The Best Craft I Have Ever Bought with Julie Gannaway Siglin

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you eventually became interested in a career in arts and museums? 

I started out in healthcare, enrolling in a nursing program after high school, but fairly quickly realized nursing was not for me after questioning my bravery in the face of blood and understanding of biochemistry. While rethinking my path, I took a part-time job at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA and was hooked. From there I went to work for a cultural accessibility organization and have held roles with several other museums and nonprofits.

Currently, I am the Executive Director of the Wharton Esherick Museum where I lead the organization’s preservation efforts and explore new ways to continue the dialogue between Esherick’s creative legacy and contemporary artists and audiences.

When did your interest in the arts spark?

I was always interested in the arts. My family moved to Europe when I was eight years old and a lot of my formative years were spent exploring museums, castles, cathedrals, and city streets lined with beautiful architecture. It was a wonderful way to grow up and my love of the arts was cemented in those places.

What is the best craft you have ever bought?

While all of the artwork and handmade objects I own are treasured, the best craft pieces I have ever bought are my growing collection of hand blown glasses.

I recently married my long-time partner at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading. We wanted an informal and fun ceremony so the Hot Shop Manager guided each of us in making a matching pair of rocks glasses while our guests sipped champagne in the stadium seats, then we dimmed the lights and had the ceremony. Neither of us had tried glassblowing before and we loved the creative participation and sense of adventure. The glasses turned out pretty well too! The GoggleWorks Center has a fabulous store and now, every time I go, I pick up a few more glasses made by artists on site. 

How do you display this craft?

Though we only use the glasses we made during our wedding for special occasions, the glasses in the rest of the collection are used on a daily basis rather than just displayed. For me, this circles back to what is so wonderful about the artist Wharton Esherick’s work. He made furniture, utensils, light pulls, coat pegs, switch plates – even toilet seats – that were more than decorative. They were functional pieces of art that made everyday life a little more beautiful.

What’s coming up at the Wharton Esherick Museum that we should know about?

The Wharton Esherick Museum is in an exciting period of growth. We are planning now for the use of new spaces, including Esherick’s original home in the area before construction of the Studio, as well as his 1956 Workshop which was co-designed with Louis Kahn. With the addition of these spaces, the Museum is poised to expand its interpretive and educational activities with increased exhibit and programming space, improved accessibility and more active engagement with contemporary artists.

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