December 30, 2010

Mixed-media artist, Jenine Bressner—recently featured on The Martha Stewart Show—will be in Houston for her first solo show, a special workshop, and other events in January

Sample image of Bressner’s glass-bead and textile work.
Photo courtesy the artist.

Mixed-media artist, Jenine Bressner, will debut her first solo show, Inverted Harmony: A handmade Environment by Jenine Bressner, at HCCC this January in the small gallery. The exhibition will open on Friday, January 21, 2011, from 5:30-8:00 p.m. On Saturday, January 22, Jenine will teach a workshop from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.: Ruffled Accessories: Beards, Boutonnieres, and Headbands.  HCCC is partnering with Sew Crafty Houston to present this special workshop.

We will be posting more about Sew Crafty Houston and Jenine Bressner later in January, but for now, we thought everyone might enjoy a sneak peak about Jenine and her recent spot on The Martha Stewart Show. You can see a full clip of Jenine and Martha here.  And, read more about Jenine’s experience on her blog here.

Space at the workshop is limited, so if you want to join Jenine in Houston, and learn to make some fun and wacky accessories to spice up your wardrobe, sign up now!

Jenine will also give a gallery talk on the evening of Saturday, January 22, at 8:15 pm.  This will immediately follow the reception and screening of Handmade Nation, a documentary about the new wave of art, craft and design, at Lawndale Art Center.  Read more about these events here. 

December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays from HCCC!

Happy Holidays from Pancho the Reindog and everyone at HCCC!

We want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday break and happy new year from the HCCC “birthday blog.” Thank you to all of our supporters for making this a great year!

If you haven’t been by HCCC to see the most recent exhibitions, Craft Texas 2010 and The Color of Enamel: New Work by Leighelena, you still have time. Craft Texas 2010 is open through Thursday, December 30, and Leighelena is open through January 30. So, please stop by with your friends and family—admission is always free!  (Please note that HCCC will be closed December 25-27 and December 31- January 3 for the holidays.)

If you have never joined HCCC as a member or even if you have, now is a great time of year to join or renew your membership.

Your gifts of $100, the price of a Crafter level membership for two, are being matched – dollar for dollar – by the Windgate Charitable Foundation. Click here to donate now and celebrate ten years of free exhibitions, education programs, and the next decade of HCCC.

December 17, 2010

What is your Craft Texas 2010 Favorite?

With the exhibition Craft Texas 2010 closing at the end of the month, we thought it would be fun for staff to share their favorite pieces from the juried show. Surprisingly, no two staff members chose the same work! If you haven’t had time to see the exhibition, it’s not too late. The show is up through Thursday, December 30, 2010. Please note we will be closed December 25-27. If you’ve visited the exhibition, please share your favorites in the comments below!

From left to right, Catherine Winkler Rayroud’s paper cutting Mama Never Told Me,
Emily Black’s deer head sculpture A Woman’s Place is in the Home and  Gabriel Craig &
Amy Weiks brooch Four Legged Leaders in the wall frame. Photo by Jack Zilker.

Facilities and Operations Manager, Randall Dorn, likes Leslie Lewis’s Arachne because it is a personal reminder of two of his favorite things: spiders and his wife, Amber.

Julie Farr, Executive Director, chose Catherine Winkler Rayroud’s piece, Mama Never Told Me, because of the intersection between a very traditional craft practice of paper cutting and the contemporary commentary on how women are educated in our society.

The richly colored Crop Wing by Kurt Dyrhaug is the favorite for Asher Sales Associate and Gallery Attendant, Bianca Gutierrez. She is drawn to how the work seems to be a much smaller version of something that should be larger than life.

Selecting a statement piece of jewelry, Communications Director, Mary Headrick, chose Robly A. Glover’s Bobber Necklace #3 as her favorite work in the show. The work jumped out at her right away because of its bold colors, interesting use of materials, and fun shape the necklace takes.

From left to right, Danny Kamerath’s wooden cabinet Shafer,  Roger Deatherage’s Library
and Brazos Dining Chair,  and Kurt Dyrhaug’s Crop Wing. Photo by Jack Zilker.

Education Director, Carol Klahn, selected Gale Gibb’s Matchbook Collection as her favorite work. She likes the depth and unity in the piece from afar and the unexpected surprise of multiple items when you get closer. It is a piece you can continue to look at and never tire of.

The beautiful and functional Library Chair and Brazos Dining Chair by Roger Deatherage are favorites for Marina Lewis, Volunteer Coordinator, who explains how all she wants to do is sit in them.

Donna Muniz, Finance Manager, described how Shafer by Danny Kamerath was her favorite because of the intricacy in how each of the drawers fits together, the wonderful selection of wood choices and how the piece perfectly soaks up the light in the area in which it is displayed.

