Smithsonian Museum Curators Visit Washington Glass School

Smithsonian Renwick Museum Curator-In_Charge Nora Atkinson is compelled to touch the artwork by Michael Janis and Tim Tate on her visit to Washington Glass School.

Smithsonian Renwick Museum Curator-In-Charge Nora Atkinson is compelled to touch the artwork by Michael Janis and Tim Tate on her visit to Washington Glass School.

Nora Atkinson, Curator-in-Charge of the Smithsonian Renwick Museum and Robyn Kennedy, Smithsonian Renwick Chief Administrator pay a visit to the studio to have a look at the new collaborative glass installation by Tim Tate & Michael Janis.

Artist Michael Janis talks about the process and inspiration that he and artist Tim Tate used to make the stunning, collaborative artwork.

Artist Michael Janis talks about the process and inspiration that he and artist Tim Tate used to make the stunning, collaborative artwork.

The two Renwick Museum leaders wanted a preview of the work titled, “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air” before it heads up to Chicago as part of Habatat Prime pop-up exhibit that is part of SOFA Expo in a few weeks (Oct 31-Nov 3).

Artist Erwin Timmers points out the features of his thoughtful glass sculptures to SAAM Curator Nora Atkinson and Chief Administrator, Robyn Kennedy.

Artist Erwin Timmers points out the features of his thoughtful glass sculptures to SAAM Curator Nora Atkinson and Chief Administrator, Robyn Kennedy.

And a walk thru of the Washington Glass School looking at the artists work – what great way to spend a spectacular Friday in DC.

Michael Janis describes his sgraffito glass technique to Smithsonian's  Robyn Kennedy and Nora Atkinson as they tour the work on exhibit.

Michael Janis describes his sgraffito glass technique to Smithsonian’s Robyn Kennedy and Nora Atkinson as they tour the work on exhibit.


Judith Schaechter at Renwick Gallery & Parkmans Celebrated!


This Sunday afternoon (Sept 24, 2017) join Abraham Thomas, Curator-in-Charge of the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, as he talks with acclaimed glass artist Judith Schaechter about her work and creative process.  Known for her remarkably intricate and provocative pieces, Judith is collected by numerous museum including the Met in New York, the Victoria and Albert in London, the Hermitage, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian.

Elmerina and Paul Parkman

Elmerina and Paul Parkman

The day concludes with a presentation at the Renwick Gallery in honor James Renwick Alliance founders Paul and Elmerina Parkman and celebrate their contributions to the Studio Glass Movement 

Sunday, September 24, 2017, 2 – 3 PM

Smithsonian Museum’s Renwick Gallery’s Rubenstein Grand Salon
1661 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20006
Cost: Free

Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016

Four innovative artists are at the center of a new exhibit at the Renwick Gallery opening September 9, 2016. Visions and Revisions presents the work of Steven Young Lee, Kristen Morgin, Jennifer Trask, and Norwood Viviano. These artists work across numerous mediums, including raw clay, porcelain, metal, glass and gold. They take innovative approaches to their selected mediums and share a fascination with themes of transformation, ruin, and rebirth. Their visual sensibilities range from traditional Asian pottery to vintage Americana, and from the romance of the Victorian Era to the algorhythmic precision of the computer. Each is actively engaged in a dialogue with an idyllic past and in making sense of it for the present moment, investigating what we carry with us and what we leave behind as we remake ourselves time and again.


Norwood Viviano; “Mining Industries: Downtown Boston”; 2015; Rapid prototyped pattern kilncast glass, mirrored glass, fabricated steel and transparency.

Norwood Viviano explores American cities and industry through glass and metal sculptures. He combines data from LiDAR scan technology, antique maps, and historical census data, and employs techniques as varied as bronze casting, kiln-fusing, glass blowing, and 3-D printing to map fluctuations of growth and decline as industry and other forces exert pressure on populations. His work engages not only the geography but also the history of a place, imbuing each object with layers of information to tell stories of how urbanization, immigration, and industry shape both personal and shared histories.

The exhibition includes more than 70 objects showcasing a range of early and new works by each artist. The artists were selected by Nora Atkinson, the museum’s Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft; Suzanne Ramljak, curator of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts and editor at Metalsmith; and Anna Walker, the Windgate Foundation Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Craft at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Visions and Revisions is the seventh installment of the biennial Renwick Invitational.

Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016

September 9, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Renwick Gallery
17th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Smithsonian Renwick “Connections” Opens July 1, 2016

renwickThis summer the permanent collection returns to the Smithsonian Museum’s Renwick Gallery with a dynamic new presentation of 80+ objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world.


The installation, titled “Connections” will include iconic favorites alongside new acquisitions made during the museum’s renovation, which will be displayed at the museum for the first time. Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, selected the objects and conceived the innovative presentation. Atkinson’s arrangement breaks from typical display formats based on chronology or material to instead focus on the interconnectivity of objects and the overlapping stories they tell.

Steven Young Lee, "Vase with Landscape and Dinosaurs" 2014

Steven Young Lee, Vase with Landscape and Dinosaurs, 2014, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Richard Fryklund, Giselle and Ben Huberman, David and Clemmer Montague, and museum purchase through the Howard Kottler Endowment for Ceramic Art

In selecting both pioneering and contemporary pieces, Atkinson selections also explore the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an ever-more efficiency-driven, virtual world. The exhibition highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists, showcasing the activist values, optimism, and uninhibited approach of today’s young artists, which in some way echoes the communal spirt and ideology of the pioneers of the American Studio Craft Movement in their heyday.


The artworks range from the 1930’s through today and span numerous media. New acquisitions such as John Grade’s Shoal (Bone Shoal Sonance), Judith Schaechter’s The Birth of Eve, Marie Watt’sEdson’s Flag, and Akio Takamori’s Woman and Child make their debut in the gallery while seminal works including Wendell Castle’s Ghost Clock, Karen LaMonte’s Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, Albert Paley’s Portal Gates, and Lenore Tawney’s Box of Falling Stars return to view.

Dean Allison’s Glass Sculpture Finalist in Smithsonian Portrait Competition

What would the earth look like if shadows disappeared?; 15 x 20 x 16 inches; cast glass

Dean Allison; “What would the earth look like if shadows disappeared?”; 15 x 20 x 16 inches; cast glass

Introduced to glass in 1998 at Illinois State University, Dean Allison currently is a 3-year resident artist at the Penland School of Crafts. Dean’s work is an exploration of portrait sculpture in glass. He celebrates intrinsic beauty through physical form and through the afflictions and joys of life’s many stages. He begins with a life cast of his subject, usually a friend or family member. The final portrait, made in cast glass and resin, expresses the fragility and transparency of human experience through a medium that inherently captures those qualities. The artist notes, “I’m thinking about the inside/invisible aspect of a person and the outside/visible aspect that one creates and adorns for external display. Glass is the middle ground, the window to look through.”

Dean’s cast glass sculpture was one of the 43 finalists selected from the competition’s more than 2,500 entries received. 

Every three years, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery hosts the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.  The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery focuses on the important role that contemporary portraiture could play in the life of the gallery, as well as in heralding the museum’s engagement with figurative art and portraiture in today’s world. The exhibit “The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today” will run March 12, 2016 – January 8, 2017.

Vote for the “People’s Choice” selection of the finalists – here – (be like Chicago-born Dean and vote early & often!)

Dean Allison's sculpture at the Smithsonian. L-R Nancy Kerr, Tim Tate, Dean Allison

Dean Allison’s sculpture at the Smithsonian. L-R Nancy Kerr, Tim Tate, Dean Allison




James Renwick Alliance JRA SCW 2016 Join the James Renwick Alliance (JRA) for Spring Craft Weekend 2016 on April 1-3 for a joyful celebration of American Craft.

Spring Craft Weekend is a fabulous three day celebration of works made in ceramics, fiber, glass, metal and wood…where Craft as Art is explored in many forms. The JRA honors individuals or organizations in the craft world who have made significant and pioneering contributions in craft education.

This year’s Spring Craft Weekend includes a free symposium on Saturday, April 2 at the recently renovated Smithsonian Renwick Gallery – 10:30 am – 12:00pm.

Saturday Symposium panel: Stuart Kestenbaum, Chair, Board of Trustees of the American Craft Council and former Director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, will chair a panel discussion with four renowned artists: Theresa Secord, founder of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance; Sonya Clark, fiber artist and Chair of the Craft and Material Studies Program at VCU; David Keefe, creator of Combat Paper NJ in New Jersey; and Alleghany Meadows, studio potter and founder of Artstream Nomadic Gallery.

