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Moving On, Inspiring Projects, Farewells
After "getting up and going to school for 60 years," Tony Hepburn is a full-time artist at last, having retired from a lifetime of teaching, most recently as the head of ceramics at Cranbrook Academy of Art. His thoughts on the transition? "Obviously, a lot of reflection," says the British-born sculptor, 66. "Primarily, the odd coincidence that I have had 16 years at Cranbrook, preceded by 16 at Alfred University in New York. Two great institutions, but so different."
Hepburn is the fourth longtime faculty member to leave the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, academy in the past few years (Gary Griffin, Gerhardt Knodel and Jane Lackey also retired), a generational turnover he regards as inevitable and appropriate.
"Craft education is going to go through a big change in the next few years," he predicts. "Maybe it's something to do with the Internet. I've got a funny feeling that material or craft allegiance is going to shift. I don't see that being as pure as it has been. When I began, a million years ago, we made pots. A person who made sculpture [in clay] was glanced at skeptically. Whereas recently I did a critique at the Royal College of Art in London, and afterwards someone handed me his card. It listed his website and his specialties as 'ceramics, two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design and architecture.' That's telling."
He foresees interdisciplinary crossover, already common at Cranbrook, becoming the academic norm. I don't think the [material] allegiances are going to go away. But the system at the graduate level is going to change. There may not be departments at Cranbrook anymore, as a concept."
In his own career, "I've never felt I've been in a box," says Hepburn, whose work has freely bridged pottery, sculpture, architecture and installation art. A sampling is on view at Cranbrook Art Museum in a retrospective of his years at the school (through September 14).
Now in Chicago, Hepburn lives in a loft overlooking the river, where he writes and draws ("my 'clean' work"). His new clay studio should be up and running by fall, and he'll be a resident artist at the Xian Ceramic Factory in China in September. He's also writing a book, Art Students Observed, which he describes as "anecdotal, critical, theoretical." Don't expect a dry academic tome, however: on page one, Hepburn recounts his first day at Alfred, when a sophomore entered his office unannounced, stood before his desk, removed all her clothes, and explained, "I wanted to get your attention."
Inspired by a volunteer trip to India, aspiring artist and activist Jennifer Marsh, 27, wanted to start a dialogue about using art in a socially conscious way. In an effort to do so she began the www.internationalfibercollaborative.com, a network of makers whose group effort is called the World Reclamation Art Project (WRAP). For their first installation, professional, amateur and student artists from 29 states and 15 countries contributed 3,000 colorful panels in fiber and recycled materials, enough to cover an abandoned gas station in Syracuse, New York. An eye-catching statement about gas prices, oil dependency and environmental blight, the giant "cozy" was on display for several months .
Edwin Scheier, one of the pioneers of modern studio ceramics, died at age 97 in Green Valley, Arizona, on April 20-just under a year after the death of his wife and collaborator of 60 years, Mary. From the 1940s to the 60s, the Scheiers were among the best-known potters of the day, recognized for elegant forms usually thrown by Mary and embellished by Edwin. His distinctive figural sgraffito drawings depicted themes of birth, regeneration and mythology reflecting "the humorous lyrical primitivism of the personal subconscious," as Edward Lebow wrote in American Craft in 1988.
With Mary, Scheier taught ceramics at the University of New Hampshire for 28 years. He designed weavings, painted, carved wood, and lately had been doing computer drawings. The Scheiers received many accolades, and were Fellows of the American Craft Council. Their story was told in the 2001 documentary Four Hands, One Heart.
In memoriam: Arizona State University Art Museum is a world-class ceramics center thanks largely to Rudy Turk, who died last year at the age of 80. In his 25 years as director of the museum (1967-92), Turk built the core of its distinguished clay collection and oversaw construction of its award-winning facility. He was also an artist, teacher and avid collector.
Dovecot Studios, the renowned tapestry weaving company founded in 1912 by the Marquess of Bute, has a splashy new home in the former Victorian baths in Edinburgh's Infirmary Street that has recently been made over into a cultural/commercial/residential complex.
Quick takes: Annie Carlano, former senior curator at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, has joined the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, as Director of Craft + Design... Furniture maker Judy Kensley McKie and art curator Meredith Hyatt Moses were honored as "Luminaries" at the Fuller Craft Museum's spring benefit bash in Brockton, MA... Wood artist Philip Weber took home Best of Show in the 26th annual Smithsonian Craft Show April 10-13 in Washington, DC... Pathways into Professional NeedleArts (PiPN) offers internships in the fiber arts industry for college students, sponsored by the National NeedleArts Association. This summer students involved in the program worked in the U.S., Canada and Peru.