- Patricia Tschetter, professional winner in Jewelry: Silver with Stones, pictured with NICHE publisher, Wendy Rosen. Credit: Jim Burger Photography.
As the lights dimmed for the 2011 NICHE Awards, the excitement in the air was palpable. The ceremony, which honors the best and brightest members of the craft community, took place Feb. 18 during the winter Buyers Market of American Craft show in Philadelphia. Hosted by jeweler, gallery owner and arts consultant Bruce Baker, who referred to the ceremony as the “Oscars for the craft community,” the night was full of laugher, applause and even some tears. Wendy Rosen, publisher of NICHE magazine, opened the ceremony by looking back at the past year in retail, noting, “There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train.”
A six-member jury, including retailers, arts advocates and art organization executives chose 179 professional and 67 student finalists out of nearly 1,600 entries. Of these, the top-scoring artist in each category walked away with a trophy. “I was greatly impressed with the quality of work entered into this year’s competition,” said NICHE Awards coordinator Erin Hartz. “The detail and refinements accompanying each piece is reflective of the dedication these artists have to their craft.”
During the ceremony, professor Lynda LaRoche of Indiana University of Pennsylvania was honored as the sixth consecutive Arts Educator of the Year. Nominated by students, she was described as “Not only instilling a sense appreciation for craft within everything, but also having the desire to push each creative project to the next level.”
As the individual winners in each of the 38 professional and 13 student categories were announced in front of a packed audience, many thanked loved one as they accepted their awards. Lee Silveri, winner for his goblet work, put it best when he said, “I want to thank my supportive friends and family. All the artists in the room could not do what we do if it wasn’t for the constant support of our loved ones.”
Winner Susanne Williams of Willi Nilli got the audience clapping when she addressed the dreamers in the house. As she accepted her award for surface design, she pulled out a card that she keeps in her purse, explaining, “A friend gave me this and I always carry it with me. It reads ‘Cherish your vision and your dream, as they are the children of the soul.’ I am so lucky that I get to live my dreams every day and am appreciated for them.”
Emcee Baker closed the ceremony on a moving note, saying, “In a world where art is undervalued and creativity goes unheralded, it is thrilling that tonight we have been able to recognize all these fabulous creative accomplishments.”
Click here for the full list of professional and student NICHE Awards winners.