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Summer 2023

Summer 2023


Cover of the American Craft summer magazine h

Wild. For me, the magic of craft is found in the way it connects us in our everyday lives to the beauty of nature, and the sense of freedom it brings by allowing us to experience human-scale ingenuity and creativity. In a world that can feel chaotic, it’s grounding to remember that with our own hands we can transform fibers from plants and animals, wood from trees, and the earth’s clay, sand, metals, and minerals into things we need and objects that bring us joy.

In this issue, you’ll find craft inspired by nature. You’ll explore outer space with glass artist Josh Simpson, and the sea with sculptural jewelry maker So Young Park.

You’ll learn about artists who incorporate foraged materials into their work, and makers whose handcrafted adventure gear helps move us outdoors. You’ll also discover up-and-coming artists whose love of the land shines through, such as Diné textile artist and sheepherder Tyrrell Tapaha and Florida-based designer Elle Barbeito, who makes fashion and furniture from the skins of invasive Burmese pythons.

Sometimes wildness is expressed through sheer daring and innovation. That’s certainly the case with Alison Elizabeth Taylor, who writes about creating hybrid marquetry portraits and landscapes from paper-thin wood in her Brooklyn studio, and Brie Ruais, who makes large-scale, heavy clay sculptures in a burst of rapid movement.

We hope this issue helps you feel connected to the wonder of the wild, grounded in earth’s materials, and awed by human creativity.


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KAREN OLSON / Editor in Chief

American Craft Council publishes American Craft magazine on a quarterly basis but reserves the right to change the number of issues in an annual term, including discontinuing any format and substituting and/or modifying the manner in which the subscription is distributed.

Feature Articles

Fantastical Microcosms

While hiking in the desert earlier this year, So Young Park found the creative jolt for her metalsmithing in glass. While visiting Boston in the early 2000s, the artist saw the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, a display of famed models of cut flowers and leaves so scientifically accurate they were originally studied in botany classes. Park was especially struck by the cross sections and isolated views of plant parts, from ovaries to stamens, that revealed otherwise hidden geometries.

Dazzling Pictorials

Tyrrell Tapaha sits in front of a large Navajo loom in their living room, building up a section of woven lightning; the weaving comb packs the wefts in meditative rhythm.

Origin Stories

While hiking in the desert earlier this year, I found a perfect little cube of charcoal in the middle of my path. It stood out against the sandy ground, a deep rich black in stark contrast to the golden-brown surrounding it. I picked it up and examined its shape and texture, waffling about whether I should carry it with me in my palm or put it in one of my pockets, potentially crushing it and having charcoal dust settle into the seams.

The Sounds of Summer

With the window open on a warm afternoon, you might hear someone practicing piano down the street, chirping birds gathered in a tree, cars honking at an intersection, or children laughing over a game of soccer in the park. Perhaps you’ll also hear wind chimes, their soft rhythmic ringing letting you know a refreshing breeze is on the way.

The Glass Alchemist

It all started with a seemingly endless stream of eighth graders who swarmed his studio every Wednesday for the glass-blowing demonstrations he’d agreed to do. “They weren’t the least bit interested in me or goblets,” Simpson says. But who wasn’t astounded by the recent Apollo 8 mission photos of Earth rising behind the moon, like a little blue marble with white swirls?

The Scene: Craft in Detroit

Detroit has risen, fallen, and risen again. Situated along the Detroit River, which connects Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie and creates a section of the US–Canada border, the city is known as the birthplace of Motown Records and Ford Motor Company, the home of Robert Graham’s Monument to Joe Louis bronze fist sculpture, and the site of the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history.

Adventure Craft

For most of human history, we lived, worked, and played outdoors. But over the past century or so, we’ve come to spend less time outside and more time in—over 90 percent of our day, by some estimates. A quarter of Americans never leave the house at all during the day.

Wild Style

Wild Style. Brie Ruais works fast, separating a hunk of clay that weighs as much as she does into slashes and craters, decorating it with handprints and smudges.

Painting with Wood

Marquetry hybrid is a synthesis of painting, collage, photography, and wood veneer marquetry on panel. It is a slow and painstaking process. Hours of tedium are gobbled up; days drip away into weeks, months. Often work must be thrown out and attempted again when something doesn’t go right due to technical or aesthetic challenges.

Craft Happenings: Summer 2023

Make craft part of your summer plans with these 25 events and exhibitions happening across the country, organized by the month in which they start.

More from This Issue

A pile of Elle Barbeito’s belts made from vegetable-tanned leather, Burmese python skin, waxed cotton thread, and vintage buckles.

Second Skins

Elle Barbeito transforms the skins of invasive Burmese pythons into materials for furniture and fashion. The first time she skinned a Burmese python, she made each move carefully. “Layer by layer, I could see all the connections within it. It was fascinating, and a little gross, but also really beautiful at the same time.”
Buyers attend a Bonhams auction in London.

The Hammer Price

Last July in Los Angeles, a stoneware vessel depicting Popeye the Sailor Man, made in 1987 by artists Magdalena and Michael Frimkess, sold at a Bonhams auction for $65,895. Everyone was shocked, especially the auctioneer. “That was several times the estimated range,” says Jason Stein, Bonhams’s director of Modern Decorative Art and Design. “In the early ’90s, when I got my start, it would have sold in the low thousands or even upper hundreds.”
Marjorie Schick's Necklace, 1993, painted papier-mâché, 18.75 x 20.25 x 4.5 in.

Wild at Heart

For this issue, the Crafty Librarian dove into the nearly 4,000 artist files in the ACC Library & Archives and discovered that these two artists in particular spent their careers developing and showing their wild sides.

Stack of ACC magazine covers with Fall 2023 issue on top.


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