Craft In America: Crossroads
Airs Monday, October 21, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV
Originally published November 19, 2012 at 12:03 p.m., updated October 18, 2013 at 3:02 p.m.
The Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning CRAFT IN AMERICA, now in its fourth season, promotes and advances original handcrafted work and inspires people of all ages to pursue their own creativity. Audiences explore issues of identity, history, philosophy, ancestry, cultural exchange, repression and freedom.
"Crossroads" follows the evolution of American craft in its drive toward exploration, experimentation and innovation; a move toward new forms and creative solutions.
Through the work of Tanya Aguiñiga, Lia Cook, and three Minnesota clay artists we explore their trailblazing attempts to cross-pollinate culture, aesthetics and technologies, moving forward the development of American craft.
Tanya Aguiñiga designs environments in which people experience the beauty of handcrafted space. Tanya was raised jointly in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. Her work expresses an effort to use the raw materials of her bi-cultural experience to create a vital, unique personal expression.
“In my work, craft and handwork are at the core... My explorations in color and texture probably come from the Mexican side of me and the more minimalist aesthetic comes from the U.S. side of me... People call me a textile artist, a furniture designer, a sculptor... I think it’s a very frontier sensibility.” Aguiñiga says.
Fiber and weaving are the starting point for Tanya. Her innovative and much lauded furniture and design work have been exhibited in cultural meccas as far and wide as Mexico City, Milan and New York. She was recently granted a prestigious United States Artists Award.
In Minnesota, there is a vital community of potters centered in the lush and verdant St. Croix Valley, whose style is fondly referred to as “Mingei-sota.” Their work is based on traditional pottery for everyday use, known in Japan as “Mingei.” The Mingei Philosophy was studied and brought to England by Bernard Leach in the 1920s.
Potters from all over the world apprenticed at the Leach Pottery and carried their newly-acquired aesthetics back home.
In the US, Warren MacKenzie, Jeff Oestreich and Clary Illian were central to this aesthetic cross-‐pollination – that everyday handmade objects are honest, inexpensive and functional, and by this pureness, infuse one’s life with beauty.
Imported in the 1960s, this aesthetic widely influenced the emerging counter-‐culture and as a result, modern design today.
Lia Cook has for years been at the forefront of the intersection of craft and art, where she has recently melded techniques of 18th c. Jacquard weaving (a precursor of the computer) with an inquiry into brain functioning, thus combining the most basic manual technology with contemporary technology and scientific practice.
Her unusual mix of old and new has garnered her international recognition. Cook’s pioneering work is exhibited in major museums throughout the world. We will travel with Lia from her studio in Berkeley, Calif. to her solo show at the Houston Center for American Craft.
This episode explores the crossroads of craft, where change and innovation evolve from global influences and utilize the exciting intersections between the handmade and modern technology.