November 05 2014

Did you catch the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show on CBS3's TalkPhilly at noon today? Ceramicist Liz Kinder and emerging artist Rachel Sherman were great!



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November 04 2014

Stephen Zeh is an award-winning basketmaker based in Temple, Maine. Handcrafted from Maine’s native brown ash in the tradition of Maine woodsmen, Shakers and Native American basketmakers, his work is recognized for its meticulous craftsmanship and attention to the qualities of the medium. Zeh was awarded the Adrianna Farrelli Prize for Excellence in Fiber Art at the 2013 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  You can see more of his work including baskets, woven jewelry, display cabinets and presentation boxes at

What do you love about your workspace?

One of the best things is a studio that has great light. Each of my workspaces has a large row of south facing windows. Here in Maine, in the summer the sun rises and sets far to the north so it rarely shines directly into the studio. In winter the sun’s rays are lower on the horizon so the sunlight will shine in and help warm things up during the day, however fleeting that is.

I work both in wood and metal and have a studio equipped for each. I also have a small space for leatherworking when I need work on a piece with leather. One of the nice things about having both a wood and metal studio is that when, say, I might need a tool for making a particular jewelry piece, and I want to keep from marking the metal, I can make a tool of wood in the wood shop. Often the tools I make fit the purpose better than those that can be purchased.

My studio is in the country with woods, streams and fields close by. Often when I need to sort out a problem a long walk in the woods will help bring clarity, whether it is in the business side of things, or how to go about constructing a piece, or a particular challenge in design.

What first interested you in your medium?

Before I was a basketmaker I was a trapper in the Maine woods. I used pack baskets to carry my tools and supplies. I was interested in how the old time basketmakers worked right from the tree. They used simple tools, such as an ax and a drawknife to make baskets that were strong and lightweight, and the baskets lasted a very long time. They also had a wonderful look to them that could not be duplicated by machine.

What do you think is special about the medium you work with?

The brown ash is pliant and flexible. By pounding a fresh cut log with the back of an ax, the wood will separate along the annual rings. These can be pulled from the log in long strips. The key to the wonderful quality of the brown ash is not only in its innate flexibility, but that the strips produced by the pounding method follow the grain precisely. This preserves the natural strength of the ash.

How does it inform the work you create?

The brown ash plays a big part in how I think about what I can do with the design of a piece. The pliant qualities of the brown ash allow refinement and control in the shape and form of both the woven parts of the baskets and in hand split and carved handles. The way of preparing the wood follows the grain so that it can be hand scraped, which gives the piece a unique and characteristic look. I take great care when weaving to orient the splint so that what was toward the outside of the tree is also the outside of the basket, which has a great effect on the look and feel of the basket.

What is the inspiration for a recent piece?

The tiny acorn basket pendant that I weave in 18k and 22k gold was inspired by the baskets made by the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians of Maine. I learned quite a lot about basketmaking from a Penobscot Indian basketmaker, Eddie Newell. One of the favorite themes in the Native American work was to weave in basket form an interpretation of something from nature – perhaps a strawberry, blueberry, or ear of corn. The acorn was a popular design. Besides a symbol of strength and long life, and “mighty oaks from little acorns,” the acorn is an important means of substance for wildlife in much of the Maine woods. Deer, bear, turkeys, and many other woodland creatures depend on it to put in a store of energy in the fall to help see them through the long winter ahead.

I wanted to do my own take on the acorn basket. In the design I wanted an acorn with a rolled cap, something like a natural acorn. I made both a “full size” version of brown ash with sweetgrass accents in the cap, and also a miniature one that was about the size of an acorn.

In some of my miniature baskets I had leatherwork in the designs. For the leather I needed nice buckles to match the quality of the work, but I couldn’t find any to purchase. So I began to learn to make them myself. From that work on the buckles for the miniatures I found that metal could be drawn into long thin strands that would be perfect for weaving. I got the idea that perhaps I could weave a basket in metal, and so that is how the miniature acorn basket pendant in gold and in silver came about.


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November 03 2014

Philadelphia's 6abc previewed the Craft Show on Sunday. The broadcast features 2014 Chair Carol Blank Barsh, a visit to the studios of FordForlano Jewelry, a talk with jewelry artist Steve Ford, and a preview of the beautiful works of art by hand you'll see at the show this week. 

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November 03 2014

The cross-country artistic team of Steven Ford and David Forlano use polymers, sterling silver and other materials to create colorful, sculptural and coveted one-of-a-kind and small series statement jewelry. Their collaborative practice involves sending work between their Philadelphia and Santa Fe studios – and we get a peek into their workspaces with this video.

