Join me in HiP Passions, an exploration of the amazing handmade crafts of Pennsylvania, and the art of collecting. Collecting is indeed an art, a use of a creative eye, a sense of the whole.
Collection comes from the Latin “collectio,” a gathering together, and by 1400 took on the meaning “a group of objects viewed as a whole.” Collections create a conversation, a context and larger life for craft works.
Pennsylvania is an inspiring place to find craft, and moving here is what led to my collecting beautiful handmade objects. I first recognized my passion for ceramic art tile when I visited the Mercer Museum in Doylestown PA. Henry Chapman Mercer(1856-1930) was a collector in the extreme. He recognized the the technology of 19th Century pre-industrial American trades was soon to be lost and acquired over 40,000 artifacts from yokes, to plows and iron stoves. To house his collection, he built his museum, between 1913-1916, entirely from iron reinforced concrete. The building rises up like a castle, with a multitude of dormers. The first time I walked into the museum, I was awed by the items hung from the ceiling and from the balconies overlooking the central hall. There is nothing staid about Mercer’s collection and you are immediately enveloped in his vision.
John Lienhard says eloquently, “For Mercer, art, anthropology, and craft were all of a piece. To understand a people, you had to feel their crafts with your own fingers.” Not only did Mercer want to preserve the past, he wanted to revive it, and bring pottery making back to Bucks County. What evolved from this desire was the Moravian Tileworks, another concrete structure, where ceramic art tiles were made by hand, and are found in churches, houses, and businesses across the country, and even the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
I love this transformation from collector to crafter, and how then Mercer’s craft is then collected by people who love his work, and that the Moravian Tileworks has an apprentice program, where today’s crafters learn the art of Mercer’s tile. My first tile was a Moravian one, and my second was a tile by Eric Boynton of Clay Rat Studio in Souderton, who trained at Moravian Tileworks, though I didn’t know that at the time.
What Pennsylvania crafts do you collect? Which ones speak to you and call out your name?Margaret makes glass mosaics to catch the eye and delight the soul. She works from a one-bedroom-two-studio rowhouse in Lansdale, with her husband Wayne Stratz, and together they are Nutmeg Designs: Fine Glass Craft. Discover her blog, etsy shop and tweet @margaretalmon.