Harlan Butt’s two pieces, Weminuche Horizon #1 and Texas Horizon Oak #1, are favorites for Gallery Attendant, Ashley Powell. She is blown away by the high-quality enamel depicting nature on the sides of the vessels and the intense labor behind the process.

On the left, Caprice Pierucci’s wooden sculpture, Convergence and through the doorway
Marianne McGrath’s ceramic installation piece, Yours, Mine & Ours… Photo by Jack Zilker.

Suzanne Sippel, Asher Gallery Manager, selected Four Legged Leaders by Gabriel Craig and Amy Weiks. She likes the combination of repurposed materials, including coins and metal. The piece displays a high level of skill behind bringing these materials together.

After helping artist Marianne McGrath install her piece, Yours, Mine & Ours…, Curatorial Fellow, Anna Walker, has selected it as her favorite. She likes how the artist piles together numerous, small and delicate ceramic pods to form an impressive structure that towers above viewers’ heads.

Web and Marketing Assistant, Jenny Lynn Weitz, loves the honesty and evidence of the artist’s workmanship in Caprice Pierucci’s work Convergence. Although the work is very large and durable, it appears delicate. Jenny Lynn describes how every time she sees the piece she wants to jump through the opening.

Nyala Wright, Associate Director of Fundraising, is drawn to Emily Black’s piece, A Woman’s Place is in the Home, because it challenges traditional notions of fascism and matriarchy.

December 10, 2010

Current Artist-in-Residence Jessica Dupuis Reflects on a Four-Week Residency at Women’s Studio Workshop

The Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) in Rosendale, NY, is a visual arts organization with specialized studios in printmaking, hand papermaking, ceramics, letterpress printing, photography and book arts. Jessica Dupuis was invited to work at WSW as part of their Fellowship Program.  Jessica is a ceramist and current artist-in-residence at HCCC. We asked her to provide a few pictures of her time up North and reflect on her experience.

Women's Studio Workshop. Rosendale, NY.

Four weeks at WSW…. a community that was warm, nurturing, and stimulated my creativity. WSW gave me the opportunity to discover what it was like to live and work in the same building, the time to focus on my work, and to interact with other women artists.  I spent my days downstairs in the ceramic studio, and above, I could hear the traffic in the printmaking studio. I had potluck lunches in the kitchen with everyone and spent evenings chatting with my room mate, Amber Jensen, a printmaker, or doing research for my work. I found this experience beneficial to the work and residency I am currently completing at HCCC.

Inside Women's Studio Workshop. Rosendale, NY

 Detail of Jessica's work in progress while at WSW.

December 2, 2010

From the Artist: Leigh Navarro Introduces Her Show in the Artist Hall, "The Color of Enamel: New Work by Leighelena"

Leigh Navarro is an enamel artist from Austin, TX, and her first solo show opens this weekend in the Artist Hall. The exhibition, The Color of Enamel: New Work by Leighelena, runs from Dec. 4, 2010 to Jan. 30, 2011, and an opening reception will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9, from 5:30-8:00 PM.

Leigh in her studio.

I am thrilled to be introducing my work at HCCC. Together, my mom, Susan, and I have nearly 60 years of enameling experience. Some years were more "fruitful" than others, but it has been in the forefront or back burner of our lives for years.  My mom is an artist and started enameling to incorporate different elements on her wall hangings. Eventually, she made fully enameled wall hangings.  Since I was a kid, I enjoyed making jewelry, which I sold at art fairs with my mom. Decades later, we have taken our combined knowledge to create wearable, affordable, and fantastic enamel jewelry!

Leighelena, Small Anemone Wall Piece, glass enamel, copper, stee. Photo by HCCC.

The pieces we have created for this exhibition are a good mix of what is to come and what have been some of our favorite pieces to make over the years. We always want to find interesting vehicles for different types of enamel. I am excited to introduce the Anemone collection. These sculptures are a collaboration among myself, my mom and my partner, Jimmy Sochat.  I can't wait to expand on it in 2011—I have many ideas already!  

Leighelena, Medium Anemone Wall Piece,
and materials are: glass enamel, copper, steel.
Photo by HCCC.

The framed enamel artwork, or Driftwood series, is also the beginning of a new series I will be producing.  And the jewelry, ah the jewelry, I have put many great pieces together, some new and some best-sellers.  Please take special notice of the leather cuff bracelets, they are my favorite pieces and the most fun to make.  I wanted to create a great way to make a bracelet with an attractive piece of enamel.  I have developed this look over the last 4 years, and, believe me, it has changed drastically!  I take a lot of time and thought in choosing the best and most exciting Italian leathers that I can find to create each look.  The end result is an edgy but feminine handcrafted piece of jewelry that will stand the test of time, both mechanically and fashionably. 

Each of these pieces is fully designed and crafted by me, in collaboration with my mom, Susan. I hope you love them as much as we do!  I look forward to meeting you on Thursday, Dec 9th for the opening!

November 26, 2010

Meet the 2010 HCCC Volunteer of the Year: Jack Zilker.

Jack Zilker is a local photographer who has been working and photographing the work of Houston artists for over 60 years.  He has volunteered for over nine years to photograph our exhibition galleries, our building, objects for sale in Asher Gallery, and various other projects.  His photographs provide an extremely valuable record of our exhibition history, illustrate our gallery spaces to new artists, and are used for promotional purposes.  We are forever grateful to volunteers like Jack, who not only take time out of their day to volunteer but also donate services that save HCCC thousands of dollars. We asked Jack to sit down and share a little bit about his history in photography and time at HCCC.

Julie Farr, HCCC Executive Director, and Jack Zilker with his award.
What made you want to be a photographer?
I sold my first photograph at 15, and that was almost two centuries ago. I thought it was the most wonderful experience and it was more fun than saving empty Coke bottles and selling them back to the stores for 2 cents a piece.

How long have you been a photographer in Houston?
I was born and raised in Houston. When I was in junior high, my parents were building a home in a newer part of Houston. One day, I was walking around with my camera, taking pictures of these houses under construction, when a contractor stopped and asked me to sell him the photographs. I realized that, with all the development in this neighborhood, I could take pictures and then put a notice on the house about the pictures for sale. I turned my parents’ bathroom into a darkroom, and that’s how I started my photography in Houston.

What is a favorite memory from volunteering at HCCC?
I’m not sure which exhibition this event was related to, and I suppose it might be a self-serving answer, but I remember a juror’s advice during an opening. The juror was taking everyone on a walk through the gallery before the event was to start. While in the exhibit, explaining his choices, he stopped to tell the audience about a recent visit to some nearby galleries. He proceeded to tell them about how he saw some work in the galleries that had been submitted for the show, but that he did not select it. He explained how, had he seen good photographs of those works, he would have selected the pieces for the exhibit. I applauded his advice, because artists who don’t have good photographs really do themselves an injustice, and this juror did a great job of explaining why photographs are necessary.

November 18, 2010

A Volunteer's Perspective

If you visit HCCC during an opening event, it is likely that one of our dedicated volunteers is serving your drink. HCCC volunteer, Barry Harnamji, takes time out of his daily schedule to volunteer at our special events and openings and has been doing so since early 2009. Barry is one of many volunteers who help nonprofits like HCCC keep everything running. This year, we’re combining our Asher Holiday Soiree and our Volunteer Appreciation Party in one event! Please join us for this festive reception tonight (Thursday, November 18), from 5:30-8:00 p.m. Below, Barry shares his experiences as a volunteer.

HCCC volunteer, Barry Harnamji,
waits for the party to begin. Martini Madness!
September 16, 2010. Photo by Kim Coffman.

Becoming a volunteer at HCCC arose from a very personal endeavor.  As a result, my exposure to the artwork at HCCC completely changed my perception of craft.  Directly discussing artwork with some of the artists-in-residence gave me an even greater insight into the complexity of effort that goes into much of the art they produce and the high quality of work HCCC demands.  

Volunteering at HCCC has been a two-fold experience for me.  I have the opportunity to view amazing new and upcoming works of art, which I may not have known about.  Additionally, volunteering as a gallery attendant or at one the various programs such as Hands-On Houston, exhibition openings or external arts functions, such as Bayou City Arts Festival, MFAH, and other venues, gives me the opportunity to be a part of the Houston arts community and share the art of craft. 

November 13, 2010

Introducing Our New Artists-in-Residence: Clark Kellogg

A native of Houston, TX, Clark Kellogg has been interested in woodworking and furniture making since he was 14, when he and his father started building small projects in the family garage. He received his BA from the University of Virginia. He is formally trained as a furniture maker, graduating from both the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship's Nine-Month Comprehensive program and the College of the Redwoods esteemed Fine Woodworking Program.

Clark with his piece, Garden Bench,
for which he received  an
award-of-merit in Craft Texas 2010.

I've known about the residencies at HCCC since the organization was founded in 2001, because I've visited the center all these years. I wanted to apply for a few years, but I wasn't settled in Houston. I was traveling back and forth between home and school. Also, I didn't have enough work until recently for a complete application. Once I knew I was going to be in Houston for a few years, and had a larger body of work, I applied.

Part of the plan for my residency is to use it as an opportunity to promote myself and my work in the Houston community. I want to interact with visitors, be part of educating them about what fine furniture can be and how much work goes in to making custom furniture. While in my residency, I hope to balance making some larger furniture pieces with smaller work focused on letter carving. Letter carving is a new area for me and it's exciting to explore and see where this new skill will will take me.

Hemlock Wall Cabinet,
by Clark Kellogg, photo by David Welter.

