December 7, 2011

AIR Interviews: Leslie Shershow

This week, we share the second in a series of interviews with our current artists-in-residence (AIRs). Leslie Shershow is a metalsmith and jeweler from the small town of Belfast, Maine. After graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art with a BFA in metals, she stayed in the Boston area to further develop her jewelry at her studio in Somerville, MA, exhibiting her work in various group shows around the country. Prior to joining HCCC as an artist-in-residence, she taught metalsmithing to children and adults in various art centers and colleges in the Boston area and managed the metalshop at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts  for several years. She has been with HCCC since August and will be here through March, 2012. 

Diamond Rings by Leslie Shershow (plastic). Photo courtesy the artist.

Leslie Shershow. Diamond Ring, 2011.
Copper, brass, silver, auto paint. Photo courtesy the artist.

Tell us a little bit about your work.

Right now I'm inspired by wonky home improvements and functional crafts. I find much beauty in the way a novice craftsman might fix his home--I'm interested in the evolution of a domestic structure due to regular maintenance. I tend to work the same way--by starting with an object and scrounging for the part that will turn it into a functional piece of jewelry. The theme is pretty nostalgic for me--I grew up in Maine, so I use fishing and nautical imagery, along with funny home-maintenance things my dad used to do.
How did you get your start making jewelry?
I had first learned a little metalsmithing in high school crafts class and hated it. I melted my first project!  Later, in college, when it was time to choose my major, I was really impressed by the work that came out of the metals department, so metals is what I chose.

Where do your ideas come from? 
Everything, really. I guess my work comes out of interests that keep surfacing over and over again.

Leslie Shershow's necklace from the Home Improvement Series. Photo courtesy the artist.

Leslie Shershow's bracelet from the Home Improvement Series. Photo courtesy the artist.

What artist or designer do you admire, and why?
Iris Bodemer is one of my favorite jewelers (among many). I admire her because, in a lecture, she told us she took out a bank loan in the form of a gold block and proceeded to slice it into jewelry. That is very admirable to me.

In your bio, it says that you’ve taught metalsmithing to both children and adults. What do you enjoy most about teaching? What is it like teaching metalsmithing to children?
I really enjoy the challenge. Metalsmithing embodies so many different techniques, and many times, there are multiple ways to do something. I mostly taught small classes, so I had to work with each student individually to see what methods work best. Teaching children can be really difficult.  Metalsmithing is a tedious and time consuming practice, and there isn't much instant satisfaction. It's hard for kids to sit down and sand for hours, especially when they're wound up from a day at school and candy they got from 7-11.
What are you doing when you’re not creating?

I like hanging out with the other lovely AIRs and HCCC staff, visiting museums, and going for runs. Lately, my boyfriend and I have been working on a large stained-glass terrarium to prevent our cats from eating our plants. 

 Metalsmith and jeweler, Leslie Shershow. Photo courtesy the artist.

Describe yourself in five words.

I like to make things.

Being a Northerner, is there anything you find humorous or strange about Houston? I think it's funny that a lot of people in Houston's public places are either really dressed up or in their gym clothes. I come from a place of in-betweeners.

December 1, 2011

Needlepoint & Group Therapy with Mary Smull

Needlepoint artist and Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoints (SPUN) founder, Mary Smull, will be at HCCC for two events this weekend. Smull is one of the artists featured in HCCC’s current exhibition, Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft and will be hosting two community events this weekend in the large Gallery at HCCC.

Mary Smull and participant at a recent SPUN event.
Mary Smull, Old Woman, 2008. Found unfinished needlepoint completed by
artist using only white yarn. 19 ½” x 23”. Photos courtesy the artist.

Smull’s work and SPUN deal with completing an object of labor--something that was abandoned and unfinished, despite the arduous effort put into the project. She is creating a sense of absolution for this occurrence that most everyone has experienced in one way or another. With our anticipation for these upcoming events, we thought it would be amusing to share some of the works that have been left unfinished by our staff members and artists-in-residence.

I sent out an email requesting a photograph of an unfinished work, a brief description, and why it was left incomplete. Fittingly, I received zero responses. This is most likely due to the inherent guilt people experience when time is invested in a project that has been left incomplete indefinitely and their reluctance to be an example. Humorously, because of this, I was now left with an incomplete project, being unable to actualize this blog post in the way I had intended.

I am hoping that the event on Friday evening will give me more insight into the realm of incompletion and all of the intense emotions that come with this territory. So, if you find yourself filled with anxiety or guilt about projects that have been abandoned around your house, then please join us for a conversation with Mary Smull for Group Therapy – Finish Fetish, Friday, December 2, from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.

