Sure to Tickle

Sure to Tickle

Published on Monday, September 17, 2012. This article appears in the October/November 2012 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Humor in Craft Book

Photo: Mark LaFavor

Humor in Craft
By Brigitte Martin
Schiffer Books, $50

The cover of Humor in Craft – Jason Kishell’s Smug Mug – might make some über-sophisticates blanch; if so, the joke’s on them. Like craft, humor is a many splendored thing, and the pieces by the 235 artists in this book run the gamut: Along with Kishell’s inspired goofiness, there’s dry wit, barbed commentary (remember the search for WMD?), pop-culture puncturing, clever visual puns, and an unadulterated, childlike delight in making.

Brigitte Martin, a self-described “craft nerd,” asked each artist to choose his or her pieces, with accompanying statements – some of which are themselves very funny. The work is presented in impeccably impartial alphabetical order, and leafing through the book is a bit like checking out New Yorker cartoons: Some provoke an instant belly laugh; others, a wry chuckle. (There are even a few inscrutable pieces, like the magazine’s obligatory panel with a joke that no one gets.)

This is an aspect of craft that not only is often overlooked but is often looked down on; and Martin, who runs the website Crafthaus, has done a great service highlighting it. Craft is a serious business, yes, but as artist Wesley Anderegg says, “The more serious a thing is, the more humor it needs. And that goes for people too.” ~Judy Arginteanu

Handmade Houses
A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design
By Richard Olsen
Rizzoli, $45

“True handmade houses possess a feeling that’s unlike anything I’ve experienced in a building,” author Richard Olsen writes. Here, the former Architectural Digest editor succeeds in binding that energy into a book. Olsen takes the long view, tracing the movement from early, even unexpected, influences (from Gaudí to the psychologist Carl Jung) into its 1960s and ’70s heyday, and through contemporary events (9/11, An Inconvenient Truth, the economic crash) that have rekindled appetites for these expressive, environmentally sensitive homes. In profiling 23 handcrafted residences, he groups them into structures designed with and without architects, refreshing even older (and perhaps familiar) homes with new photography. Even without setting foot in these inventive homes, it’s hard to deny their draw. ~Julie K. Hanus


For Kith and Kin
The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago
By Judith A. Barter and Monica Obniski
Yale University Press, $30

Folk art holds a special spot in the craft world. It’s about objects, but it’s also about anthropology, what these objects can say about a time and place. The well-designed For Kith and Kin excels at this intersection, highlighting 52 pieces from the folk art collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, detailing each work’s importance. Early collectors (and AIC benefactors) who fore­saw this art’s significance – despite many artists’ lack of formal training – are highlighted, too. Colonial furniture, quilts, a circa-1800 weather vane, and a red, white, and blue whirligig all have a place in this collection, which, when viewed as a whole, reflects the melting pot of influences that make up American culture. ~Andrew Zoellner