Music Box, by Clark Kellogg, photo courtesy the artist
Little Squam (detail image), 
by Clark Kellogg, photo courtesy the artist.
 You can find our more about our current artists-in-residence on our website.

November 5, 2010

Introducing Our New Artists-in-Residence: Kristi Rae Wilson

Kristi Rae Wilson is a mixed media artist who has returned to her hometown of Houston after being away for seven years. She received her BFA from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, TX before earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kristi in her studio at HCCC.

I found out about the residency at HCCC when I was in undergrad at Stephen F. Austin University. I didn't feel I was prepared for it at the time, but I stored away the information for later. When I graduated with my MFA, I sought out residencies in the USA and Europe. HCCC was the first to contact me and after accepting the position, I was excited to return back to Houston.

During my residency, I hope to continue researching fabrics and allow this research to influence my jewelry skills. I want to allow this relationship between fabric and jewelry to happen organically. In the end, I hope for two different outcomes. The first outcome being a high end production line of jewelry and the second developing large scale exhibition pieces.

Tea Infuser Earrings,
by Kristi Rae Wilson, 

photo by Motoko Furuhashi.

Detachment of the Bed Sheet,
still from 2 minute looped video
by Kristi Rae Wilson,
photo courtesy the artist.

Remnants Collar,
by Kristi Rae Wilson,
photo by
Motoko Furuhashi.

You can find more about our current artists-in-residence on our website.

October 28, 2010

Introducing Our New Artists-in-Residence: Lisa Wilson

Lisa Wilson is a metalsmith and jewelry designer who creates a range of work, from sculptural objects to one-of-a-kind jewelry. An Ohio native, Lisa received her B.F.A. from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, before going on to earn her M.F.A. from Miami University in Oxford, OH.

Lisa Wilson in her studio at HCCC.
I found the residency at HCCC by word of mouth while I was finishing graduate school. Although I enjoy teaching, I did not want to pursue a teaching career full time directly after school. Applying for the residency seemed like a good match because it provides me time and space to make work, but I’m also able to gain some teaching experience in the Houston community.

While in my residency, I want to focus on taking my large scale sculptural work down to a smaller, more intimate size. My larger sculptures are based on algorithms found in natural objects. By making the work smaller in scale, I hope to capture the way we interact with a majority of the natural world. I want to provide contemplative experiences in my work, similar to those found when picking up a seashell on the beach or a fallen leaf on the sidewalk.

Diffusion Study,
by Lisa Wilson,
photo courtesy Jeff Sabo.
Spiral Growth,
by Lisa Wilson,
photo courtesy Jeff Sabo.
Wave Particle Loop, by Lisa Wilson,
photo courtesy Jeff Sabo.
You can find out more about our current artists-in-residence on our website.

October 21, 2010

Introducing Our New Artists-in-Residence: Elizabeth DeLyria

Originally a landscape painter, ceramic artist Elizabeth DeLyria translates the concept of landscape into the functionality of clay. Prior to moving to Katy, TX, she received her MEd in Art Education from the University of Houston. She also attended the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. We talked with her about why she came to HCCC and what she will be working on during her time here.

Elizabeth in her studio at HCCC.

I had visited HCCC in the past and was always very impressed with the organization. Once I retired from teaching a year ago, I realized I wasn't familiar with the ceramics community in Houston. I had always known Houston as a teacher, not as an artist. I decided to apply for the residency and learn more about the ceramics community.

While at HCCC, I hope to further develop the emphasis of merging sculptural and functional characteristics in my pieces. My work is derived from nature and I want to expand it and make forms that I haven't had time to explore until now.

Birch Forest,
by Elizabeth DeLyria,
photo courtesy of the artist.

Petoskey Cairn, by Elizabeth DeLyria,
photo courtesy of the artist.

by Elizabeth DeLyria, 

photo courtesy of the artist.

You can find out more about our current artists-in-residence on our website.

October 20, 2010

Former Artist-in-Residence is "The Pro Bono Jeweler: Houston"

Former artist-in-residence at HCCC, Gabriel Craig, recently released his latest video piece "The Pro Bono Jeweler: Houston." He created these performances as part of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston exhibition Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft. Gabriel is a metalsmith, writer, and craft activist. You can see more of his work on his website or read his writing on his blog

October 15, 2010

Introducing Our New Artists-in-Residence: Jessica Dupuis

Jessica is a ceramist from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She received her BFA from Alfred University in New York, and her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Jessica uses the combination of clay and discarded materials, such as newspaper and cardboard boxes to construct objects that are light and fragile, but packed with power.We talked with her about what she will be working on while in residency at HCCC and how she found the program.

Jessica in her studio at HCCC.

