A new location and exhibit is bringing a new beginning for WomanCraft Gifts, a well-established local craft co-operative.
WomanCraft’s exhibit “Art to Hold,” which features more than 60 mugs created by 20 local potters, is on display in the group's new Carrboro location until April 24. The co-op, founded in 1973, moved to Carrboro from Chapel Hill in January.
Brenda Scott, a painter and the organizer of the “Art to Hold” exhibit, said WomanCraft began as a women’s only co-op to promote local female craft artists. Today, the group, which includes both men and women, has 23 member artists and more than 70 consignors who work with a wide variety of mediums, including pottery, painting, glass and jewelry.
Unlike members, consignors are artists who contribute works of art without volunteering for the co-op.
“Our message is always that we are all local and that we hope people will shop local and support the local arts community,” Scott said.
She said the personal, tight-knit feel of WomanCraft is what drew her to join the organization two years ago.
“What’s different about our shop from other shops you go into is that if someone is interested in a piece of stained glass, I can tell that customer about the person who made the stained glass and her process and why she does it,” Scott said.
The co-op displays two exhibits a month, and the idea for an exhibit revolving around mugs came from wanting to market functional, practical pieces.
Barbara McKenzie, an artist who first joined WomanCraft in 1993 and who retired from the co-op 12 years ago, is one of the potters whose work is featured in the exhibit. She taught photojournalism at Georgia State University before moving to North Carolina, where she took her first pottery class and began her work as an artist.
“As a photographer, I was a documentary photographer, so working in clay and making pots that were useful was something that appealed to me very much,” McKenzie said.
As a long-time member and former recording secretary of WomanCraft, McKenzie said she watched the co-op develop and change with the times.
Pam Epperson, another potter featured in the exhibit, just joined the group as a consignor in January, in the midst of their relocation to Carrboro.
“I think there are lots of members (at WomanCraft) that I really admire — admire their work. To be juried into that community — that’s very exciting for me,” she said.
Epperson said she started college as an art major but quickly changed to a degree in social sciences. After earning a master's from UNC in school psychology and a doctorate from Duke in counselling psychology, Epperson went back to art and worked with several pottery groups before joining WomanCraft.
“I’m actually a psychologist by day, and pottery is my therapy,” she said.
Both Epperson and McKenzie said they hope this exhibit will be another way for WomanCraft to inaugurate themselves into the local arts community in Carrboro.
“I think they’re just finding their way in Carrboro and just beginning to get established there,” McKenzie said.
Epperson said she thinks the move to a place like Carrboro, with its vibrant art community, has been the perfect move for WomanCraft.
“I think there’s a good energy there in Carrboro that they can be a part of,” she said.
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