Written by Stuart Kestenbaum
A friend recently shared an article with me by Katherine Brooks in the Huffington Post, 14 Women Artists Who've Changed the Way We Think About Design. It’s a profile of Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. The exhibit, which runs through September 30, looks at the contributions of women artists and designers to modernism. It includes women who were working in the 50s and 60s and also considers their successors in the craft and design fields working today.
As I scanned the lists of names, from that earlier generation—including Anni Albers, Karen Karnes, Toshiko Takaezu, and Lenore Tawney – to contemporary makers such as Anne Wilson and Vivian Beers, I was struck by something that so many had in common. It’s their relationship with intensive summer workshop programs.
Karen Karnes taught pottery at Haystack and Penland, as did Toshiko Takaezu. Lenore Tawney studied weaving at Penland and taught at Haystack. Anne Wilson has taught textiles at Haystack and been a visiting artist at Pilchuck. Vivian Beers was a resident artist for three years at Penland, studied and taught at Peters Valley, and, when she was a teenager, attended an intensive program at Haystack for Maine high school students.
While I know that these women have had many influences on their creative lives, I’m sure that the time at summer workshop programs played an important part. Karen Karnes first encountered salt firing when she was at Penland. I imagine Vivian Beer coming to Haystack as a teenager and seeing a world of possibility in working with materials. Each of these women got to spend time in studios away from the distractions of the everyday and focus their creative lives. They all had the uninterrupted time to work and equally important, to be in a community dedicated to craft.
The power of this combination of time, materials, and community goes beyond the impact on leading designers and makers. It influences so many who participate in our programs—amateurs and professionals of all ages and backgrounds—rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
Visit a Craft School!