Body and Soul

Body and Soul

Published on Monday, February 25, 2019. This article appears in the February/March 2019 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
The Short List
Mark LaFavor

Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor
Edited by Nina Stritzler-Levine
Yale University Press, $100

As an art student in the 1950s, Sheila Hicks began creating miniature woven works using small wooden frame looms, which eventually came to include dizzying arrays of fibers, supplemented by found materials such as paper, clamshells, and even Chinese cellophane noodles. In the decades since, Hicks has won renown for her room-size, architecturally inspired weavings, but she insists these miniatures are more than just testing grounds for larger projects.

Weaving as Metaphor reproduces in elegantly printed form about a fifth of the thousand or so miniatures Hicks has woven thus far, framed by provocative essays. The weavings loop, dangle, and swirl; the essays deepen the appreciation of the cultural threads Hicks weaves into her works. The book is a celebration of what makes Hicks’ work noteworthy: the pre-Columbian influence, the incorporation of recycled materials, and the singular vision to explore in scales large and small. ~Norm Weinstein

Fewer, Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects
By Glenn Adamson
Bloomsbury, $27

Today, most people don’t know where their coffee comes from or how the chairs they sit in were made, Glenn Adamson laments in this brilliant book. They don’t know how to milk a cow, make a fence from tree trunks, or make shoe leather from cowhides, either.

For the first time in history, what Adamson calls “material intelligence” – along with a skill set that was once nearly universal – has shifted to specialists, while the rest of us are glued to our smartphones. And expertise is not the only casualty; with it go environmental stewardship, reasonable consumption habits, social bonds, and the meaning we find in our surroundings.

In short, human nature itself – and even the path of evolution – is at risk. “It’s as if beavers were phasing out their lodges,” he writes, quoting stone-carver Chris Pellettieri. “We’re not doing what our brains and bodies were developed to do.” That’s how profound the revolution is in our attention, our efforts, and our way of life, to say nothing of the dangers for future generations.

Fewer, Better Things is written in conversational, digestible chapters. If you care about craft and the state of humanity, it’s must reading. ~Monica Moses

The Spirit of the Bauhaus
Edited by Olivier Gabet and Anne Monier
Thames & Hudson, $50

It’s hard to imagine how interdisciplinary art and material experimentation would be viewed today without the influence of the Bauhaus. The German art school, active throughout the 1920s before being shut down by the Nazis in 1933, was a haven of creative cross-pollination, featuring luminaries from Anni Albers to Paul Klee.

The Spirit of the Bauhaus is a celebration – of the work these artists produced, but even more important, of the ethos that allowed them to do so. While the book features the requisite stunning photos of work by the school’s leading lights and little-known students alike, it focuses its attention mostly on the Bauhaus’ ideological underpinnings. Chapters cover the school’s origins or explore a single material: ceramics, metal, textiles, etc. The book cites Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art as a kind of thesis: “And so the arts are encroaching one upon another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental.” ~Robert O’Connell