Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library recently served as the location to showcase this year’s “best of the best” in American heritage craftsmanship for Early American Life’s prestigious Directory of Traditional American Crafts. Now in its 30th year, the directory showcases the winners of the magazine’s annual competition of artisans who best preserve America’s heritage of handcraftsmanship by reflecting classic designs in new creations.
“Winterthur was delighted to welcome the fine work of these artisans, which beautifully complemented the museum’s collection of American decorative arts,” says Linda Eaton, Winterthur’s John L. & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and senior curator of textiles, who also served as a judge in the competition. “The artisans demonstrated a mastery of traditional techniques and the scholarship that informs them. We congratulate the winners for earning a place in Early American Life’s respected directory.”
The directory appears in the August issue of Early American Life, a national magazine focusing on architecture, decorative arts, period style and social history from Colonial times through the mid-19th century. The directory has been used for nearly three decades by curators at living history museums, owners of traditional homes, and motion picture producers to find artisans to make period-appropriate furnishings and accessories for displays, collections and use.
“The judges look for authentic design and workmanship, whether the piece is a faithful reproduction or the artisan’s interpretation of period style,” says Tess Rosch, publisher of Early American Life. “Scholarship, as well as use of period tools and techniques, is particularly valued in this competition.”
In addition to Eaton, judges included Winterthur assistant curator Lisa Minardi and Ann Wagner, as well as curators from the National Trust, Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, National Heritage Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Saco Museum and Southern Highland Craft Guild, plus antiques dealers, independent scholars, and professional instructors. One goal of the directory is to help preserve traditional handcrafts, a part of American culture Rosch believes is being lost in the digital age.
“Many of these skills were passed down from master to apprentice for hundreds of years, but now fewer people choose to learn and master them. If our traditional arts are lost, we have forgotten a part of who we are as Americans,” Rosch says. The August issue lists all of the artisans selected for the directory as well as contact information for those wanting to own their work. The directory layout features lush color photos of many of these artworks photographed at Winterthur. For a copy of the article featuring Winterthur, contact Liz Farrell at lfarrell@Winterthur.org.