Though celebrated by a younger generation of woodworkers, Wharton Esherick never embraced the role of a teacher. His ethos was clear – he would much rather be making art than talking about it. He left us instead with his beautiful creations and Studio for us to study and marvel at, believing that if you wanted to know him, you needed only to look at his work. With this philosophy to embrace, in April of 2018, we struck up a partnership with the Center for Creative Works (CCW) to launch an Artist-in-Residence program here at the Museum, exploring the inspiration of Esherick’s Studio and all it holds. Six wonderful artists became regular visitors to the Studio, investigating the site through sketching and model-making and bringing those insights back to their CCW woodshop.
Located in Wynnewood, The Center for Creative Works is a unique art studio for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. On any given day, CCW is bustling with artists in their large, open studio environment. The Center houses a ceramics studio, print shop, music studio, and woodshop, as well as painting, drawing and mixed-media sculpture areas. Participant artists have access to open studio space and guidance from teaching artists on staff as they develop proficiency in materials and techniques in their artwork. CCW also helps support artists in their pursuit of opportunities to exhibit and sell their work around Philadelphia and beyond.
Our resident artists for this inaugural year were six of CCW’s most dedicated woodworkers: Jacob Corsi, Paige Donovan, Joyce Moseley, Ken McNelis, Pat McAvoy-Hull, and Cassie Flanagan. Each bi-weekly visit was a delight as we watched these artists interpret and wrangle with Esherick’s unique aesthetic, culminating with the creation of Esherick-inspired stools back in the CCW woodshop with furniture maker Walt Wynne. In the woodshop, which has been brilliantly retrofitted for safety’s sake to operate tools with manpower (like the bicycle operated lathe), the artists were able to comprehensively shape and finish their projects.
The six final stools were a celebrated part our Annual Members’ Party this September and a well-timed companion to the 25th Annual Woodworking Competition and Exhibition theme of stools. A selection of these CCW stools will remain on display in our Visitor Center through the end of the year, while others will travel to other venues. We are so grateful to all the artists who participated this year and look forward to resuming the residency next spring!
About the Artists
Joyce is a vibrant emergent artist whose style is unique and immediately recognizable. She draws and paints a specific assortment of signs and symbols that are meaningful to her personally, and never without a sense of humor: saunas, meatballs, quilts, butterflies, churches, and men with hats recur in her dynamic compositions. In the woodshop, Joyce has developed a collection of portraits of her friends, rendered in thin wood and cut out with a scroll saw, each sitting in a unique chair. In 2018, Joyce’s artwork was featured in Dizzy Mag, a New York-based art publication. She lives in Philadelphia with her daughter and sister. More of her work can be seen here.
Ken currently works both out of CCW’s studio and in our supported employment studio, where he designs, prints, and sews his own line of aquatic plush toys. At CCW, he works primarily in 2D, drawing and painting various creatures, real and imagined. Beyond the Wharton Esherick stools, other woodshop pursuits include a custom chess set with hand-turned pieces. Ken lives in Plymouth Meeting.
Since the beginning of the woodworking program at CCW in 2013, Pat has been a regular fixture in the woodshop. He is a natural when it comes to building and fixing things, from minor equipment repairs in the studio to crafting furniture. Pat brings his skills to the classroom CCW’s Teacher Corps initiative, where he teaches woodworking skills to students out of a mobile woodshop called the Build-It Bus. With Teacher Corps, Pat has taught a wide range of students building skills, from preschoolers to college students.
Cassie is an outgoing member of the CCW community. Deeply involved in music, textiles, ceramics, and painting, her free-form art aesthetic incorporates found objects that she brings into the studio, breathing new life into them. She works as a teacher with the CCW Teacher Corps, sharing her enthusiasm for making things with students of all ages. Cassie recently completed her first full-length album, “Soul Shoe,” at CCW’s recording studio, and is in the process of developing a line of bags and potholders featuring her colorful needlepoint designs.
A new addition to the CCW team, Jacob is currently exploring new materials and techniques in the studio. He is currently most interested in working in CCW’s music studio and drawing cartoons. Jacob has a meticulous drawing style, and brings the same attention to detail to woodworking, carefully considering each step of the process. During this project, Jacob found a particular affinity with Wharton Esherick, whose unconventional style appealed to his sense of humor.
With an incredible eye for detail, Paige brings a meticulous mark-making style to any material she works with, from paint and ink to ceramics. During the Residency she completed several woodworking projects, including a stool with a dragonfly design burned into the seat (pictured). One of CCW’s most successful artists Paige’s work has been shown locally and abroad at the Outsider Art Fair in New York, Crawford Gallery in Cork, Ireland, and Fleisher-Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia. She lives in Audubon, PA with her family. More of her work can be seen here.