While finishing graduate school  I researched artist-in-residency programs at various organizations and did searches through search engines like Alliance of Artists Communities. I discovered HCCC's program while reading through online offerings on Ceramics Monthly's education resources page. I wanted to go to a new place, particularly a new city, and have access to a strong arts community. I thought this program sounded like a great stepping stone from graduate school to my professional career.

Work in progress at HCCC by Jessica Dupuis.

I brought with me a bucket of scraps and remnants to Houston from my graduate school work. My goal for the artist-in-residency is to make a new body of work and just experience being an artist in a community. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work in a space that is my own and I love exploring Houston and what it has to offer.

Grid by Jessica Dupuis, photo courtesy of the artist

Untitled by Jessica Dupuis, photo courtesy Edie Shimel

You can find out more about our current artists-in-residence on our website.

October 8, 2010

Want to Know More About the Award-of-Merit Winners from CraftTexas 2010?

We do! So, we took some time to talk with the three award winners and wanted to share a little more about the pieces that won.

To Left: Clark Kellogg with Garden Bench.
Bottom Right: Catherine Winkler Rayroud with Mama Never Told Me.
Top Right: Eskimo Kisser #3 by Gary Schott
First up, Clark Kellogg is currently an artist-in-residence at HCCC and won an award-of-merit for Garden Bench

In your artist statement you talk about the importance of material, in the case of Garden Bench why did those pieces become a bench rather than a cabinet?
Sometimes my furniture starts with the wood and ends with the piece. In the case of Garden Bench, the opposite occurred. Here I found pieces of wood to fit with the concept and design of the bench.

Why do you choose to make furniture? 
I love making things with wood. I want to make something quiet and friendly that will become a part of someone’s home and for me that is found making furniture. I believe it is important to have your interaction with a space be positive and furniture can really determine how you interact with space.

Also creating interactive pieces, Gary Schott is Chair of the Metals department at the Southwest School of Art, and won an award-of-merit for Eskimo Kisser #3. Below is a video of the piece.

Can you talk about the importance of interaction in your work, specifically is Eskimo Kisser #3 meant to interact with two people?  
Yes, this piece is meant for two people to interact with. I’ve created others that focus on the importance between the intimate experience between the piece and the person but this is an object for two people. I intend for the devices to be playful and provide a cheeky reaction to modern technology. In a sense, it is akin to how texting provides a technological interaction or interface between individuals, but here it is an object reminiscent of nostalgic toys.

Are people meant to actually touch noses with the piece and how did that dictate your material choices? 
Yes, your nose is supposed to touch and so material choices were very important. I tried out many different materials and wanted to find something that was desirable for someone to touch with their nose. I had an “a-hah” moment when someone reintroduced me to needle felting.

The third award-of-merit winner was Catherine Winkler Rayroud for her paper-cut piece, Mama Never Told Me.

Mama Never Told Me,by Catherine Winkler Rayroud, 
photo courtesy the artist

What narrative are you creating in the imagery in your piece, Mama Never Told Me?
This piece is very personal and illustrates the examples I was given about a woman’s place in society while growing up in Switzerland. There were certain things my Mother would say but do differently. For instance she would say a woman shouldn’t study because she won’t find a husband, but then I saw how she would write books in her spare time and be unhappy that she couldn’t find more time for these activities. This piece documents the personal journey I went through as a girl becoming an adult and the awakening I had after coming to the United States ten years ago. I often wonder what would be different if I would have been able to grow up here, would things have been different?

For those who aren’t familiar with paper-cutting, can you explain the process?
All of the paper-cuts are done from one sheet of paper with nail scissors and sometimes an exacto-knife. In this piece, I only used nail scissors. Initially I fold the sheet in half to cut the symmetrical images. Then I unfold the paper to cut the asymmetrical images, the difference in the mirror images is meant to be playful, the viewer can try and find the differences.

October 1, 2010

October's Hands-On Houston

This Saturday, October 2, is International Day of Felt, celebrating the world’s oldest textile which dates back to 6300 B.C. Felt is made by compacting animal fibers such as sheep’s wool through wet felting and needle felting. In wet felting the fibers are agitated with hot water and soap. Whereas in needle felting, the fibers are compacted by hand with a barbed needle. This year’s theme, as proposed by Felt United, is a wedge of the color wheel: yellow through green to blue and we are participating by learning to needle felt with artist, Tobiah Mundt.

Visitors will learn very basic needle felting by turning mounds of colorful wool into cute little acorns and fall leaves. Join us to celebrate Fall and felt at October's Hands-On Houston tomorrow, October 2, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Examples of acorns visitors will make.
Image courtesy of the artist.

Tobiah Mundt is a Houston artist who recently had an exhibit, Being, at Lawndale Art Center. She also teaches classes and Sew Crafty Houston in the Heights. You can find more about her and her work on her website. Tobiah will also be offering an exciting October workshop at HCCC, Sculptural Needle Felting 101: Zombie Rabbits. You can find out more about the class on HCCC's website or by clicking here.

