Bongsang Cho came to the United States from Seoul, South Korea, and brought with him a dedicated enthusiasm for metalsmithing, and an ethereal sense of grace and impermanency which gives a delicacy to his metalwork. He graduated from Hanyang University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metals and Jewelry, and has recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a MFA, where he utilized several modern pieces of machinery in the college's jewelry department, such as the laser welder, to break new ground.
Cho's aesthetic is derived from the mysterious connections he senses between the organic, the artificial, and humanity. The flower is for him a metaphor which represents the essential nature of life, and extends beyond flora to embodying human existence, its connections and its transitoriness. The roots of the flowering plant are the same as the hidden relationships which support each individual life. It is for this reason that, abstractly and in literal interpretation, Cho uses the form of the flower in much of his jewelry and sculpture.
In Bongsang Cho’s world, geometry is the language which connects humanity and nature, going from the inorganic to the organic and back again. Endeavoring to express this in the vocabulary of his art, he has produced several series of work which continue becoming ever more refined.
New York, NY
Mina Norton is a great experimenter with textiles in wearable art. Her background in painting gives her a structural approach to space, which is apparent from the designs and patterns she works into the surfaces of her luxurious garments. She has a passion for fabric which ends up with her trying out all different types of materials in her clothing; for many years she uses sumptuous chenille, which is made by taking two long lengths of yarn, and twisting them together via short pieces of yarn laid perpendicularly across them. The feel of this fabric is gorgeous, soft and silky smooth with a heavy body that makes it incredibly comfortable.
During her chenille period, she would piece together jackets, coats, and dresses from patches of fabric. It's almost like putting together a quilted rug, but shaped to fit the human form instead! It is easily apparent that a modernist influence expressed itself in these clothes. Abstract shapes and geometric patterns draw the eye's attention, then disperses it across the garment. A playful touch emerges with embroidered patterns that take what would otherwise be a predictable layout, and adds just a pique of curiosity.
This "Maker's Touch" is present in all of Norton's wearable art. Her most recent escapades have taken her into felt, which she uses as a canvas to directly apply her skills in painting. Subtle gradations from dark blues and blacks to gray and white ripple over the surface of her fabrics, again putting the eye into the role of itinerant nomad. But then, just there, is a little flag of red, standing out from the monochrome palette of the rest of the coat. That little mark is the sign of a conscious designer, and it is what raises Norton's beautiful handiwork to the next level.
Cliff Lee is a Chinese immigrant from Taiwan who made the transition from being a neurosurgeon to ceramicist, and has never looked back. He takes inspiration from nature, the environment, and traditional Chinese porcelain to produce works of art that have a unique and contemporary flavor. Dragons, branches, and lotus flowers find a new expression that harkens back to Dynastic Chinese vessels.
The depth of Lee's dedication borders on obsession, and he is involved in every step of the process, from making his own glazes to shaping and firing each piece. He is most famous for having recreated the celadon and imperial yellow glazes that were used on traditional Chinese vases.
Every vessel is a labor of love, and it is in reaching the nexus between skill and creativity that makes Cliff Lee's craft so exceptional.
Keunho Peter Park likes to make containers for atypical objects; sound, space, and the human body. That is to say he creates furniture, musical instruments, and vessels, vessels that are cradles for emptiness. His stools and chairs are fashioned with comfort in mind, exhibiting a dry wit and edgy sense of humor that transforms these containers for the body into living beings in their own right. The subtle animus that emanates from these ligneous entities gently changes the character of an empty room, from absence to presence.
His studio's name, Studio Spong, comes from the comic book character Spawn, "who is the lonely leader of hell with cool super powers and such."
Jiyoung Chung makes her own joomchi, a type of thickly fibrous Korean papier-mache that is formed by soaking the paper in water, then kneading it repeatedly and flattening it into sheets. This strenuous work leads to the raw material with which Jiyoung fashions her wall hangings and wall sculptures.
The essence of Jiyoung's art resides in the interplay of light, shadow, color, and texture. Some of her pieces are like diaphanous webs, patchy and semi-translucent, letting strong lines and deep crevasses pattern themselves against the background in inky black. Others don't cast shadows, but rather are palettes for bold colors that arch into the foreground in distinct shapes.
While the former pieces titillate one's gaze, exploding one's attention into a thousand different directions, the second set concentrates the viewer's focus on positive, constructive elements, defining and protruding and projecting into three-dimensional space. In each, a mood is conjured and wafted through one's senses, like a breath on the wind.
