Five Questions Exhibition Edition with Phillip Mann

Five Questions Exhibition Edition with Phillip Mann

Phillip Mann sculpture

Colorado-based artist Phillip Mann’s work ranges from explorations of myth and ritual to celebrations of functionality and the physicality of labor. In his new exhibition at the American Craft Council Library, you’ll find everything from mysterious ceremonial objects to beautiful versions of common, utilitarian tools. We checked in with him to find out more…

What do you make? What do you want to make?
Lately I have been trying to make objects that allude to the beauty of utilitarian objects that have evolved to work in conjunction with the human body and its movements. I am fascinated with the ability of objects to communicate a story to the user or viewer and also the way that that communication sometimes breaks down, leaving mysterious objects that are clearly trying to express something but we can only guess at what that is.

Who and what inspires you?
In the last few years I have become more aware of just how important process and the physical act of making is to my work and my own mental well-being, which in turn has caused me to reflect on the objects around me in the studio and how I use them. There is a quiet beauty to a well-made tool, especially when a skilled hand activates it. Like many people, the natural landscape (especially that of the Western high desert) is a place of inspiration and rejuvenation for me.  Recently I have been exploring new ways to abstract from the natural world for my creative work.

How did you first become engaged with craft?
I was encouraged to draw and make art as a child and was lucky enough to win a scholarship to take classes at the local art museum. As a young adult I gravitated towards the construction trades to make my living and began to appreciate the satisfaction that came from making tangible things. Eventually I worked my way into custom furniture making, where I first became acquainted with studio furniture and the idea of fine craft.

Describe your dream studio…
The work I do can require a lot of space and equipment, so as a result there have been times in my career where I have not been able to maintain a proper studio. I love tools and organizing my workspace, so I often daydream of a bigger and better space, but lately I am trying to be grateful for whatever space and equipment I have access to, and to get on with the work. 

What does craft mean to you?
That is an expansive question, but craft for me is a deep relationship with materials and an inextricable link to process, built on a foundation of traditional practice.  Your craft may honor tradition or rebel against it, but it cannot be craft without some relationship to traditional craft practice.

Library Bonus Question: What’s your favorite/most-read art or craft book in your personal collection? 
My copy of Ernest Joyce’s Encyclopedia of Furniture Making has a lot of wear on it. This is a very nuts and bolts guide to traditional (Western), wooden furniture making. Perhaps that says something about me and the way I work?

Five Questions is a brief Q&A about books and craft, with people who love and use the American Craft Council Library.