If you are unable to join on Friday, Mary Smull will also be present on Saturday, December 3, from 1:00 - 4:30 PM, to host a SPUN session in our large gallery. SPUN is a community needlepoint project, founded by Smull in 2009 to “eliminate the worldwide phenomenon of unfinished needlepoint,” and has been rescuing incomplete works through performances across the country. You are invited to participate by completing stitches in unfinished needlepoint projects. Needlepointers of all abilities are welcome! Once complete, these works will be archived as part of SPUN’s collection. To learn more, visit the SPUN website here:

This is a great opportunity to release a little residual guilt or anxiety you may have and also help support SPUN’s mission, to prevent any needlepoint project from going unfinished. We hope you will join us for these two exciting and engaging events!

--Ashley Powell, HCCC Curatorial Assistant

November 27, 2011

How to Diagnose SOFA Fatigue

This week, HCCC Curator, Anna Walker, and Curatorial Fellow, Susie J. Silbert, share their thoughts on their recent trip to SOFA Chicago and the inevitable “SOFA Fatigue” that follows.  This phenomenon occurs after spending several days looking at hundreds of objects and talking with numerous individuals at SOFA, the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art fair on Navy Pier. The annual event takes place the first weekend of November and is the longest running art fair in Chicago (18 years). This year, the fair featured over 60 galleries with work from around the world. After several days of air kisses, handshakes, conversations and close-looking at objects, our curatorial duo returned to Houston enlightened but fatigued.
SOFA Chicago 2011. Photo courtesy SOFA Chicago.

SOFA Chicago 2011. Photo courtesy SOFA Chicago.

What Are the Signs of SOFA Fatigue?

Glazed Expression
With so many galleries and a section of five featured partner exhibits, there is a lot of art to go through. SOFA is a serious event, and many of the galleries make the most of their small 10’ x 10’ space. For example, Ornamentum featured the work of three jewelry artists:  Eunmi Chun, Caroline Gore, and Laura Prieto-Velasco. While these artists were highlighted with work displayed prominently on the walls, one could spend hours investigating the many drawers of works by other Ornamentum artists.

While we walked through the aisles, the “Solo at SOFA” booths provided a nice pause and rest for our eyes between the many spaces that were filled with work. These were spaces to feature the work by a single artist, and the booth featuring Devin Burgess did not disappoint. His carefully formed works were elegantly displayed in front of stripes of contrasting colors. With a similar attention to space and the careful selection of works, Heller Gallery chose works that filled the walls without overwhelming the area.  

Eunmi Chun,  Gorilla (Brooch), 2010.
Human hair, gold leaf, small intestine of cow, seeds, silver.
13 x 14 x 10 cm

Laura Prieto-Velasco. Charm (Ring), 2011.
Iron wire, latex paint, twist ties, gold plated silver. 3 x 2.2 x 1.8”.
Photo courtesy Ornamentum, Hudson NY.

Devin Burgess, Traces.
Blown glass, wheel cut surface
s. 23x16x12 inches.

Shoulder Strain
Shoulder strain is a common sign that your colleague has attended SOFA Chicago. Each day at the event presents a new opportunity to not only view work but talk with individuals, exchange business cards and, in the case of a few friends, acquire catalogues. The gentlemen at Thalen & Thalen had a beautiful catalogue available for sale alongside the delicate silver works. Each of these paper items was added to the familiar blue tote bag carried by all that includes the large, “official” SOFA catalogue.

Besides gallery areas, SOFA includes a resource area for nonprofit organizations to set up tables and promote memberships and publications. Among these tables, we met with many of our colleagues from fellow nonprofits, including the venerable Namita Wiggers, curator from the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and one of the jurors for the NCECA 2013 Biennial we are hosting at HCCC. Along with Namita, ceramicist Cristina Cordova will be a juror for NCECA 2013. Cordova shows with Ann Nathan Gallery and had a wonderful collaboration on display with Pablo Soto. Speaking of jurors, we also met with Jean McLaughlin, Executive Director of Penland School of Crafts, and one of the jurors for the upcoming CraftTexas 2012 exhibition at HCCC next fall. (The call for artists is open now through March 15, 2012, at

How to Prevent SOFA Fatigue

Take Breaks
For us, taking a break meant finding a spot to sit and read one of the many publications available for free from the resource area at SOFA. These included American Craft Magazine, Ceramics Monthly, Glass Art Quarterly and Metalsmith Magazine. While we would have loved to have a seat on the sumptuous work by Vivian Beer at Wexler Gallery, we knew better and instead sought out an available bench.  

