Mixing It Up

Mixing It Up

Published on Monday, July 12, 2010. This article appears in the August/September 2010 issue of American Craft Magazine.

Rodrigo Almeida's Fogueira (Bonfire) bowl honors Brazilian folk events such as Festa Junina-June festivities-which celebrate the
harvest and Catholic icons, and are influenced by Portuguese, Spanish and French cultures.

Searching for craft in all the right places--Brazil, Taiwan, South Carolina, among other destinations, not to mention the Bronx.

We had diversity on our minds when we conceived this issue-by which we mean a focus on the cultural, geographical, ethnic milieus in which we find examples of flourishing, singular craft today. As we moved forward, we realized that our overall theme was even richer than anticipated: in a number of articles the emphasis was on the exuberant mix of sometimes contradictory elements that resulted in even more diversity.

Winton and Rosa Eugene, a husband and wife in Cowpens, SC, are thriving as collaborative makers of pottery that reflects their rural Southern surroundings but also urban issues they may have encountered living many years in Chicago. Central to their style, characterized by the use of carved relief images, are themes of identity, family and their African-American heritage as expressed both in portraits and symbolically. Though their work bears some relation to folk pottery, the assurance and adventurousness of these self-taught artists, developing in tandem with their technical prowess, has resulted in a style distinctly their own.

A fashion line that appeals to the likes of film star Cameron Diaz, out of organic cotton grown, spun and woven in Guatemala by Mayan weavers and turned into garments by pattern-makers and sewers in a parish in Bronx, NY, is the mix at the heart of the story of Father Andrew O'Connor, a "man of the cloth" in more ways than one. Father Andrew's multifaceted enterprise, Goods of Conscience, provides a paradigm for nurturing local production and consumption, creating jobs, fostering sustainability and elevating the handmade.

No one mixes it up better than the Brazilian designer Rodrigo Almeida, who brings South American pizzazz to the furniture he constructs in a riot of forms and colors from such items as plastic laundry baskets, backpacks and sneaker fabric. Almeida's work is noted for its absorption of different cultures-African, Brazilian, Indian-and its affinities in shapes with Italian Memphis-era design.

Sonia Kelliher-Combs and Nadia Myre, the two Native American artists featured in "Hide: Skin as Material and Metaphor," each in her own way represent another kind of synthesis: they work with materials and themes that have a traditional resonance for Indian communities, but they bring to them an aesthetic sophistication that comes from their membership in a wider art world. The results are works that are simultaneously avant-garde and primal.

Similarly, our reporter from far-flung Taiwan discovered in the craft scene there a combination of strong craft traditions combined with an eager openness to international design ideas. It's certainly the place to find a beautifully crafted bamboo iPhone case.

So as summer begins to wind down, we invite you to stir up a margarita or a gin and tonic, pull up a comfortable chair and enjoy the mix.