Boston’s Society of Arts & Crafts Shines Brightly

Boston’s Society of Arts & Crafts Shines Brightly


>>JARED BOWEN:
For more than a century, the Society of Arts and Crafts
in Boston has been a beacon for the craft movement. It’s been shining
even brighter lately, with a swank new space
in the Seaport and a new leader. It’s also where we found
Peter T. Bennett, whose artistic epiphany
came with aluminum. There is an old joke
about craft.>>If it’s signed at the front,
it’s fine art. If it’s signed at the bottom,
it’s craft. And if you use a glue gun,
it’s handicraft.>>BOWEN: At the Society
of Arts and Crafts, craft is king–
ballooning, actually. It has the fierceness
of a dragon, but doesn’t always take itself
so seriously.>>Let’s talk about humor,
humor in craft. This artist is Lydia Ricci, and she creates mini sculptures
from paper. So I’m just going to pick some
of these up very, very carefully to show you.>>BOWEN: That’s
a well-decorated toilet seat.>>Sure is.>>BOWEN: Brigitte Martin is the
society’s new executive director and a champion of craft– the often unheralded,
handmade objects that fit quietly
into our everyday lives.>>Our message really
to the world is that what we do
is slightly different, in that very often,
it is one of a kind. It is unique. It is handmade.>>BOWEN: Most recently, Martin
was the founder of Crafthaus, a popular website
for craft artists.>>The best way I could probably
talk about it is, is that you are so driven
to do this that there’s nothing else that
you can imagine yourself doing. And I do really think
that for people who end up in the craft profession, that’s true no matter
what medium they choose.>>BOWEN: The Society of Arts
and Crafts is housed on the second floor of a brand-
new building in the Seaport, just around the corner
from the ICA– the makings, Martin hopes, of a
new arts block for the city and more visibility for craft
in general.>>There’s definitely a lack
of exposure, simply because, you know, we are
not always bright and shiny, right? We are more humble.>>What you don’t see here is the 15 hours a day
cutting aluminum for six or seven years before I felt really
proficient enough to do a lot of what
you see here.>>BOWEN: Maine artist Peter T.
Bennett sculpts in aluminum, using the same-grade metal
sheets found on airplanes. But he began
as a textile artist, and says his process still feels
like quilting, although aluminum is
considerably more unforgiving. Dangerous, even.>>If you work in sheet metal,
you’re cut all the time. And any point on a piece
of scrap– and you’ll see it over there
on the wall– is like a fishhook.>>BOWEN: How is that not
an antagonistic relationship with your material?>>Oh, it is, anyway. It begins as an antagonism. The tension that is built in what the material
asks of me as a maker says, “Be careful. Because I’m not
at your disposal.” So for me,
it’s part of the drama. It’s part of the music. (“My War” by Black Flag playing)>>BOWEN: In the studio,
song is fundamental to Bennett’s process.>>When the antagonism
is right on, I listen to heavy metal
and punk. This series, the… (sighs) For some reason, it asked me
to listen to the music that my parents would have
listened to when they were courting
and dancing. (“Drop Me Off at Harlem”
by Duke Ellington playing) There’s a Duke Ellington tune,
and it is… It just makes the hair on
the back of my neck stand up. It needs lyrics, so I built my own lyrics
into this whole series from that one piece of music. And so I become part
of the music, the music becomes
part of the work, and hopefully that is
transmitted to you, the viewer.>>BOWEN: Bennett crafts
painterly images layered with texture,
nods to Modernism, and sometimes pops of color. This series, though, is
populated with a character he calls Strange Man.>>Strange Man is in part the condition
of our community. This image comes from early
post-World War I. They were having
the same conversation. What happened to civilization when they confronted
mechanized war? What we’re confronting today
is different warfare, but it’s there.>>BOWEN: From the humble
to the whimsical to the cutting, the Society of Arts and Crafts gives us much to hold onto. # #

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *