Art of the Craft Inspiring Sites of Design

Discovering the art of diverse crafts statewide opens doors of inspiration.
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Stephanie Schlatter
Artwork by Stephanie Schlatter

Holland-based brewer of beer and distiller of spirits Brett VanderKamp minored in sculpture when he was a student at Hope College, across the street from where New Holland Brewing Co. — the brewhouse he co-founded in 1997 — now stands. “I’ve always loved shaping raw materials to make a tangible thing that resembles something from my imagination,” he shares in this issue’s Lake Story (page 34).

It was in his design classes, VanderKamp says, that he first heard the ancient debate about what can be called “art” and what is merely “craft.” While craft is generally understood as the art of making practical things, he learned, art is generally understood as using craft to create something that’s valuable without being needed.

“Some people think it’s a pointless argument,” he reflects, “but I think it matters, because I want to create things that really matter.”

Situated in the eastern Upper Peninsula, the non-profit Great Lakes Boat Building School was founded to ensure Michigan’s rich maritime heritage of wooden boat building continues (page 18).  “A craftsman must have a passion for his or her chosen craft, one that drives him or her to learn and honor its history,” says GLBBS Director Patrick Mahon.

But he notes that the non-gender specific term is also someone who must keep function and purpose along with resources and the end user’s needs in mind. “A craftsman,” Mahon says, “knows the rules, and when and how to break them.”

This edition of BLUE showcases artisans state-wide who are enhancing varying crafts of tradition as well as forging frontiers of new design.

Drawn by the College for Creative Studies’ deep-rooted values and modern vibe of innovation, progressive small manufacturing firm Shinola is launching a new generation of Motor City quality on campus as CCS graduates craft paths of their own (page 28), a Royal Oak company works to perfect the process for fine art models (page 20) and a Dearborn-based beer manager becomes America’s first female Certified Cicerone (page 78).

Meanwhile, Grand Rapids furthers its renown as a world-class mecca of expression and discovery Sept. 18-Oct. 6 when an array of downtown sites are transformed by ArtPrize, ranked one of 2013’s Top 5 Events by Time Magazine. From carbon pencil elephants to paper airplanes launched off rooftops, “ArtPrize is a platform for creation,” say organizers (page 22). “Everybody brings something unique to the table.”

More of the same happens in November, when Grand Rapids hosts its sixth annual International Wine, Beer & Food Festival — the largest culinary event in the Midwest — comprised of tastings, seminars, workshops, demonstrations and personal opportunities to talk with food and beverage artisans (page 75).

Though New York-based Mario Batali may not be on hand, the Iron Chef extols the culinary bounty surrounding his Leelanau vacation home (page 53), while West Michigan artist Stephanie Schlatter captures this lush northern wine country in vivid hues (page 26) and two BLUE photographers share other top regional spots to revel in the art of autumn (page 48).

Or, just savor inspired new takes on design for home (page 42). There may be no better season to reinvent indoor spaces.

With heartfelt thanks for reading,

Lisa M. Jensen, Editor, Michigan BLUE Magazine

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