Rea Rossi uses 3D printing to produce sculptures and jewelry that are almost literally waves of sound turned into physical objects. Through the use of contemporary digital technology, she transmutes this source of inspiration into graceful, arced forms that fold through time and space.
Her work is both sculpture and jewelry, depending on whether it is on the body, or off. The most intriguing aspect of it is its undulating quality. Because the material is a type of polymer, nylon, it is lightweight even when very large. The repetitive nature of its composing elements, along with its bone-white coloration, makes some of her bangles and neckpieces seem like some strange creature's vertebrae, gently curved to cradle one's shoulders, or wrap around one's wrist.
The source for Rea's inspiration is her own relationship with hearing. Partially deaf, sound is something which she experiences through a unique prism of perspective. That sound is a wave itself, a visual shape that most of us can never see yet are aware of nonetheless, is a fascinating topic of exploration. The jewelry she makes is her own process of negotiating that subject, with a twist; as someone who wears a hearing aid, she wants to have access to a way to decorate that object and turn it into a thing of beauty. In that, Rea is a true pioneer.
What makes a fashion aesthetic distinctive? Perhaps one may call this a style; a range of aesthetic elements that form a coherent whole, a gestalt which is greater than the sum of its parts. But what are the origins of a style? Tracing back, one will find at its heart imitation and experimentation. Always involving elements that have come before, thereof comes structure; always deviating from these elements, thereof comes variation. Through variation one may find elements that have come before, and thus similarities and coherencies take shape.
It is the exploration of the mystery, the experimentation, the untaken paths taken that have informed Pennsylvanian fiber artist K. Riley’s artistic evolution. With that came a very sound structure, as from the beginning Riley had a natural affinity with textiles. Originally from England, Riley’s father was recruited by Boeing, which resulted in the family moving to the United States in 1968. Her mother was a dressmaker, and Riley moved from making clothes for her dolls to making her own clothes as a teenager. This organic process led to her participation in fiber retail, also at a young age. “I took a year off after high school, before I went to college, and I started a retail business with my mother and my sister, where we made clothing and sold it,” Riley explains.
Riley mentions the flutters of trepidation she had when choosing the motifs to decorate her clothing. Detailing the beginnings of the Botanical Collection, she opines, “I’ve always been influenced by nature. As a textile designer, I love the patterns on butterflies. It started with that. So I got books on butterflies, looked at all the different patterns on them, and thought, well, everyone does butterflies. So I decided, I’ll do moths!, because I think moths are just as beautiful.” Utilizing insects, particularly ones with negative connotations like moths, was felt to be slightly risqué. “In general, if you tell someone that you’re drawing a moth and you’re going to print it on clothing, they’re going to be horrified,” Riley explains. “I like to find beauty in those things that others don’t find beauty in. And they don’t find beauty only because they’re not really looking.”
If you've ever really paid attention to a tree branch, perhaps the limb of an old, gnarled, moss-covered apple tree, bedecked with lichen, and twisted with age, you'll realize just how much color and character is imbued in wood. It is a living thing that even when removed from its parent is still a vibrant entity.
Wood carver Norm Sartorius is a deep, abiding lover of the medium. He makes "non-functional" spoons, which really is a way of saying he makes sculptures that incorporates the original elements of the material into their forms. Whether completely sculpting and polishing the piece, or leaving raw knobs and branches as part of its integral design, Norm finds a way of keeping the essence of the wood present.
The use of a spoon as his chosen form stems from a desire to keep the object relatable, a spiritual pun of sorts. By keeping them on the boundary between recognizable and abstract, Norm seeks to provide an object that both gives rise to curiosity, while also being a strange source of comfort. His exquisite pieces are successful on both counts.
Imagine if a modern artist painted on a three-dimensional canvas, and you'll get pretty close to Kathleen Dustin's mixed media productions. Dustin was one of the first to push the medium of polymer to its boundaries, constantly stretching and pioneering what polymer clay could do.
Now, with polymer, wood, and other materials, she plays off of her own iterations. From one series to the next, Dustin explores numerous inspirations in her own particular way. Some of her work is her own take on tribal art, finding its own unique expression through her hands, and in a contemporary medium. Sometimes plant-like seed forms and wild, spiky growths sprout into a necklace, but you're just as likely to find a nuanced play of colors shimmering above and beneath a translucent surface in a piece that wouldn't look out of place in a museum setting.
Mary Jackson has honed traditional sweetgrass baskets to an artform that is only arrived at through patience and practice. Sweetgrass basketry is a longstanding African-American tradition that descended from its roots in African basketweaving, through slavery and now into the modern era. Mary's beauty is in the impeccable skill and care that she puts into every one of her baskets.
