Two New Books, Two Different Spins on Craft

40 at 40

Craft books tend to be serious about their subject, be it studio glass, beaded jewelry, or medieval manuscripts, but not this one: It’s designed to make you laugh out loud.

In “Humor in Craft,” by Brigitte Martin (Schiffer, hardcover, $50), 235 artists worldwide are shown exercising their funny bones in ceramics, photography, metal, fiber and found objects. The results are slyly, hilariously and scatologically funny, from a series of porcelain mugs by Canadian artist Deborah Freeman, with the image of a spider advancing up the side of each cup until it nearly disappears over the edge on the last one in “Climbing Spiders,” to a ceramic plate and sterling silver flatware balanced on the edge and drooping over the side in “Exhausted Cutlery” by U.S. artist Kathryn Hinton.

Humorous or not, the images are beautifully presented—so beautiful that at first you may not spot how subversively funny they are. The author is the editor of crafthaus, a social network and online community for professional craft artists.

On the more serious side, the Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild has come a long way in its 40 years: membership is up from 150 to 400 craftspeople from Mississippi and 19 other states, and the guild has an award-winning center, the Mississippi Crafts Center, in Ridgeland, Miss., which includes a shop, gallery and studio space.

40 at 40

To celebrate those accomplishments, the advocacy group for the arts has released a new book, “I Am a Craftsman: 40 at 40: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi with 40 of Its Exhibiting Members,” by Robin C. Dietrick (University Press of Mississippi, $40). The book showcases the work of 40 craftspeople, featuring glass, ceramics, baskets, fiber, metalwork and printmaking in 162 color images, with a foreword by Patti Carr Black. Julia Daily, who led the guild from 2005 to earlier this year, said when the guild opened its center in 2007, “What will bring this building to life will be the craftsmen and their work.” This book celebrates that life.