists, and university art school students.”

To see works from this year’s artists please visit

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July 11 2016

Since its inception in 1977, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show has consistently recognized talented artists across a multitude of mediums. By examining the PMA Craft Show’s jewelry category winners from the past 40 years, we illustrate trends in each era.

In the 1980s and 1990s, artists put great emphasis on the symmetry, shapes, and patterns of their jewelry.

Valerie Jo Coulson is one artist whose jewelry contains these elements. A studio art jeweler who won the Franklin Mint Prize in the 1986 PMA Craft Show, her style includes the use of the traditional method of fabrication and stone inlay. Her jewelry is influenced by different cultures and styles (such as sacred geometry) and even embodies an emotional experience. This was typical of jewelry in the 80s; no longer just a fashion accessory, this was the first decade where items were designed to highlight individuality and personal style.

Throughout the 90s, the Best of Show award heavily shifted to include jewelers.

As the 90s progressed, it became clear that the styles of the 80s were here to stay. Artists continued to push boundaries, aiming to have their work reflect a deeper meaning. Robin Kranitzky and Kim Overstreet, First Prize winners in 1993, are a good example of this trend. They began making jewelry by juxtaposing objects found in attics and junk shops. By assembling a plethora of unlike materials, their artwork took on a delicate and detailed style, which stood out on both an aesthetic and a symbolic level. Interestingly, their style is similar to that of Coulson; both artists tell a story through emotional and metaphorical elements.  

As the Craft Show approached the 21st century, jewelry trends entered a new era as well. Focus shifted toward creating bright, powerful pieces as well as greater experimentation with design.

David Forlano and Steven Ford won Best of Show in 2002. Their work includes creating colorful and sculptural jewelry from polymer and sterling silver, while utilizing bright colors and complex, cross-sectional patterns.

In recent years, artists have even been observing clothing trends, in order to ensure that their jewelry will complement a fashionable outfit and appeal to a larger audience.

Yvonne Markowitz, one of the jurors from the 2014 PMA Craft Show, observed  a recent trend she has seen in jewelry is greater emphasis on wearability and less emphasis on conceptual approaches to design.

Last year’s Best of Show winner, Agnieszka Winograd, crafts jewelry for women of all ages using a unique blend of interwoven metals and precious stones. By designing her jewelry in a way that speaks to a woman’s spirit in an elegant, chic, and yet playful way, Winograd’s pieces add the finishing touch to any outfit.

We are excited to see the different trends and designs the jewelers in the 2016 Craft Show will be featuring. And best of all, we are excited to wear them!

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June 10 2016

In preparation for the 2016 artists’ announcement, two members of the 2016 PMA Craft Show jury shared some behind the scenes insights into what types of art we can expect to see this year.

Tim McCreight, a teacher of jewelry and metalsmith for more than 25 years, he is also the driving force behind Brynmorgen Press, a company that writes and publishes high quality textbooks and tutorials on metalworking and design. Currently, Tim teaches workshops and focuses most of his time in publishing.

Glenn Adamson, a craft theorist and historian, recently stepped down after two-years as the director of Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design. Previously he worked as the Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which is the largest museum of decorative craft and design. In addition to his museum work, he is the co-founder and editor of The Journal of Modern Craft.

What do you look for when selecting artists for the Craft Show?

Tim: Originality comes first, but it is also important that the work is appealing and well made. There are trends in crafts just as in fashion, and while it makes sense for artists to be aware of their customers and clients wants, it is easy for people to slip into a trendiness that can be predicable and confining. Work that stands out from the rest moves to the top of the list.

Glenn: I look first and foremost for work that has a high level of skill and craftsmanship. It’s essential that artists use their ideas to drive their style, skills, and objects. Craft is not just a showcase of style but skills; it’s about doing justice to your own idea, which ironically is the hardest part. Putting in years of time and work to acquire the skills to execute the piece’s central idea is a key component of each artist’s success.

Glenn, since you have years of curation experience, can you tell us what separates this show from others?

The level of organization by The Women’s Committee; their level of dedication to the show is quite extraordinary and inspiring!

The Craft Show itself is comprehensive and looks at all different media, allowing the Show to be a broad cross section of trends happening nationwide. There’s also a wide range of ages and experience; some artists exhibited several times, while others are students or emerging artists. Seeing the range of expertise at once is amazing.

Can you walk us through the selection process?

Tim: The five jurors were given online access to the candidates’ work two weeks before we gathered in Philadelphia. This allowed us to get an overview of the submissions and set the stage for our group review process. During the process, we jointly saw the images from a specific category, such as wearable fiber or wood. We then scored the individuals in that group. The scoring was followed by the opportunity for discussion. Sometimes there was nothing to say, but other times a juror asked for opinions about a particular entry. We would then review it on the large screen and discuss the work. This was a valuable part of the process and triggered some interesting discussions.

Glenn: After scores are tabulated electronically, The Women’s Committee takes the average scores given by the jurors, which becomes the criteria for the artists.

Any additional insights that you took away from your jury experience with the Craft Show?

Tim: I felt that the choice of jurors was particularly good. We presented different aspects of the craft field and seemed to be confident enough to have candid conversations without fear of embarrassment. I was also impressed with the earnest attention of volunteers from the Craft Show. They clearly valued our opinions and probed for any information that might improve the enterprise.

