Category: Awards

Congratulations: The Loewe Foundation Craft Prize Short List!

Congratulations to Polly Adams Sutton and Ferne Jacobs who have been sort listed for the 2024 Loewe Craft Prize!

Polly Sutton basket and Ferne Jacobs Fiber Sculpture
14ps Berry, Polly Sutton, cedar bark, ash, wire, yellow cedar outer bark, 13″ x 12″ x 12″, 2022
7fj Shadow Figure, Ferne Jacobs, coiled and twined linen thread, 61″ x 11″ x 3″, 1980s. Photos by Tom Grotta

Loewe was founded in 1846 as a collective of artisans dedicated to leather making. Some of their leather artisans have been with Loewe for as many as 50 years. The Loewe School of Leather Craft in Madrid ensures these time-honored skills are passed on to new generations.

The Loewe Foundation Craft Prize was launched 70 years later in 2016 to illuminate excellence, innovation, and artistic vision in contemporary craftsmanship. Finalists represent makers of all ages, cultures and disciplines, selected by experts reviewing submissions from over 100 countries. “Craft is the essence of Loewe,” the firm quotes its creative director, Jonathan Anderson. “It is where our modernity lies, and it will always be relevant.” 

The Loewe Prize acknowledges international artisans over 18, of any gender, who demonstrate an exceptional ability to create objects of superior aesthetic value. All entries should: 1) fall within an area of applied arts, such as ceramics, bookbinding, enamelwork, jewellery, lacquer, metal, furniture, leather, textiles, glass, paper, wood, etc; 2) be an original work, handmade or partly handmade; 3) have been created in the last five years; 4) be one-of a-kind; 5) have won no prizes previously; and 6) demonstrate artistic intent. A jury composed of 13 leading figures from the world of design, architecture, journalism, criticism and museum curatorship — including a curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Director of the Design Museum in London — will select the winner of the 2024 Craft Prize from the short list of 30 artists. The prize awarded to the winner is 50,000 Euros in cash. The announcement will be made in the Spring of 2024.

works by Mercedes Vicente, Yeonsoon Chang, Jiro Yonezawa and Simone Pheulpin
clockwise: works by Mercedes Vicente, Yeonsoon Chang, Jiro Yonezawa and Simone Pheulpin. Photos by Tom Grotta

The Loewe Prize short list in other years has recognized many interesting artists including Joe Hogan of Ireland and Tanya Aguiñiga of the US.  Besides Sutton and Jacobs, other artists that browngrotta arts works with have been recognized through these competitions.  Mercedes Vicente of Spain and Yeonsoon Chang of Korea have both appeared on the short list in previous years. Simone Pheulpin of France was short listed and received a Special Mention award. Her work was displayed in the Design Museum in the UK. And Jiro Yonezawa of Japan has been involved in a Loewe creative initiative in which he created works of leather, adapting some of the techniques he uses to create bamboo sculptures.

Good Luck to Polly and Ferne!

Process Notes: Mary Giles on Inspiration and Influence

In April, Mary Giles received the Master of the Medium Award for Fiber from the James Renwick Alliance. In receiving the award, Giles spoke of her process and her sources of inspiration:

Mary Giles in Forest

Mary Giles amongst the California Redwoods, © Jim Harris

GIles Hairy Round Basket

“Copper Haze”, 2003, © John Koch


Giles Lakeview

Sunrise, St. Croix River, Minnesota, © Mary GIles

“I have always been influenced by place and especially the natural world in those places. In the early 80’s, having taken up scuba diving, I did a series based on sea life called “walking tentacles.” Later, during many trips to New Mexico, I discovered mesa forms as well as Native American kivas and petroglyphs. Those sources dominated my work for over 10 years. Most recently the changing light, colors, and patterns seen from our retirement home on the banks of the St. Croix River in Minnesota have informed by work. My ideas are an accumulation, my sources most often from nature and my pallet is drawn from the colors of earth, water, wood and stone.

I’ve been drawn to the woods most of my life, from childhood summers at a log cabin in northern Minnesota, to the redwoods of northern California, to the tropical jungles of Costa Rica, and now at our current home on the banks of the St. Croix River. From the St. Croix shore I have photographed many sunrises, reflections, shadows and moonlit nights. These scenes continually change throughout the day, from day to day, and season to season.

 "Sunrise", 2007, John Koch, St. Louis, MO

Detail, “Long Divide”, 2013, © Don Caspar

The materials I use on the surface of the coiled forms are often individually hammered pieces of twelve- to eighteen-gauge wire made of copper, tinned copper, iron, lead or brass.  In addition I use waxed-linen thread and fine wire. By torching the metals I am able to alter the colors in varying degrees enabling me to blend them from darks to brights.  I use this blending to interpret the colors, textures and light that I see in the natural settings.

