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Judy Kensley McKie
A 1983/1984 article on Judy Kensley McKie marks her progress from self-taught woodworker to assured furniture designer and maker.
At the heart of the sixth floor of 72 Spring Street in New York City is the American Craft library, one of the largest collections in this country of craft, art and design books documenting the studio craft movement from the 1940s to the present. The over 14,000 volumes include the Council’s 68-year publishing history—all past issues of Craft Horizons and American Craft. We’d like to share some of this amazing past with you each issue as we dig through the stacks. And if you happen to be in New York, the library is open to the public by appointment.
In the December 1983/January 1984 issue of American Craft, curator Joy Cattanach Smith traced Judy Kensley McKie’s progression from self-taught woodworker to acclaimed furniture designer and maker. Assessing the results of this evolution, Smith wrote “McKie has the rare ability to merge practicality with fantasy, utility with warmth, honesty with elegance, play with discipline.”
McKie's affinity for first wood, then bronze and stone, is realized in sculptural forms that function. Often described as otherworldly and magical, her distinctive furniture is known for its bas-relief carvings of emotionally rich animal imagery. McKie herself has declared that “the more carving there is, the happier I am.”
The recipient of numerous accolades, McKie was elected a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1998. Her peers in the Furniture Society presented its Award of Distinction to her in 2005, the same year that the Smithsonian Institution’s James Renwick Alliance honored her with its Master of the Medium Award; in 2008, she received the Luminaries Award from the Fuller Craft Museum. Her work is represented in museum and public collections around the country.
Pritam & Eames, the studio furniture gallery in East Hampton, NY, will include McKie’s work in its anniversary show, May 28-June 29, as well as in its annual seating exhibition, Aug. 6-Sept. 7. Coinciding with the Furniture Society’s conference in June at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, her work will be seen in a show on MIT’s Kresge Green, June 15-July 31. And Gallery Naga in Boston is planning a major exhibition of McKie's furniture Nov. 12-Dec. 18. “Her work, like Judy in person, is genuine and real,” note Bebe Pritam Johnson and Warren Eames Johnson. “We have watched people time and time again respond to this wholeness.”