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Collecting Craft: Studio and Contemporary Makers from the Permanent Collection

At the Brunnier Art Museum
Wednesday, January 19 - Friday, July 22, 2022

Made by hand with great respect and honor for the materials.



Craft is the ability to create, to make, to form something. Humans all over the world engage in craft daily to fashion things, whether they be for beauty or function. It is a word and a distinction within art that has become heavily debated and discussed in the last several decades. The distinctions between fine arts and decorative arts or craft did not always exist, but a seismic shift in Western conceptions of art began with the Renaissance allowing the formation of the divide between the fine and decorative arts. In the 19th century, the Arts and Crafts movement in England advocated for a return to handcraft, as a response to the mass production of the Industrial Revolution. While early 20th century American artists, designers, and architects embraced Arts and Crafts, it did not significantly change those previously created divisions. The gulf between the fine and decorative arts persisted until a change began after World War II when many artists chose to work in craft and decorative arts media such as clay, fiber, metal, wood and glass. Those working in these materials were given greater visibility as teachers and, over time, as artists with their work moving into the realm of fine art and sculpture. Craft has always been a term loaded with a diverse range of meanings and can be found in art, design, and even industrial settings. The objects in this exhibition speak to a definition of craft as objects made by hand with great respect and honor for the material each artist works within.

The decorative arts and craft are not often learned in isolation; the skills are taught and handed down through generations or in traditional skill-building environments such as apprenticeships and, in the last several decades, in universities. Artists are also trained but are more often seen as singular visionaries who produce alone with a unique viewpoint. The perceived communal nature of object making and the reliance of learning skills from others has allowed craft to be relegated beneath the fine arts, without consideration to the high level of ability and innovation makers in the various craft and decorative arts media possess. In fact, artists working in craft media exhibit exceptional leaps of curiosity and experimentation, often using their learned rudimentary knowledge of a medium as a starting point for years of unconventional exploration. After World War II, the world of craft offered freedom to create, sometimes fail, and always learn as there were no rules as to what craft could be, so it became art.

University Museums’ permanent collection began with and was built around the original decorative arts collection of Ann and Henry Brunnier. It is a collection that is astoundingly broad, ranging from ancient Roman glass to Chinese Tang dynasty pottery to German porcelain. Over the past almost 50 years, University Museums donors and curators have added greatly to the decorative arts collection expanding into contemporary glass and ceramics, adding more representation of Native American makers and artists, and delving into the field of contemporary craft. Recent additions of generously donated collections have allowed University Museums to continue to grow and come together in this new exhibition, with a large variety of objects that are being exhibited together for the first time. The exhibition explores and celebrates the craft behind the making of these objects – the skill, the beauty, and the meaning that continue to inspire artists and makers to create.


Addicted to the Rhythm, 1994 by Stoney Lamar. Gift of Rebecca Klemm, ISU PhD 1976. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

George Washington Carver Vessel, 2020 by Roberto Lugo. Porcelain, china paint, and luster. Commissioned by University Museums with funds from the Joyce Tomlinson Brewer Fund for Art Acquisition. In the permanent collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Basket, 2001 by Kari Lonning. Natural fiber. Gift of Rebecca Klemm, ISU PhD 1976. In the permanent collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.


It’s a Long Way Down: For Ana, 1986 by Jane Gilmor. Wood, metal relief, Polaroids, plaster. Gift of Gary and Marlene Olson. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Assorted ceramics.

Detail of Bright Burst, 1966 by Kriscilla Kepner Sage. Yarn, fabric, and wood beads. Gift of Kenneth and Shirley Shaw. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Barrel Form #73, 1990 by Dan Kvitka. Ebonized wood. Gift of Rebecca Klemm, ISU PhD 1976. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.



Exhibition Programs

Find full descriptions of programs on the University Museums Calendar. All programs are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required. Events listed below will be at the Brunnier Art Museum unless otherwise noted. Programs are subject to change. Check the University Museums Calendar and Facebook page for the latest events information.


Iowa Maker Series

Monthly on Sundays, 2:00-3:00 pm

Contemporary Iowa artists discuss their craft and artistic processes.

January 30- Ceramics with Ingrid Lilligren, ISU professor
February 27- Metals with Joe Muench, ISU professor
March 27- Community & Crafting Art with Jennifer Drinkwater, ISU associate professor
April 24- Jewelry with Ann Au
May 22- Paper with Mary Merkel-Hess
June 19- Woodturning with Rob Wallace


Collecting Craft Tour

Wednesday, February 2, noon-1:00 pm

Join University Museums Pohlman Fellow and ISU senior, Hannah Brennan, as she discusses contemporary Native American basketry and pottery in the exhibition and her experience as the 2021-22 University Museums Pohlman Fellow.


Fire & Glass: Glassblowing Demonstration and Discussion

Thursday, March 3, 5:30-6:30 pm
Livestreamed event with limited in-person seating. Registration required for in-person attendees.
Glassblowing Studio, Student Innovation Center, 606 Bissell Road, Ames

Enjoy a night of fire and glass! University Museums and the Gaffer’s Guild will present a live event for a limited in-person audience, while also livestreaming the entire event. Students, faculty, and staff glass blowers will demonstrate the process of creating blown glass and afterwards discuss how they came to glass blowing as a hobby or passion. This event is in partnership with the Student Innovation Center and the Gaffer’s Guild.

Click here to watch on YouTube


Craft Feminism: Making as Resistance and Inquiry
with Melissa Hilliard

Tuesday, April 5, 5:30-7:30 pm
On Zoom 

For several decades, women have been the vanguard combining craft and activism. This history is growing with current scholarship featuring diverse practitioners who combine craft practices—ranging from hand papermaking, to glass, and weaving—with community efforts such as domestic abuse survivorship, overcoming war trauma, and micro-industry development. In this talk, Potter will discuss case studies from her personal experience including her co-curated exhibition, Social Paper: Hand Papermaking in the Context of Socially Engaged Art and collaborations with women artisans in Bosnia and Republic of Georgia.

Click here to watch on YouTube

Visit the Brunnier Art Museum

Wednesday - Friday, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Closed to the public Monday & Tuesday. ISU curriculum tours may be scheduled on these days with a 2-week notice.

Closed University Holidays

Address: Scheman Building (2nd Floor), 1805 Center Drive, Ames, Iowa
Admission: The cost is free; however, there is a suggested donation of $8.

This exhibition is curated and organized by University Museums with generous support from Rae Reilly, the Student Innovation Center at Iowa State University; Anastasia Polydoran; Diane and Jim Patton; and University Museums Membership.


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