ORNAMENT Volume 30 No. 3

2007 Smithsonian Craft Show
Candiss Cole. Reaching for the Exceptional
Yazzie Johnson and Gail Bird. Aesthetic Companions
Biba Schutz. Haunting Beauties
Mariska Karasz. Modern Threads
Tutankhamun’s Beadwork
Carol Sauvion’s Craft in America
Kristina Logan. Master Class in Glass Beadmaking


In its twenty-five years of presenting contemporary crafts in the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian Craft Show has established itself as a preeminent showcase for the finest one-of a-kind work being created in America, from jewelry to furniture, ceramics to fiber, basketry to leather. Every year the show’s organizers solicit the latest from craft artists across the country, recruiting a distinguished jury to make the final selection.


“I hadn’t been personally challenged at the gut level as an artist in a long time, and that had to change,” Candiss Cole says, seated in the downstairs studio of her rambling, three-level Sedona home. She spent months studying and experimenting, to emerge with some stunning results: chic new designs, subtle and original handwoven weave structures, even more lyrical and complex hand-dyeing, and her crowning glory, a uniquely gorgeous fabric she calls ikat-shibori, both reminiscent of spices and walks in the woods and glorious sunsets, and poetic, like water running over river rocks or moonlight on an inky black lake.


Traditional American Indian jewelry is well known for its use of silver and turquoise—a combination that has been appreciated, worn and collected for more than one hundred years. Two jewelers dramatically changed the artform in the 1970s through their collaborative efforts that combined unusual stones with silver, brass and, later, with gold. Yazzie Johnson and Gail Bird appreciated the work of earlier American Indian jewelers who mixed native garnets, jet and the rich hues of turquoise with silver. Their inspiration extended to the pictorial past of the Southwest—carvings and paintings on rock walls and designs on historic southwestern textiles and pottery.


Biba Schutz’s various jewelry series—and there are more than the ones just described—are all the manifestations of her fertile imagination and the pleasure she takes in problem solving. “My first inspiration is my fantasy,” says Schutz. “I can be walking, daydreaming, and I see the world my way. I often see the space behind the visible space or the space within something.What inspires me can be really mundane. I can go to the flower market and they have all the exotic flowers and sometimes I buy them and sometimes I just look. And there are also beautiful vegetables, which, if you cut them open, contain wonderful spaces and luscious interiors.”


Though not widely known today, Mariska Karasz (1898-1960) provided modern women and children’s clothing to many devoted patrons in the 1920s and 1930s and inspired innumerable artists, craftspeople and hobbyists through her embroidered wall hangings in the late 1940s and 1950s. During three successive, and remarkably successful, careers in New York, she maintained her childhood love for fabrics, threads and colors. She repeatedly looked to the folk arts of her native Hungary for inspiration, but always worked in a modernist mode, never relying on old-fashioned approaches or ideas.