Humor in Craft

View an excerpt of the recently published Humor in Craft Book:

This online exhibit features 12 +1 images of humorous craft artwork from around the world and the artists' commentary about the role humor plays in their work.

Fun for all!


Visit the exhibitions:

Humor in Metal, May 23-26, 2012

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Humor in Craft, July 20-Oct 27, 2012

Pittsburgh Society for Contemporary Craft

Humor in Craft, March 4-April 19, 2014

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
17 Fountains St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

The Reception @ Kendall will take place April 1, 2014 @ 6:30PM
Yes, April Fool's Day - it was Kendall's funny idea and, of course, I jumped on it.

Location: online
Members: 75
Latest Activity: Mar 8, 2014

Highlighting a diverse range of materials, techniques and artists that might not otherwise be seen—the exhibit challenges viewers to move beyond their own frames of reference when considering approaches to contemporary craft.

The concept of “funny” can vary widely based on a variety of factors such as social background, personal experiences and values, knowledge of popular culture events, education, national origin, etc. There are overlaps but also differences in humor perception.

For the artists in this exhibition, hardly any topic is off-limits, apparently everything can be made fun of. And why not laugh at the human foibles, the banana-peel jokes, and, yes, the politicians? How else could we stand especially the latter?

Enjoy this excerpt from the book! There's a funny radio interview to listen to as well click on the link to the right .........................................

Russell Biles.

Final Showdown (Bonanza), 2006.

Coil and slab built porcelain, slip cast porcelain, underglaze;

7 x 21 x 20 in.

Photo: Tim Barnwell.

Satirical humor is one element I use to make my bitter subjects palatable. Humor breaks down barriers and allows the viewers to confront unsettling ideas.
Craft has always been a quality I've appreciated and respected. It transcends culture and social class thus appealing to a broad audience. Another aspect of my work that appeals to a broad audience is my visual narrative. My narrative functions on different levels and is influenced by my fascination with the written word, TV, and film.
My artistic direction follows the philosophy of Lenny Bruce, “The truth is what is, and what should be is a fantasy; life isn't what should be, it’s what is happening."

Adi Zaffran Weisler, Israel
Separation Anxiety.
Oak wood table and stool, cloth;
41.3 x 27.5 x 29.5 inches.
Photo: Oded Antman.

My work deals with fears and phobias, in this case the fear of being abandoned. Humor is often used as an "ice breaker," as a means to connect people. Human-object relationships are not that different. I believe that every object that surrounds us generates emotions and affects the way we feel. By welcoming these pieces of furniture into our homes, we welcome humor into our life.

Anna Davern. Australia.
Nagaina. Brooch.
Reworked biscuit tin, sublimate printed steel, copper, garnet beads.
Photo: Terence Bogue.

Humour has always played an important part in my life and it is essential for me to laugh loudly and often. It would seem natural then that humour will also play an integral part in my work.
A major interest of mine is issues of cultural identity. As an Australian, this means investigating the concepts of colonialism, multiculturalism, nationalism, and racism. These topics are not normally regarded as funny. The incorporation of humour into my work acts as a buffer, a kind of cushioning around the more difficult elements of our dark history. This is not to say that I want to make light of serious issues, rather that humour puts the viewer at ease and in so doing, they’re more comfortable to investigate the ideas further.
To examine an idea of ‘Australian-ness,’ I play around with our cultural stereotypes. I take images that are typically found in kitsch ‘tin’ souvenir items, for example, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from a Bushells’® tea tin, or a collection of native Australian animals from a Willow® tin tray, or a view of Sydney Harbour with the icons of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge: I cut them out, rearrange them, and reconstruct them to create fantastical, hybrid creatures, and strange altered landscapes that are part Aussie folk craft, part comment on cultural intervention, and part humorous acknowledgement of the hybrid nature of contemporary Australian society.

Bandhu Scott Dunham. USA
Hop, 2009. Handcranked automaton.
Lampworked glass, mixed media; 14 in.
Photo by the artist.