Image courtesy of Lawndale Art Center
and Tobiah Mundt's exhibit, Being.

September 30, 2010

An Interview with the CraftTexas Jurors, Part III

CraftTexas 2010 is the sixth in a series of juried exhibitions showcasing the best in Texas-made contemporary craft. To give our audiences a better understanding of the jury process, our three jurors have agreed to answer a few questions.

Below is an interview with Paula Owen. Paula is the president of the Southwest School of Arts and Crafts in San Antonio and a practicing artist. She has also chaired the Cultural Alliance of San Antonio, and served as project director for the Women and the Craft Arts National Conference at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

Were you familiar with the exhibit CraftTexas Series from Houston Center for Contemporary Craft before being asked to be a juror?

Oh yes! You can’t be a craft aficionado in Texas without knowing about CraftTexas. I know many of the artists who have been selected in the past and have always been impressed with the range and quality of the work.

When reviewing CraftTexas 2010 entries, did you see any common themes in the works submitted?

In my experience as an educator, curator and writer, I have found that there tend to be trends within disciplines. A certain style or technique will dominate for a while in fiber or painting or ceramics, etc. However, in an exhibition that includes a broad array of art forms and materials, it is less common to see similar themes. Having said that…works of art in general are very often drawn from personal experience and nature.

How did you choose what entries received the highest marks?

Judging is not an exact science, of course. One must use both cognitive and intuitive knowledge and draw from one’s own experience. In my case, as an artist myself, I have preferences for works that convey ideas, originality, command of the medium, and something that’s hard to describe – eccentricity, perhaps? It’s that unexpected element that stops you in your tracks.

What advice would you give artists wanting to enter CraftTexas 2012, or juried exhibits in general?

Naturally, your images need to be superb. Good lighting can make or break your chances of being selected. I suggest that you find a professional photographer. Also, most artists are too close to their own work to see it clearly and should invite critique from other artists. This step can help in one’s overall evolution as an artist and in deciding on which works to submit.

September 25, 2010

An Interview with the CraftTexas Jurors, Part II

This Friday is the opening of CraftTexas 2010, the sixth in a series of juried exhibitions showcasing the best in Texas-made contemporary craft. To give our audiences a better understanding of the jury process, our three jurors have agreed to answer a few questions.

Below is an interview with Cindy Hickok. Cindy is an internationally acclaimed fiber artist who ingeniously borrows from the “Old Masters” of art history for her clever, embroidered works. Her work has been exhibited in museums throughout Europe, Asia and North America, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Were you familiar with the CraftTexas exhibit series from Houston Center for Contemporary Craft before being asked to be a juror?

Yes. I entered all the CraftTexas and CraftHouston shows. My work was rejected from CraftHouston 2002 and 2004, but accepted in CraftHouston 2006 and CraftTexas 2008.

When reviewing CraftTexas 2010 entries, did you see any common themes in the works submitted?

I saw more combinations of materials. One can no longer say "fiber" or "metal" etc., because artists are combining materials and techniques and defying any one category. Imagination has no boundaries.

How did you choose what entries received the highest marks?

Most of those who entered work are experienced and accomplished artists, so I know their work is good. A juror has to look beyond, to find the really exceptional pieces, especially when only a small percentage will be placed in the exhibition. I look for, first, honesty and integrity in design (which eliminated a lot of gimmicks), then quality construction, and finally, innovation. I wanted each piece to draw me in for a closer look and then to reward me when I did. I also read the artist's titles and explanations for further clarification, as each piece was unique and deserved thorough consideration.

What advice would you give artists wanting to enter CraftTexas 2012, or juried exhibits in general?

An artist will never achieve recognition unless he enters juried shows, and the greater the competition the greater the rewards. The very best artists have all experienced the disappointment of rejection, and one must learn from it. When I receive a rejection notice I mope about it for awhile, then I go through an I'll-show-them attitude, and finally I take a hard look at my work and ask myself how I could have made it better. One learns much more from rejections than from successes.

September 23, 2010

An Interview with the CraftTexas Jurors, Part I

This Friday is the opening of CraftTexas 2010, the sixth in a series of juried exhibitions showcasing the best in Texas-made contemporary craft. To give our audiences a better understanding of the jury process, our jurors have agreed to answer a few questions.

Below is an interview with Gail M. Brown. Gail is an independent curator of contemporary craft whose focus is to enhance visibility and education about contemporary craft in the larger visual arts community. She trained as a print maker at the Philadelphia College of Art, and she has been watching the contemporary crafts movement since the early 1970s. Her recent exhibitions have been hosted at Baltimore Clayworks, the Hoffman Gallery of Oregon College of Art and Craft, the Fuller Craft Museum, the Woodturning Center and many more.

