Showcasing Philly as a ‘capital of craft’

Craft NOW hosted its first craft fair, featuring work from the Tyler School of Art.

Sybil Bullock and her granddaughter, Godiva Bullock, 8, look at 3D printed ceramics. | Daniel Rainville TTN

Clara Hollander believes Philadelphia is the world’s “capital of craft.”

Hollander, a 1963 secondary education alumna, is a co-chair of nonprofit organization Craft NOW Philadelphia. The consortium promotes arts based in wood, clay, fiber, metal and glass, and hosted its first craft fair, CraftNOWCreate, at the Kimmel Center Nov. 14.

The fair is an initiative to showcase Philadelphia’s strength as a craft city, said Maria Möller, the organization’s project manager.

“I was at an awards show for The American Craft Council, and I realized that a third of the recipients were from Philadelphia,” Hollander said. “Traditionally, artists and art communities are understaffed, underfunded and overworked. What this is meant to do is it to unify the best that Philadelphia has to offer, and to make this an international capital for craft because we can do that.”

The fair featured work from students and professors of Tyler’s fiber and ceramics departments, including a student-built 3D printer.

“I love working with kids,” senior ceramics major Patrick Hargraves said. “I think that when I was a kid, I just had some really profound experiences working with mosaics and murals. I think back on those times where someone showed me something really cool with art, and I always try to facilitate those experiences rather than squash them.”

Ceramics professor Nicholas Kripal said exposing children to art at a young age is important. He said he believes exposure can help children perform better in higher education courses, which coincided with Hollander’s hopes for the event.

“Our target was children so that they could be introduced to this so that art isn’t foreign to them,” Hollander said. “What we are really trying to do is draw a broad spectrum of family, kids, collectors and people that just enjoy buying crafts.”

Kripal also appreciated the opportunity to put Tyler back into the public eye.

“I think that the real thing that distinguishes Tyler is that we are very selective on the undergraduate level,” Kripal said. “The whole philosophy at Tyler is that you need to know everything about art before you specialize in any one area. I remember when [the Kimmel Center] was being built, and how it was going to be a center that people could come to for events like this. I think that it’s only recently that it is really starting to happen. It’s good to see. This whole Craft NOW thing has been excellent because it has brought a lot of organizations in the city together.”

April Hennessey, a 1992 graphic design alumna, attended the event with her young son and was particularly attracted to the giant loom set up by the fibers department.

“This is a great piece for kids to work with,” Hennessey said.

“We come to the free concerts at the Kimmel Center and it’s really cool,” she added.  “I think it’s nice to come back and have the opportunity to explore all of those different crafts.”

Senior fibers and material studies major Marina Caprara volunteered to work the event at the Kimmel Center with two of her professors, and a fellow crafts major.

“It’s fun to see how well they are able to do these things,” Caprara said. “I think it is really important to expose kids to art at young ages.”

  Hollander is pleased with the debut of CraftNOWCreate.

“We are trying to make sure there is a real appreciation for art, crafts and well crafted objects,” Hollander said. “We are trying to display the vitality of the city.”

Erin Blewett can be reached at

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