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IAF Winners on Exhibit at TN Arts Gallery

Sophie Glenn, Sweethearts, 2016, powder-coated steel and hard maple
Sophie Glenn, Sweethearts, 2016, powder-coated steel and hard maple

Sophie Glenn and Lydia Johnson: Crafting Contemporary Furniture and Ceramics
January 19 – March 9, 2018

By Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media and Design –

Last year, ceramicist Lydia Johnson and furniture maker Sophie Glenn both received Individual Artist Fellowships in craft through the Tennessee Arts Commission. Their spin on contemporary design exemplifies the innovative work being created in Tennessee.

Johnson’s ceramic functional forms are brilliantly ornamented in complex and vibrant patterns. While the patterns are based on historical references, such as American folk quilts as well as arts and crafts wallpaper patterns, the contemporary color palette makes for a fresh reinterpretation of the past. Glenn’s innovative angular and minimal furniture designs seem to defy gravity and trick the eye. Her merging of traditional furniture materials and techniques with contemporary designs makes for furniture that enlivens current living spaces.

Lydia Johnson, Tall Cup, 2018, hand built, cone 4 colored clay
Lydia Johnson, Tall Cup, 2018, hand built, cone 4 colored clay.

Johnson says, “I make functional pots out of double-sided patterned clay slabs. I begin with colored, collaged clay. Then, I build functional objects from that material. In doing so, image functions as a fundamental structure. Color and pattern are the essence of the thing; an indispensable quality to the object’s existence. I develop patterns and images through a combination of historical references, daily visual observations and an active imagination. Most of the time, visual content captures my interest on a very emotional and visceral level. My design process begins with the most potent visions; the imagery and colors I can’t stop thinking about. That is where I begin to sketch, collage and experiment.”

Glenn comments that “I want my designs to challenge what makes furniture recognizable. I employ traditional furniture forms and methods of making, but make slight alterations or integrate contrasting elements that promote user engagement and investigation. These alterations and contrasting elements vary from piece to piece, but often include the use of a different material (most notably steel), incorporating more sculptural forms, creating new surrounding environments, employing bright colors, or highlighting asymmetry and distortion, among others.”

Individual Artist Fellowships applications are now being accepted. The deadline is Monday, January 22. Read the guidelines here.

Accepted categories for FY 2019 include:

  • Visual Art: Three-Dimensional Work
  • Craft
  • Media: Film or Photography
  • Dance: Solo Dance Performance or Choreography
  • Music: Solo Instrumental Performance
  • Theatre: Playwriting
  • Literary Arts: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction or Poetry
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