Were you familiar with the exhibit CraftTexas Series from Houston Center for Contemporary Craft before being asked to be a juror?


Yes, I have several catalogues from previous CraftTexas shows in my library. I know the work of certain artists quite well.

When reviewing CraftTexas 2010 entries, did you see any common themes in the works submitted?

I recall some trends to large forms.

How did you choose what entries received the highest marks?

I respond to tactile work with thoughtful, arresting and often provocative content, to ideas and personal narrative. I look for passionate exploration of the chosen media. I look for a sustained personal visual vocabulary.

What advice would you give artists wanting to enter CraftTexas 2012, or juried exhibits in general?

Be personally self-critical: edit your work before you send it out in the world. Is the work you are sending out truly your ideas: that’s what I want to see. Make the juror eager to do her homework to see more of your work after this “introduction.” Make the images work their very best for you- you know best what you want to convey. Do the images do that for you?

September 16, 2010

Who's Making the Glasses for Martini Madness?

HCCC will kick off its 10th Anniversary Year with the third annual Martini Madness! event tonight, Thursday, September 16, from 7 - 10 p.m. At the beginning of the evening, guests select a one-of-a-kind artisan martini glass to use and take home. Eileen Braun is one of the 18 artists who has created these special martini glasses. (Note: this event has sold out.)

Eileen Braun is a ceramic artist who has exhibited at HCCC and has work available in Asher Gallery. She received her B.A. from Indiana University, in Sculpture and Art Education, and currently lives and works in Atlanta, GA. Below she shares about her experience making martini glasses for Martini Madness!

Above are Eileen Braun's martini glasses.
When Susanne Sippel of Asher Gallery invited me to contribute glasses for the annual Martini Madness! fundraiser, I admit, I was a bit flummoxed and excited at the same time. I love the challenge of creating a completely new project. Designing a new project occupies my mind, as I spend what seems endless time stippling and slip trailing texture to my porcelain vessel surfaces.

I spent two months just pondering what my glasses should feel like in my hand and to my lips. I admit to being partial to a Dirty Martini, extra olives please. Through vigorous sampling, I decided the container needed to be glass. A jeweler and glass artist friend, Pattie Appleby, came to my rescue, cutting the stemware down to fit my thrown porcelain stems, which I carved stippled and slip trailed.

The martini stems are an updated homage to Baroque silverwork, which I admire. Indeed, sipping a martini is a very civilized affair and should be treated with great respect. Each of my black and white glasses have different colored center stems, so you can keep track of your drink--hands off, you poachers!

I hope you enjoy drinking from my martini glasses! HCCC is an awesome contribution to Houston and the world of contemporary craft. I am delighted to have been asked to participate in Martini Madness!. Drink up! You can see more of my ceramic work on my website and, come September, a shipment of new work will be arriving at Asher Gallery.

Eileen Braun stipples and slip trails texture on her stemware.

September 9, 2010

Sneak Peek - CHH Sale This Weekend!

Visit HCCC tonight from 6 - 9 p.m. for the opening of the Contemporary Handweavers of Houston (CHH) Annual Sale. Scroll below for a sneak peek of all the hand-crafted works that will be for sale.

On left: Hand-spun Yarn by Sky Loom Weavers, $16-$30;
Top Right: Rag Rugs by Donna Rae Harris, $40-$48;
Bottom Right: Autumn Kumihimo with Semi-Precious Stones by Christine Clark, $65
On left: image of sale floor, including some of Linda Sura's baskets;
On right: close up of Caribbean Curl Basket by Linda Sura, $350
Don't worry, if you can't make it this evening the sale is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

September 2, 2010

September's Hands-On Houston

Everyone has heard paper comes from trees, but do you know how a tree is made into paper? If you want to find out, join us this Saturday, September 4, for Hands-On Houston! On the first Saturday of every month, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., HCCC hosts Hands-On Houston, a free craft-making activity that people of all ages can enjoy. This Saturday, visitors will be up to their elbows in paper pulp and water, making their own sheets of handmade paper. Papermaking artist Kathy Gurwell will be leading the activity.

Kathy is an instructor at the Museum of Printing History and has had years of experience in the fields of both papermaking and printmaking. Below she shares about her experiences as a papermaker:

I found my way to papermaking through printmaking. As a curator at Tamarind Lithography Institute in Albuquerque, NM, from 1971-1973, I had to know and work with fine quality paper. Later, in California, I had the opportunity to hand make paper, and, eventually, in 1976, I bought the equipment and set up my studio.

I create paper by deconstructing clothing from natural fibers, such as cotton, linen and silk. Then, after beating the fibers to a pulp, I reform them into sheets of hand-pulled paper. Besides making papers from natural fibers, I have also made Japanese paper out of the inner bark of the kozo and gampi trees. When created, Japanese papers are amazingly thin. Working with fiber and water is such a pleasure.