“While David's strength has always been to push color, pattern and surface in new directions, Steve is constantly fascinated by three-dimensional structures and how things fit together mechanically,” say the collaborators. “Throughout our collaboration, we have often looked to nature for inspiration. In seed clusters, shell formations, and flower buds, for instance, there are carefully organized parts which are arranged beautifully and made up of numerous, seemingly identical, but unique units. These exquisite structures lead us into new ways of envisioning a necklace, for example, both three-dimensionally and texturally. The work feels complete to us when the balance of elements – abstract and imagistic - comes into focus in some unusual way.”



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October 30 2014

(Photo: Wooden bowls by Phil Gautreau, $200)

Craft collectors know the price of the work they buy reflects the time, effort and expertise of artists who have spent their lives learning the special qualities of their medium, and the cost of using the finest materials, often organic or rare.  But you have to start somewhere, so we’ve put together a list for new collectors of Craft Show artists offering select pieces under $200. You can also visit Craft U to see the work of young and emerging artists from Moore College of Art & Design, Kutztown University, University of the Arts and SCAD.

Collectors at the Craft Show can meet the artists, learn their history and stories, and talk with them about their inspirations and the techniques they use to create their one-of-a-kind works.  An under-$200 purchase today can lead to a lifetime relationship with an artist and the beautiful objects they create.

Fiber Arts

Elyse Allen

Ignatius Creegan

Marla F. Duran

Diane Harty

Wence and Sandra Martinz  

Amy Nguyen

Jeung-Hwa Park


Nicole Aquillano

Theresa Chang

Paveen Chunhaswasdikul

Alexandra Geller

Will Swanson


David Paul Bacharach

Kaminer Hailsip

Robert Rickard


Josh Bernbaum

Raj Komminei

Mihh Martin

Decorative Fiber

Ann Brauer

Jewelry (Precious and Semi-Precious)

Desiree Delong

Kathleen L. Dustin

Melissa Schmidt

Dejan Jovanovic

Ken Loeber and Dona Look

Susan Mahlstedt

Youngjoo Yoo


Phil Gautreau

Ray Jones

Michael D. Mode

Steve L. Noggle

Norm Sartorius

Holly Tornheim








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October 28 2014

We continue our blog series celebrating the power and beauty of handmade objects, titled “The Best Craft I Ever Bought.”  In this series, creative and passionate Philadelphians tell us the stories behind the craft objects they’ve welcomed into their lives and what the objects mean to them.

Jenea Robinson is the media relations manager at Visit Philadelphia. She’s a proud graduate of Howard University and has worked in many areas of public relations from pharma to fashion. Besides counting down the days until the release of the next Hunger Games movie, she enjoys writing poetry and trying to convince her friends to leave Brooklyn and move to Philadelphia.

I think I chose the hottest day in 2007 to move to Philadelphia. Fresh out of college, I packed up all of my clothes and old textbooks (because every professional knows that you’ll need to refer to your old Intro To Public Relations book on your first job) and made my way to the City of Brotherly Love to become a tax-paying member of society. To be honest, I was scared out of my mind. I had no friends or family in the city, but I finally had the opportunity to use my degree so to West Philadelphia I went.

I intended to spend most of my free time decorating my new apartment. My fanciful décor plans were obviously very attainable, now that I had real job. I would buy a super cute vintage couch. Find an amazing deal on antique lamps. Start building my art collection. Perhaps purchase some grown up pots and pans. Oh, and make sure my apartment smelled like lavender at all times.

And then, I received my first paycheck. I sat in the middle of my couch-less living room floor and sobbed dramatically over my pay stub. How was I supposed to buy abstract art and a vintage couch on an entry-level salary? Two weeks later, I map-quested my way to the particleboard furniture outlet to furnish my first apartment like a normal 22-year-old. My place was full of furniture with names I couldn’t pronounce and my kitchen was stocked with dollar store frying pans. While I was grateful for what I had, I still longed for something original — something that hundreds of other people didn’t already own.

On one of my many getting-to-know-the-city journeys, I stumbled upon a little place in Society Hill that sold handmade South American sculptures, art and jewelry. One day the doors were open and a flood of bright, bold colors drew me in. I immediately fell in love with a collection of Peruvian sculptures way out of my price range.

