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American Craft Magazine August/September 2011

Do Current Events Shape Your Work?

In each issue, we ask members of the craft community to answer a question. This time we asked if current events shape their work.

<p>In 2007, Cat Mazza organized the pro-peace Stitch for Senate. Every U.S. senator received a knit helmet liner, dropped in the mail on President Obama's inauguration day. Photo: Courtesy of the artist</p>
<p>David Yepez makes his furniture, including this <em>Mingei Table</em>, from local wood, a self-imposed restriction that presents an artistic challenge. Photo: David Yepez</p>
<p>Ehren Tool's military service influences his artwork. This piece has an image of him in uniform. His mug on a mug, as he'd say. Photo: Ehren Tool</p>

In 2007, Cat Mazza organized the pro-peace Stitch for Senate. Every U.S. senator received a knit helmet liner, dropped in the mail on President Obama's inauguration day. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Photo gallery (4 images)

The microRevolt projects combine textiles and digital media to explore the political potential of craft, the social implications of technology, and the feminization of labor. Events that have shaped my work include the anti-sweatshop and anti-war movements and, more recently, the Triangle Fire centennial. The booklist of late includes: Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (Julia Bryan-Wilson), Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (Gregory Sholette), Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics (Félix Guattari), and Todos Somos Superbarrio (Mauricio-José Schwarz).
~Cat Mazza, microRevolt founder and assistant professor of art, University of Massachusetts, Boston

When I began working in clay, my work reflected my experiences in the Marine Corps and the 1991 Gulf War. As I have continued, my stories and images are layered with current related stories of wars and Marines. I am looking forward to a day when stories of wars are no longer current events but history.
~Ehren Tool, ceramic artist, San Francisco

I'm so lucky that I was born a minority because it gives me multiple causes to take up! My feminist side organized Obamaware; my Japanese side co-founded Handmade For Japan to raise money for disaster relief; and my lesbian side got to make a romantic dinner scene with two women in my new pottery video. Otherwise, I try to steer clear of current events so I can work in a utopian bubble where animals are coy and nothing tragic happens.
~Ayumi Horie, ceramic artist, Rosendale, NY

With my hands in clay all the time, I rely on NPR news as background to my throwing and for daily information on what's going on in the world. I find that on heavy news days, such as the recent news of the death of Bin Laden, the factual part of my brain is riveted, leaving the creative/productive part of my brain to flow freely. I do find that news of obstructionism in Congress tends to make my wedging work more vigorous!
~Suzanne Crane, ceramic artist and owner of Suzanne Crane and Associates, Earlysville, VA

As a furniture maker, I find the most important current events are the local movements in the New York City area. My colleagues and I have made a conscious effort to only use locally available hardwood, lowering our carbon footprint by eliminating countless gallons of gas used getting wood to our door. We started a new collective called Re-Co Bklyn (reclaimed collaborative in Brooklyn), where we partner with arborists in the urban area. When a tree must be removed, we go on site and mill it for our furniture. Otherwise it would be chipped and put in a dump. Following this practice forces me to choose from a small selection of wood and utilize that palette of wood colors in composing my pieces.
~David Yepez, furniture maker, New York

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