She is a link in a visual and oral history that is only expressed in its physical result, and maintained by those who have taken the time to learn this craft and perpetuate it. That is a wondrous aspect of her basketmaking, but another is the time it takes to make each coiled container. When one is holding one of Mary's baskets, what you have in your hands is an item of power and grace, made possible by hours upon hours of meticulous work.
Kinetic sculpture. It's a term made perhaps most famous by Alexander Calder back in the day for his mobiles, but Peter Antor's own interpretation of the concept ties into a broader aesthetic that involves the vastness of buildings, the cavernous insides of structures constructed by human beings, and perhaps not a few science fiction space vessels.
Peter takes great care to carefully articulate mechanisms which allow his art to move and transform into different states. For example, a fabricated lever allows a portal to be opened, from which a shining city pin can be removed, or inserted. The delight is as real as the immensely tactile quality of his work. The fact that every piece of his sculptures and jewelry was fashioned by his own two hands makes each creation a treasure.
The subtle, rough-hewn nature of Jennifer Zurick's baskets are simply a pleasure for the senses. Willow bark is the source for the fibers that are tightly woven into undulating, billowing shapes, so reminiscent of the utilitarian vessels used by Native peoples the world over to contain the victuals of life.
Jennifer's use of both fibers and branches in her work creates an exciting panoply of textures that are made large by the vessel's form; whether straight and tall, or narrowed top and bottom while bulged in the middle, or voluminous and amorphous, the interaction between the surface elements and the basket's shape are endlessly entertaining.
Zurick finds inspiration in the artistic creativity of early Native American baskets, as well as the simplicity of modern Japanese basketry, and in acknowledging these two cultures finds her own method of self-expression, beautiful and timeless in its own way.
Eric Silva is into making sculptures. Whether small-scale, wearable ones, or large conglomerations made to adorn a wall rather than a person, Silva is a lover of decoration. In his jewelry, he uses shed antler, semi-precious stones and other materials to create careful ensembles that use the contrast of the ivory-like horn, the little sparks of color conjured by ruby and aquamarine, and the simple accompaniment of silver to guide the eye along both body and into oases of detail.
His jewelry made for architecture rather than people follow a slightly different lead. Industrial meets rural as heavy metal and natural materials are combined.
Eric has a contemporary tribal aesthetic which expresses itself through highlighting the act of memory and the wistful taste of nostalgia. From found objects to the antler horn which he prizes, each item incorporated into his pieces is meant to conjure up feelings of a time past but still very real and tactile. It is the modern moment, fleeting but everpresent.
The technique of scherenschnitte comes from Switzerland and Germany, literally meaning "scissor cuts". It is an incredibly intricate art of paper-cutting, and when practiced by Swiss immigrant Lucrezia Bieler it arrives at a truly breathtaking level of intimacy.
Cutting from a single sheet of paper, Lucrezia brings forth gentle creatures, both human and animal, straight from the pages of storybooks and fairy tales. Whether it is a sleeping fox dreaming of rabbits, or a dancing bear performing a waltz with the cosmos, her work is poignant and simply beautiful.
That such drama can emerge from a blank canvas is part of the fantastical nature of Lucrezia's art. It is taking a pure black expanse and through the utmost dedication incising leaves, branches, trees, grasses, birds and beasts that leap out, unrestrained by their two dimensions. A whole world is born from one piece of paper.
Tyler Pond has a deep and abiding pleasure in the objects of the recent past; not ancient history, but machines, jewelry, rings, and other items of glory from Renaissance and Imperial Europe. It is an appreciation for the craftsmanship of these times long gone, now in the rear view mirror of memory, that is inspiration to him.
Tyler has worked for many years under jeweler John Iversen, and his own oeuvre ranges from simple and beautifully crafted pendants, earrings, rings and cufflinks to what clearly lie close to his heart; large and extraordinarily complex metal replicas of cars, blunderbusses, or abstract sculptures which serve to give him an outlet for larger aesthetic theses.
In his reverence for antiques and art from the Industrial Revolution, Tyler reminds us of the beauty of that period of intense changes, violent yet also transformational, and salvages the best to be reborn in the 21st century.
There is an art to making tiny objets that requires intensity, skill, and an adoration for detail. Wood carver Janel Jacobson has all of those traits, and puts them to use in crafting some of the most sublime miniature sculptures in North America.