That’s when I spotted the smallest piece in the bunch—a hand-painted wooden candleholder. There was something about the tribal colors, the artistry and practicality that caught my eye. It felt like it was made with love, by someone who truly cared about creating something beautiful.  It was also small enough to fit in my cubby-sized apartment and it happened to match all of my new furniture. I had to have it. I didn’t eat lunch a few days that week but I survived.

It was such a great feeling to go home every day and see that little candleholder on my table. The owners even threw in a multicolored candle for free — still burning strong seven years later.

At that point in my life, it was important for me to own something with a story. Artists possess the power to move you with their work and I believe that there is a great tale behind the pieces they create. You never forget the feeling you get when you find a piece that speaks to you. Whenever I look at my candleholder, I remember who I was the day I bought it, and who I am now.  I’ve come a long way, and this beautiful little work of art has come with me.

Visit the 2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art Crafts Show emerging artists category to discover new artists. 

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October 26 2014

Photo: Reading Terminal Market, Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia™

Taking a break to refuel at the Craft Show can keep you going—and offers a chance to explore nearby Philadelphia. Chinatown and the historic Reading Terminal Market are less than a block away from the Convention Center at 12th and Arch, and offer wallet-friendly meals and real Philly flavors. You can sample Malaysian meals at Penang or classic giant hoagies and Amish specialties at the Reading Terminal Market. Here are some top restaurant picks from the neighborhood – a lot of these places can be cash-only, so be prepared. Hint: try the roasted pork, provolone and broccoli rabe sandwich at DiNics for a true Philly treat that’s not a cheesesteak, or try FUEL for a healthy alternative.


Cheu Noodle Bar
255 South 10th Street, Philadelphia
Lunch hours: 12-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Dinner hours: 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 12-10 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

117 North 10th Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Terakawa Ramen
204 North 9th Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.

Xi’an Sizzling Woks
902 Arch Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun.

Reading Terminal Market
Tommy DiNic’s
1136 Arch Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon. and Sun.

Hershel’s East Side Deli
51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon-Sat; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.

Dutch Eating Place
51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Wed.; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Thu.-Sat.


1225 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.

Mumbai Bistro
930 Locust Street, Philadelphia
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Sun.




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October 24 2014

Newstat, who holds a degree in industrial technology from Illinois State University, has nurtured an interest in woodcraft since shop class at age 12. After a brief stint as a teacher, he has been making furniture since 1987. Today, his studio is located in Chicago. Click here to read more from an article about Newstat’s 2013 Craft Show win of the Wharton Esherick Museum Prize for Excellence in Wood. Follow the artist on Facebook and browse his website to see updates on his work.

What first interested you in working in your medium?
I started working with wood in 7th grade in an industrial arts class. We were given a block of Honduras mahogany to turn on the lathe--luckily Honduras mahogany works easily. Had we been given a difficult type of wood to work, things could have turned out much differently. I was hooked immediately, so much so that my dad bought me a lathe and together, we started buying wood from around world. We'd take an occasional Saturday morning trip to Craftsman Wood Service on the south side? of Chicago where they had barrels filled with blocks of exotic hardwoods, sold by the pound. I was fascinated with how many of the types of wood had deep, rich colors and intense smells--far more intense than any domestic hardwoods. That feeling has never gone away. So really, my woodworking career started in about 1970.

What is special about the medium you work with? How does it inform the work you create? 
I'm fascinated with the intricate grain patterns and shapes of each board. I've always had trouble describing my process--how a lot of the time a specific piece of wood can dictate the direction a piece of furniture takes. The wood doesn't necessarily "speak" to me, but it often points me in the right direction. One of my clients once said, "I love how you take what you're given in a piece of wood and guide it to an interesting place." She described it way better than I could.

What do you love about your workspace? 
My studio is about 700 square feet, a small space. It's probably impractical in a lot of ways. It's behind my house and I built an addition onto it and the front doors, trying to recreate an agricultural work building.

I love to work outside--I have a bench I can roll outside and I'll do that until it's around 50 degrees. The plants and trees have matured and are almost wild, which I like. In the fall it's fantastic. Inside, the area around my bench is separated from the rest of the studio with a lower ceiling, so my music playlist sounds spectacular and I'm sort of cocooned in a little space.  I have interesting boards lined up along the wall that I like to look at while working at my bench, developing ideas of pieces I'll make from them.

I've had a fantasy for a long time of converting a building in the country into a studio space. I'd slide open the big door in the morning with long views of meadows and forest in the distance. I'd play music as loud as I'd want to and make plenty of noise, with room to spread out and work
outside. Someday.

