Competition’s theme is library ladders

39_ladders_01Application deadline set for 2010 Society of Arts and Crafts Artist Awards; Midwest studio furniture maker displays work

The 16th annual Wharton Esherick thematic woodworking competition, "Step Right Up," which features library ladders, opened in mid-September and runs through Dec. 31. This year's exhibition features nine pieces and is held at the Wharton Esherick Museum in Paoli, Pa.

"This theme was selected by one of our long-term members and supporters of the museum and she said, 'Hey, you should do this,' so we decided to do it and then a couple of months ago she passed away," says Paul Eisenhauer, curator of the Wharton Esherick Museum. "We have dedicated the show to Nancy Most. The library ladder is one of Wharton's most famous pieces, so it is one we went into cautiously. It is also a very difficult piece and you don't get as much call for library ladders. It's not something that as many people have done. There were really one or two styles traditionally before Wharton's and a lot of the things that have come since seem to follow his ideas."

The museum sponsors the competitions to encourage creative thinking and the development of original, imaginative forms for everyday use. The themes are based on the utilitarian objects to which Esherick applied his unique sense of design and craftsmanship.

This year there were 17 entries, which was a small number for the annual competition. Eisenhauer says this is because of the difficulty of figuring out how to build a new version of a library ladder.

"One woodworker told me, 'How can I do a new one? Wharton already did the best.' But, once again, the woodworkers have just amazed us with their creativity. We really have a diverse show. There are going to be nine pieces and they are all very different. We have several jaw-dropping beautiful pieces in the show."

This year's exhibitors are Jasper Brinton, David Ebner, Paula Garbarino, Amy Gilron, Brian Paul Kolakowski, Ben and George Manns, Jacob Mendez, Ryan Procsal and Daniel Shawn Turley.

39_ladders_02Turley, from Pottstown, Pa., used birch, maple and lacquer for his piece, "Back Roads." He used lap joints and mortise and tenon joinery, and laminated half (3/4") of the 1-1/2" thickness.

"What I decided to do - which was risky - was to explore it in kind of an organic way. In other words, just make random pieces and start placing them together with sandbags to prop them, string anything I could do to see what it might look like," Turley says. "Then, like a puzzle, as I started filling in more pieces, more started making sense ... I wanted to do something no one could reproduce, even me."

Eisenhauer says the nine pieces are all functional, although some more so than others.

"You can climb all of them. There are a couple of them that don't move as easily as a library ladder should. In that sense, they are not quite as functional as we would like, but they are either so clever or so beautiful, we accepted [pieces] that were less than totally functional.

"I think this is going to be one of our better shows. They really are impressive pieces."

SAC Artist Awards

Applications are being accepted for the Society of Arts and Crafts 2010 Artist Awards in Boston. A panel of jurors will select three artists to receive a $3,000 cash award. The winners will also participate in a group exhibition at SAC's Newbury Street gallery from August to October 2010. Two of the awards will be in any media and one award, funded by the John D. Mineck Foundation, will be dedicated to furniture.

39_ladders_03The awards are open to all craft artists currently residing in New England. Students enrolled in a full-time art study program and past SAC award recipients are not eligible. Initiated in 1994, the awards encourage and support the work of New England craft artists who demonstrate a mastery of their media and create original and innovative work.

Jurors are Tom Loeser, furniture maker and chair of the art department at the University of Wisconsin; Sonya Clark, artist and chair of the craft/material studies department at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Va.; and Peter Held, curator of ceramics at the Ceramics Research Center at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.

The application is free and applicants can apply online at www.juriedartservices.com. The application deadline is Nov. 9 and winners will be announced by Dec. 15.

Elsewhere

R. Thomas Tedrowe, Jr., a studio furniture maker from Brown County, Ind., is one of 20 contemporary Indiana artists and the only furniture maker selected to participate in the Indiana State Museum exhibition, "Making it in the Midwest: Artists Who Chose to Stay." The show runs through Oct. 17 at the museum in Indianapolis. Four Tedrowe pieces appear in the exhibition. Three were created especially for the show and one was loaned by a collector.

Contacts

R. Thomas Tedrowe Jr., Tedrowe Furniture Studio, 5851 Hamilton Creek Road, Columbus, IN 47201. Tel: 877-205-2881. www.tedrowefurniture.com

Society of Arts and Crafts, 175 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116. Tel: 617-266-1810. www.societyofcrafts.org

Wharton Esherick Museum, Box 595, Paoli, PA 19301-0595. Tel: 610-644-5822. curator@wharton esherickmuseum.org

Gallery announcements of exhibitions, with photos or slides, should be sent to: Brian Caldwell, Woodshop News, 10 Bokum Rd., Essex, CT 06426.

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue.