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March 10, 1995 - Image 84

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-03-10

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Louis XV

Queen Anne
George II

Mug Shots

They're beautiful and they're pragmatic.
A local gallery focuses on the fine art of making mugs.


iving in a culture where the
synthetic — from talk shows
to plastics — is common-
place, there's a yearning to
get back to the natural. Perhaps
that's part of the rising popular-
ity of mugs.
Holding a sculptured lump of
clay that has been fired into hard
stone is like grasping a tradition
handed downfrom generation to
generation. Of course, a "drink-
ing vessel" in archeological terms
is simply a mug by today's stan-
dards. And yes, there were mugs
before there were coffee houses.
For admirers of one-of-a-kind
mugs, holding a distinctly formed
cup made from red clay or terra
cotta could be like a religious ex-
perience. Well, at least Ariana
Gallery in Royal Oak is hoping
From March 11 through
March 18, the Ariana Gallery is
holding an exhibit of the works of
52 of the most sought-after mug
sculptors in the country. The
show, "From Hand to Mouth,"
also is an inaugural joint project
for two of the local gallery scene's
most ardent supporters of clay
artists — Anne Kuffler and Dul-


"People find mugs appealing,"
said Ms. Kuffler, director and
owner of Ariana Gallery. "It's art
that you can hold in your hand,
use daily, think about the person
who gave it to you. All without
spending a lot of money."
The mugs featured in the ex-
hibit represent microcosms of the
respective artists' sculptural
styles. On a smaller scale, the
mugs bear the artists' trademark
markings and shapes.
"Some people buy these mugs
because they might not be able to
afford the artist's vase or teapot,"
Ms. Kuffler said.
"From Hand to Mouth" has
been curated by Ms. Swidler, who
owned and directed the Swidler
Gallery, formerly in Royal Oak.
Her joint effort with Ms. Kuffler
marks Ms. Swidler's first exhib-
it since her gallery closed its
Swidler Gallery featured clay
work exclusively, and provided
"a space outside of art fairs for
many emerging artists," Ms. Swi-
dler said. Now, both are working
to attract those same clay artists
to Ariana Gallery.
Featuring "mug sculptures" in


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cy Swidler.
The exhibit culminates with a
mug-raising tribute to the friend-
ly coffee bean. Mugs will be filled
with coffee as part of an informal
coffee-tasting seminar.
But make no mistake. A mug
is not just a mug. It reveals plen-
ty about a person. More than his
caffeine-ingesting habits.
It's a statement that many peo-
ple place on their desks, or reach
for when seeking a cup of solace.
The appeal might be the mug's
strong lines. The thick, heavy
handle. The delicate curves of
porcelain. Maybe the glaze re-
flects the window to the soul. Or,
in more practical terms, maybe a
deep, bowl-like mug could make
the morning trips to the coffee pot
a one-stop firi-up.

a gallery has been rather vogue,
especially since one of the most
famous clay galleries in the coun-
try, Garth Clark of New York,
regularly presents mug exhibits.
Perhaps the popular appeal of
"mug art" also can be attributed
to the growing attention in the
art world to clay artistry and the
increased popularity of coffee
Yet the "From Hand to Mouth"
exhibit also offers another unex-
pected feature: original sculpture
at a reasonable price, Ms. Swi-
dler said. With more than 200
mugs ranging from $12 to $100,
the work also meets the most
stringent aesthetic and pragmatic
standard: It's attractive, afford-
able — and usable.
And, Ms. Swidler is quick 'co

point out that each mug has
an "individualized quality." Be-
cause every clay piece is fired in
a kiln, glazed and put back in
the kiln, there's a randomness
— and uniqueness — in the
"Each mug feels differently,"
Ms. Swidler said. "A lot of clay is
formed by accident. When you're
dealing with fire you can only con-
trol so much."
The exhibit features local
artists Elizabeth Lurie, Diane
Pancioli, Paul Young and Susan
Beiner, whose contribution in-
cludes a sculpture made from
mugs. The work of nationally
known clay artists Byron Tem-
ple, Matthew Metz and Val Cush-
ing are also in the show.
In addition, Detroit-based Pe-
wabic Pottery will unveil a new
line of brightly colored mugs
designed especially for the ex-
Eighteen months ago, Ariana
Gallery moved to the large open
space on Main Street from a
small house gallery in Birming-
ham. Since then, Ms. Kuffler
has assembled one of the largest
selections of glass art in the
area. She has also filled
the gallery with a range of
ceramics, posters and paint-
ings, including the cont-
roversial work of Jack
"To create an interest in art,
we have to educate the public,"
Ms. Kuffler said. "We try to
make people aware of the
subjects that art encompass-
es." Part of the gallery's out-
reach approach is to offer
lectures on how to build an art
In early May, many of the
same mug artists will reassem-
ble for the Ariana Gallery's vase
show, and then again in the fall
for its annual teapot exhibit.
But it seems Ms. Kuffler and
Ms. Swidler expect the mug show
will offer the most intimate ex-
perience. After all, is there any
other "art form" that you can hold
in your hands, press to your lips
and from which you can sip your
favorite libation? ❑

Ariana Gallery is located
at 119 South Main in Royal
Oak. "From Hand to Mouth"
will run from March 11-18.
The educational coffee semi-
nar and tasting will be held
Saturday, March 18, from 10
a.m. to noon. For information,
call the gallery, (810) 546-

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