What was your inspiration for a recent piece?
My work has gradually evolved from functional/technical to functional/sculptural. I made a series of asymmetric tables that were completely inspired by the specific pieces of wood I used for the tops. I wanted them to be flamboyant, make a statement and grab attention. Then, I made a follow-up piece but completely symmetrical, still letting the wood determine the design.  Two different points of view, but what is becoming more and more clear to me is that the exact and specific pieces of wood typically are the inspiration behind my pieces.

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October 22 2014

This in-the-studio video gives us a look into the artistic process of Nicole Aquillano, one of the Show’s emerging artists. Now based in Boston, Nicole grew up in Pittsburgh, and she’s been revisiting her roots during a residency at the Society for Contemporary Craft, where this video was taken.

Nicole says she “makes work about place” and has been enjoying exploring the place where she grew up in her latest work while interacting with visitors to the Society’s exhibition space and store. See more photos and read about her residency on her website.

“I am forever influenced by my longing to return to the comfort and stability of home, which I satisfy by creation of work with the ability to establish intimate connections,” says Nicole. “I draw subtle narratives on functional work to elicit memories of times past. I create a story you can hold in your hand forever.”



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October 16 2014

Photo: Artist Christine Rodrigues-Schukow welcomes 2013 Preview Party guests in her booth.

The Craft Show Preview Party offers attendees the first look at the works of contemporary craft by 195 of the best craft artists in the United States. This VIP opening night gala, covered by society photographer HughE Dillon for Philadelphia Magazine in 2013, is held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and is open to the public. View more photos from the 2013 Preview Party here.

The evening features a cocktail buffet and an awards ceremony where prizes for excellence are awarded to the artists. Tickets purchased for the Preview Party are valid for admission during all show days and hours.

Tickets can be purchased online or by contacting the office.

Visionary, 4:00pm arrival time and 6 tickets, $10,000

Angel, 4:00pm arrival time and 4 tickets, $4,000

Benefactor: 4:00pm arrival time and 2 tickets, $1,500

Collector: 5:00pm arrival time and 1 ticket, $350

Subscriber: 6:00 pm arrival time and 1 ticket, $250

Young Patron: (40 & under), 6:00 pm arrival time and 1 ticket, $125

For more information, contact the Craft Show office at (215) 684-7930 or by e-mail at

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show
Preview Party
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Pennsylvania Convention Center
12th and Arch Streets, Philadelphia PA 19107

Open to the public, admission price for preview party ranges from $125 to $10,000 for six VIP tickets.

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October 09 2014

Trained as a graphic designer and printmaker, Biba Schutz has been a practicing, self-taught metal smith and jeweler for more than 20 years. She’s known for combining metal with unexpected materials wearable art. Schutz’s works can be found in the collections of the Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI; Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and Rotasa Foundation, Mill Valley, CA. She received the Award of Excellence from the American Craft Council in 2008, the Award of Excellence in Jewelry at the Smithsonian Craft Show in 2009, and the Eric Berg Prize for Excellence in Metal at the 2013 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Her work has been exhibited nationally in solo and group shows. Read more of her bio at the Corning Museum of Glass or on her website.

What first interested you in working in your medium?

I was a graphic designer and decided I wanted to be a maker. I think the reason I started with anodized aluminum is because it fit with my aesthetic as a graphic designer. Eventually, I wanted to be more involved in the moving and forming of metal.

What is special about the medium you work with?

The hands-on quality of metal. The material can be rigid and strong, flexible and fragile, smooth or textured, and move like plastic.

How does it inform the work you create? 

The way I use metal, it marks time (memory), experience and process.

What do you love about your workspace? 

My studio is walking distance from my home. During my 45-minute walks, I explore the visual impact of the streets of New York City, while developing and resolving ideas. The studio is large almost 800 square feet, with a cement floor and great light thanks to 6-foot high windows facing south. Most importantly, it is a noisy building, which means I can make noise as well.

What was your inspiration for a recent piece?

I just finished a body of work for Sienna Patti Gallery that included blown glass. Combining metal and glass in jewelry has been challenging, exciting and gratifying.

You can preview the work of the 2013 Craft Show award winner for excellence in metal here. Check out a Q&A with the artist from the Art Jewelry Forum to hear Schutz on her new work in metal and glass, and how she fits in a full schedule of craft shows and gallery exhibitions.


