Houston is complicated: “You’ll cry when you arrive, you’ll cry when you leave.” I cried when we arrived but I doubt that I’ll cry when we leave. Houston is hard work: the traffic, the sprawl, the weather, the traffic—all make it easier to hole up inside rather than venture out. But the draw of Houston’s restaurants, grocery stores, and world-class museums lured me out and never disappointed—there was a surprise every day.
Last week’s surprise was the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. According to the HCCC’s mission statement, its purpose is to “advance education about the process, product and history of craft.” The museum offers free craft-making classes and workshops, using clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood or mixed media, taught by local craft guilds and artists. Every year, five artists receive a three-to-twelve month residency, which includes a 200-square-foot studio in the back of the museum, a monthly stipend, and a small housing/materials allowance. Museum visitors are encouraged to visit the studios and watch the artists at work.
The HCCC’s industrial look—corrugated tin, parking-lot light fixtures, concrete, and rebar—challenged my assumption that hand-crafted teddy bears, art quilts, hand-knit scarves, and feathered owls would be featured. Once inside the heavy-metal factory doors, the galleries showcased provocative exhibits that blurred the line between art and craft.
“Found Subjects: Works by Sondra Sherman” The artist created unique brooches and necklaces inspired by the individual books she collected over many years. Sondra Sherman: “The books are presented on white washed plywood quasi library lecterns haphazardly arranged in the space. But, it’s endearing. It resembles a room full of people milling about. In this series, the challenge was to express an instinctive perception of each book into material, form, and jewelry. No, I have not read the books.”
Sondra Sherman, Listen the Wind Necklace, 2010
Sondra Sherman, Woman’s Home Companion Brooch, 2013
Sondra Sherman, Great Ideas of Science Pendant, 2010
“At Your Service“, an exhibit that explores the dinnerplate, not just for its utilitarian function, but also as a cultural touchstone. Gésine Hackenberg cuts blue and white patterned discs from antique china plates, stringing them into necklaces or setting them in silver to make jewelry.
Gésine Hackenberg, Big Delft Blue Fruit Basket Necklace, 2015
Beccy Ridsdel, Dish with Bunnies, 2014
“Mixed and Mastered: Turntable Kitsch” explores the alteration and customization of the sentimental trinkets in our everyday lives.”
Nick DeFord, Bermuda Triangle, 2015, Hand-embroidery and sequins on digitally printed map
Nick DeFord, Found, 2008, Hand embroidery, beads, and sequins on game board