Wit has always been important to me. Function seems like a serious consideration, and while there is a need to be “spot on” in matters of durability and suitability, it is the free play of creativity that distinguishes fine crafts from objects stamped out by a machine. When we enter that creative zone, witticisms spring naturally to mind, and the repetitive nature of craft further nudges us to try something different, something clever, maybe even something unexpected, bizarre, or funny. This is how we keep our sanity. The good craftsman knows that these far-out ideas should be embraced as the potential seeds for innovations that serve functionality as well.
Do “Humor” and “Human” come from the same root? Maybe so. In any case, having humorous objects in our environment definitely contributes to our humanity, gives us new perspectives and helps us cope.

Barbara Mann. USA
Set of 3 Party Rings: Bubble Blower, Monkey, Rocket Ship.
Sterling silver, brass, 14k gold;
1.75 x 1 x .5 in (each).
Photo: Walker Montgomery.

My view on humor: "You've got to laugh a little, cry a little, until the clouds roll by a little, that's the story of, that's the glory of love." - William Joseph "Billy" Hill, lyrics from "Glory of Love,” 1936.

Brian McArthur. Canada.
Trojan Beaver.
Low fire clay, glaze, stain, lustre;
16 x 16 x 10 in.
Photo: 3TEN Photography

Humor is an essential ingredient in the development of my sculpture. Humor works like butter, helping to pull the different elements of the concept together into a palatable and enticing concoction. Humor can work as a disarming portal, inviting and opening the art to the viewer for a more engaged and contemplative connection. Challenging and sensitive subjects can be approached with the light touch of humor and can provide a personal and sincere expression that reaches the universal.
The Trojan Beaver comes from a series that explores Canadian identity in a whimsical way using popular iconic symbols of Canada, transforming them with a classical, disguising device that was used for war. Within the structures, I have placed ironic, cultural Canadian artifacts that would subversively influence American culture: in place of soldiers, curling rocks spill out from the trap door in the beaver.
Clay has been my medium of choice because of its ability to be manipulated to imitate textures and forms of any kind. Clay is not without its challenges as it can be quite elusive technically and humbles me often; keeping a sense of humor and not taking myself too seriously puts me in check with reality. A little bit of humor makes the medicine go down.

David Scott Smith. USA
Clay Food.  Unfired clay. (chicken wing, pickle, matchbook, and ointment).
Photo: Barbara Lydon.

I am a ceramic artist and a ceramics instructor at a small community college in Montana. I primarily work with translucent porcelain, but also dabble in a lot of other things. Humor is an important element in most of my work. I could invent some fancy reason for this, but in reality I realized at a young age that I'm not a 'looker' by any stretch of the imagination, and the only way I was ever going to make it with the ladies was to get them laughing.
I also have strong subversive tendencies. The whole concept of High Art (whatever the hell that means) implies a level of intellectualism and sophistication that I have never felt comfortable with, even if I'm attending my own fancy gallery openings and the reviews of my work are favorable. The truth is, I think most art you find in galleries today is really boring. It's missing something, it doesn't have any heart.
The way I approach making art is analogous to the opening line of a bad joke: “A gorgeous woman, a priest, and a dancing bear walk into a bar.” What happens next? What will be the punch line? Beats the hell out of me, but it's sure fun trying to figure it all out...

This photo was taken when I forced all the students to wear hairnets on a certain day, I thought this was amusing. Sometimes, teaching is very rewarding.

Felieke van der Leest. Norway/The Netherlands
The J. Russells,  2008. Bracelet.
Textile, gold, plastic animals, cubic zirconia, crocheted, metal work; 21 x 7 x 2.5 cm. Collections: Victoria & Albert Museum, London, U.K., National Museum for Art, Architecture & Design, Oslo, Norway. Photo: Eddo Hartmann.

