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No. 7 May 2007

Mark your calendar: something rare is going to happen and you don't want to miss it. A program will be on TV that you actually will want to watch, a program that you will find enlightening and best of all a program that will enthuse your passion for collecting. On Wednesday, May 30th, PBS will premier CRAFT IN AMERICA: Memory, Landscape, Community, a three-part high-definition series that explores the important role craftsmanship has played throughout American history. It gets even better because the television special is part of a multi-faceted project that includes this PBS documentary, a traveling museum exhibition, a lavishly illustrated book, and a resource rich website.

The Craft in America project is the brainchild of Carol Sauvion, founder of Freehand Gallery in Los Angeles. For years, Carol has passionately labored to bring Craft in America to life, tirelessly and persuasively raising the millions of dollars needed to realize the dream of bringing to the cultural forefront what she sees as "an extraordinary wealth of objects that mean so much to who we are as a nation, are part of our living heritage, and are often hiding in plain sight."

This issue of AJFconnection is dedicated to a preview of the Art in America project. We thankfully acknowledge and honor the tireless work of Carol Sauvion. Read on and tune in on May 30th.

in this issue...
  • In the Forum: Jo Lauria
  • CRAFT IN AMERICA to Premier on PBS
  • The Show Goes On The Road
  • Illustrated Book Features Prologue by Jimmy Carter
  • Online Craft Source

  • CRAFT IN AMERICA to Premier on PBS

    The project launches Wednesday, May 30th with the PBS premier of the Craft in America documentary which explores how craftsmanship has been passed from artist to artist over the last two centuries and highlights the central significance of craft in our society. In each episode we meet artists and discover what they do, how they do it and why they have chosen a life of creating art for all to appreciate.

    The first episode, Memory takes a personal tour through craft's history in America. It juxtaposes the intimate stories of some of our country's most the prominent craft artists within a larger historical context. Landscape, the second episode focuses on the relationship between the artists and their physical environment. Episode three, Community looks at the connection artists have to their communities through craft making. The personal stories of gifted masters and passionate newcomers alike reveal the deeply held belief that craft is about more than just the making of an object - it is also a way of life, a reason for being.

    IMAGE: Yager, Jan. Tiara of Useful Knowledge. City Flora: The Philadelphia Series, 2006. Transforms into: 8 brooches, 2 stick pins, tie tack, pendant, and headband. Sterling Silver, 18K & 14K Gold. Photography: Jack Ramsdale. As featured in CRAFT IN AMERICA.

    The Show Goes On The Road

    Craft in America: Expanding Traditions is the landmark traveling museum exhibition associated with the TV program. It offers a historical survey featuring more than 200 works spanning a 200 years. These innovative objects will reveal how craft taps into, and shapes, wider cultural streams and flows freely into the broad narrative of contemporary art. The exhibition opened its eight-city, two year tour at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock. The exhibition travels to Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; and Brockton, MA, and beyond.

    IMAGE: Charles Loloma, Bracelet, c. 1970-80, channel-set silver, turquoise, ironwood, jet, coral, fossil mastodon, lapis and gold. Photograph by Robert K. Liu of Ornament and Karen Williamson. As featured in CRAFT IN AMERICA: Expanding Traditions; and CRAFT IN AMERICA: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects.

    Illustrated Book Features Prologue by Jimmy Carter

    It gets better! President Jimmy Carter, a long time craftsman and craft advocate, contributed to the prologue to the book, Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects. This lavishly illustrated book published by Clarkson Potter (Random House) features more than 200 images and showcases some of the greatest works of craft of the last two centuries. The publication explores the unique qualities of American craft while highlighting the objects created by Americas most original and esteemed artists. The book was co-authored by Jo Lauria and Steve Fenton.

    IMAGE: Kiff Slemmons, Hands of the Heroes Project, Satchel Paige, 1987-1991 Silver, aluminum, brass, copper, acrylic shell, and wood. 3 x 2 inches. Photography: Rod Slemmons. As featured in CRAFT IN AMERICA: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects.