Saturday Symposium panel: Stuart Kestenbaum, Chair, Board of Trustees of the American Craft Council and former Director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, will chair a panel discussion with four renowned artists: Theresa Secord, founder of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance; Sonya Clark, fiber artist and Chair of the Craft and Material Studies Program at VCU; David Keefe, creator of Combat Paper NJ in New Jersey; and Alleghany Meadows, studio potter and founder of Artstream Nomadic Gallery.


For more info on Spring Craft Weekend & to register for the events – click HERE.



The James Renwick Alliance is an independent national
nonprofit organization, created to recognize the achievements of
America’s craft artists and to foster scholarship, education and public
appreciation of craft art. Founded in 1982, the Alliance contributes to
the nation’s showcase of contemporary American craft, the Smithsonian
American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.
with acquisitions for the permanent collection, exhibitions support
and education and scholarship programs.

Smithsonian American Art Museum Features Michael Janis

Smithsonian Distinguished Artist Michael Janis

Michael Janis at the Smithsonian Museum. Photo by Miriam Rosenthal.

Washington Glass School sgraffito workshop. Photo by Miriam Rosenthal.

The James Renwick Alliance (JRA) is an independent national non-profit organization that celebrates the achievements of America’s craft artists and fosters scholarship, education and public appreciation of craft art. The JRA is the exclusive support group of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the U.S. national showcase of contemporary American craft. Washington Glass School Co-Director Michael Janis was named “Distinguished Artist” by the JRA. The weekend’s events included a sgraffito glass workshop with Michael held at the Washington Glass School and Michael Janis presented at the Smithsonian Museum’s Turner Auditorium outlining his career, process, and artwork. The talk at the museum was broadcast live and the Smithsonian staff promised that it would be available online soon. final event was the JRA hosted dinner on Sunday evening – it was a very busy exciting weekend for the Washington Glass School!4.a.distinguished_artist.james.renwick.alliance.shea.trump.janis_glass_cuddle

Congratulations to Michael – well done and well deserved!


Michael Janis @ Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian’s American Art Museum McEvoy Auditorium will feature Michael Janis starting at 2pm Sunday, May 4th.

Michael Janis was recently featured in American Craft Magazine as “one of a select number of artists in the world creating sgraffito glass art.” The Creative Glass Center of America dubbed him a “Rising
Star of the 21st Century.” His mastery of this difficult technique shows itself in the dreamlike images which he creates by “drawing” with frit powders upon glass which is then fused into painterly panels of
subtle depth and luminosity. This architect-turned-glass-art-star will be made a James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Artist on the weekend of May 3-4.  On Sunday, Michael Janis will present a slide lecture on his work and career at the Smithsonian American Art

Janis is a Fulbright Scholar and has taught at the UK’s National Glass Centre at Sunderland University. His work is included in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and numerous private collections. He will be teaching at Penland School of Craft in August.

Sean Hennessey Lecture in Grand Salon of Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, Sat. April 6

Smithsonian Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon, 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. (at 17th Street) Washington, DC. 20006

The James Renwick Alliance Spring Craft Weekend is Here! The theme of the show is The Stars of Today and Tomorrow – and to that end,  join our Rising Star, Sean Hennessey, this coming Saturday, April 6, at 10:30 am. Sean will be part of the museum’s panel discussion about the direction of contemporary craft. 

Click HERE to jump to Smithsonian website for more info.

When:                  Saturday, April 6, 2013, 10:30am

Categories:         Lectures & Discussions

Co-sponsor:        Support for this program from the James Renwick Alliance

Location:             Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery

Event Location:  Grand Salon

Cost:                    Free

From the Smithsonian website: 

Two masters of their media, artists Bruce Metcalf and Adrian Saxe, and two up-and-coming young “stars of tomorrow,” Hunt Clark and Sean Hennessey, join moderator Cindi Strauss, curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts and Design and assistant director of programming at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for a lively panel discussion about the direction of contemporary craft.

Sloppy Craft… but is it Art?

>Nicolas Bell, Curator of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery talked about the rise of “Sloppy Craft Movement” during his talk on influences of the 40 under 40 exhibit (currently on exhibit thru Feb 3rd 2013).  This concept has been talked about in the Glass School for a while, as many of the artists here come from diverse backgrounds – often from outside the glass craft world… and it is a great subject that deserves more attention in the art blogdom world.

Sloppy Craft” – is this an oxymoron? I thought that many may not understand the concept of sloppy craft, and a cynically-minded person, could view much of the work – often designed to maximize the shock value – as a transparent bid for attention in the contemporary art world, which has long made a point of embracing my-kid-could-do-that aesthetics.

