Posted on Monday, May 21, 2018 - 1:51pm

Karen Johnson Boyd, age 91, of Racine, Wisconsin, passed away January 29, 2016, in her home following a brief illness. Born in Racine, Wisconsin, May 16, 1924, she was a lifelong resident of Racine and of Cable, Wisconsin. Throughout her life, Mrs. Boyd has been an advocate for visual artists and arts institutions across the country. She is especially remembered as a major figure in the contemporary craft field, assembling one of the country’s most respected collections of this material.

To learn more about this philanthropic Racine native

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 3:13pm

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of fiber artist Mary Giles on April 11, 2018 at the age of 73, at her home near Stillwater, Minnesota. Giles was born in St. Paul but spent much of her adult life in St. Louis where she was employed as a schoolteacher. It was there that she began working in fibers and became particularly interested in basketry techniques. She knotted dyed linen thread to create vessel forms and sculptural works that responded to the functional history of baskets, while referencing the natural environment and the powerful connections all people have to it. Giles developed techniques for adding metal elements that she created to her sculptures, frequently suggesting the surface embellishments people have historically added to their baskets.

Her career as an artist took off when Giles retired from teaching school in the late 1990s and her work began to be included in national and international exhibitions devoted to the ways fiber artists were using traditional basketry techniques to make unconventional contemporary works. In 2006, she and her husband, architect Jim Harris, moved back to Minnesota. Giles’ work was featured in an important show of contemporary American basket artists at the Barbican Centre in London and she represented the US in the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland. In 2013, she was named a Master of the Medium by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Her work is included in over 15 museums, including RAM, which owns eight of her pieces spanning 1987 through 2001.

Learn more about her career:
From Textile Art Center, Minneapolis

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune



Posted on Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 3:02pm

We note the death of another great talent in the field, the fiber artist, Katherine Westphal, who died on March 13 at the age of 99. Westphal was born in Los Angeles and received her BA and MA degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. A painter in her early career, Westphal was hired to teach Design in 1946 at the University of Washington in Seattle. There she met and married fellow faculty member Ed Rossbach, moving with him when he was offered a position at UC Berkeley in 1950. While there, Westphal began designing textiles and eight years later, she was hired to teach Industrial Design at UC Davis. She remained there until retiring in 1979.

Westphal is known for her elaborately patterned textiles, quilts, and garments which incorporate heat transfer techniques to apply images from original sources—photographs, textile patterns—to another—usually paper—surface. Her works are in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum, and RAM which holds eight examples of her work created from 1977 through 1998. These works are contemporary basket forms, created in non-traditional materials and dried gourds covered in color copier-generated imagery. Westphal was inducted into the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows in 1979 and awarded its prestigious Gold Medal in 2009.

Read more about the artist on Hyperallergic

In The New York Times

Finally, on the American Craft website

Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 4:06pm

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Imogene Powers Johnson on May 3, 2018, at the age of 87. Gene, as she was affectionately known, moved to Racine when she married the late Sam Johnson who was the longtime Chairman of SC Johnson. She became a major benefactor in her adopted community, supporting a wide range of causes, placing particular emphasis on her two passions of education and the environment. Gene is particularly known for founding The Prairie School in Racine but was also instrumental in the establishment of River Bend Nature Center and 21st Century Preparatory School. A warmhearted person with a welcoming smile to all who approached her, Gene also funded the Community Art Projects that placed artist-decorated sculptures throughout the city’s center during summer months. At RAM, we are very grateful to Gene for her long-term support of the museum’s efforts and for the generous contributions we received from her and her family that made the museum downtown possible.|

The Imogene Powers Johnson Memorial Fund has been established at RAM and contributions are welcome.


Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - 5:32pm

We are sorry to share with you news of the death of another major figure in the contemporary ceramics field. The nationally known ceramic sculptor and educator, Paula Winokur died on February 4, 2018 at the age of 82. She made her reputation creating porcelain sculptures that referenced the landscape. Their white surfaces were folded and manipulated in ways that recall how the land and its elements change and shift over periods of time. Some of her wall pieces are subtly colored with glazes and ceramic pencil drawings. Sometimes, she would include a ceramic piece of fruit or a bowl within these works, recalling a table top still life. In her later career, Winokur’s work became larger in scale and even more directly depicted nature’s rock and ice formations. Her large floor piece in RAM’s collection, Glacier IV: Calving, 2010, dramatically captures this natural process executed in porcelain segments. RAM also holds a drawing and a wall sculpture by the artist.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Winokur taught at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania from 1973 until retirement in 2003. She is a Fellow of the College of Fellows of the American Craft Council and Winokur’s work can be found in many museum permanent collections including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

To read more about her career


Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - 5:24pm

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of polymer artist Tory Hughes on February 18, 2018 at the age of 59. Hughes, who was based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was an internationally known artist, teacher, and innovator who was a revered figure in the US polymer field. As an artist, she was particularly adept at using the polymer medium to mimic other materials including the surfaces of marble, metal, ivory, and semi-precious stones such as malachite. She used the techniques she developed to create handmade books, vessels, containers that had movable sections, and jewelry. Many of these were either totally created in polymer or polymer combined with other materials. In each instance, it is often difficult to determine which part of a Hughes work was created by the artist and which she has gathered from another source and collaged into the piece—an indicator of her talent. 

To learn more about this polymer innovator, visit Polymer Clay Archives