Glenn: It has been interesting to see the impact of technology on craft shows and the field of craft as a whole. While the internet has been a great tool for artists to do their own thing, it does change the role of the Craft Show as well as museums as a whole. In my career, I’ve witnessed a shift from having exhibitions and museums be an outlet for visibility, to becoming a stamp of approval for high quality, exemplary work.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art does an incredible job of collecting and displaying works in a thoughtful manner. The PMA has been a constant supporter of craft throughout the years, which has been an important thing for the field’s development; their constant support is worth celebrating.

For more information on the 2016 Craft Show please visit

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June 01 2016

Welcome to the Favorite Craft series, where we chat with influential members of the Greater Philadelphia community about a craft that has inspired them. Martha Chamberlain is the founder and force behind Chamberlain Goods, a customizable dancewear company, which she started after her career with Pennsylvania Ballet.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you eventually became interested in starting Chamberlain Goods.

For as long as I can remember, my life has been centered on art. My parents made pottery in our basement kiln and sold it at craft fairs. I always found myself fascinated with my mom’s sewing and Crewelwork (an old style of needlework), which led to her teaching me how to make clothes and tutus for my dolls. Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to make something instead of going to the store and buying it.

Beyond making clothes, I started dancing at age five and instantly knew this was something I truly enjoyed. I continued to dance and when I graduated from high school, I was lucky enough to begin dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet.

How did you transition from dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet to making dancewear?

I was dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet when I suffered an injury. The artistic director at the time, Christopher D’Amboise, knew sewing was one of my hobbies, so he asked me to help make costumes for performances. As an injured part of the team, I was eager to contribute to the season’s show. The first piece I designed was for a smaller show called “Offcenter.” This performance was really the spark for me. The subsequent year, I designed costumes for my first large-scale show at the Academy of Music. All of this inspired the creation of Chamberlain Goods, my dancewear company.

Would you say that your injury actually served as a gateway to the next phase of your life?

Yes, definitely! I actually always envisioned making and selling jewelry after my career as a dancer. But through this journey, I was able to learn that by combining my passion for ballet and talent for sewing, I could continue to stay involved in the world that I loved. Soon after this revelation, I successfully launched my ballet line.

Clearly your family’s crafting spirit influenced you a lot in all stages of your life. Are there individual crafts from your family that inspire or influence you?

Each craft in my possession truly contributes to who I am. For example, my family’s works have really reflected where we lived. When I was in elementary school we moved from the cute, walkable small town of Media, Pennsylvania to a very suburban Broomall, Pennsylvania. Broomall was a stark contrast; cookie-cutter suburbia and strictly drivable.

In particular, suburban life really struck a chord with my father. As one who worked on projects ranging from woodworking to sculpting, my father was always influenced by his surroundings. He was constantly inspired by his students at The Haverford School, where he taught for 29 years (and eventually became art department head). However, I never remember him being more prolific or uniquely inspired as when we made the initial move to Broomall.  

His pieces from this period consisted of almost cartoonish icons of suburban culture, white-picket fences, well-manicured lawns, and lush gardens leaning towards each other, as if trying to converse through the fence. He would use found objects from the neighborhood in his art, which is a technique he still uses today.

I have some pieces from the collection hanging in my daughter’s bedroom. They serve as a reminder of not only my past fascination with suburbia, but how that’s impacted me both as an artist and as an adult.

Works from my father’s suburban era art series, which currently hang above my daughter’s bed.

It’s interesting that your personal history is documented by your father’s art, with some of his pivotal work from your childhood present in your daughter’s life. How has your dad’s work evolved? Are there any current pieces you especially love?

One thing that has been consistent about my father’s work is his experimental spirit; he was always trying his hand at new styles, mediums, and techniques. When he retired and moved to Maine, he frequented a lot of yard sales and thrift stores and became inspired by some of the old photographs he encountered. He takes the best ones and compiles them into photobooth-ish dioramas, each telling a story about the protagonist. One of my favorites is called “Valentine for Ralph.” This piece depicts a young boy wearing many hats placed alongside found objects. I really like the juxtaposition of this one, and am fascinated by the original photoshoot.

A newer piece of my father’s, Valentine for Ralph, exemplifies my father’s current crafting style of juxtaposing found objects into a story

It’s incredible that your father has been so prolific in his art career. Has his mentality on art impacted your work with Chamberlain Goods?

My dad is a life-long artist, and his passion for the field is a constant source of inspiration. I always knew I would pursue some kind of art after my dance career ended. I think this motivation and determination, in part, came from both my parents, as well as my lifelong love of learning. In addition to my initial progression towards jewelry design, I took classes at the University of the Arts in bookbinding and woodworking to continue my education.

Chamberlain Goods provided the costumes for Pennsylvania Ballet’s recent program Archiva. Can you walk us through the process behind this performance?

I was the costume coordinator for Matthew Neenan’s world premiere, Archīva. This was a different process than usual due to the nature of the program. Since the piece’s theme wasn’t cohesive, we had a lot of freedom to pick through the Ballet’s archives and pick things that stood out on each rack. Typically, when costuming, you have a set theme as well as images from past performances or some kind of direction.

Opportunities like this are really exciting to me because I’m able to do a lot of abstract thinking. The mentality of “make it yourself” that has been with me since day one and has definitely been a huge influence in not just the work from Archīva, but really inspires every piece I create for Chamberlain Goods.

Learn more about artists in the Philadelphia community by visiting our blog

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