In 1994, the annual thematic woodworking competition began as an opportunity to encourage new, creative and imaginative designs in wood. Encouraged to think like Esherick and invent designs both expressive and functional, professional woodworkers, artists, hobbyists and craftspeople have submitted hundreds of pieces reflecting each year’s theme. From wooden jewelry to wall cabinets, chairs to desk accessories and everything in between, the next generation of artistry in wood has passed through the doors of the Wharton Esherick Museum.

2019 Theme: Lighting


black and white woodcut print of three men striking metal at an anvilWharton Esherick brilliantly integrated lighting into his work, as seen in his knock-out 1958 Cabinet Desk, which delights the user with lights that turn on when a drawer is pulled open, or the light-activating closet and cabinet doors throughout the Studio. He created lamps whose sculptural forms emphasized the contrast between light and dark, casting bold shadows across the room. The importance of lighting underlies Esherick’s work even in his woodcuts, as in The Hammersmen, which depicts only what is illuminated by the striking of hot metal.

Lighting mattered to Wharton Esherick. It added a touch of drama, a twist in the plot. He understood the unique power of light to transform our experience of space, to reveal and define form. His early explorations were drawn from designing sets at the Hedgerow Theatre and by the dramatic scenes of Expressionist film. As his career progressed, this interest led to singular sculptural forms designed to bring light to the warmth of wood.

In this 26th year of our annual exhibition, we celebrate innovative approaches to lighting. The jurors will consider indoor and outdoor lighting of all kinds – functional, sculptural, and conceptual. Artists are encouraged to imagine, dream, and experiment. The concept of lighting should be pondered and dissected. Submissions from individuals or collaborative teams are welcome.

We see the Wharton Esherick legacy as an exciting source of inspiration across the creative landscape, and we encourage you to think like Esherick and remember – if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing!


September 8 – December 29, 2019

A jury will select pieces to be exhibited in Museum’s visitor center gallery from September 8 – December 29, 2019. Pieces may be offered for sale with prices set by the artist. The museum retains a 30% commission of sales to benefit exhibitions and public programs.

Cash prizes of $500, $300, and $200 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will be awarded, as well as a $100 Horace Hartshaw award for middle and high school students, and a $200 Member’s Choice award, voted on at the opening reception. The competition is open to everyone, and entered works should be:

  • Functional
  • Use wood as the primary medium
  • Mixed materials welcome, but wood should be the primary medium
  • New work is encouraged
  • Non-traditional, imaginative, and technical
  • Either self-powered or powered by 110 wall voltage
  • Able to be displayed indoors
  • Available for the duration of the exhibition

If your piece is selected for exhibition you will be asked to provide an artist’s statement.

The exhibition will open at our annual party on September 8, 2019 and run through December 29, 2019.

Pieces selected for exhibition will be displayed indoors, in a secure area, and are insured by the Museum from the time of their arrival, for the duration of the exhibition, till the time of their delivery to the artist or purchaser.


  1. Entrants should submit a completed entry form either online or by mail.
  2. Submit no more than 3 images for each entered piece; we recommend two overall images and one detail.
  3. The images should be JPEG files, 300 dpi. The jury will select finalists via your submitted images, so we suggest you submit as high-quality images as possible.
  4. Submit images online or burn to a CD and mail in. Please note, the Museum will not return CDs.

There is a $30 entry fee ($20 for Museum members). The fee is non-refundable and covers the entry of up to three pieces.

Additional entry fees apply for more than three pieces ($30 for additional three pieces).

The entry fee for middle and high school students is $15 and applies to current students only. Please indicate on the entry form if you are a current high school or middle school student to be considered for the Horace Hartshaw Award. Hartshaw worked alongside Wharton Esherick in the 1950-60s, and this award was created to honor his memory and encourage woodworking in younger generations.

Applicants can submit their work for consideration online, or print out a PDF of the application and mail to the address below.


The deadline for entry is July 1, 2019. If submitting by mail, a July 1st postmark is acceptable, online entries must be submitted by midnight. All entrants will be notified by July 31, 2019 of the jury’s decision. If submitting by mail, please send to:

The Wharton Esherick Museum
PO Box 595, Paoli, PA 19301



A jury of three will select the finalists for the exhibition from the images submitted; the artist’s names will not be revealed during the jurying process. It is highly recommended you submit high-quality images to ensure the jury sees your piece at its best.

Our 2019 Jury:

Robert Aibel, Moderne Gallery Founder and Co-Director

Thomas Scurto-Davis, Main Line Art Center Executive Director

Laura Heemer, Wharton Esherick Museum Curator and Program Director


Please note on your entry form if your piece(s) are for sale. If they are not for sale, please include a value for insurance and your piece will be marked “Not for Sale” during the exhibition. The Museum retains a 30% commission of your retail price if sold.


If your piece is selected for the exhibition, you are responsible for shipping your work to the Museum. The Museum will pay the cost of shipping unsold pieces back to you after the exhibition closes. You are welcome to drop off your piece before the exhibition but if you are unable to pick up your piece after the show, you will be responsible for the cost of shipping.

Questions regarding the annual juried show? Please contact Laura Heemer at