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October 08 2014

Adam Crowell is a wood artist currently based in South Carolina. He creates melodic percussion instruments that are part functional art and part musical instrument. Charleston Magazine says of Crowell: “Combining his love of percussion and a lifelong knack for handiwork encouraged by his father, a hobbyist carpenter, the local musician and woodworker sculpts melodic African tongue drums that blend rhythm and song into a single artful percussion piece. Crafted with unstained exotic woods such as African mahogany, Brazilian cherry, Canary, and purpleheart, his six-, 10-, and 12-note boxed drums have caught the attentions of both percussionists and art aficionados.” Read more about the artist from the American Craft Council, The Post and Courier and the Woodworker’s Journal.

What first interested you in working in your medium?
I built my first drum for myself while working as a musician in Los Angeles. I wanted something new to play and, with woodworking guidance from my father, I built it myself. A few other percussionists wanted something similar, and I wound up making a few drum sales. When I realized that I could turn my passion into a career, I spent every free moment prototyping and refining my instruments until I had built up enough product and credibility to officially launch Boxed Music.

What is special about the medium you work with? How does it inform the work you create? 
The thing that's most unique about wood is also its greatest cause for frustration. No matter how well acquainted I am with a specific type of wood, I have to refine the process every time based on knots, wormholes and swirling grain. Wood is a fickle medium, but it's the challenge that makes the outcome so special.

What do you love about your workspace? 
My shop just outside Charleston, S.C., is in an industrial park -- a neat little cluster of businesses with everything from an Italian ice company to cabinetmakers to a private gym. Since Boxed Music consists of just me and my administrative assistant, an American dingo named Bonnie, it's nice to work within a community. Plus, I've got 1,500 square feet of space where I can generate as much sawdust as I want.  

What was your inspiration for a recent piece?
I wanted a functional piece of art that could be enjoyed by a single person or shared by a group, so I invented an instrument called the Wenzi. The Wenzi consists of three separate drums --a rhythmic high, a rhythmic low and a melody -- all displayed in a sleek, sculptural stand. Wenzi means "company" in Swahili.

You can preview the work of the 2013 award winner for best artist new to the show here. See more of Adam’s work on his website at

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October 07 2014

Part of the fun at the Craft Show is creating your own adventure in shopping, tasting, and learning. From the opening night gala to the final artist demonstration, special events throughout the 2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show enhance your experience.

Whether it's a fashion show of handcrafted wearable fibers and accessories to a curated beer tasting of unusual local brews hosted by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Don Russell (a.k.a Joe Sixpack), there’s a special event for everyone at the Craft Show.

Event highlights include:

Artist demonstrations throughout the weekend that offer personal instruction from some of the country’s finest craft artists. Demonstrations include a workshop with paper florist Malinda Swain, innovative ceramic techniques from celebrated potter Matt Kelleher, tips on styling knit fashion accessories from fiber artist Elena Rosenberg, and many more. 

Wednesday, Nov. 5:

Opening Night Gala and Preview Party

Thursday, Nov. 6:

Connect & Collect Corporate Reception

Friday, Nov. 7:

Fashion Show: Fibers, Fashion, Jewelry and Accessories

Handcrafted Beer: A Tasting Event

Scroll through our tickets page for all the details.

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September 29 2014

We continue our blog series getting to know this year’s Show jurors with Eric Rymshaw, a Philadelphia-based architect and interior designer who is the design principal at Fury Design, Inc. where he partners with James Fulton. Their work includes large-scale residential interior and architectural projects, as well as corporate interiors. As collectors, Rymshaw and Fulton have been attending the Craft Show since its inception. Fury Design advocates for both craft and fine art with their clients and often commissions artists to create one-of-a-kind objects for interior and architectural projects.

What's the most rewarding or challenging thing about serving as a juror?

I really enjoy the diverse point of view that jurors bring – it’s like collaborating with really smart perceptive professionals who know their subject and share openly. It always opens my mind to new ways to look at artists and what they make. It often makes me realize how much I still can learn.

What makes the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show different? 

It’s the constant pursuit of excellence in the artists that are accepted into the show. Year after year there are amazing artists who surprise us.

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

I look for artists who not only excel in the craft of their work but as important their ability to design a beautiful object. My own love is for clay and wood. 

Which craft trends did you see coming through this year? 

Restrained modern minimalism. Clay and textile art are having a resurgence.

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September 22 2014

As November nears, we know your excitement for seeing the incredible work of 195 fine craft artists all under one roof is building. But do you know how the Show’s proceeds benefit the Philadelphia Museum of Art every year?

