Designer Profile: John Levitties on Craft in the Home

(Above: JAGR Projects - Park City, Utah. Ceramic bowl on sideboard by Melissa Weiss. Photo by Paul Richer)

A lot goes into shifting to an online event and while we’re busy at work behind the scenes, we are also taking time to talk with longtime attendees about their Show experiences and what they’re looking forward to this year. Today we introduce you to interior designer John Levitties. John has attended the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show since the mid 1990’s and will be attending the online event this year. As principal of JAGR Projects, a highly regarded design firm in Philadelphia, John and his staff have been placing craft in the home for many years. John’s background in cultural history and preservation and as an art and furniture dealer specializing in late 19th and early 20th century British and European design led him to utilizing contemporary craft in interior design.

Craft as a design element in the home was a natural progression from the advent of the arts and crafts movement at the turn of the 20th century, designed to celebrate traditional craft skills and blur the lines between fine and decorative arts. That work appealed not only to people that appreciated craft and history but also to early voices in modernist design. Toward the end of the 20th century, John saw more experimentation with modern materials and forms, and it became clear the pendulum would swing back to artists and artisans skilled in drawing and design turning to more traditional forms of making. The results are often new ways of thinking about craft, intermixing modern styles with traditional craft skills and thus, an ideal combination for utilizing craft at home.

(Above: JAGR Projects - Home in Park City, Utah. Three legged stool by Keunho Peter Park. Photo by Paul Richer)

John is looking forward to this year’s Show, and though it will be different than being there in person, there is a silver lining of being able to view the exhibitors collectively with his staff. To help facilitate this at his studio, they will be projecting the Show onto a big screen, where he and the staff can discover new artists, see some of their favorite artists, and talk about what pieces to use in different projects.

“The Craft Show affords collectors – whether seasoned or first time – a venue to interact with artists whose work evokes something in them. And it might feel like this opportunity is lost in a virtual fair, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The communication between maker and consumer through the works, themselves, is an important interaction, but beyond that synergy I’ve never found any artist at the show to be other than excited at the opportunity to discuss their work with an interested collector, and visitors should take advantage of that whether face-to-face or virtual”. ~ John Levitties

(Above: JAGR Projects - Center City, Philadelphia. Ceramic vases by Ani Kasten. Photo by Jeffrey Totaro)

John points out the materiality of craft, how the surface and materials encompass the hand of the artist and how the Show is a great place to discover that and talk to artists about their work. Interior design is an ideal complement to fine contemporary craft, and John and his team get excited about utilizing crafts by specific artists, such as Ani Kasten, Jenifer Thoem, or Alexandra Geller to name a few. They may choose the crafts at the end of a project where they can see what spaces they have for objects, or during the design and layout process itself. Functionality of items is important in the selection process, especially with furniture or items like dinnerware, but it’s not always the primary motive aesthetically speaking.

In closing, we asked John what guidance he would give someone new to acquiring craft for their home. His advice is to buy what they love and engage with artists by asking intelligent questions. The opportunity to speak with an artist about their work enhances it immeasurably and the experience can be very rewarding.

There will be opportunity to get to know some of the artists during the online event, and there is also more time to learn about them in advance and during the Show. We encourage people to explore this year’s artists, and follow their social media in the lead up to the Show.

 

 

 

 

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