Tennessee Craft Week Shines Light on Handcraft Artisans – Memphis Daily News (blog)


This fall the legacy of handmade craft art in Tennessee is getting some big promotion from a statewide weeklong celebration that coincides with American Craft Week in October.

Memphis events surrounding Craft Week include the Metal Museum’s annual repair days Sept. 24-27.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

“We want to put a spotlight on and build an appreciation for crafts artists,” said Teri Alea, executive director of Tennessee Craft. “They show up in lots of different ways throughout the community. Craft, especially high-end, is a big business and it has a big impact on the state economy.”

Tennessee Craft, formerly TACA, is a nonprofit association of artists statewide that champions the local fine craft movement. It is a solid resource for Tennessee artists, businesses and the public to form relationships and find opportunities for handmade crafts to make their way into patrons’ homes.

This year Tennessee Craft has a contest to win two trips, one to Nashville and Memphis and the other to East Tennessee, to take part in some of the activities celebrating Craft Week, Oct. 2-11. Visit www.tennesseecraft.org for contest details.

Memphis events surrounding Tennessee Craft Week include the National Ornamental Metal Museum’s annual repair days Sept. 24-27. Repair Days are a multi-day celebration with many events that center on metalsmiths from around the country who travel to Memphis and donate their talent to make repairs for anyone who brings something in. All proceeds benefit the museum.

The 43rd annual Pink Palace Crafts Fair, to be held Oct. 9-11 at Audobon Park, bookends the week. It features high-quality crafts from artisans around the country with several children’s educational demonstrations and exhibits, museum exhibits, music and food.

Craftsmanship and handwork is disappearing from curriculum in school and colleges, says Virginia Fisher, a Memphis metalsmith who will be doing a demonstration at the Pink Palace Crafts Fair to promote Tennessee Craft Week.

“Tennessee Craft is trying to do their part to raise general awareness and distinguishing between trained artisans and DIYers,” Fisher said.

Handmade craft art is usually defined as art that requires manipulating a medium, she said.

“It’s usually a long education including coursework, journeyman working and apprenticing,” she said. “You have to have a particular skill set that you can add to your creative knowledge.”

Carissa Hussong, director of the Metal Museum, agrees.

“If you don’t know the material that you’re working with, you won’t have the same structural integrity,” she said. “Artists that align themselves with craft are interested in both the process and the product. They are intertwined. That’s where the appreciation of the product is.”

Fisher said some of the best customers for fine crafts are people who have taken a class.

The Memphis community historically has supported the local craft scene, says Memphis ceramic artist Katie Dann. She is active in Tennessee Craft and the Memphis Potters Guild and became a full-time craft artist in 1987. Dann is the daughter of well-known ceramic artist Mimi Dann whose pieces are included in collections from Tennessee governors to the Ronald Reagan Collection and the Egyptian embassy.

Memphis holds its own promoting fine craft art with the River Arts Festival, the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, the Memphis Potters Guild shows and Winter Arts, which all happen annually and showcase many Memphis artists who have more than just a local following.

“These shows give you an opportunity to buy local, support small businesses and the arts and entrepreneurship,” Dann said. “I call it the karmic trifecta.”

The plus side of holding out for well constructed handmade goods is that ultimately well-crafted things become heirlooms, Dann said.

“A lot of today’s fine craft will be tomorrow’s decorative art.”