Thursday, February 28, 2013

Materials: Hard & Soft is a competition and exhibition held at the Greater Denton Arts Council building. Hundreds of entries are judged and $500 cash is awarded to the winners. The exhibit runs through April 5. Photo by Zac Switzer/Staff Photographer

H. Drew Blackburn
Senior Staff Writer
The 26th annual Materials: Hard & Soft exhibition went underway Saturday at the Meadows Gallery in theGreater Denton Arts Council building located at 400 E Hickory St.
The exhibition focuses on artwork made of both hard and soft materials, such as wood, fabrics and glass.
Executive Director of the Greater Denton Arts Council Margaret Chalfant said that there were more than 568 entries from 37 states entered in the exhibition.
This year’s juror Jean W. McLaughlin selected 71 artists.
“I was delighted by the strength of the work in this show,” McLaughlin said. “The pieces are accomplished, fresh, sensitive, diverse, some controlled and more traditional, others freely using processes to push ideas forward.”
McLaughlin has been the executive director of the Penland School of Crafts since 1998.
“The jurors are selected because of their accomplishments in the art world and are nationally known, which makes each year unique and different because the different tastes and submissions from the country,” Chalfant said.
As the juror, McLaughlin chose the artworks exhibited in the gallery and she chose ten “juror awards,” each worth a $500 prize.
Chalfant said that the exhibit costs the Greater Denton Arts Council $10,000 – $12,000 a year, and is funded by memberships, grants and sponsorships.
Chalfant said they’ve already had 110 people come in.
Some of the viewers come from other parts of the country like Bobbie and Jack Kennedy of Winterset, Iowa.
They said they come to Denton to visit friends but also the exhibition every year.
”We’re just intrigued by the show,” Bobbie Kennedy said. “We like to judge whether the right people got the juror awards.”
The exhibit ends on April 5.

Material Objects

'Hard & Soft’ selections bind craftsmanship with innovation
Juror Jean McLaughlin approached the pieces in “Materials: Hard & Soft” from the same perspective a lot of non-experts use to approach art.
That’s saying something, considering that McLaughlin is the director of the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
“I look at the title of the work, then I look at the craftsmanship, and then I look for originality,” McLaughlin said. “I want to see evidence of a particular maker on the work.”
“Materials: Hard & Soft” is the flagship exhibit of the year for the Greater Denton Arts Council. The show is a national American craft contest, bringing the works of the best potters, quilters, metalsmiths, glass workers and weavers in the country to the Meadows Gallery.
Craft is the elevation of objects originally made for a function — such as teapots, quilts and furniture — to a purely decorative purpose. The title of the show, now in its 26th year, has been the same since its inception, and the show itself has become a challenge to craft artists — either to test the limits of their chosen material and medium, or to toss out their comfortable material altogether. Hence the weaving of wood and plastic, and the crafting of teapots out of fabric.
“I like the national focus. It’s an opportunity to see a wide variety of art,” McLaughlin said. “I like the titles. They offer a lens through which you can look at the field of craft.”
McLaughlin chose the show through a blind selection. She studied slides of the work submitted by artists.
“I didn’t want to have more than one piece by any artist, but since this was a blind jury process, I had to get the exhibition chair to help me make sure that the artists didn’t get more than one piece,” she said.
The idea was for McLaughlin to present as wide of a view as she could, given the submissions.
The result is a collection of works that stretch the imagination. Some pieces are clearly meant to make the viewer smile, like Carriage Dress, a silver bracelet by M. Annie Kilborn that covers much of the forearm, suggesting a bodice and ruffle of a gown all while mimicking a suit of armor. Then Michelle Startzman’s brooch, Obscurity, sits like a microscopic organism — maybe an amoeba dividing right there under a slide — with red, spongy-looking cells clustered in the center of a cool and dark dollop of amorphous metal.
Other pieces are a marvel of craftsmanship. Carole P. Kunstadt used a parish psalmody — a book of Psalms for group prayers — dated 1844 and 1849. Kunstadt removed pages from the book and sliced even, tiny strips into them. She sewed the strips together using a sewing machine, then interleaved the strips with fine tissue or gold leaf. In Sacred Poem XVIII, the feather-like pieces of tissue and text form an organic, book-shaped mass emerging from the center of the page.
“Materials: Hard & Soft” also includes pieces that show craftsmanship and a certain depth. Take, for instance, Chris Cunningham’s yoked ceramic teapots and cups in Cohabitation Series, Tea.
Pottery is domestic at heart, and Cunningham considers the way two separate things adapt when bonded. The spout of one teapot is covered, the other is open. Two drinkers might be able to drink from the yoked cups at the same time, and yet the real point is probably connected to the opening in each cup, which means each cup’s contents will mingle in the opposite vessel.
Over the years, “Materials: Hard & Soft” has celebrated simple pieces that say so much, but say it without excess.
“Hard and soft can mean so many different things,” McLaughlin said. “Hard choices, hard line, soft center or hard shell. There’s a wonderful amount of room for an artist to play with those ideas.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is .