Giles Boulders

Stone Boulders, © Mary Giles

Detail Large Boulder Sculpture

Detail, “Long Divide”, 2013, © Don Caspar

I became particularly excited about rocks ten years ago when my husband and I decided to build an addition to what was to become our retirement home.  Because this home is on a river in an old glacial landscape, the dozer unearthed a mountain of boulders. Philip Johnson, the architect, said, “I never met anyone who can talk about a pile of rocks.” Well, I never met Philip Johnson. I have photographed rocks in many parts of the world. I’m interested in all sorts of rocks: broken rocks, large rocks, pebbles and boulders. I love their surfaces aged by wear or accumulations. I find many forms in their crevices and shadows.

Mary Giles Tree Shot

Costa Rica © Mary Giles

In the winter we often go to a relatively remote Pacific location in Costa Rica. I spend hours walking the beach photographing yet more rocks, driftwood, and wave and animal patterns in the sand. On the walks I always carry two bags, one for trash and one for treasure.

In my studio I begin a new idea with a sketch. Most recently I have been building clay models. The models have helped me work through details and attempt more complex forms. I’m often asked how long it takes to complete a vessel. I don’t usually keep track but I do remember my first basket from the late 1970’s, three inches high, took twelve hours. My most recent piece, which is fifty inches long, took five months.

Grey Breakby Mary Giles, photo by Tom Grotta

Grey Break by Mary Giles, © Tom Grotta

Six years ago I started doing wall panels that dealt with my concerns about population. They are not baskets but the men they incorporate have been on my vessels for nearly thirty years. The first expression of this theme was directly on a 10 X 30-foot gallery wall. It was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse.  I am still working with these ideas of overpopulation, density and boundaries.

The architect Le Corbusier said “creation is a patient search.” I so enjoy this peaceful experience. I feel fortunate to have found this work for myself. I am very grateful for your generous support. Thank you. “

Mary Giles – April 2013

Congratulations! Mary Giles is a Renwick Gallery Master of the Medium

Mary Giles details by Tom Grotta and Don Casper

Mary Giles details by Tom Grotta and Don Casper

Today, Mary Giles will receive the 2013 Master of the Medium award for fiber from the James Renwick Alliance and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. The Masters of the Medium award recognizes artists of consummate craftsmanship who have contributed to and influenced their chosen fields. The Masters of the Medium awards were initiated in 1997 on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the James Renwick Alliance and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery. The Masters of the Medium Awards are given biennially in odd numbered years.

Mary Giles resides in St. Croix, Minnesota. She creates mixed-media coiled baskets that are sculptural in nature, totems and three-dimensional wall works. Giles’ recently created a 53-inch “boulder,” The Long Divide, of hammered waxed linen, torched tin-coated copper and brass.

The Long Divide by Mary Giles, photo by Don Casper

The Long Divide by Mary Giles, photo by Don Casper

Her 2012 work,Twist, has been added to the American Decorative Arts collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

Sentry Field by Mary giles, photo by Tom Grotta

Sentry Field by Mary giles, photo by Tom Grotta

The sculptural piece was made of waxed linen, iron twists, hammered tin and coated copper wire. Giles’ work is in several other museum collections, including that of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Minnesota, Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin, Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York. She has said of her work, “Today, I am very concerned about the environment and try to capture the forms, textures and light found in nature” and that she is influenced by the views out of her studio windows, “the light on the river, shadows in the woods, and the textures of the water, rocks and trees.”

Olympic Art News: David Watkins Talks About Designing the Medals for the 2012 Games

London 2012 Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins.
The Olympic medals disk circular form is a metaphor for the world. The front of the medal always depicts the same imagery at the summer Games – the Greek Goddess of Sport – ‘Nike’ – stepping out of the depiction of the Parthenon and arriving in London.

Turns out that our family friend, and very talented artist, Davis Watkins, was selected from among 100 artists to design the medals for this year’s Summer Olympic Games. For the Olympic bronze, silver and gold medals, Watkins developed a striking geometric design, juxtaposed with imagery on the front of the medal, which has since 2004 depicted Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, stepping out of the Parthenon. His design for the back of the medal features a 3-dimensional emblem that suggests the built structures of a modern city, a background grid that radiates energy, a ribbon-like form representing the River Thames, and a square, to balance the circularity of the design. Get a behind scenes view of the design process at the Crafts Council’s web page: Striking Gold,, where Watkins and his student Lin Cheung, who designed the medal for the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games are interviewed. If you are in London, the medals are on display at the British Museum through September 9th

David Watkins, photo by Tom Grotta

With Wendy Ranshaw, Watkins is part of an art power couple (like Frida/Diego, Pollack/Krasner, and in our field, Stocksdale/Sekimachi, Rossbach/Westphal, Kobayashi/Kobayashi, McQueen/Mensing; Brennan/Maffei, etc.) If you get as far as Wales, you can see Wendy Ranshaw’s solo exhibition of jewellery and objects, Room of Dreams, at the Ruthin Craft Centre — also through September 9, 2012

