*this edition of the Museum for Art in Wood’s residency blog is written by Adam John Manley, 2023 resident.
With the Echo Lake Collaboration, and the settling in phase well underway, the 6 residents partook in an important tradition in the WARP (formerly ITE) residency. We rented a van, and spent five days exploring local and regional makers, collectors, institutions and curators. The gang is exhausted from a whirlwind tour, but returned after this long weekend eager to make new work and inspired by all that we have seen. We started nearby, and slowly worked out way out over the course of about 5 days.
Part I: local/regional visits
The Philadelphia organic recycling facility
We started this adventure relatively close to home, taking our trusty van (and Teresa’s truck. Thanks Teresa!!!) out to the organic recycling facility, on the edge of Philadelphia, along the Skuykill River. Here, we were hoping to find some good materials that some of us could bring back to the studio. This place had both green freshly felled trees, and some pretty nice milled lumber from city trees.
We dug into that pile, and Maiko got to do her thing with the chainsaw, after many many attempts to start it, and we hauled a nice stack of well seasoned hardwood back to the studio…
The Wharton Esherick Museum
If you’ve never been, stop reading now, and Go to the Wharton Esherick Museum!!!
After delivering our materials, we piled back into the van (which somehow we never named) and headed out of town to the Wharton Esherick Museum, in Malvern, PA. There, we received a thorough and informational tour from the wonderful Sophie Glenn, who now works for the museum. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have never been (because you’re probably on your way there now… right?) but basically this was the home and studio of the great, Wharton Esherick, arguably one of the more important early figures in the wonderful intersecting worlds of craft, architecture, design, and sculpture. The property itself, and its three main buildings, is a lifes-work sclulpture/living artwork. Each detail was engineered and crafted by Esherick, sometimes many times until he got it right, or when people would come and buy his, oh, say, door handle, or dining room table, and he would re-make it. It is an eclectic blend and visible evolution of an artist who left no detail unconsidered.
Sophie Glenn toured us through, telling us the stories behind works, the life of this person and his family, and details about the architecture and grounds. I had not been to this amazing place since my 20’s, when I was in my very first exhibition there. So this was a wonderful opportunity to see it with fresh eyes.
We were also lucky enough to be at the museum during the run of the annual themed exhibition (This year “Telling Tales”) was on view. While most of the works are in only a virtual and physical catalog, the tin gallery does house this year’s winning artists. Even more exciting, this year, your humble narrator (Adam Manley) was one of the Jurors, along with the great BA Harrington, of the show, so it felt extra special to be visiting while the works were still on display.
Mark Sfirri’s home and studio
The next day, we headed piled back into the yet unnamed van, and headed out to the New Hope, PA area to visit Mark Sfirri at his lovely home. There, Mark first toured us through his amazing collection of works by a who’s who of artists, and then took us out to his studio, where he gave us an inside look at his process and some amazing tricks he uses in his work every day. Mark is a generous and funny person, and an incredibly prolific artist. His knowledge of Wharton Esherick, as well, is nearly unrivaled, so he filled us in on some more details, and showed us his own personal Esherick works.
From Mark’s house, we grabbed some lunch in lovely, New Hope, and moved on to the amazing home, studio, and now living/working museum to, George Nakashima. Many of you will know, but the Nakashima name is alive and well and still pumping out amazing furniture, under the guidance, and design oversight of the wonderful, Mira Nakashima, Goeorge’s daughter. After a deep-dive tour of the entire compound, including many great works of architecture designed and largely built by George, Mira sat down with the group to chat in one of the lovely buildings on the property. It was such a treat to hear her stories and she was incredibly warm and generous with her time.
That’s it for part one of our Art adventure. Stay tuned for next time, when we leave the greater Philadelphia area, and venture into new territories in the south, starting in Baltimore, and working our way down to DC and back.