When we think of craftsmanship sanctuaries, we often think of European cities and countries, filled with history and legacy. However, the United States of America are also home for some of the most talented master artisans, artists, designers and art galleries in the world.
USA was even the birth place of the “American Craftsman Style”, also known as “American Arts and Crafts Movement”. This was an American domestic architectural, interior design, landscape design, applied arts, and decorative arts style and lifestyle philosophy which began in the last years of the 19th century.
This design and art movement remained popular into the 1930s. In decorative arts and architectural design, it continued with numerous revitalization projects until present times.
The American Craftsman style, along with a wide diversity of related European design movements, was born from the British Arts and Crafts movement, which began in the 1860s. The British movement was a way of reacting against the Industrial Revolution‘s depreciation of the individual worker and resulting degradation of human labor’s dignity.
The movement highlighted handwork over mass production. The problem was that expensive materials and skilled labor restricted acquisition of Arts and Crafts pieces to the wealthy.
The American movement also reacted against the Victorian over-decorated aesthetic, since the Arts and Crafts style’s American arrival coincided with the decline of the Victorian era. It also encouraged originality, simplicity of form, local natural materials, and the visibility of handicraft. Nevertheless, the movement was unique, particularly in the Craftsman Bungalow style, with its goal of decorating modest homes for the American middle class.
Remarkable American Master Artisans, Artists and Designers
Wendell Castle was a true giant in the world of design. He was always a creative soul until the end, he was even preparing a new art piece when he passed away, at the age of eighty-five. Wendell was a man who never stopped dreaming and making those dreams a reality.
He was born in Emporia, Kansas, in 1932. In his childhood years he struggled with dyslexia. “I was not good at anything”, he confessed in 2016. The only exceptions were “drawing and daydreaming, neither of which were valued”.
At the time, it was extremely painful for him, but in later years he was remarkably open about this experience, sharing it with younger artists who might be suffering their own setbacks and self-doubts. His message was always: a new reality is there, just waiting to be imagined, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
With a pure creative drive, which would stay with him lifelong, Wendell prevailed over his early obstacles and entered an industrial design program at the University of Kansas. He began his career, however, through sculpture, receiving a Master of Fine Arts in that field in 1961.
When studying, Wendell decided to build himself a toolbox rather than spending money on one. His professor wanted to know why he was wasting time making a functional object instead of an art work. Castle said to himself, why not do both at once?
A decade before the concept of radical design emerged, he began reinventing furniture forms at every level. His earliest craftsmanship works were sinuous and sculptural, all choreographed curves, not a straight line or right angle to be seen. Using traditional joinery, Castle brought to life his art pieces, but with very peculiar cage-like structures and curved elements, which he carved from gunstocks.
At the initial stage of his career he also created a lyrical music stand, a calligraphic drawing in space, which is widely recognized as one of the great works of 20th century design.
Thanks to his beautiful and innovative craftsmanship masterpieces he was invited to be an instructor in the furniture department at the School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology. Although he left his position there in 1971, he would later return as an Artist in Residence, and remained in Rochester, New York, for the rest of his life.
He then started to dedicate himself to a new process called “stack lamination” craftsmanship. Remembering a Delta Tools pamphlet, he had as a kid, which told how to carve a duck decoy from a set of pre-sawn glued blocks, he realized he could do the same at large scale. This technique freed him to pursue his imagination wherever it led.
He created colossal biomorphic tables, seating forms, twisting spiral staircases, extraordinary pieces that engaged the walls and floor of a room in unconventional ways. While he was focused on furniture, he maintained the instincts and formal references of sculpture, inspired by Henry Moore.
Soon, Wendell had followers and admirers all over the world, and began to be showcased in renowned international exhibitions, including the 1964 Milan Triennale and the seminal touring show Objects USA (1969). His innovative contributions in molded plastic furniture, including the adored Molar chairs (1969) were the first significant ones made in America.
His interest in trompe l’oeil originated a series of uncanny still life-based objects, culminating with the Ghost Clock (1985), a beloved icon in the collection of the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Later, he began to explore the historic furniture styles from which he had always radically departed. His reinventions of Art Deco and Neoclassicism reflected the contemporary postmodern interest in the past, and gave him opportunities to explore narrative themes.
A particularly interesting series from this period was based on the 1920 silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Executed in a palette of white, black and gray, it is the climax of expressionism in furniture history. Some pieces belong to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Friedman Benda began working with Wendell in 2006. Though the artist was ten years past legal retirement age at the time, he accepted the collaboration with his overwhelming energy.
Misha Kahn was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1989. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011 and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Tel Aviv the following year. In 2008, Misha’s work was included in 20 under 20 at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.