Mixed Media/Glass sculpture by the De La Torre Brothers 
Einar and Jamex De La Torre derive their gutsy imagery from such diverse influences as Jose Posada, television, the Vatican and the darling of modern comics, the huge eyed Anime characters.

In 2009, Glen Adamson, the Deputy Director of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum coined the phrase “Sloppy Craft” which he defined it as “the unkempt product of a post-disciplinary craft education.”

The origins of “Post Disciplinary Craft” begin in the early 2000’s when new ways of thinking about craft began to form and many saw a need for a more relevant understanding of current craft practice and objects. The earlier models of understanding craft, which relied on either the Arts and Crafts Movement or the Back to the Land counterculture movement that had influenced studio craft in the 1960s and 1970s, would have to be replaced.

The youngsters of craft no longer felt connected to the past – or rather, are not referencing the history of the mediums – that is not their focus.  They didn’t learn in apprenticeships with masters and a growing number had abandoned classrooms. They weren’t wed to techniques or materials. University art programs found that the students did not want to be categorized as “glass artists” or “clay artists” and, as the students just want the media skills as part of their repertoire, sought to merge curriculums under the term “Material Studies”. Young crafters also learned from other sources – such as their peers or the Internet. The digital age would be to craft what the sexual revolution was to feminism. This is an approach to craft that resonates with the times, linking craft to the wider concerns of today’s society (ie: think global,act local; feminism; gender politics; social justice and ecological concerns).  The don’t be precious DYI movementresponse of current craft students were a couple of other aspects of “sloppy craft.” One was the recycling of materials — found or “trash” art, one might call it. It’s everywhere these days, certainly if you looked at the works at DC’s semi-annual artfest Artomatic – and no one bats an eye at the exhibits. The other aspect of this kind of casual crafting is that it appears most often in assemblages and collage. Assemblages and collage have clear ancestors, dating back to Picasso through Rauschenberg and are seen and made by thousands of people who may not even think of themselves as artists. 

Textile art by Josh Faught.

Faught’s textiles appear to have accrued in a piecemeal fashion. To the surface he’s appended labels, nail polish and sequins, all materials culled from the realm of the amateur crafter.

Traditionally, a craftsperson would spend years polishing their craft, working at the highest level until one was so good that one could let it go – forgetting technique and working from the heart intuitively; the crafter/artist would have behind them all the knowledge needed to return to “fineness” if the artwork required it. 
To some extent Josh Faught fits that mold. He self-identified as a Fibers Major at the Art Institute of Chicago, while his fellow students in fibers always made clear they were “Fibers-and-…” “…and performance,” “…and installation,” “…and assemblage,” “…and collage.” But at some point Faught let go of the fine work of Fiber Craft and turned to rawer work.  

Einar and Jamex de la Torre

But making things, it turns out, is still quite difficult. Indeed, the one thing that seems to bind the majority of contemporary art together is the lack of skill required to create it. Glen Adamson also explored the popular notion of what defines “craft” and why some may think that craft always has to be finely made. He states,” On the one hand, skill commands respect. We value the integrity of the well-made object, the time and care it demands. Therefore, what we most want out of our craft is something like perfection. On the other hand, though, we value craft’s irregularity– it’s human, indeed humane, character. We want craft to stand in opposition to the slick and soulless products of systematized industrial production.” With this in mind many people would want to consider something very well made to be craft and not something considered to be sloppy craft.

What about the name of the movement – “sloppy craft”? “Sloppy” is really a sound bite kind of name, irresistible once spoken out loud. The reference was used extensively with textile and fabric art, but examples can be found in all the crafts. “Sloppy” indicates intentionality, which might not be the case with the art. “Sloppy Craft” is an unfortunate phrase — perhaps other names like “informal” “casual” or “raw” would be less jarring than “sloppy” to describe contemporary art that has some base in traditional crafts.

Artists need to examine these historical approaches and goals –whether it is humility, authenticity, expressiveness, shock value and impact – to see if they are useful in understanding and contextualizing sloppy and post-disciplinary craft.  At the very least, it will help demonstrate whether contemporary craft is an evolution (of its prior forms) or a revolution.

The term impressionist was first used by French art critic Louis Leroy in 1874 based on Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise. Leroy found the term fitting to describe the loose, “sloppy”, undefined and “unfinished” style that Monet and several other artists applied to their paintings. Numerous famous artists threw out fineness a long time ago and we are used to the aesthetic now.