The artisan, artistic and aesthetic aspects of craft receive their full due in 2018 as the American Swedish Institute focuses on “The Handmade” in a series of exhibitions that begins with CraftBOWL. The exhibition opens on Friday, January 19, with a preview party and showcases works by three Swedish master craftspeople—Jögge Sundqvist (wood), Ingegerd Råman (ceramics and glass), and Bertil Vallien (glass). In installations throughout the mansion, their work explores functions, archetypes, culture and technique, while demonstrating why these artists have global followings. Also on view is 101 Bowls, which examines what the lowly yet ubiquitous bowl means to 101 organizations and artists committed to bowl-making traditions. We talked to Scott Pollock, ASI’s Director of Exhibitions, Collections and Programs, about the presence of CraftBOWL during the Super Bowl, and why Minnesota is “a national centrifuge for craft.”
Why did ASI decide to dedicate 2018 to a series called The Handmade?
ASI has a longstanding history with the handmade agenda ever since the institute became a cultural center. Our first formative collection, a major Swedish textile collection, was established by Hilma Berglund, also the founder of the Minnesota Weavers Guild. Hilma was instrumental in establishing Minnesota’s craft agenda, that by nature of the textile collection also became ASI’s agenda.
The craft agenda in Minnesota continues today, with the relocation of the American Craft Council to Minneapolis from New York just a few years ago. And a number of very active and strong craft organizations in town, such as the Textile Center, Northern Clay Center, FOCI Center for Glass Arts, and the American Association of Woodturners, among others like the now ubiquitous North House Folk School, are partners ASI is collaborating with to make the 2018 Handmade effort possible—and make Minnesota a national centrifuge for craft.
Also, there is an underlying moral imperative in the handmade that’s penetrating across all levels of culture and society perhaps more now than ever. There seems to be a drive to move away from anonymity toward meeting the maker, a deeper appreciation for objects in our lives that connect us to place, a desire to better understand what connects us across generations and cultures rather than what divides us, that makes the handmade more visible, more desired and perhaps more 2018. I mean name a city you can’t find a craft brewery in anymore…well, actually don’t try.
Moreover, the craft agenda in the Nordic region has always been strong, where it permeates all aspects of society, including architecture, fashion, public policy and cultural practice. As an organization with deeper connections to the Nordic region and committed to connecting local audiences globally, ASI is committed to introducing the Nordic region’s craft agenda to our regional audiences.
Why is CraftBOWL the first in this series?
Honestly? CraftBOWL was born out of our community’s fascination with another bowl event that promises to bring the nation’s spotlight to Minnesota this winter. The idea of a creating a space for a counter-cultural experience that’s genuinely ASI, genuinely Minnesotan—a craft based event—just felt right. It felt like our community. Naturally we’re excited to share this project with the country and all our sports fans. I mean, Sweden might not have a pigskin-specific agenda, but big sports events are certainly a part of Swedish culture. We know CraftBOWL can have the same kind of magnetism that an event like the Super Bowl can have, but in a sort of only at ASI kind of way.
CraftBOWL also has a focus on the most universal reference that all mediums of craft can connect to: the bowl-shaped vessel. Quite literally, the bowl is at the center of the craft world. There are ceramic bowls, there are metal bowls, there are wood bowls. And almost everyone uses a bowl! One of the five installations planned, 101 Bowls, gets at the heart of that idea. It features 101 different artists and organizations who demonstrate the value of the universally accessible form, the bowl, that all craft communities seem to have a connection to. So why not kick it all off with a bang?
How and why were the three Swedish artists for CraftBOWL selected?
We asked three significant craft organizations in Sweden to name their most influence craft ambassador. They suggested Jögge (wood), Ingegerd (ceramics and glass), and Bertil (glass). They are all established craft veterans in their respective disciplines. They have all been responsible for putting Sweden’s craft agenda on the world map. But they have never been presented together before, which was important for us. As a small organization in Minneapolis, ASI is having an impact in Sweden with projects like these. Who would guess it would take three rooms on Park Avenue in Minneapolis (the exhibition galleries in the Turnblad Mansion) to bring them together.
What will viewers learn or take away from experiencing these artists’ woodworking, glass and ceramic artworks?
We’re hoping people acquire a deeper appreciation and understanding of the handmade agenda, whether that be a deepened appreciation for how craft can connect generations and cultures, or how it can encourage us to think more about the intention behind the everyday objects we use. There is nothing like hearing and seeing how these master craft practitioners have paused to think deeper about craft’s role in our world today. Craft beer may taste great for all the right reasons, but there can be just as much intentionality and thought put into the glass (or bowl if you were a Viking) it’s poured into.