•  What: Greater Denton Arts Council’s national American craft competition and exhibition
•  When: Exhibit runs through April 5. Gallery hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
•  Where: Meadows Gallery at the Center for the Visual Arts, 400 E. Hickory St.
•  Details: Admission is free. For docent tours, call the council at 940-382-2787.

- See more at:

Collage Night

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tonight the ladies from my bible study group came over to do a little collaging. The theme was to make something related to our individual "one word". This "one word" concept is a congregation wide practice at Port City Community Church. Instead of making a New Years resolution, we each choose one word to focus on as we strive for character growth and spiritual transformation. My word for 2013 is Kindness. We had a great time and I'll be posting images of their finished pieces soon.

New Series Preview

This is the first of several small handmade books featuring altered Altoid tins with found objects and resin. I'm doing a Coptic binding with extra wrapping.


Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Valentine's Day...Fall in Love with Gut

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I had a great time tonight. I gave a talk/image presentation to the Wilmington Artists Association followed by a demonstration on working with hog casings. Best of all, I made a new friend! Check out Shannon Newby's website:

My Girl

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day Trip

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ai Weiwei at the Smithsonian:

Opening Reception

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Greater Denton Arts Council presents the 26th Annual Materials: Hard & Soft National Contemporary Craft Competition and Exhibition. This exhibition, which has run continuously since 1987, was the idea of local artist, Georgia Leach Gough. The name, Materials: Hard & Soft, refers to the entire range of fine craft. This competition and ensuing exhibition still draws the attention of fans of contemporary craft across the country. In 2006, the Texas Commission on the Arts designated this show as a "must see" exhibition in Texas. It is one of the premier craft exhibitions in the country. The juror this year is Jean W. McLaughlin, executive director of the Penland School of Crafts since 1998. This year, we received entries from 207 artists, with a total of 568 pieces. Ms. McLaughlin chose 73 pieces for the exhibition.
Opening reception is Friday, February 8, 2013, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, recognition of awards at 6:45 pm. To obtain additional information about the exhibit either visit the GDAC's website,, or call 940-382-2787.
  • Friday, February 8, 2013 @ 6:00 pm


Thursday, February 7, 2013

We just dropped off my sculpture at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in PA. It will be part of the Fiberart International Exhibition.
Here's a few pieces that caught my eye from the current shows:

Be Kind

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My word for the year is kindness. I got this bracelet to help me stay focused on my goal and to remember that every day is a small step toward transformation.


Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm preparing to try to make a slip cast plaster mold of these sculpted leather forms. These will dry overnight and tomorrow I can make the molds. My plans are to do a series of these in porcelain. I think the play between the look of soft, flowing fabric and the actuality of the solid porcelain will be interesting.