Take Snacks
Take actual snacks—a granola bar or an apple will do. Without snacks, one might begin to consider the possibility of eating from the decadent collage of frozen-in-time glassware created by Beth Lipman at Heller Gallery. We are excited to see what this amazing glass artist creates for an upcoming exhibit, The Tool at Hand, curated by Ethan Lasser of the Chipstone Foundation and opening at the Milwaukee Art Museum in a few weeks. In this exhibit, 14 artists were challenged to make a work using only one tool. The show will then travel to HCCC in the summer of 2013.

Beth Lipman, Whatnot I, 2010
Glass, glue, wood, paint.
84 x 42 x 30
Photo courtesy of Eva Heyd

Start Early
SOFA opens to the public at 11 a.m. However, if you have a VIP pass, you can get in at 10 a.m., and it’s necessary to go early if you want to see any work. We enjoyed marveling at work by Mark Peiser at Wexler Gallery that caught the light and presented a luminescence, drawing us in from far away. The jewelry exhibition of work by current and recent Cranbrook graduates, along with the Geography exhibition by Art Jewelry Forum, were also not to be missed. Walking through and identifying the work in the Cranbrook booth was an artistic experience in itself, thanks to the finely drawn map by Amy Weiks.

Starting early not only applies to the fair, but also to the networking that happens when hundreds of professionals in one field descend upon a city. We were happy to connect with neighbor Paula Owen, President of the Southwest School of Art, and learn about an upcoming exhibit featuring the work of Sonya Clark.

With these helpful tips and links, you’ll be ready to make the most of your next trip to SOFA and avoid the glazed eyes, sore shoulders, and zombie-like state of SOFA Fatigue!

--Anna Walker & Susie Silbert

November 8, 2011

Heidi Gerstacker Trunk Show – Coming Soon!

This week, Asher Gallery Manager, Suzanne Sippel, shares her thoughts on Houston metalsmith and jeweler, Heidi Gerstacker.

I have worked in the Asher Gallery at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft a little over four years. When I first started here, my mind was boggled by how many jewelers I represented, along with the sheer breadth of aesthetics and techniques. Having spent some time with fine jewelry in my former life, it was fun to start looking at fine-craft jewelry and seeing each piece as part of a larger oeuvre and not necessarily as client-driven work. There’s a great feeling when artists explain their techniques and passions. This was something I really enjoyed as I got to know Heidi Gerstacker.

Heidi has been represented by the Asher Gallery since November 2002 and has also been an active part of HCCC since its inception. She is active in the arts community in Houston and is part of its bloodlines.  Having attended jewelry classes at Bellaire High School and earning her MFA from the University of Houston, Heidi is an integral part of Houston’s metalsmithing tradition.  As we got to know each other, I was struck by how rare this is.  We may have many transplants and late-bloomers, particularly in fine craft, but there are few born-and-bred Houston career artists.

Working primarily in sterling silver, Heidi has created a consistent body of work over the years. Upon hearing marquise, most people think of diamonds or bad romance novels, but those in the know think of Heidi’s work. This shape forms the basis of her production jewelry. The crisp clean edges of the marquise bring out the strength of the precious metals and the precision of the maker’s hand. I believe this is what accounts for the timeless look that her pieces hold. They would and will feel modern, regardless of the era. But this is not the only part of Heidi’s aesthetic. She looks for the balance between having production pieces and defining one-off studio work. This is a difficult line for many artists to walk—creating works that can support their careers, while still producing the art that drove them into their fields initially.

Heidi Gerstacker, Marquise Pendant, sterling silver, moonstone, 2010.
Photo by the artist.

Leaf Brooch, sterling silver, moonstones, 2011. Photo by the artist.

It is this balance that you will find at Heidi Gerstacker’s Trunk Show at the Asher Holiday Soiree on November 17th.  You’ll find both stunning original pieces and the classic jewelry that has made Heidi a household name on the Houston jewelry scene. This is a special event for the Asher, as it is our first trunk show with Heidi in many years. It’s also rare to find so much of Heidi’s work at one time, so do not miss this opportunity! 

We’ve scheduled this event to fall on the first evening of the Houston Museum District’s Member Sale. With a current membership (at HCCC or any of the museums in the District), you’ll receive a 20% discount off your purchases (some restrictions may apply). We have made it as easy as possible to add to your collection of Heidi Gerstacker jewelry or to cross names off your holiday gift list. Now it is up to you to visit us!  Heidi’s trunk show will take place Thursday, November 17, 5:30 – 8:00 PM, and Saturday, November 19, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Please come early for the best selection—once we’re out, we’re out!

--Suzanne Sippel, Asher Gallery Manager

October 25, 2011

AIR Interviews: Celia Butler

This week, we are posting the first in a series of interviews with our newest artists-in-residence. Celia Butler, from Carbondale, IL, is a mixed-media artist who holds a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She has been with HCCC since August and will be here through the end of November. Be sure to come in and check out her studio before she leaves! To learn more about HCCC’s Artist-in-Residence Program, click here.

