In the 2013 NICHE Award Winners’ Circle

Patti and Dave Hegland with Hope Daniels
NICHE magazine editorial director Hope Daniels with Patti and Dave Hegland, winners in the professional division Glass: Fused category. CREDIT: JIM BURGER PHOTOGRAPHY

One of the biggest thrills of the annual NICHE Awards ceremony is the chance to mingle with the most talented of North American fine craft artists. The caliber of the winners’ work, and many winners’ profound humbleness, are equally inspiring.

Perhaps that is so because this competition, now in its 24th year, is about more than just winning trophies. “It is a celebration of ‘the soul of the artist’,” said glass artist Stuart Abelman, longtime Buyers Market exhibitor and master of ceremonies at the 2013 NICHE Awards, held on Feb.16 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center as part of the winter BMAC show in Philadelphia.

This year, a panel of craft experts considered the technical excellence, creative design and market viability of more than 1,000 entries by U.S. and Canadian artists. The jurors awarded trophies for 40 art works by studio professionals and 18 by college students.

In addition, NICHE named its 2013 Arts Educator of the Year, Tomoyuki Chie Teratani, an adjunct assistant professor of jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Cheers erupted from FIT students in the audience, some of whom were themselves honorees in jewelry design, as Teratani came forward to be recognized for grooming aspiring artists.

Early in his career, Teratani said, he doubted himself when some students complained that he was too demanding. In time, however, he saw serious students excel. The lesson was his to learn, he said, and he rededicated himself to teaching students the discipline they would need to succeed.

At the ceremony, student and professional winners take the stage side by side. Of course students benefit by meeting masters in their fields. Yet many attendees have noted that inspiration flows both ways.

“The professionals inspire us with their technical mastery and their understanding of the role of craft in shaping culture,” said Hope Daniels, editorial director of NICHE magazine, in her opening remarks. “The students thrill us with their risk-taking vision of what craft is today and has yet to become tomorrow.”

Abelman closed the event with a passionate reminder that consumers who choose handmade products instead of mass-produced imitations will discover over time which have enduring value. “And what of the imitators?” he asked. “They can never steal or replicate the burning creativity that is the soul of the artist.”

To view all of the winners of the 2013 NICHE Awards, please visit the NICHE Awards website.