40 Years of Craft: Furniture

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 http://bit.ly/29UdwDM

See a full list of the 2016 artists by visiting http://www.pmacraftshow.org/artists


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