The Work of Gifted Hands On Display at the Hearst Gallery In Moraga

The discussion between what is craft and what is art will carry on during a special gallery showing opening Sunday in the Hearst Gallery at St. Mary's College.

When is a bowl not a bowl?  Or, a lamp, so much more than a lamp?

An exhibit opening Sunday at the Hearst Gallery at Saint Mary's College answers: when they are crafted by fine artists.

Curated by Gallery Manager Kyla Porter, Gifted Hands: The Fine Art of Craft,  will display 90 objects by 15 Bay Area artists.

"This is the first craft show the Hearst Gallery has done," Porter said during a sneak preview.  "A week after I started working here, (Director) Carrie Brewster asked me to curate a show.  It was originally a Spratling Silver show and it fell through. I figured it would be nice to do something in the same vein. Carrie asked me to curate a jewelry or craft show."

Porter presented a plan to the curatorial committee that aimed for quality and a reflection of the wide spectrum of styles available today.  Hoping to attract a broad mix of people to the show, she visited artists' studios across the Bay area. Advice from Alison Glass, assistant curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, guided her selections.  "She said she just chooses things she likes," Porter said.

One of the artists whose work she came to admire was Orinda quilter Freddy Moran.

"I think one of the bonuses of quilt-making is it fulfills both the craft and the art form categories," Moran said. "People who don't care to design their own can buy a kit and perfect their technique.  That's OK.  I am on the art-form side of quilt making. The technique part is not the important part.  I like the free-spirit look of folk-art quilts."

Moran designs all her quilts; the only thing she doesn't do is quilt them.  "I have a wonderful quilter, Judy Irish, who does them. She found me: She took a class from me and asked if she could quilt my work." The two women collaborate, but in a structured way: The design is Moran's, the construction and specific stitch styles are what they discuss during the process of creating a quilt.

The debate over what is craft and what is art was a subject Porter had to address in curating the exhibit. "Some of the artists I approached thought the term (craft) was belittling. Some thought it was wonderful," she said.  "People think crafts are a product of a kit, instead of the results of an artist who works with the materials, changes their ideas and creates something with their own hands."

Opening Events: 

Panel Discussion: 4 p.m., Sunday, Soda Center.  Panel artists: Garry Knox Bennett, furniture; Janet Lipkin, fiber pieces and wearable art; and Freddy Moran, textiles and quilts.  Moderated by Julie Muniz, curator of Decorative Arts and Craft at the Oakland Museum of California. 

Reception with the artists: 5 - 6:30  p.m. on the Hearst Art Gallery Patio. Admission free to panel discussion and reception.

Demonstration: Immediately following the panel, 5 – 6 p.m. Bay Area ceramic sculptor Erin McGuiness will demonstrate her modern take on the ancient art of ceramic coiling. Studio One.

Hours: The Hearst Art Gallery is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Suggested adult donation is $4; free for K-12th-grade students and Hearst Art Gallery members.


Garry Knox Bennett, Oakland, furniture maker

Leslie Carabas, Sonora, quilter 

Skip Esquierdo, San Lorenzo, potter 

Janet Lipkin, Richmond, textile artist

Marvin Lipofsky, Berkeley, glass blower

Erin McGuiness, Berkeley, potter

Alison McLennan, Oakland, furniture maker

Freddy Moran, Orinda, quilter

Micheal Nourot, Benicia, glass blower

Florence Resnikoff, Berkeley, jewelry artist

Kay Sekimachi, Berkeley, fiber artist and weaver

Merryll Saylan, Berkeley, wood turner

Victoria Skirpa, Oakland, jewelry artist

Chuck Splady, Oakland, metal worker

Zhenne Wood, Oakland, fiber artist



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