Celia Butler. Sugar Gazing, 2011. C print. Photo courtesy of the artist.

What kind of work do you make? 
I make work about fantasy and the over-idealized female, which I see as a strange combination of adolescence, sexuality, and perfection. The images I create are of a youthful and innocent female wearing a sugar bow some place on her body. Currently, I'm working on a life-sized porcelain doll that I will photograph similarly to my other photographic work. I'm also working on some heavily adorned, adult-sized baby bibs for the doll to wear. And, yes, I realize this sounds weird.

What is sugar pulling? Can you explain the process and how it became part of your work? Sugar pulling is a process in which you literally pull a hot sugar mixture until it becomes glossy and ribbon-like. Most people are familiar with ribbon candy, which is made with the sugar-pulling method.

I had previously been making work about adornment but decided that, instead of using bows made from real ribbon, I would use ones made from ribbon candy. Making the bows from sugar facilitates a critique on the contemporary idealized female because it implies an oversaturation of sweetness, innocence, and fragility. Candy's oral nature also suggests sexuality.

Celia Butler. Photo by Erin Sweeny and Brittany Nelson.

Are there any artists or designers who you are inspired by?
I think that artists who have successfully managed to make their studio practice their full-time job are pretty inspiring.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still making art.

What is your favorite thing about Houston?
Favorites are hard—and I've only been here for two months—but Houston's art scene seems to be busy and well supported.

Can you tell us something we’d be surprised to know about you?
My cell phone is broken and displaying everything upside down and backwards. If I haven't responded to your text, it's because I'm still trying to figure out what it says.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
I'm assuming I'll be dead before that ever happens, so the casting director can just choose for me.

October 19, 2011

Jennifer Ling Datchuk Video

Artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk writes about her experience working with Mark and Angela Walley to create a short documentary that addresses the core issues surrounding her work and her artistic process. Four of Datchuk’s pieces are currently on display in the in-house-curated exhibition, Beyond Useful and Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft. Datchuk has enthusiastically shared this video with us, and with all of you, as well as providing us with a little insight into its making and content.

Ceramic Artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk invites us into her home for an intimate look into her artistic process and the personal experiences that have shaped her perspective of race and identity. Datchuk’s family history unfolds as she creates a piece entitled “worry”. Also, featured in the film is her loveable dog Scooter, who joins her every step of the way. Learn more about the artist at

It’s never easy watching yourself on video.  It’s one thing to create works of art, display them in a public gallery and let them speak for themselves.  I’ve always been comfortable talking about the core issues surrounding my work and my distant relationship with my parents but, initially, I wasn’t prepared to say it on camera and have it live forever on the Internet. 
The Walleys were amazing to work with and made the whole situation extremely comfortable.  Angela asked great questions, and Mark captured every perfect moment, especially those involving my dog, Scooter.  What was created was a short, four-minute biography video about my life and artistic process.  It tells my personal experiences of race, identity and family and why I choose to create the work that I do.  These topics can sometime feel too heavy and difficult to talk about, and I am glad that there are elements of humor in the video. 

In the video, I construct one of my unfired handkerchief pieces.  I use found and handmade molds to slip cast and create the wall plaque and chicken-foot pieces.  After the building process, the piece is bisque fired and then a clear glaze is applied.  The piece is also adorned with a traditional Chinese blue and white transfer.  Once the firings are completed, I hang the piece on the wall and start to determine how the handkerchiefs are placed.

I dip the handkerchiefs in a mixture of porcelain slip (liquid clay) and wallpaper glue.  I work quickly, while the slip-glue mixture is still liquid, to dip and then tie and knot the fabric pieces together.  Once complete, it will take a few days for the piece to dry and form a slightly hard shell.  I do not fire the pieces because this shell will age and yellow over time and convey a timelessness that a static and fragile fired piece could not. 

This video has allowed me to share my story, and it has been worth it every step of the way.  The feedback I have received has been wonderful, and I still find lots of people who share my story.  Scooter can tell you, we are more alike than we are different. 

--Jennifer Ling Datchuk

To find out more about the Walleys and their films, check out their website.

September 26, 2011

Soundforge: In Process (Updates # 4 & #5)

This fall, HCCC will premier a work two years in the making. In the fall of 2009, while still in residence, metalsmith Gabriel Craig began collaborating with Houston-based music composer, Michael Remson. Their project, Soundforge, will be an interactive, multimedia installation that explores forging metal as both a means of fabrication and an act of percussion. Gabriel Craig has graciously agreed to give us regular updates from his studio on the fabrication of the project.

The feet were cut from 1/8 in. steel sheet in a pyramidal pattern, tact welded together,
seam welded on the inside, then welded cosmetically on the outside corners
before being ground. They were then welded to the armature at right.

