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Carnegie Museum Offers Showcase For Pittsburgh Artisans

The business of crafting items we use everyday isn’t always seen as art.

"Locally Sourced" opens Fri., Nov. 20. Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland

That’s at least a bit unfair, given that well-designed pieces of clothing, furniture and more can be artworks with practical as well as aesthetic value.

The Carnegie Museum of Art – which has long highlighted furniture and other products of industrial design amidst its traditional fine art – is giving a stage to local artisans who make art you can use.

The show, titled “Locally Sourced,” includes more than 100 objects by 19 Pittsburgh-based artists and artist teams. The works are made of clay, metal, glass, wood, fiber, and paper. Some were produced using traditional handcrafting techniques, while others were enabled by high-tech 3-D printing technology.

“’Locally Sourced’ really came about in wanting to celebrate Pittsburgh’s long tradition of artists and industry,” said Alyssa Velazquez, the Carnegie’s curatorial assistant of decorative arts and design. Velazquez recruited the makers in a process that began last fall. In her couple of dozen studio visits, she said, she was struck by these artists’ business sense.

Credit Courtesy of Idia'Dega
This gown by Idia'Dega is also in the exhibit.

“I was noticing a really entrepreneurial spirit, that they weren’t just excelling at their chosen crafts, but they were also wheels-to-the-ground in making their business successful,” she said.

Velazquez said she strove to present a broad cross-section of local talent, from the up-and-coming to the established, in the museum’s Charity Randall Gallery. “I think that will be really surprising, when you enter the gallery space looking at the panorama of objects, of just how special a maker community we have, and how varied,” she said.

One contributor is Bones and All, a Homewood-based maker of custom furniture and other woodworked objects. Usually the company’s work is designed in consultation with clients. It’s seen in hotels, coffeehouses, bars, restaurants and dining rooms. But some of Bones and All’s contributions to “Locally Sourced” – which include a bench, an end table, a turned bowl, and wooden cheese knives – were made for the show. One piece, a turned orb, is purely decorative.

Bones and All’s raw material is itself sourced fairly locally: The domestic hardwoods the outfit concentrates on come from Ohio, and it uses scrap wood when possible. “The pieces in the show are all made from salvaged wood and cutoffs from projects around the shop,” said co-owner Zak Kruszynski.

It’s the company’s first gallery show. “I was a little bit surprised and excited that they wanted to include us in the exhibit,” said co-owner Kelsey Hanson, who with Kruszynski comprises two-thirds of the Bones and All design team.

The use of reclaimed, salvaged, or sustainable materials is something many of the show’s contributors have in common, said Velazquez. Idia’Dega, a global eco-design collaboration founded by Tereneh Idia, often makes use of such materials in producing clothes and jewelry with women artisans from the Oneida Indian Nation, in New York state, and the Maasai people, of Kenya.

Idia, who lives on the North Side, will exhibit a dress that was an early collaboration with the Maasai women, a draping, asymmetrical gown made of hemp silk and accented in the folds with glass beads.

“To have an exhibit that’s showing all this stuff that has been made in Pittsburgh, with Pittsburgh artists, with Pittsburgh craftspeople, is I think so important,” she said. “Because it can maybe demystify the process of making, but also personalize it, and help people understand the importance of supporting makers and craftspeople.”

At least two artists in the show, Building Bytes and Coded Clay, use 3D printing in an update on traditional ceramics work.

Others whose work is featured include: Ashley Cecil, Hanna Dausch, Brian Ferrell Designs, Savannah Hayes, KerfCase, Knotzland, OATMEAL, SPACAPAN, TAKTTIME, Temper and Grit, T.O.M.T., Transit Foge, TWELVE/TWENTY STUDIO, Jenna Vanden Brink Ceramics, and Reiko Yamamoto.

A Locally Sourced pop-up shop featuring items for sale from 11 of the makers will occupy the museum’s own gift shop. Accompanying programming also includes artists’ talks.

The museum is currently requiring visitors to purchase timed tickets in advance because of the coronavirus pandemic. More information is available here.