Kathy pulling paper at Museo della Carta in Fabriano, Italy.
Kathy "kooching," or pressing, the wet paper against a felt.

August 26, 2010

Outreach Artist Christina Carfora-Schmitz Shares a Sunny Lesson Plan

Christina Carfora-Schmitz is a sculptural ceramic artist and an outreach artist for HCCC. Under the Outreach Initiative at HCCC, artists go to schools and community organizations to teach a variety of craft disciplines. Below, Christina shares a recent lesson plan she conducted in the schools last spring. Outreach classes start August 30 in Houston-area schools. 

My role as an outreach artist last spring was to teach an after-school ceramics class at Harvard Elementary School. I had a group of six students that were in kindergarten through third grade. Our materials included natural clay, polymer clay and mixed media. From this we created a variety of projects including: tiles, coil bowls, jewelry, containers, masks, and creative creatures. Although we focused on technical skills in clay, I also shared my knowledge of art history, traveling, and life as an artist, in hopes that they will gain a lifelong appreciation of arts and crafts. 

The project I have chosen for this discussion features tiles that pay tribute to the sunflower paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. The lesson began with a brief summary of who the artist is, where he lived and what he liked to paint. We looked at a variety of his paintings and students volunteered their thoughts. I told the students that Vincent Van Gogh made some of his sunflower paintings for his friend and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin; this inspired the students to contemplate who to give their creation to. Then we got to work.

First, the students looked at images of real sunflowers and sketched a design on paper. Then, I helped the students roll out a slab of clay and cut a square out using a template. I also showed them how to roll coils and pinch the clay to get the right shape and texture of the flowers. We used rubber alphabet stamps to put their name at the bottom of the tile and holes at the top, so it can be hung on a wall. After the tiles were fired, students painted with watered-down under glazes to mimic the feeling of a Van Gogh painting (we could have also used watercolors). Finally, we sponged on a clear-coat glaze, fired the work a second time, and Voila! We had a masterpiece! I enjoyed their enthusiasm and my own work was influenced by their creative ideas.

Examples of the tiles made by Christina's students.
Van Gogh Photo: Stein, Susan Alyson (1986). Van Gogh A Retrospective. Printed in China: Beaux Arts Editions. Colorplate 61, page 173.

August 19, 2010

Jeff Forster, Helen Drutt Studio Fellow, Reflects on Year at HCCC

Forster in his studio
Former artist-in-residence and Helen Drutt Studio Fellow, Jeff Forster, recently completed his residency last month. Forster is a ceramic artist and often uses modern packing materials, such as Styrofoam, as molds. The resulting works are textured, handmade ceramic objects that reference the mass production of our current consumer culture. Below he shares more about his time at HCCC.

Soon after beginning my residency at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC), I realized it had more to offer than simply a space in which to work. In fact, HCCC is a hub for artists and other like-minded individuals working with craft mediums. During my time at HCCC, I’ve had the opportunity to meet artists from across the state of Texas and art enthusiasts from other parts of the country and abroad. These interactions have led to strong community contacts in addition to several invitations to exhibit outside of HCCC itself.

There are three galleries at HCCC that offer rotating exhibitions. Having multiple galleries provides high-caliber, accessible exhibitions on a regular basis. Often, as a working artist and educator, it is hard to find time to go out and see all the shows I want. Having these exhibitions "in house" made it easy to see the diversity of approaches within the field of contemporary craft.

From top to bottom:
Three stages of The Remediation of Empire,Images courtesy of the artists
One of the most unique, but unfortunately underutilized, features of HCCC is the Craft Garden. The garden boasts a wide variety of plants, all of which can be used in various craft processes. It is the only garden of its type that I know of. While I only found time to complete one project in the garden with fellow artist-in-residence, Gabriel Craig, I see the garden as a viable venue for future project proposals and would encourage others to do the same.

I think the most rewarding experience for me at HCCC was just the day-to-day interaction with the staff and other artists-in-residence. I have always enjoyed the synergy created in an environment of serious art professionals. While there were many times I was preoccupied with what I needed to get done, I believe even then I absorbed inspiration from the creative people around me. This attribute offers a continued dialogue of happenings within contemporary craft.

Through this interaction, not only has my knowledge of other craft mediums grown, but I had plentiful opportunities to work collaboratively with other artists. In addition to "The Remediation of Empire," the aforementioned installation with
Gabriel Craig, I also completed two collaborative sculptures with Kelley Eggert. I always enjoy working collaboratively as it forces one to work outside of his comfort zone, taking on new challenges. Whether successful or not, I see it as a means of individual growth.

Detail of "Object Reclamation" by Jeff Forster and Kelley Eggert.
Image courtesy of the artists.