His concrete Heyerdahl lamps were among the works in Bjarne Melgaard’s 2013 installation at the Whitney Biennial, and his craftsmanship work was exhibited in 2014 at NYC Makers: MAD Biennial at the Museum of Art and Design, New York. Misha Kahn lives and creates his craftsmanship artpieces in Brooklyn.
Chris Schanck is a Detroit-based designer who embraces contradiction in his work, finding a comfortable place between the discrepancies of dilapidation and assemblage, individual and collective, industrial and handcraft, romanticism and cynicism.
His efforts depart from the mass-produced, instead reviving ordinary materials by transforming them into unique pieces of uncommon luxury craftsmanship. Schanck is perhaps best known for his “Alufoil” series, in which industrial and discarded materials are sculpted, covered in aluminum foil and then sealed with resin. Schanck received a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in Sculpture and an M.F.A in Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art. In 2011, Schanck moved to Detroit and founded a growing studio with over a dozen artists, students and craftsmen.
Adam Silverman was born in 1963 in New York, NY and received a BFA and a Bachelors of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987 and 1988. He served as the Los Angeles studio director of Heath Ceramics from January 2009 to May 2014.
His art pieces are included in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; the Yale Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR; and the RISD Museum, Providence, RI.
Lindsey Adelman lives and creates her art pieces in her hometown of New York City. She is specialized in lighting design since 1996. Founded in 2006, her studio grew into a group of forty with a recent location opening in Los Angeles.
Her lighting collections are born from the development of industrial modular systems to capture the ephemeral, fleeting beauty of nature. Adelman first discovered Industrial Design when meeting a woman carving foam French Fries for an exhibition at her editorial job at the Smithsonian and decided to study ID at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Even nowadays, she continues to be challenged and seduced by the immaterial substance of light and is obsessed with creating forms that maximize light’s sensual effect and highlight emptiness. Adelman’s work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Design Miami, Nilufar Gallery, and BDDW, among others.
For several years, her studio embraced a philanthropic mission supporting the Robin Hood Foundation to fight poverty in New York City. Adelman credits much of the studio’s current success to this desire to make an impact on the world.
Jonathan Adler was born in August 11, 1966 in New Jersey. He is an American potter, designer, and author. Adler launched his first ceramic collection in 1993 at Barneys New York. Five years later he expanded into home furnishings, opening his first boutique in Soho, Manhattan. He now has 17 stores and runs a huge design business.
Mary McDonald is an award winning, internationally published Los Angeles-based interior designer. She is one of the stars of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Decorators” & “Property Envy” series and is consistently ranked as one of House Beautiful’s Top 100 Designers. She is the author of “Interiors: The Allure of Style” from Rizzoli publishing and has been honored as one of the top 25 designers by Veranda Magazine. Her licensed product lines include an acclaimed fabric collection for F. Schumacher & Company, lighting for Robert Abbey, rugs for Patterson, Flynn and Martin, and furniture for Chaddock Home.
Ryan Korban started his career in interior design after graduating from The New School in New York. Without any formal training, he developed his unique aesthetic, characterized by a fusion of luxury, old-world romance, and urban cool.
Evoking several inspirations fluctuating from Monet paintings to Helmut Newton’s photography, he creates enchanting, astonishing spaces that surpass trend to redefine traditional design for a new generation.
His portfolio includes the homes of prominent figures in the worlds of fashion, film, and music. Specializing in retail design with an emphasis on luxury, Korban has completed some of the finest spaces in New York’s retail landscape. His work has been profiled in publications as Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Architectural Digest, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.
Timothy Corrigan is an interior designer with offices in Paris and Los Angeles, his timeless design philosophy combines European elegance with California comfort. He was already recognized by Architectural Digest as “Today’s Tastemaker” and has been named to most of the design world’s best designer lists, including the AD100, Elle Decor A-List, Robb Report’s Top 40, and the Luxe Gold List.
He has received numerous tributes including the Institute of Classical Architecture So-Cal Legacy Award, The Design Icon Award, and the Star of Design Award. Timothy is the only American designer honored by the French Heritage Society for his restoration of several national landmarks in France.
His extraordinary work is frequently featured on television and in prestigious publications such as: Elle Décor, The New York Times, Town & Country, Veranda, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Luxe Interiors + Design, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and The Wall Street Journal. Clients include royalty, Hollywood celebrities, and corporate leaders.
Timothy has designed successful licensed collections with several partners, including Schumacher, PFM, Royal Limoges, THG-Paris, Fromental, and Samuel & Sons.
Michael Smith is considered one of the most creative and treasured talents in the design industry today. With an international profile of residential, hospitality and commercial clients, Smith’s style is a perfect balance between European classicism and American modernism: always fresh, always evolving, always accentuating the belief that everyone should live with things they love.
