FEATURED IN INSPIRATION EPISODE
INSPIRATION reveals the magic and influence of craft.
Featuring the Saar family (Betye Saar, Alison Saar, and Maddy Leeser), Simon Rodia and Watts Towers, Diedrick Brackens, Ayumi Horie, Suzanne Thao, Mandora Young, Tousue Vang, Chef Yia Vang, and Mary Little.
Now streaming on PBS Video App, craftinamerica.org, pbs.org/craftinamerica.
PBS broadcast premiere Dec 16, 2022 (check local listings)
Mary Little began her career after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London as an avant-garde furniture maker–working in one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture. In recent years, Little’s work has shifted from a furniture-based practice, into an exploration of the fiber. Little uses unbleached artist canvas to recreate her childhood memories of Ireland’s landscape.
Through her practice, Alison Saar explores a multitude of themes, including gender, race, and spirituality from personal, societal, and historical perspectives, a deep understanding of materiality and craft, and her work is often rooted in folk art traditions.
Diedrick Brackens is a fiber artist best known for his woven tapestries that explore themes of African American and queer identity, American history, as well as his own lived experience. He begins his process by hand-dyeing cotton – a fabric he uses in acknowledgement of its brutal history and complicated ties to labor, migration, and African American identity. Influenced by African and African American literature, poetry, and folklore, Brackens imbues his weavings with a fantastical spirit, while poignantly bridging past and present.
Ayumi Horie is a studio potter living and working in Portland, Maine. Her work often includes drawings of animals or other images that seek to provoke an emotional response, explore individual vulnerability, and deepen the connection between people and their communities. Her large-scale ceramics projects include the Democratic Cup Project, Portland Brick, Obamaware, and Pots in Action, among others.
Suzanne Thao is a virtuosic maker and instructor in the Hmong tradition of Paj Ntaub, a needlework technique practiced by Hmong women. Thao began learning the technique at the age of seven, from her grandmother, mother and aunts, and she has now been practicing and teaching this technique for over 50 years. Deeply committed to preserving Hmong art, Thao has shared this technique with her daughter, Chuayi Yang, and is the inaugural instructor of Project Paj Ntaub, the free monthly Paj Ntaub workshop offered through the Hmong Museum in St. Paul, MN.
Mandora Young is a Hmong artist and educator specializing in traditional Paj Ntaub (flower cloth) textiles. Young first learned this traditional needlework technique from her grandmother and practiced it as a child. She returned to Paj Ntaub as an adult and discovered a lack of classes and interest among her community. In 2018, in an effort to revive and maintain this essential part of Hmong cultural identity, Young began teaching her own class. She now teaches many classes and workshops for all ages at libraries and schools, welcoming both Hmong and non-Hmong community members into her classes. Young is committed to passing down the Paj Ntaub cloth embroidery techniques as well as conveying the significance and history of the art form.
Maddy Leeser is a ceramic artist working in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to her practice as a ceramicist, Leeser identifies as an educator, animal caretaker, committed family member, faith keeper, investigator, magical practitioner, witness, and friend.
Artist Betye Saar has made an indelible impact on our nation’s artistic and broader cultural landscape through her prints, collages, assemblages, and installations. Saar’s early work, primarily prints and other works on paper, began her signature exploration of African American identity, spirituality and mysticism, and American social and political context. In the late 1960s, Saar began to experiment with found objects, including photographs, collectibles, family heirlooms, and utilitarian objects, to create assemblages that powerfully address racist histories and propel us into a future of reclamation and change. Saar continues to make new work, building on her celebrated practice while also engaging with evolving personal and societal influences.
Simon Rodia (1879–1965) was an artist most known for his large-scale installation in Watts, California, entitled Nuestro Pueblo, but more commonly referred to as Watts Towers. In 1921, he purchased a lot in the Watts district of Los Angeles, on which to construct his large-scale masterpiece. Rodia worked on the Watts Towers for over 25 years, in the evenings and on weekends, after his various day jobs, until its completion in 1948. He designed and built the Towers entirely himself, constructing them out of masonry, tile, and various found objects, and decorating the surfaces with singular, hand-placed mosaics. Several structures compose the complete installation, the largest of which stands at 99.5 feet tall.
Tousue Vang is a Hmong-American graphic designer, storyteller, and image maker. Growing up, Vang was surrounded by traditional Hmong story quilts, and is continually inspired by the art and stories of his heritage. Vang’s practice combines traditional narrative with new visual language to tell unique stories.
CHEF YIA VANG
Chef Yia Vang was born in a Thai refugee camp and lived there until his family resettled in Wisconsin. He trained as a chef and founded Union Hmong Kitchen, a restaurant in Minneapolis that brings Hmong cuisine and food traditions to the local community.
Chef Yia Vang