Over the last 37 years, the Craft Show and Women’s Committee have raised more than $10.5 million, with efforts helping to influence every gallery and program within the Museum. When you purchase a ticket to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, you are directly supporting the work of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“Not only do all the proceeds go directly to varied museum-wide activities, but a percentage also goes in a fund that is applied to acquiring contemporary craft,” said Philadelphia Museum of Art associate curator Elisabeth Agro in a recent Juror Q&A blog post. “That’s what sets the Craft Show apart.”

Proceeds granted to the Museum support a wide variety of projects such as:
- Acquisitions of American craft for the Museum’s permanent collection
- Support of major Museum exhibitions
- Underwriting of education and publication projects
- Purchases of state-of-the-art equipment for the conservation, audio-visual and installations departments
- Support of Form In Art, a groundbreaking program offering art history and studio art classes to blind and visually impaired adults
- Contributions to the renovation of Museum infrastructure and galleries as well as external installations such as the Rodin Museum   and Mount Pleasant, an 18th century house in nearby Fairmount Park.

Image: Nerikomi Vessel. Thomas A. Hoadley, American, born 1949. Unglazed porcelain. Purchased with funds contributed by The Women's Committee and the Craft Show Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show was founded in 1977 and was the first retail craft show established and organized by a volunteer committee for the benefit of a nonprofit institution, and has since served as a prototype for successful shows in cities such as Washington, D.C., and Evanston, Ill. among others.

To expand your support even more, you can purchase a ticket to our opening night gala on November 5 (November 11 in 2015).

Image: Compacted Gray Riser with Green. Tom Patti, American, born 1943. Purchased with funds contributed by The Women's Committee and the Craft Show Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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September 16 2014

Josh Simpson is one of Western Massachusetts’ best known, most prolific and successful glass artists, whose portfolio has enhanced gallery exhibits and private collections throughout the world. His glasswork can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Yale University Art Gallery and museums in Prague, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and Canada.

A longtime supporter of community arts, Simpson was instrumental in starting the glass blowing program at Snow Farm, The New England Craft Program in Williamsburg, MA. In 1985, he co-founded and was also the first president of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, a national foundation that has helped many hundreds of artists survive personal crises, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Irene. He has also been President and Treasurer of the Glass Art Society, and a member since 1972. Simpson is married to chemist and researcher Cady Coleman, the 30th woman in space, the 333rd astronaut, and NASA’s senior most active astronaut. Read more of his bio at Josh Simpson Universe and get updates on new work from his website and Facebook profile.

What first interested you in working in your medium?

I think what initially piqued my curiosity, and has now commanded my attention for well over 40 years, is how impossibly challenging it is to work with glass. It is a ridiculously hot viscous liquid that obeys only gravity and centripetal forces. The challenge for me as an artist is to coax this molten material into a shape and form that I want it to be in.

What is special about the medium you work with? How does it inform the work you create? 

The magic of glass is its translucency. I can bend and magnify or diminish the light around it.  Even the shadows of glass objects have color!

What do you love about your workspace? 

I live among the hills of Western Massachusetts. The landscape and sky here is inspiration for much of the glass that I make. From where I sit at my bench I can see more than 50 miles down the valley. There are days when the drama of the ever-changing view down the valley, thunderstorms, snow squalls, clouds, sunlight and the changing seasons make it hard for me to work! 

There is no light pollution here. At night I have a perfect view of the sky and because I often have to adjust my glass furnaces at totally odd hours, I am sometimes rewarded by the most amazing views of the night sky. Aurora Borealis, the Milky Way, constellations, lightening, satellites, the Space Station... it’s all there. It’s taken me more than 40 years to configure my studio so that it’s exactly the way I want it. It is probably one of the best-equipped glass facilities in the world, and it’s perfect for me to create the glass that I’m known for.

What was your inspiration for a recent piece?

My most recent work is a series of “Corona Platters,” meant to evoke the wonder of the universe that I feel when I look at Hubble and Chandra Space Telescope images. 

You can preview the work of the 2013 Craft Show award winner for excellence in glass here


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September 15 2014

For Craft Show visitors already mapping out a schedule for Nov. 6—9, here’s a roundup of fine craft-related museum and gallery exhibitions worth planning ahead to see.


[FASHION] Patrick Kelly, a black clothing designer from the rural south, went from selling his designs on the streets of 1980s Paris to being carried by Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman a short two years later. A retrospective of his work, “Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love,” is on view now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through Dec. 7 and is a must-see for visiting craft artists and fashion aficionados.