Update #4

In my artistic process, there are several galvanizing moments in each project that energize me and allow me to proceed in what is an otherwise difficult and trying vocation. The first of these moments is always the conception of the project, that initial spark of an idea. “Hey, what if I …” In Soundforge, I am well past that now. The second moment usually occurs well into the fabrication of a work and is the realization that, yes, the initial idea can, and is currently, being realized. Call it a moment of actualization.

Welding the first foot onto the armature newel.

I had that actualizing moment recently, as I completed fabricating the feet of the armatures for Soundforge. After some fitting and situating, I welded them on and, behold, Soundforge can stand! Having no previous large-scale steel fabrication experience, this was trying. With silver, I could just force the thing into place; however, plate steel has a much stronger will. The fact that, structurally, the work functions is boon to confidence and more generally a milestone in the creation of the project. I can see it coming together, and I know, finally, that it will work.

It is these energizing moments – where vision meets reality, where the hand approximates the imagination – that make being an artist worth the doldrums. Yes, I know that is a bit cliché, but it is true. I had one of those moments, and I am sharing it. Soundforge stands!

A shot of the first free-standing armature just inside my studio,
adjacent to my lush mid-western garden.

Update #5

Since my last update, I have welded three-inch vertical supports onto the armature cross
braces. This has increased the overall sturdiness of the armatures and
also created a logical space for decoration.

The past few weeks have been among my favorite on the project. A lot of the tedious and trying fabrication is done, and now I am at the anvil all day – every day. I am making small forgings, listening to music and books on tape, losing myself for hours as I sweat in the near-hundred-degree heat of my shop. It’s not Texas-hot to be sure, but 90 degrees with 90-percent humidity, plus a forge running, is not exactly mild.

After forging 36 three-inch ornamental finials, I worked on
their layout within the 3 x 12 inch frames on the armature.

My interest and love of moving metal is at least in part why I got into this project, and I have been able to watch myself improve in strength, stamina and toughness everyday. Manual labor, in any form, can be a meditation, but aside from enjoying the work, I am intermittently aware of the battle between the work and my body. Hard labor has a decidedly penal connotation in my mind, but I think there can be no other way to describe forging such thick material, by hand, for such durations. Don’t mistake this for a complaint, because I do not loathe the work, but rather it has caused me to consider labor as more than simply a romantic extension of my idyllic principals.

I have also been meaning for a while to sneak in a shot on my studio assistant,John Eagan.
A recent graduate of the metals program at Wayne State University in Detroit, John has been a
huge help working with me two days a week since June. John has helped me with a lot of the heavy forging,
wielding a sledge, since I don’t have a power hammer. He is also meticulous, as any respectable
metalsmith should be. Here, he is drilling holes in a newel for the cable that will suspend the keys.

There is a cost to smithing – beyond the material and the tools, that is. Smithing is bought in scale burns, calluses and stinging hands in the morning. The cost of 36 finials is that of aching joints, tired feet and singed arm hairs. But for each hammer blow, I am more tenacious, sinewy and graceful in my work. Forging might cost more physically than most other forms of manual labor, but there is something compelling about the hammer, which makes it perhaps the most revered tool throughout human history. It draws people in. Most people think wielding a hammer is about power – the sledge in the carnival game where one tries to ring a bell. Yes, power is the hammer’s attraction; it is a tool that reflects our aspirations of strength. It is also, perhaps, the simplest of all hand tools. However, this is deceiving because anyone worth their salt with a hammer knows that strength does not matter if you miss your target. To watch someone experienced with a hammer is nearly always a moment of wonder. Everyone can understand the simplicity of the hammer--you swing it, and you move something. In the hands of an expert, we can see skill personified; we recognize an unpretentious tool performing extraordinary work. The hammer is the ultimate vernacular tool, and it is the efficient use of it, as an action or performance, which allows us to see skill manifest.

Here are a few of the ornaments welded onto the armature. It really does
give a visual weight to the work. Once the newel finials and keys are in place, the armatures
will have a much more substantial feel. Compositionally, I feel like I am doing a line drawing in iron.

When Michael Remson and I set out on this odyssey, I think that we wanted to capture forging as a performative action that both embodies and demonstrates skill. In itself, this is a complete thought. However, no matter the efficiency or inexperience of the person wielding the hammer, striking will always make a sound. Hammering is a multivalent action in this way. I think we are just a few short weeks away from demonstrating this and also seeing how far that idea can be pushed. On one level, hammering aspires to extreme skill, but on another level, it participates in a much different conversation. But that is for another post…  

--Gabriel Craig

September 1, 2011

Staff Favorites from "Crafting Live(s): 10 Years of Artists in Residence."

