From the Craft Center To The Smithsonian

August 19, 2011
Chris Shea

The Smithsonian American Art Museum recently acquired three furniture pieces from former Appalachian Center for Craft student Chris Shea. The museum wanted the forged iron and cast glass works for its permanent collection of notable American craft and decorative arts. The two cafe chairs and arthropod side table by Shea will be on exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. beginning Oct. 1.

According to Shea, “The two and a half years I spent at the Appalachian Center for Craft gave me a great foundation of skills and knowledge that I still draw on every day. I’m grateful to have studied metal and blacksmithing under Professor Bob Coogan, worked in wood with Professor Graham Campbell, and for the many hours spent in the glass shop with Professor Curt Brock.”

“Objects in the Renwick Gallery have been a source of great inspiration to me for many years, living and working as I do in the Washington, D.C. area. I'm very honored and excited to have my work included in the nation's premier craft collection.”

Smithsonian curator Nicholas Bell commented, "Over the past 15 years, Chris Shea has developed a compelling design language that combines traditional furniture forms, muscular ironwork and luminous cast glass in ways that are at once unexpected and oddly organic.”

The cafe chairs have become a signature piece for Shea, with a form derived from traditional bentwood furniture but executed in hot-forged steel, with joinery details more common to large architectural ironwork than fine furniture. The seats are cast in thick contoured slabs of translucent green glass set directly into the iron. The table is of similar design, with the name “Arthropod” referring to the phylum of creatures such as insects and crustaceans known for their hard, segmented organic structures.

Chris Shea designs and creates furniture, sculpture and architectural metalwork at his forge and studio outside Washington, D.C. In addition to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Galllery, his work has been shown at Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia, Woodson Art Museum, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the National Ornamental Metals Museum and at SOFA Chicago with Maurine Littleton Gallery. A native of Marblehead, Mass., Shea studied at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee and at Penland School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University. Chris Shea's glass work is created in association with the Washington Glass Studio.

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