[TEXTILE] From Philadelphia's The Fabric Workshop and Museum: a new exhibition centered on what stories traditional Japanese fabric processes can tell. New York-based sculptor Kazumi Tanaka's work is on view through Nov. 9, closing on the last day of the Craft Show.

[WOODWORKING] One of our Show prize sponsors, the Wharton Esherick Museum has opened their annual Woodworkers' Show, Cabinets of Curiosity, on view through Dec. 31.


[CERAMIC] Snyderman-Works Galleries wrapped up their summer sale in August, which included work from 2014 Craft Show artist Karen Gilbert, but coming up next you’ll find “Explorations in Form: Vessels by Lis Ehrenreich and Skeff Thomas.” On view through Sept. 27, even the online image gallery of these functional ceramic pieces is worth a browse.

[CERAMIC] The Clay Studio has a full line-up of exhibitions leading up to the Craft Show, but if you head over for some Old City sightseeing after a full day of browsing craft artists booths in November, you’ll find “Art and Industry: New Work by Bobby Silverman,” and “Breakfast: Curated by Bryan Hopkins.” “Pottery by Design,” an exhibition presented as part of DesignPhiladelphia 2014, will showcase the depth and breadth of design in contemporary ceramics.

[FURNITURE] With The Center for Art in Wood’s 19th year of hosting a finale exhibition for the Windgate ITE International Residency program (allTURNatives: Form + Spirit 2014, on view Aug. 1-Oct. 25) just behind them, the nonprofit will be prepping for “Rediscovering Emil Milan and his Circle of Influence,” a landmark exhibition on the midcentury designer craftsman that will open Nov. 7. 

Image courtsey of the Fabric Workshop and Museum: Kazumi Tanaka. Silk fabric made with Shibori-Zome technique (traditional Japanese resist and dye processes), 2014. Silk. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
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September 02 2014

We continue our blog series celebrating the power and beauty of handmade objects, titled “The Best Craft I Ever Bought.”  In this series, creative and passionate Philadelphians tell us the stories behind the craft objects they’ve welcomed into their lives and what the objects mean to them.

In this post, Garth Johnson, Curator of Artistic Programs at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, shares a secret: his favorite craft isn’t ceramic. A writer, educator and artist, Garth has taught at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Calif. Georgia State University, Columbus State University and Golden West College. His first book, 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse, was published in 2009. His artwork has been shown nationally and internationally, including a solo exhibition at The Clay Studio in 2009 and the group exhibition “Horizon – Landscapes, Ceramics and Print” at the National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design in Oslo, Norway. His work can be found at

My clay friends and my co-workers at The Clay Studio might be surprised by my choice of the “Best Craft I Ever Bought.” Even though I have pottery and ceramic sculptures by some of the greatest masters in the field, my favorite craft is a crude painted wood carving of Sesame Street’s Ernie and Bert’s sweaters that stands about eight inches high.

The painted wood sculpture of Ernie and Bert’s sweaters standing together on a small plinth is iconic—just a glance by anyone the least bit familiar with Sesame Street creates instant recognition. In fact, my 2-year old daughter connected the sculpture with Ernie and Bert after only seeing them on YouTube a couple of times.

Even though the sculpture was a bit out of my price range at the time, I knew I had to have it. I had first met the artist, Sean Samoheyl, in the mid-aughts when I was living in Atlanta, Georgia and writing frequently for my blog, Sean, who lives and works at the Twin Oaks commune in central Virginia, found out about my blog and sent me a link to some images of his work. He makes eccentric, raggedy carved wood sculptures and fantastic puppets. Over the past few years, Sean has embraced “traditional” woodworking techniques and has a chair-making business that painstakingly crafts rockers with delicate spindles and bentwood arms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being “haunted” by images and objects. This might be the object in my life that haunts me the most. I’ve always been a person who derives feelings from things, and I spend a lot of time chasing those feelings in words, excited conversations or through my own art.

Not to get all introspective and cerebral, but there’s a powerful sense of absence in this sculpture…of loss even. Sure, Ernie and Bert are literally absent here, but I’m even a little bit haunted by Ernie and Bert’s presence. Their ambiguous relationship has been the subject of intense analysis (and projection) over the years. There’s something in this simple sculpture that evokes generations of closeted relationships to me. Maybe it’s just the way I tend to over-analyze and connect things, but a part of me always thinks of the AIDS epidemic—which if you think of it, would have squarely hit men like Ernie and Bert, who came of age in the ‘70s.