Spinning Straw Into Gold: ACC Gold Medalists and Fellows at SOFA Chicago and Online

5R CEDAR EXPORT BUNDLE. Ed Rossbach, plaited cedar bark from Washington state with heat transfer drawing, waxed linen, rayon and rags, 5.5″ x 11″ x 9″, 1993, ©Tom Grotta, 2011

This year at SOFA Chicago (November 4-6) the American Craft Council (ACC) will recognize 28 artists who have been awarded an ACC Gold Medal between 1994 and 2010 in a display at the Navy Pier, curated by Michael Monroe. The ACC awards recognize those who have demonstrated outstanding artistic achievement and leadership in the field for 25 years or more.  Since 1981, the ACC has selected just under four dozen artists working in Fiber to receive a Gold Medal for consummate craftsmanship and/or join its College of Fellows.  We’ve mounted an online exhibition of 21 these artists on our website,, under Awards. Many of these artists are featured in the catalogs published by browngrotta arts and in the videos and other publications we offer. Works by Fellows and Medalists  Adela Akers, Dorothy Gill Barnes , Lia Cook, Helena Hernmarck, Gyöngy Laky, John McQueen and Norma Minkowitz are featured in our current exhibition,  Stimulus: art and its inceptionEnjoy the show.


Gold Medal Winner: Katherine Westphal


postcard and weaving of Katherine Westphal by Ed Rossbach

The American Craft Council has announced that Katherine Westphal has been selected to receive the 2009 Gold Medal, for consummate craftsmanship. Thirty-nine other artists have been awarded a Gold medal, including artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, Dale Chihuly, Jack Lenor Larsen and Ruth Duckworth. Artists selected must have demonstrated extraordinary artistic ability and must have worked 25 years or more in the discipline or career in which they are being recognized.
Katherine was born in 1919. She studied painting, intending to be a commercial artist. In 1946, she was hired to teach design at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was there she met and married fellow faculty member, and later ACC Gold Medalist, Ed Rossbach. In 1950, the couple moved to Berkeley and Westphal began working with textiles. For eight years she designed commercial fabrics. In the mid-60s she accepted what she thought was a short-time assignment teaching industrial design at the University of California, Davis. She stayed 13 years, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1979. From 1997 to 2001, the couple’s work was featured in museums across the US in a traveling exhibition, The Ties That Bind, Fiber Art by Ed Rossbach and Katherine Westphal from the Daphne Farago Collection.

Westphal has concentrated on surface, pattern and decoration in textiles, quilts and clothing, as well as baskets. The use of fractured and random images became a signature of her work. Her collages combined bold images and bright colors. In the catalog for the OBJECTS USA exhibition in 1970, she wrote, “I was trained as a painter. I see things from that viewpoint. I build up; I destroy. I let the textile grow, never knowing where it is going or when it will be finished. It is cut up, sewn together, embroidered, quilted, embellished with tapestry or fringes, until my intuitive and visual senses tell me it is finished and the message complete.”



Shortly after the color copier was introduced, while others were still concentrating on standard office applications, Westphal recognized the technology’s creative potential. She used heat transfer paper to imprint images onto paper and cloth, combining photographs that she had taken herself with found images, altering them, then tearing, cutting, rearranging and stitching them back together. Jo Ann Staab described the process in Surface Design in 1999, “She would also deliberately move an image while the copier was running, so that the print was blurred, or the movement was traced into a new image. It was magic. She took these images and incorporated them into her textile designs, her handmade books, and even her woven designs. One day I saw her working with an image of boisterous tennis star John McEnroe with his signature mop of red curls wrapped in a headband. She had abstracted and silhouetted an action pose and was setting up a diagonal repeat on sheets of copy paper taped together. I said, ‘Oh, that’s John McEnroe, I can tell because of his hair.’ She responded, ‘Oh, I don’t know who it is, I just liked the movement in this image – it’s from one of those sports magazines.’ Later the image emerged in a highly technical Jacquard weave repeat that Katherine produced as part of the Jacquard Project sponsored by the Rhode Island School of Design; row upon row of McEnroe figures pushed to a completely different level of abstract design meticulously rendered in multi-harness brocade.”

Westphal’s inventive approach has influenced myriad artists. As Ken Johnson, wrote of her and her husband, in the New York Times in 1998, “The permissions extended by Mr. Rossbach and Ms. Westphal have inspired generations of craftsmen. For each, weaving is a conservative discipline against which to react by using improbable materials, techniques or, occasionally, images. You don’t think about how beautifully or skillfully their works are made, but rather how inventively they play off conventional expectations.”