With the closing of Crafting Live(s): 10 Years of Artists-in-Residence rapidly approaching, we asked the staff of HCCC to share what their favorite pieces are and why. The exhibition contains works by 36 artists who have participated in the Artist-in-Residence Program here at HCCC during the past 10 years. If you’ve seen the show, please share your favorites in the comments below! If you haven’t, then hurry in, the show closes this Saturday, September 3!

Julie Farr, Executive Director, had a particularly difficult time picking just one favorite piece. Farr explains, “I think it’s because so many of these artists have become our colleagues and friends, and we’ve seen them in process and progressing during their residencies. When the exhibition first opened, I was excited to see how far everyone pushed themselves by making new, meaningful works. I love that both the residency experience and HCCC are a safe haven for exploration, growth and creativity in action.”

Communications Director, Mary Headrick, chose 6 Degrees by Cathy Cunningham-Little. “I think it’s an absolutely stunning installation. The suspended rain-drop-like forms, the amount of light and reflection they create, and the fact that the artist created them from silvered glass is fascinating.  These are complemented by the metal pieces below, which cast wide and interesting shadows."

Cathy Cunningham-Little, 6 Degrees
Etched, stainless-steel ladles and silvered
blown glass. Variable dimensions.

Curator, Anna Walker, chose the imaginary children by Bethany Rusen for two reasons. “One, I’m drawn to works that have a haunting presence and anthropomorphic gesture. But also, I grew to love this piece during installation. Constructed of a nylon fabric stuffed with polyfill, then dipped in clay slip, the forms are awkward, pliable and yet also brittle when handled. On the wall I have a similar reaction to the work as when I held it, and I enjoy that those two interactions complement each other.”

Education Director, Miriam Mendoza’s favorite is Friends by Ann Trask. This piece is made from used tea bags, reclaimed wood pieces, fimoclay, tea-stained muslin and wax. Miriam greatly appreciated the artist’s use of everyday objects, things many people would deem as trash, and re-contextualizing them into objects with meaning. These tea bags are not just trash, but a remnant of the experience of enjoying a cup of tea with a friend. The tea bags have become symbols of the artist’s many relationships and friendships. To Miriam, the piece conveys an important message of not taking for granted the objects and people present in our everyday lives. Miriam also finds the piece to be aesthetically pleasing.

Ann Trask, Friends. Used teabags, reclaimed
wood pieces, tea-stained muslin, wax. 73” x 50” x 4"

Jenny Lynn Weitz, Marketing and Web Assistant, chose Darryl Lauster’s Runners Up Presidential Plate Series. “I like the fact that Lauster is attempting to commemorate the losing candidates by depicting them on hand-cast porcelain transferware, and even though the stories behind each portrait involve a lot of important political, social and economic issues, I find the installation humorous and sad at the same time.”

Associate Director of Fundraising, Nyala Wright’s favorite is also Darryl Lauster’s Runner’s Up Presidential Plate Series. Nyala chose this as her favorite because the installation of plates is historically informative with an outstanding sense of humor.

Darry; Lauster, Runners-Up Presidential Plate Series. 28 individual
hand-cast porcelain transferware plates. 12” x 12” x 1" each

Two staff members also chose Jason Kishell’s Stilted Lemon Growth. Suzanne Sippel, Asher Gallery Retail Manager, wasn’t sure how to describe why, but said, “I like the monstrous lemon, and considering the dreadful things I put lemons through with my tea... well, this is their revenge!”

Curatorial Fellow, Susie Silbert, states, “With so many great pieces in the exhibit, it’s hard to choose just one favorite (well, for me just one favorite is always an issue). Today, I would choose Jason Kishell’s Stilted Lemon Growth. Its craftsmanship is amazing—Kishell’s commitment to his materials and ideas is evident in his close attention to detail in all aspects of the work’s execution, from the detailed veining of the roots on the lemon’s surface to the multi-axis lathe work on its many wooden legs. Stilted Lemon Growth looks like an emissary from a fully formed world inside Kishell’s imagination, leading me to wonder who the other inhabitants may be. The object has the playfulness of a fairytale, the high definition of a video game and enough surface information to keep me interested for quite some time.”

Jason Kishell, Stilted Lemon Growth.
Porcelain, polymer clay, wire,
Indian rosewood. 9” x 11” x 19”

Curatorial Assistant, Ashley Powell, chose Rough Neck by Edward McCartney. McCartney’s clever use of materials is what really struck her, the way he has re-contextualized motor oil through its usage in an object of adornment. Just as so many other valuable natural resources are used to make jewelry, oil has now been fashioned into charms or gems of “black gold,” reminding us of how much of a commodity it is to our contemporary society.