Janel is a recognized Netsuke carver, and one of the few outside of Japan to have taken that art form and brought her own personal touch to this traditional craft. Her meticulous personality blossoms into soulful and sublime renditions of nature, whether rabbits, moths, frogs, or other little critters. Branches of trees, seed pods, all the minutiae of life that can otherwise be missed for the forest are given care and loving attention as she uses an array of tools to carve and release these beings from their shell of wood and bark.
Free to roam and delight the eye, Janel's creations are wondrous because of the intersection between realism and character. Each piece is unique and tells a story, whether a joyful flop-eared rabbit romping through space, or a quiet moth nestled within the fold of a leaf. The gentleness and spontaneity of nature is what Janel seeks to remind us of, and in doing so gives us a little oasis of contemplation.
Glass is an amorphous substance in its primal form, only given a distinctive shape by the intentions and ability of the person, or people, manipulating it. Michael Mikula takes a material most recognized for curvaceous forms and turns it into angular, industrial sculpture.
His internal combustion engine aesthetic is a contemporary reflection of the Art Deco period, when the emergence of machinery and industry had an intense effect on the art of the time. Strong lines and geometrical patterns replaced the organic curves and ephemerality of nature-inspired Art Nouveau.
Abstract projections in Michael's cast glass pieces become intimations of some great machine, usually opaque to our gaze, now rendered transparent and translucent. His use of both colored and clear glass causes refractions of light that somehow draws more attention than if the object was one solid, matte surface. Each gear and sprocket of his invisible engines is thrown into a deep contrast.
Sometimes Michael builds metal frames for his cast glass, creating a larger sculpture that plays with a sort of mad scientist's regular irregularity. The shapes and textures of each part of the sculpture are never repeated, yet because of their sharp lines and geometric patterning visually rhyme.
Though looking mechanical, Michael's sculptures are actually canvases used to convey deeper narratives that often reflect his interpretations of nature and architecture. It is often the ambient environment which he seeks to communicate, refracted through the prism of sculptural glass.
A collaboration between mediums is a difficult task, particularly from a creative and technical standpoint. How does one translate an idea that exists in strokes of a paintbrush to woven fibers on a loom? How best to match the colors, from paint to dye, and to what extent does one simply replicate, and where does one decide to extrapolate and, indeed, push beyond the boundaries of the original?
It is this creative tide of push and pull that unites husband and wife team Wence and Sandra Martinez. Wence is a weaver from Oaxaca, Mexico, who first studied traditional weaving under the tutelage of his father and grandfather, Cosme and Manuel Martinez. Later in life he went to the National Institute of Weaving in Mexico City, where he learned from Master Pedro Preux and Edmundo Aquino. Sandra began her artistic career in making ceramics, before going to the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where she made the transition to painting.
Somewhere along the path of life their trails intertwined. Sandra was seeking someone who could transpose her primeval paintings into a woven rug, and her search led her to Wence. A deep understanding connected the two, and from then on they have found a rich and fertile artistic relationship with each other.
Sandra's paintings are sourced from the same primeval well of inspiration that fed our ancestors. Her art dabbles in symbolism and metaphor, speaking a language that comes from the heart and not the head. It is from these renderings of the subconscious that Wence makes his tapestries. What was once small is now an ocean, a vast wall of colors, shades and shapes that communicates the same idea from a new perspective. The result is something ancient that nonetheless exists as part of our contemporary world.
If the words "metal" and "purse" together sound a bit incongruous, you've obviously never seen the work of Wendy Stevens. Impeccable craftsmanship meets a flair for design, and a subtle sense of humor that leads to leopard print handbags made out of stainless steel.
One might think that metal purses and handbags would be impractical, but Wendy makes them small, lightweight, sumptuously decorated with leather, and beautifully ornamented. Shape, size, the length of the strap are all carefully gauged to being not only curiosity-inducing but wearable as well. Magnetic clasps supply an urbane method of keeping these portable pouches tightly sealed. It really is hard to get better than this.
The level of sophistication of Wendy's work is astounding, all the more so considering every purse is fabricated and put together entirely by her hand. That is something to keep in mind when looking at these sleek containers, that such perfection has a long process hidden away, a story invisible to the beholder.
Chris Francis is about as close as you can get to an explosion of creative thought. That's to say he constantly expanding, with increasing momentum, in all directions. There's little about the world that doesn't interest him, and it shows when he expounds on subjects as widely diverse (but perhaps, very much related) as Salvatore Ferregamo, The Who, and how corporate culture has a chilling effect on creativity and innovation.