He has a curator’s knowledge and appreciation for the past, nurtured by studies at the Victoria and Albert Museum and extensive work in the antiques business. Whether in designing his own collection or in the interiors he creates for his clients, he shows a deep respect for tradition, always viewing it with a contemporary perspective.
Extraordinary Art Galleries to Visit in New York
If you ever travel to the breathtaking New York city, don’t forget to admire the incredible Friedman Benda. Founded in 2007, the gallery has an essential role in the development of the contemporary design market and education, and takes a unique approach to work which merges the fields of design, craft and art. Friedman Benda is truly dedicated to showcasing established and emerging designers who create historically significant work and are at the forefront of their craftsmanship. Some of the artists supported by this remarkable art gallery are: Andrea Branzi, Campana Brothers, Wendell Castle, Paul Cocksedge, Misha Kahn, Andile Dyalvane, Shiro Kuramata, Joris Laarman, Najla El Zein, Chris Schanck, Adam Silverman, Jonathan Trayte and Marcel Wanders.
Since 1973, Heller Gallery is renowned for its major role in the promotion of contemporary sculpture incorporating glass. For more than four decades, Heller exhibited the best international artists who included glass in their masterpieces and is a precious resource for artists, museums, and collectors worldwide.
Several artworks entered prestigious public collections thanks to Heller Gallery’s exhibitions and support. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art have acquired works from the gallery as have The Corning Museum of Glass, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and numerous museums abroad, including Victoria & Albert Museum, Musee des Arts Decoratifs de Louvre, and Hokkaido Museum, among many others.
The artists who exhibit at Heller have their own unique styles and craftsmanship techniques. Some testing the limits of the material in monumental sculptures or explore its fundamental qualities in art pieces that play with the interactions of color, light, transparency and form. Others focus on emotion and myth or comment on art history by casting figurative sculptures, painting on glass, or creating complex large scale installations.
After a sequence of locations in Manhattan neighborhoods as diverse as upper Madison Avenue, Soho and the Meat Packing District, Heller Gallery joined the galleries and arts organizations which have settled in the Chelsea Art District, the epicenter of the contemporary art world in New York City.
Twenty First Gallery protects and sponsors some of the most skilled European furniture designers of the contemporary period. It provides exclusive selections of limited edition furniture and decorative art created with the most dedicated craftsmanship, beauty, and functionality.
The gallerist Renaud Vuaillat, one of the best curators in the world, adopts a domestic atmosphere for its gallery, with a hardwood flooring, built-in amenities and brick cladding. This is the perfect setting to recieve and showcase exclusive collections born from the finest craftsmanship.
With twenty years of experience in the collectible design market, Renaud Vuaillat developed his instinct for giving personality and an unique style to living spaces. Located in the heart of Tribeca landmarks, his gallery place is an essential stop on the furniture design circuit.
The gallery, created in 2006, continues to stand in one of the highest pedestals thanks to its craftsmanship’s quality, excellency and authenticity. The art pieces it presents and its selections are trend makers and Vuaillat’s French sensibility and knowledgeable aesthetic perception is decisive in New York luxury environment.
The art gallery The Future Perfect was founded in 2003 by David Alhadeff and owns an exquisite selection of masterpieces. Nowadays, it is one of the world’s leading contemporary design supporters. Since the beginning, the gallery was celebrated thanks to its creative vision and careful curatorial approach.
Future Perfect showcases both fine craftsmanship pieces created in studios and handcrafted unique or limited-edition pieces. In the last 15 years, the gallery introduced some of the most extraordinary design talents of our era, including collectible designs by Lindsey Adelman, Jason Miller, and Kristin Victoria Baron.
Carpenters Workshop Gallery produces and exhibits functional sculptures by international rising and already established artists and designers going outside their traditional territories of expression.
In 2015 Carpenters Workshop Gallery | New York was opened. This new space confirmed the gallery’s the leadership and dominant position in the international art and design fields.
Other Incredible Art Galleries from the USA
Moderne Gallery is internationally celebrated for its fine quality, vintage 20th Century furniture, lighting and accessories since 1984. More than 20,000 square feet on five floors of its historic building in the Old City section of Philadelphia are filled with an extensive inventory, from French and American Art Deco and French 1940’s-1950’s to exclusive Wharton Esherick pieces.
In 1985 Moderne Gallery was the first gallery to promote the work of George Nakashima and still has the finest and largest selection in the US of his 1940’s-1980’s designs. Replying to the needs of art collectors who wanted to buy and sell studio crafts, Moderne Gallery extended its inventory to include vintage work by Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, Arthur Espenet Carpenter, David Ebner, Peter Voulkos, Toshiko Takaezu, Viola Frey, Edward Moulthrop, William Hunter and many others. Moderne Gallery is unique in its specialization in vintage work from the American Studio Craft Movement.
Stay with us to find out more about wonderful craftsmanship, design and art pieces and its makers from all around the world.
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