August 25, 2011

SPIN 7: Look Forward One-Night Exhibition & Dance Party

SPIN 7: Look Forward One-Night Exhibition & Dance Party
Friday, August 26, 8:00 – 11:00 PM
at Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama

All of us at HCCC are thrilled that Houston Center for Photography (HCP) invited us to partner with them this year for the event, Spin 7: Look Forward.  This is the 7th annual Spin “friend-raiser” at HCP, and this year’s theme, Look Forward, is fitting for both organizations, as HCP celebrates its 30th anniversary and HCCC celebrates its 10th. 

The one-night exhibition and dance party is a fantastic opportunity for the organizations, their audiences and the Houston community to mix and mingle, celebrate the summer, and participate in the creation of an interactive experience. 

In 2008, I had the pleasure of volunteering at Spin 4: Lens Libs, a party inspired by the word game, “MAD LIBS.” That evening, my responsibility was to go around the gallery and rotate photographs in and out of the giant “MAD LIBS” games that decorated the gallery walls from ceiling to floor. We used the photographs that people had submitted in advance or that partygoers brought with them to “fill in the blanks” on the walls, which created a sensational communal experience. I am sure this year’s event will be just as imaginative and amusing!

For Spin 7, party guests are asked to bring photos that reflect their personal outlook or opinion on the future of photography and/or craft. These photos will be exhibited for one night only.  In addition, artist Lori Hepner is designing a light-and-motion installation, which will respond to participants' tweets regarding the future of photography. A DJ, photography-based games, interactive photo booth, cold beer, and delicious food will round out the party. We hope you will join us tomorrow to celebrate the bright futures of HCCC and HCP!

--Ashley Powell, Curatorial Assistant at HCCC

Ticket prices:

**HCP and HCCC members: $10

Advanced purchased (on HCP's website): $15

General Admission/at the door: $20

** In order to purchase discounted tickets online, HCCC members should email Marina Lewis at to receive your online code.

Get your tickets online here.

August 19, 2011

Crafting Live(s): Ten Years of Artists-in-Residence -- Spotlight on Fiber Artist, Greg Rubio

Guest Curator, Keelin Burrows, writes about past artist-in-residence Greg Rubio and his work in Crafting Live(s): Ten Years of Artists-in-Residence. The exhibition is on view at HCCC through September 3, 2011. Burrows is currently the Windgate Charitable Foundation Curatorial Fellow at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Greg Rubio, a Texas native, obtained his BFA from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi in 1996 and his MFA from the University of Delaware in 1998. As an accomplished painter and draftsmen, he has made an impact on the Houston and international art scenes, earning a Fulbright scholarship to study in Mexico in 1999 and a Cultural Affairs Grant through the United States Embassy to study in Spain in 2005. His cross-relationships and interests in Latin, Hispanic, and American cultures have influenced his work, constantly driving him to re-examine his natural and constructed surroundings.

Rubio was a resident artist at HCCC from September 2007 to August 2008.  At that time, he was creating functional archery targets from old clothes and sheets, which he tore, cut, assembled and sewed into compositional arrangements. He enjoyed the process of destroying and mending recycled materials into something of beauty and personal significance.  Apple Barge Archery Target and Mayan Snake Square with Japanese Flowers Archery Target, both from 2006, are examples of his early fabric works. 

Greg Rubio. Apple Barge Archery Target. Photo by Christopher Zaleski.

Greg Rubio. Mayan Snake Square with Japanese Flowers Archery Target.
  Photo by Christopher Zaleski.

Drawing from his family heritage of archery and sewing, Rubio created compositional narratives through iconography, color fields, and stitching. Each target expresses a personal story or moment of self-inquiry.  Apple Barge portrays imagery and subject matter of the seaport along the Texas Gulf Coast, where the artist grew up and currently lives and teaches. Mayan Snake Square with Japanese Flowers represents cultural traditions and rituals learned through personal history and travels abroad via a more abstract composition.

For Crafting Live(s), Rubio built upon these past themes and narratives, creating Rope Dart.  Consisting of various knotted ropes and a railroad spike, the sculpture at first appears to be a vast departure from his earlier work.  However, upon closer examination, the process of cultural exploration through material and technique becomes apparent. Maritime life, a defining feature of coastal Texas, literally and figuratively ties together the community of Corpus Christi.  Rubio, having learned various knotting techniques from his father, who was a fisherman and a sailor, incorporates several knots into his work.  Some of these include a seizing bend knot in the main yellow coil; a blowline knot that secures the two ropes together; and a snelling knot, which holds the railroad spike in suspension.

Greg Rubio. Rope Dart. Photo by Jack Zilker.

