Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Those Cute Little Mice

One day, several months ago, a customer entered the gallery, a little upset looking and clutching a small color catalog. She asked, in a frantic voice, "Do you carry Wee Forest Folk?" She was so upset, I had to ask her to repeat herself several times until I understood what she was saying. When I told her I didn't, she asked if I would please carry them. The owners of the store she had buying them at had retired, closing up, the artist doesn't sell direct, and she had no place to buy them. It was at this point I had to admit I had no idea what Wee Forest Folk were.

She showed me the catalog she was clutching. It was full of mice. Mice all dressed up and doing things. OK, I'll admit it, I thought to my self, with a great deal of disdain "Mice sculptures? Really? You've got to be kidding." I thought it, but I never let that show. I asked the women a few questions about the mice...were they handcrafted, made in America, etc? The answers were all the right ones for my self imposed criteria, but still...mice sculptures?

I asked the customer to leave me her information and I'd see what I could do. I figured I would do some research and, if the minimum order was low enough, offer to order them for her. I had no intentions of caring them in the gallery. I got in touch with someone at Wee Forest Folk and got the whole story. It seems that the mice first came into existence 37 years ago, crafted out of bread dough by Annette Peterson. Bread dough doesn't hold up very well, so now they are molded out of a stronger material. Each piece is a casting of an original sculpted by either Annette or her children, Willy and Donna.They are then meticulously painted with great detail. They are produced in small amounts and retired regularly. It all sounded great, but still...mice sculptures?

They offered to send me a sample, a beach bound mouse called The Little Dipper.I was amazed when I opened the box. First of all, they are so much tinier than I expected. The Little Dipper is only 1 1/4" tall. And the amount of detail on such a little thing...wow! From the spout on her inner tube to the starfish on the beach to her pink cheeks, it was all there. I'll admit it, she was a cutie. But still...mice sculptures?

I decided I would do a very small order and see what happened. Those first few mice have spread like...well, like mice. They now have their own shelf in a case and new friends arrive regularly. The Halloween ones just showed up and they are as cute as can be.

So, mice sculptures? YES!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Craft in America

Craft in America, the Peabody Award winning series, premiered season two last night on PBS. Season two features two episodes focusing on the origins and processes of craft.

Craft traditions didn't just appear, fully-formed and mature. Episode IV - Origins focuses on craftspeople with a long history in the craft world. Include in this episode. just a few of the artist featured, are Jugtown Pottery and Teri Greeves. Jugtown Pottery was started in 1917 and, drawing from the tradition, creates traditional jugs, candlesticks and tableware. Teri Greeves, a member of the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, uses traditional Kiowa beadwork methods to tell the story of American Indians. Her work includes beaded books, jewelry and high top sneakers.

Episode V - Process focus's on what inspires a person to choose a career in craft. What makes an established professional give up everything to take up a career in arts? How do they learn their crafts? Along with several artist, Process looks as several important craft schools. The visit to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, with its emphasis on violin making, was fascinating. The Kansas City Art Institute has a ceramic arts program that produces many of today's prominent contemporary ceramic artist. And New York's 92nd Street Y...oh, to have access to the kinds of craft programs and classes offered, both for children & adults, would be such a gift.
While the episodes premiered last night, many PBS stations will be replaying them through out the month. If you love fine crafts, love beautiful handmade items, you should check you local station for airdates.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bonnie Perry - Bold Glass Jewelry

A native of Cape Cod, MA Bonnie Perry found her love of creating at the torch in the early 2000's. For the past seven years, Bonnie has perfected the art of glass beadmaking.

Melting rods of Italian glass in a torch, she coaxes glass into shapes to form beads. The hollow beads are then annealed to insure that the bead is sturdy. She then turns these miniature glass sculptures into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that are bold and daring.

"My respect for the flow of the glass and its properties makes the glass and I equal partners in this creative process. My artistic journey began with exploring color, design and texture using textiles, and today I continue that exploration with glass which is a mix of art and science. The colors in glass come from their metallic content. Melting colored glass rods is combining metals in heat. The possibilities are endless and always exciting. My current work is big, bold and whimsical and reflects the joy and excitement with which I embrace each new day. What will come next? I’m open to the journey and will follow the flow of the glass."
Teaching her gift to others is one of her passions. Her seven year old grandson has been known to work at the torch alongside Bonnie.