Art in Wood

Philadelphia’s American Craft Council Fellows

The Center for Art in Wood

VISION INTO ART

The Center for Art in Wood, in Philadelphia, PA, grew out of a series of wood turning symposia at the George School in Bucks County, PA, between 1976 and 1981. The LeCoff brothers, Albert and Alan, along with George School wood shop teacher Palmer Sharpless, organized the workshops. These symposia are now credited with spurring understanding and appreciation of wood turning as a contemporary art.

In 1981 as part of the tenth and final symposium held at Bucks County Community College, Albert organized the ground-breaking touring exhibition, The First North American Turned Object Show, and accompanying publication, A Gallery of Turned Objects. Immediately following, the work was displayed in joint exhibits at the Richard Kagan Gallery and Works Gallery in Philadelphia. Setting early precedents, the exhibit toured nationally to five venues.

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Artist Bios

Sharon Church

A pleasant historic complex of court yards and buildings lines the brick path to Sharon Church’s home and studio. The house is part of a posh horse barn that housed carriages and four large horse stalls. Her home is one cell of the barn, rehabilitated with human quarters on two floors. Plastered walls, timber cross beams, rafters, doors and original sliding stall doors provide a symbiotic setting for the artist’s wood carving and jewelry studio

THE LEARNING YEARS

Named as an American Craft Council Fellow in 2012, Church, 67, earned her B.S. degree at Skidmore College, and still has a square ebony and silver ring from that period. At the School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology, where she attended graduate school, Albert Paley was her teacher during the first year. This was her introduction to subtractive work. An art nouveau-like patterned hand mirror, a necklace with silver pendant/clasp, and a silver, lidded candy dish on four legs reflect the expertise in metals that Sharon had acquired by the end of graduate school.

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—Tina C. LeCoff

David Ellsworth

Tall and lanky, lots of hair, curly. 71.

Ellsworth met his wife Wendy in Colorado in 1975, and married in 1980. Artwork with sharp edges transitioned to soft. He spent the last forty years with a fellow artist: Wendy is an internationally active art beader and philanthropic craft facilitator, especially active in Kenya, Africa.

AMERICAN CRAFT COUNCIL FELLOW — 2001

By then, David’s work demonstrated diversification from wood bowls, pots, spheres, to his radical scorched and painted Solstice series.

He served as an ACC board member from 2005 to 2010, as chair of the awards committee.

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—Tina C. LeCoff

Michael Hurwitz
WHY FURNITURE?

Known for his sleek minimal furniture and use of strip lamination, Michael Hurwitz was designated an American Craft Council Fellow in 2014. It all started in schools in the Boston area. After finishing at a high school that had an arts-heavy curriculum (at the time his father was the Arts Coordinator of the Newton Public Schools), Hurwitz, 60, attended Massachusetts College of Art.

Although his primary interest was in wood, there was no wood program at Mass Art so he enrolled as a metals/jewelry major. Throughout his high school years, he had taken silver-smithing classes on weekends at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln Massachusetts, so this seemed like a natural progression.

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—Tina C. LeCoff with Michael Hurwitz

Bruce Metcalf

Admittedly obsessed with jewelry, Bruce Metcalf says he’s inspired by natural images, such as leaves, pods, buds and seeds that he crafts into small wood-carved necklaces and other fine objects.

Bruce prefers to be called a jeweler rather than an artist. He focuses on making things well, and he’s loyal to a way of working, not the varied materials he manipulates. Sketches capture his concepts and the specs for each piece. As a boy, he built model planes and cars, then studied sociology and architecture, before gravitating to metals his senior year in college. All this shows in his work.

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—Tina C. LeCoff

George Nakashima

George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1905 to Japanese immigrant parents and attended the University of Washington in Forestry and Architecture, earning a scholarship to the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Fontainebleau and Harvard University in 1929. He received a Master’s degree in Architecture from MIT in 1930, returned to Paris shortly thereafter, and then to Tokyo in 1934, where he entered the employ of Frank Lloyd Wright’s protégé, the Czech architect Antonin Raymond. He was sent to Pondicherry, India, in 1936 to oversee the design and building of the first reinforced concrete building in that country, and became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo in the process. Because of the war, he left India in 1939, spent some time in Tokyo and met his future bride, Marion Okajima, who was also brought up in Seattle, Washington. They returned separately to the United States and were married in Los Angeles in 1941. After observing some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings under construction there, Nakashima decided to leave architecture and to create furniture so he could control the quality all the way from raw materials through design and construction. After George moved back to Seattle to start his furniture business, Father Leopold H. Tibesar allowed him to use the machinery at Maryknoll in exchange for teaching the boys woodworking.

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—Mira Nakashima

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