Oh, but where were we? Yes, SHOES! Chris is a shoemaker, cobbler, bootmaker, cordonnier, whose own curiosity leads to a world of influences and inspirations, from fashion to Orientalism, punk rock and the shells of fallen industry. He works hard to be both radical and provocative. Expanding the boundaries of what is considered beautiful is very important to him, and his shoes are experiments in seeing how far those boundaries can be pushed.
Chris is the mad scientist of footwear, an inquisitive mind that finds absolute delight in taking a concept and bringing it to life. His fervor and passion for the handmade leads him to being a verbose advocate, and as arguments in favor of the diversity, fantasy, quality, and beauty of wearable art, his work speaks for itself.
Photographs by Noel Bass. Courtesy of the Craft & Folk Art Museum.
Stephen and Tamberlaine Zeh are collaborators in fashioning beautiful, classic woven baskets. Stephen is a Maine basketmaker whose work follows in the traditions of Native American and Shaker basketry, woven from brown ash that he collects himself. Each log of brown ash is pounded to separate the layers of the wood into strips, which are then scraped by hand to create a smooth and elegant material that can then be interwoven to form the fabric of the basket.
In this way, Stephen is following in the footsteps of basketmakers for generations before him. His background in basketry comes from both personal experience, and tutelage by Eddie Newell, a basketmaker of Penobscot Indian heritage. The process is the same as that used by , an intensive effort that when combined with skill produces beautiful vessels that are almost illuminated in their fine tan coloration.
Stephen works with his wife, Tammy, in making these sublime containers for the soul. Using their knowledge of weaving, he and Tammy collaborate on making miniature baskets, often made in the shape of an acorn, woven from gold thread as jewelry. In both large and small scale, their work is impeccable, warm, and compelling in their intricacy.
Judith Kinghorn is an alchemist of the traditional variety; she transmutes objects into gold and precious materials. All manner of botanicals become interpreted, through her magic flasks and crucibles, into glorious and soulful reincarnations of their past selves. Like any artist seeking to capture the essence of things rather than imitate what is already there, Judith magnifies and embellishes the genuine article to somehow appear larger than life.
Kinghorn's jewelry brings the object they emulate into sharper focus, lively and vibrant, a doorway into a secret garden that the wearer is able to share with conscientious observers. Her color palette comes from her personal technique of fusing gold to oxidized silver. Oxidizing silver gives it a black varnish that stands in stark contrast to the warm yellow and orange hues of gold, and she judiciously employs this to good effect in giving dimensionality, delineating stamen, leaf and petal. Gold granules, carefully and ever so delicately soldered, become the pollen for a bouquet of dahlias. In both skillful technique and mindful presentation, Kinghorn excels artfully.
She also sometimes just enjoys a good stone. Moss agate, moldavite, pyrite, druzy agate; Judith finds the most fantastical of semiprecious gems and gives them a suitable frame, like a masterpiece painting of one of Renoir's French girls in the Louvre. The stone itself is so beautiful that all it needs is a little accentuation, and that is Judith's gift of finding just the right degree of ornamentation.
From the botanical to her stone canvases, Kinghorn finds a deep reserve of inspiration in the natural world that she mines for beauty. Her love for flora expresses itself in the diverse species that she translates into wearable form, from the esoteric to the relatively mundane. From poppies and hibiscus to wild carrot, also known affectionately as Queen Anne's Lace, and then throwing in old favorites like chrysanthemums and blackeyed susans, then treading our merry way into fields of star anise and allium (the common family of onions, chives and shallots), Judith reminds us that what we may take for granted is truly a treasure.
Shibori clothing artist, Amy Nguyen, is one of a new vanguard of wearable artists. Combining traditional techniques with a decidedly new flare of fashion, Nguyen's work is reaches the summit of both creativity and technique. She plays with light and shadow, delicately illuminating and dispersing the viewer's attention across the garment and the body.
Nguyen's passion is shibori, a Japanese dyeing technique that yields spontaneity even as it allows for a certain degree of control. The textile is folded, tied, and then submerged into dyes; the only certainty in the end result is that the artist can assure that some sections remain free of dye. Repeated dyeing can increase the complexity of the piece's pattern, and yield endless variation.
Though silk is the most well known textile upon which shibori is practiced, Nguyen has branched out to using the technique on linen and wool as well. This merely increases the breadth of work available to her, upon which she continues to orchestrate her overarching theme. Layering of the cloth is similarly vital to her expression of contrast. Strips of silk or linen, each dyed with alternating patterns of dark and light, when put together form a sheer vibration of pattern. The black or deep grays, because of the dye bleed, shift into the white, and back again. The effect can be hypnotic when studied closely, and from afar yields sublime scintillation.