Which Craft?

I’ve been accused of living in a bubble. Supposedly, the real world is very different than the one I inhabit. One of the issues with my bubble world is that I assume everyone knows the same things I do. Last week, one of my students told me she had read only ten books in her entire life. The week before someone told me they like old movies, especially Clueless. I assumed my Vertigo references and discussions about Ginsberg’s Howl made sense to everyone. A light bulb went off in my head, and I discovered that references I take for granted are not as universal as I thought. Of course, it’s a 2-way street. When someone asks if I like any new music, I say Thompson Twins.

Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman are remarkable artists. I presumed everyone knew their work. But, as I have learned, sometimes that isn’t true. The Ackermans are integral to the fabric of California craft. Since they opened Jenev Design Studio in 1952, they opened the door to the idea of craft combined with modernism. Their ability to swing from ceramics, wood, textiles, metal, and glass is remarkable. And across all these media, the sense of exuberance and joy is apparent. Bad design can sink under the weight of its own importance.

The Ackerman work is incredibly important. It inspired generations of artists in California as well as everyday people who wanted to dabble in craft. Yet, it never is self-important. The work always communicates the idea of the human hand. And it invites viewers to stop whatever they are doing and begin to create.

Many of these images are from one of my favorite sites, http://www.midcenturia.com.

All the joy that love can bring

If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Sandpiper, you will recall Elizabeth Taylor playing an artist living at the beach at Big Sur. She spends her time making abstract seascape kinds of paintings. Her studio is cluttered with driftwood-like art. It sounds like fun to live at the beach on the California coast, feel moody, and collect driftwood. It must have been a wonderful time in 1965 when poor artists could buy beach houses and wander the dunes. In 1954, the Pasadena Art Museum held the first of a series of exhibitions celebrating design in California. Graphic design wasn’t included, and there seemed to be a prevalence of handcrafted ceramics, and woody furniture. It was all very natural in a California eco-friendly pre-hippie way. Of course, now I would love to own some of these items. Or I could move to the beach and begin making ceramics and driftwood mobiles.