For two centuries, Americans have made stunning, utilitarian objects by hand. Each tells a story—about the person who laid his or her hands to the work; about the historical moment in which it was created; and about the political mood, community, and cultural forces that gave rise to that design.
The only book of its kind and the companion book to the PBS series of the same name, Craft in America highlights the work of America’s most interesting craft artists past and present. Illustrated with more than 200 commanding images and signature objects from furniture, wood, ceramics, and glass to fiber, quilts, jewelry, metal, and basketry, this definitive work shows how crafts, long admired for their marriage of functionality and creativity, also reflect our nation’s history and the remarkable people who passed on their traditions.
The last two hundred years have brought extraordinary transformation to America—not just in the landscape and culture but also to the myriad communities that crisscross the continent. Organized by the societies in which our many craft traditions originated, Craft in America introduces the virtuoso craftspeople who expressed and elevated the values and ideals of their groups—ideals that have become quintessentially American. From American Indians and enslaved Africans who worked with indigenous materials to religious people such as Shakers, whose clean lines reflect adherence to simplicity; from designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement for whom handmade objects held a moral integrity and righteousness to the government-sponsored WPA artists who created in the service of their nation, to today’s studio artists reimagining meaning and methods, Craft in America unfolds a rarely examined side of our history.
Visceral, important, and seductively beautiful, and with a prologue from former president Jimmy Carter, Craft in America showcases some of the most important American objects. In these pages, you will discover how handcrafted objects are not only essential to daily life but how they are also a culture’s tribute to its own character and place in history. They embody the desire to remember, reflect, and connect, serving as bridges among individuals, community, and the environment.
Craft in America will take you on an aesthetic adventure through the evolution of craft and reveal what makes American crafts uniquely ours. Ultimately, this is the story of how enduring handmade objects both unite and define us as Americans.
CRAFT IN AMERICA, INC., is a nonprofit organi-zation based in Los Angeles that is dedicated to the exploration, preservation, and celebration of craft and its impact on our nation’s cultural heritage. The mission of Craft in America is to document and advance the original handcrafted works through programs in all media made accessible to all Americans.
About the Author
JO LAURIA has organized numerous exhibitions, produced and directed documentary films, and written several books on design and decorative arts.
STEVE FENTON is a freelance writer and longtime collector and scholar of craft. The winner of numerous advertising awards (including the CLIO), he lives in New York City.