Monday, November 30, 2009

Craft In America

If you haven't had a chance to see the recent PBS series Craft In America, it is well worth your time to check out the full episodes that are available online and the snippets that give some insight into the artists' point of view.  Without pushing the metaphor too far, the production values and the thoughtful approach make the program itself a work of art.

Throughout this past week my wife and I have been out and about trying to avoid the depressing scenario that is the holiday shopping season.  With no real agenda we seemed to find ourselves in a number of artisan studios -- not really shopping, just taking in the vibe. During a trip to Lititz, PA we visited Morton Fine Furniture where in a storefront setting a craftsman did his thing.  The shop reflected the tastes of a craftsman and the savvy of someone who knew what would sell.  On the way home we stopped at the quiet and comfortable studio shop of Eldreth Pottery, where Santas from a number of years lined up like American Santons looking across the Atlantic.

In our little corner of Southern Chester County, PA there is an artisan community struggling to break out.  The recent creation of the Oxford Arts Alliance has brought a breath of fresh air to this area.  And by surprise we stumbled across an open studio day sponsored by a different group that featured a fantastic glass artist, Nine Iron Studios and a truly unique clay monoprint artist, Mitch Lyons.

Each artist had connections outside our little community (New York, Murano) and each had a slightly bittersweet view of their work, "I love what I do, but it's hard selling art to farmers."  But like those featured in Craft in America, each cared deeply about every piece he or she created and the process by which a work of art emerged.

I have to say that I felt much less cynical about the whole gift-giving thing after meeting these artisans and I know we'll be spending some time making a couple of thoughtful purchases from their studios.  Which doesn't feel at all like a favor to them, but like an indulgent gift to ourselves and friends.

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