    Online Craft Source

    The project's web site,, is an online vortex that brings together all elements of the ambitious Craft in America project. "Craft in The site has been designed to become an unparalleled creative resource. According to Executive Director Carol Sauvion, "If the public wants to learn about well-known artists or discover those making breakthroughs, it will be there. Histories, tools, techniques and ways to start learning craft yourself." The site also will provide middle and secondary school teachers plans and activities to continue the exploration.

    Tips for Printing AJFconnection. Some of our members have asked how to print AJFconnection to make it easier to read or save. It has been designed for printing on standard 8.5 x 11 paper. The trick is to make sure the top, bottom, right and left margins have been set to .25". If you need assistance just send us an email and we will be in touch to walk you though this simple configuration.

    In the Forum: Jo Lauria
    Jo Lauria

    The Art Jewelry Forum is fortunate to have many members whose contributions to the arts help ensure that artists and their works are promoted, protected and perpetuated. In upcoming issues of AJFconnection we will meet other members and invite them to share, in their own words, their creative insights and passions.

    This month we feature Jo Lauria, a long time AJF member who currently serves on the AJF board. She is the chief curator for the touring exhibition Craft in America: Expanding Traditions and co-author of the companion book, "Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects". Jo was interviewed by AJF connection editor Sally von Bargen.

    Sally I think I speak for all AJF members when I praise your critical contribution to both the Craft in America exhibition and the book. You must be both thrilled and exhausted.

    Jo Yes, both thrilled and exhausted and humbled to be part of such a noble effort. It is a wonderful project, and I am honored to be associated with it.

    Sally Will you share with us how the various components - the television documentary, the companion book and the national exhibition - work together?

    Jo The analogy is the human body: the book gives the historical framework-the backbone, the structure, the context of why crafts came into existence, why they are important to our cultural heritage, and why the handcrafted object and the activity of hand-making has endured, and continues to thrive even in today's post-industrial society.

    The PBS documentary focuses on the lives of some of the key artists of our time, conveying the "backstory" (their personal narratives) and giving shape to the structure. It serves as the nervous system with attendant emotions and reactive responses. It poses the question, "Why do artists engage in craft making?" And answers it resoundingly with two reasons: passion and deliberate choice.

    The exhibition represents the senses as it provides the channel for a sensory experience -- the actual viewing, being enveloped by the objects, the physical journey navigating through the display of assembled objects can be a spiritual experience for some, for others a profound aesthetic one. It also enables learning about our culture, our heritage, and our traditions one handmade object at a time. Seeing craft objects on a television screen or reproduced in a book does not engender the same "connection" with the viewer -- the urgent, intense, and critical exchange of immediate sensations communicated when one is in the presence of, and shares space with objects. The exhibition makes possible this intense sensate experience.

    Sally What motivated your involvement in CRAFT IN AMERICA?

    Jo I believed in the worth of the projects, the potential impact they could have on the field of crafts, design and decorative arts, and I was committed to the creative direction and mission as outlined by Carol Sauvion, the founder and executive director of CRAFT IN AMERICA. To write a book about American crafts with co-author Steve Fenton (and several contributing writers) that gave voice to our diverse native and multi-cultural communities seemed a unique contribution. Craft in America offered me the opportunity to organize an exhibition of masterpiece craft objects, a proposal that proved too seductive to resist.

    Significant historical surveys of craft objects, expansive in both concept and size, are far and few between as they are often costly and unwieldy to organize, and can be challenging to place with appropriate host venues. But I think the efforts are well rewarded as these exhibitions resonate with viewers and can be very emotive. In fact they have the potential to be transformative -- as craft objects are accessible, vital and validating; they reveal our shared histories, they are the legacies of our heritages, and most importantly, they are the potent expressions of our individualism. In short, I wanted to participate in something where the "whole" could be greater than the sum of its parts.

    Sally I think it is fair to say that Craft in America is the first major exploration and public discussion in the 21st century of American craft, and as such will continue to inform the national exploration of artist made objects for years to come. Well done Jo, thank you.

    IMAGE: Jo Lauria. Photograph by Jennifer Gerardi.

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