During his residency at HCCC, Rubio attended the Chung Tai Chan Center, where he learned and practiced tenets of Zen Buddhism.  Although Rubio learned to make rope from a basket weaver during his residency, he chose to use found ropes from the local fishing community of Corpus Christi.  These objects are “attachments” that carry personal and cultural associations for the artist, referencing an industry that defined his upbringing and sustained his home town.  Additionally, the metal railroad spike, a remnant found along the tracks near his studio, also carries personal significance and associations with the evolving industrial landscape of his local community. The spike, referred to as dart, circles back to Rubio’s personal and family history with archery and sewing.

Corpus Christi Marina. Image courtesy Greg Rubio.

Kingsville rail road tracks. Image courtesy Greg Rubio.

Perhaps, most interesting is the way in which Rope Dart, and Rubio’s work in general, complicates categorical distinctions.  Knotting, when viewed in the context of manual labor and fishing, is often situated as a “folk” tradition in Western cultures.  However, when viewed through the ideological lens of other cultures, such as those in ancient China or Japan, where the distinction between art and craft did not exist, the practice and tradition of knotting is elevated to an art form.  From a Western perspective, knotting today might be viewed as a “studio craft,” due to an original emphasis on functional value and process.  Regardless of terminology, Rubio draws from this knotting tradition, weaving together personal and cultural meanings, and establishing artistic significance through material, technique, and concept.

August 12, 2011

What are the current AIRs up to?

This week, we stopped by the Artist-in-Residence studios to find out what they’re working on. Next time you visit us, make sure to stop by to meet the artists and learn about their current and upcoming projects! 

After a great feature in the Houston Chronicle last month and the jewelry she displayed at our Martini Madness! Kickoff Party at ROAK, metalsmith and mixed-media artist, Kristi Rae Wilson, has been very busy.  Recently, we caught her carefully soldering an armature for the piece pictured below.

Kristi Rae Wilson working in her studio at HCCC.

Kristi Rae Wilson soldering silver.

Part of Kristi Rae Wilson’s studio at HCCC.
The soldered armatures above are attached to the pink piece in the

Ceramic artists, Marcia Erickson and Jamie Diaz, have been with us for just a couple of months, but they have jumped on board quickly and are busy making martini glasses for our upcoming Martini Madness! 10th Birthday Bash on September 22! Marcia told us she has been implementing new patterns and colorful glazes into her work, and every time we walk by Jamie’s studio, she’s working on the wheel!

Ceramic artist Marcia Erickson 
in her studio at HCCC,
showing us 
her handmade martini glasses.
Look at the colors and textures!

Jamie Diaz in her studio at HCCC, working on the wheel…

Jamie Diaz making martini glasses for Martini Madness!
We’re looking forward to seeing the finished pieces!

We found metalsmith and jewelry designer, Lisa Wilson, working on one of her latest pieces outside, in the Craft Garden.

Lisa Wilson finishing up a commissioned 
piece made of copper.

Jessica Dupuis has been working on a new piece for this fall’s Artist Hall show, In Residence 2010, in which 2010 artists-in-residence will display new works.  Join us on September 30 for the opening reception, where you’ll see all of our new fall exhibitions, including Beyond Useful and Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft and Soundforge.

Jessica Dupuis working on her latest piece.

To learn more about our current Artists-in-Residence and the AIR Program, click here. To find out more about our Martini Madness! 10th Birthday Bash, follow this link.

All photos courtesy of HCCC.

August 4, 2011

Soundforge: In Process (Update #3)

This fall, HCCC will premier Soundforge, a work two years in the making. In the fall of 2009, while he was an artist-in-residence at HCCC, metalsmith Gabriel Craig began collaborating with Houston-based music composer Michael Remson. Their project, Soundforge, will be an interactive, multimedia installation that explores forging metal as both a means of fabrication and an act of percussion. Gabriel Craig has graciously agreed to give us regular updates from his studio on the fabrication of the project. You can read update #1 here, and update #2 here

Still image from Soundforge Preview Clip

While work continues in the studio on the armatures, I thought in this installment I would share a sneak peek at the video component that will be part of the work. Click here to see the video.

July 28, 2011

HCCC at the GHCVB!

The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau or GHCVB is where visitors and Houstonians alike can find information about things to do in the Bayou City. Inside their downtown building are cases or kiosks for different organizations in town to stage a display and provide information about what they do. Recently, GHCVB asked us to put together items for a display in one of their main kiosks. We stopped by today to drop off the makings of what we hope is an exciting display. Check back in a few weeks, when we publish the final results!

The empty kiosk waiting to be filled with items that
offer insight into craft-making processes. 

Yarn and other supplies for the kiosk.

Ceramic tools that will be used as props in the display.

A sneak peak at the new banner designed
by Jenny Lynn Weitz for the kiosk.