Sonya Clark creates textile works, sculptures, installations, and photographs. Clark is known for her work with hair as a material to address race and identity issues. She has extended the idea of cloth to include hairdressing, in particular traditional African techniques such as cornrows and Bantu knots, in sculptures such as the Wig Series (1997–2000) and Hair Series (2001–present). In the Beaded Prayer Project (1998–2009), she collaborated with 4000 people from 35 countries who each contributed a beaded amulet. Clark is the Chair of the Craft and Material Studies department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
Santa Fe, NM
Blacksmith and sculptor Tom Joyce uses traditional forging techniques in contemporary ways. He left high school in 1974 to apprentice with blacksmith Peter Wells and to dedicate himself to his craft. Joyce’s works range from smaller sculptural pieces to larger architectural elements, including lighting fixtures and gates. For his Rio Grande Gates (1998), which included a blacksmithing mentorship program for students, he worked with community members in Albuquerque to salvage iron refuse from the river to use as material for the final project. Joyce won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.
Sheboygan Falls, WI
Glass artist Beth Lipman produces large-scale, three-dimensional renditions of still lifes in clear blown glass, which are glittering depictions of abundance and chaos. In Bancketje (2003), 15 people worked with her to create over 500 components found on the table, a metaphor for the aftermath of an excessive banquet. Lipman has more recently begun producing photographs of her assembled sculptures, scaling the final prints to actual size and then destroying and recycling the glass.
Informed by his research into the historical textiles of Pre-Columbian Peru, Imperial China, and Russian ecclesiastical vestments, tapestry artist Jon Eric Riis produces tapestries that are imbued with social content. One of his main forms is a “universal coat,” which he meticulously creates with metallic thread, silk, beads, and semi-precious stones. He often addresses socio-political content within the hidden, equally detailed interior of each piece.
Akio Takamori is a ceramist who produces hand-painted figurative works. After studying ceramics in Japan, Takamori moved to the U.S. in 1974 to attend the Kansas City Art Institute and Alfred University, New York. His earliest works were figures in vessel forms. During a 1996 residency in the Netherlands, Takamori began emphasizing the space between works by grouping larger figures in sculptural installations, a transition that would mark his future direction. His subjects include rural Japanese villagers from his childhood, historical and art historical characters, and contemporary people, at times accompanied by drawings. He is Professor of Art and Ceramics at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Basketmaker Aaron Yakim works with white oak to create rustic rib baskets. He learned the craft in 1979 while apprenticing with fifth-generation basketmaker, Oral “Nick” Nicholson of West Virginia. Yakim harvests his materials from the local forest, using hand tools to split the wood into flexible thin strips, which he then manipulates by hand into vessel forms without the use of molds. His innovations include a framework design for creating a swing-handled rib basket and an interwoven hinged lid.
Jeremy Frey is a Passamaquoddy basketmaker who learned weaving from his mother and apprenticed at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (of which he is now a board member). Frey learned the traditional techniques of weaving brown ash and sweetgrass into baskets and now introduces new styles and techniques such as unique shapes and very fine weaves. He is dedicated to serving as a model to younger Native artists and to passing the tradition of basketmaking onto the next generation.
Furniture designer Matthias Pliessnig works primarily with steamed bent-wood strips. He attended the Kansas City Art Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Inspired by boatbuilding techniques and classic modernist furniture, Pliessnig uses 3-D modeling software to sketch curves, which he then handcrafts into sensuous forms that cradle the body.
Joyce Scott has been called the “Queen of Beadwork.” She is also a weaver, writer, and performance artist who performs solo and as one of the two members of the Thunder Thighs Revue. She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Instituto Allende, Mexico. Descended from several generations of quilters and craft artists, Scott’s work is informed by her African American ancestry. Her intricate beadwork takes on social justice issues such as sexism, racial and class struggles, and genocide. In 2000, The Baltimore Museum of Art presented her 30-year retrospective.
Ceramic artist Michael Sherrill, who is primarily self-taught, found early inspiration and guidance with traditional potters in western North Carolina. He began by making pots in series and now produces realistic sculptures that depict the textures and movements of plants. Although he mostly works in clay, Sherrill also adds metal and glass elements to his works, if necessary mastering those techniques as well. Sherrill designs his own tools and, in 1995, started Mudtools as a business for other clay artists.