From Our Library: Reviews

From Our Library: Reviews

Five new books on craft and design to read right now, plus a lively addition to your podcast queue.
Published on Friday, April 10, 2020. This article appears in the April/May 2020 issue of American Craft Magazine.
A spread from Making a Life by Melanie Falick

Making a Life by Melanie Falick explores the ways handwork brings joy and meaning to people's lives.


If you're moving quickly through your reading list while at home, these five books – all recent editions to our library's collection – will help you bring a fresh element of design to your craft practice. For the audiophiles out there, Clever: A Podcast About Design will change how you think about making – and make you laugh.

Making a Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live

By Melanie Falick
Artisan, $35

Former publishing director and editor in chief Melanie Falick had a successful career developing books and magazines on knitting, pottery, sewing, and the like, but she yearned for a different relationship to her subject matter: She wanted time to do handwork, not just read and write about it. Eventually, she quit her job to embrace a life devoted to making, save for this new publishing project.

Making a Life is Falick’s quest to capture the joy of making and how handwork brings meaning to people’s lives. In it, she travels across continents to speak with craftspeople ranging from weavers to metalsmiths, quilters to woodworkers. If you’re looking to redesign your life – or to imagine a new one – this beautifully written book is for you.

What Makes a Potter: Functional Pottery in America Today

By Janet Koplos
Schiffer Publishing, $39.99

Utilitarian pottery is thriving in the 21st century. Even though industrial production could easily take care of all our bowl, plate, pitcher, vase, coffee mug, and teapot needs, the demand for functional handmade ceramics shows no sign of slowing down. No doubt the people behind the wares have something to do with it, too. In her new book, art critic and honorary American Craft Council Fellow Janet Koplos interviews 50 potters from across the nation on lessons they’ve learned in their careers, the process of making, and the profound impact pottery can have on our lives when it serves both as a functional vessel and a piece of art.

Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style

By Christin Geall
Princeton Architectural Press, $27.50

If you want to learn the art of floral arranging, this book is for you. If you delight in sumptuous images of delphiniums and dahlias, this book is for you. And if you crave an engaging read on the art and history of floral design, this book is for you. Filled with Christin Geall’s photographs of her own electrifying creations, Cultivated walks would-be designers through every aspect of floral arranging, from selecting plants to balancing color and form to photographing and selling one’s creations, all while weaving in connections to Baroque music, theater, history, and art. This book is a treat for the senses, and a smart and sensible guide for anyone interested in elevating the art of floral design.

Radical Matter: Rethinking Materials for a Sustainable Future

By Kate Franklin and Caroline Till
Thames & Hudson, $34.95

What is design? An exercise in aesthetics? An exploration of function? In the foreword to this book, London design professor Carole Collet suggests that it has long been a creative tension between the two. Authors Kate Franklin and Caroline Till argue that it is time for that to change. With more than 60 fully illustrated examples, they make a case for the rise of designer-ecologists, makers responding to the world’s limited supply of raw materials by opting for alternative means of production. Each chapter explores a different sustainable material or process, from objects made of human detritus (furniture built with dust collected from the floors of vintage clothing shops, for example) to art made with domestic waste (such as weavings composed of stands of precious metal mined from discarded electronics). The result is a powerful introduction to the world of sustainable design.

June Schwarcz: Artist in Glass and Metal

By Bernard N. Jazzar and Harold B. Nelson
Enamel Arts Foundation/Lucia Marquand, $60

Self-taught and unbothered by the traditional rules of enamel work, June Schwarcz (1918 – 2015) invented new ways of creating and embellishing metal objects. Her work, in turn, was innovative and bold, and she became a major figure in the enamels field and in the history of American craft. She was a teacher, mentor, and American Craft Council Gold Medalist who taught workshops across the country and influenced generations of artists. In this well-researched book, Bernard N. Jazzar and Harold B. Nelson investigate her work in-depth, tracing her career and influences alongside luxe photographs of her art.

Clever: A Podcast About Design

By Amy Devers and Jaime Derringer

Hosted by designer and TV personality Amy Devers and Jaime Derringer, executive editor of online publication Design Milk, Clever is a candid, funny, and informative podcast about design and designers, the “super-smart people” who help shape our world. The thoughtful hosts set a lighthearted tone that never comes at the expense of learning real stuff. They ask insightful questions and really listen to their guests – who include fashion designers, graphic designers, industrial designers, interior designers, and even the occasional neuroscientist – without interrupting or overpowering. The podcast is a testament to the duo’s belief that talking with the people who create our built environment helps us all find more meaning in the world around us.


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