Sean’s sculpture is everything I value in craft. Of course I value workmanship, but I put the power of vision above all else. On the surface, the Ernie and Bert sculpture is whimsical. My 2-year old certainly likes to look at it and talk to it. I bring a lot of baggage to my relationship with the sculpture—all of us bring baggage to the crafted objects we interact with on a daily basis. Can a favorite craft object be “difficult” or even a little bit sad? I’d like to think so.

Visit the 2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art Crafts Show Wood category and Ceramics category to see the original hand-made objects in these mediums available from our 2014 artists. 

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August 20 2014

When Craft Show shoppers aren’t browsing one-of-a-kind, wearable works of art to add to their wardrobes over four jam-packed days in November, they can find wares from many of our craft artists on sites like Etsy. Placing these museum-quality pieces for sale through an online retailer is the digital equivalent to the street selling of only a few decades ago—and for some artists, it can be a jumpstart to a career.

Patrick Kelly, a black clothing designer from the rural south, was one of the craft artists who earned that jumpstart. Kelly went from selling his designs on the streets of 1980s Paris to being carried by Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman a short two years later. A retrospective of his work, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love,” is on view now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through December 7 and is a must-see for visiting craft artists and fashion aficionados.

The Wall Street Journal credits Philadelphia Museum of Art senior curator Dilys Burn for curating an exhibition that feels like a “five year party,” following the five years of Kelly’s short career, from his first official collection in 1985 to his death on Jan. 1, 1990.

Get a jolt of the 80’s from “the most important fashion designer you’ve never heard of” to go with the fashion-forward yet classic jackets, scarves, sweaters and more that you’ll find this year at the Craft Show.

Visit 2014 Craft Show Wearable Fiber Art to see the wearable artwork that will be available this November from our 2014 artists.


Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perelman Building, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave.

"Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love"

Museum admission $20, $18 seniors, $14 students and ages 13-18, under 12 free. 

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August 12 2014

Behind-the-scenes insight on contemporary craft continues in our Juror Q&A blog series, this time from Craft Show 2014 juror Elisabeth Agro. (See the first Craft Show Juror Q&A post featuring the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s Yvonne Markowitz here.) As the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Associate Curator for Craft and Decorative Arts, Agro often serves on the juror panel of the Craft Show.

What's the most rewarding or challenging thing about serving as a juror?

There are two aspects that are most rewarding to serving as a juror as often as I do. First, it permits me to meet and get to know the other jurors, who range from being curators of all kinds of spaces, gallerists, established makers and academics. Secondly, it is always rewarding to see new submissions from talented artists who are pushing the boundaries of their medium and work.

I guess the challenge is to rally my fellow jurors to make the best show possible by really bringing my "A" game into the room.

What makes the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show different? 

When this show was launched in 1977, it was the first of its kind, so it has those laurels to rest upon. This show, like others, is a fundraiser for a major museum. What sets it apart from other craft shows is how not only do all the proceeds go directly to varied museum-wide activities from exhibitions to education, but a percentage goes directly in a fund that is applied to the acquisition of contemporary craft. I don't need to explain how critical that is, do I!

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

I am always on the lookout for up-and-coming artists who are pushing the boundaries of their medium or practice. It is especially important, in my opinion, that their work reflects their individual and unique voice. As the museum's curator, I always enjoy watching artists grow and come into their own. The Craft Show is a great way to get your work seen, especially if you are an emerging artist or even at mid-career. All shows need an infusion of new talent; it’s what keeps them fresh and vital. So artists, never shy away from applying!

Which craft trends did you see coming through this year? 

This year there was a striking proliferation of work across all media that could be categorized as minimal but blended with a twang of the industrial. This should not be very surprising, since it seems to be the trend in many household, office settings and everyday surroundings. What is surprising is to see this trend share the stage with the application and love of ornament, whether applied on the surface or to be used structurally. I can tell you that this decorative art historian always loves to see that!

Elisabeth Agro received her B.A. in Italian Studies from Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA, and an M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution/Parsons School of Design, NY.

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, she has executed several exhibitions: Wrought & Crafted: Jewelry and Metalwork 1900–Present, Interactions in Clay: Contemporary Explorations of the Collection, Craft Spoken Here and organized Calder Jewelry. The founding of the American Studio Craft movement is a subject of ongoing research. Agro is currently planning the second installment of At the Center: Masters of American Craft, part of a five phase installation program in the American Art galleries focusing on the Museum’s craft collection.

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