Making “funny” work is not my goal, it just happens. When I begin working on a new design, I have a basic idea of the finished piece in my head. But before too soon, I have to change my design because it turns out not to be what I expected. Bit by bit, I try and try, get frustrated, change the design, change it again, until suddenly I just “know” I have arrived. That’s usually the point when the work makes me very happy.
With the Super Freak Zebra, I had the idea of doing something with a zebra and horizontal and vertical stripes. I tried to create a combination between a zebra and an Egyptian relief. Somewhere along the way, Rick James and Michael Jackson entered the design... and voila: The Super Freak Zebra was born!
The danger with humour in an artwork is that sometimes when you look at the piece a second time, it is just not so funny anymore. And when you look at a piece the third time, the work is already boring. I strive to create work with a sense of humour that stays interesting. Every time you look at it.
I like it when my work makes people happy. That is one of the most beautiful things one can do for others.

Clayton Bailey. USA
Burping Bust. Ceramics.
Photo: Clayton Bailey.

Kinetic "hydro-pneumatic" mechanism hidden inside the body. A long push-rod lifts the plant-like hair off the head a few inches with a watery burping sound, and then suddenly drops it down again. A 30-45 second waiting period between sounds keeps viewers waiting to see what will happen next.

Gwen Murphy. USA
Red Devils (Foot Fetish #64), 2010.
Ash clay, acrylics, women's red leather Oxfords;
approx. 11 x 9 x 5 in.
Photo: Gwen Murphy.

“Anesthetic” means something that stops you from feeling. “Aesthetic” is the opposite. Humor and art both require the element of surprise; they should wake you up, make you feel something. The best humor is always tragicomedy, a blending of the funny and the pathetic. I find the human foot, and the endless variety of coverings we invent for it, to be both beautifully expressive and pitifully vulnerable. Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with the way empty shoes often appear to have faces. I’ve also always had the feeling that a person’s shoes revealed secrets that can’t be put into words. For me, the shoe sculptures are both humorous and serious.

Les Deux Garçons.The Netherlands.

L’Adieu Impossible.

Taxidermi/mixed media;

187 x 160 x 90 cm.

Photo: Jaski Art Gallery Amsterdam.

Humour certainly plays a role in our work, sometimes even morbid humour. Nevertheless, our work also incites reflection. To Les Deux Garçons, this stands for choices made earlier in life which later on have to be dragged along, and which sometimes could become a hindrance in the future.

Jason Robert Polasek. USA
Bad Caulk Job, 2008. Mixed media;
6.75 x 6.25 x 8.25 in.
Photo: Sara Cain.

What would life be like without all the little slices? Monotonous and mundane? Listless and empty? Flat and stagnant? Who knows? Luckily, I live in a world full of little slices. I feel it is my duty as an artist and craftsman to exploit these slices and create even BIGGER ones.

Plus 1:

Jason Kishell

"Smug Mug"

Porcelain; 4.5 x 4 x 4 in.

Photo: Aimee Kishell

If there was one piece that kickstarted the Humor book it was this mug by crafthaus artist Jason Kishell, a ceramicist in Houston, TX.  He calls this cup series "Smug Mugs" and to me, his mugs embody what "Humor in Craft" is all about: A concept everyone can relate to, plus technical skill combined with a refreshing, unabashed dose of irreverence and sense of humor. The sly expression on the mug is just too good to pass up. I am thrilled beyond words that the Schiffer Publishing editors and designers agreed and made this photo the cover image of my book. Thank you Schiffer Team!

Jason continues to create "Smug Mugs" and he posts new ones regularly in his etsy shop for purchase. Each mug wears a delightfully individual expression, all are hand carved and glazed in a time consuming process. Jason agreed to give crafthaus members a $5 discount on his mugs, just type in CRAFTHAUS during checkout. (You will be reimbursed the discount shortly thereafter.

I could not help myself, I had to get two, one for me and one for my mom for Mother's Day. ;-)  I think this mug makes the perfect humorous companion for the book!  Enjoy! 


Jason Kishell's etsy page "Weekend Creations"

(All proceeds from sales go to the artist ! )

About the author:

Brigitte Martin is the creator and editor of crafthaus, a social network and online community for professional craft artists worldwide. She regularly contributes blogs and articles for the website, and helps artists connect across media and national boundaries. Brigitte lives with her husband, 2 kids and 2 big, slobbery dogs in Pittsburgh, PA.

This is her first book.

(Image above: Brigitte Martin sitting in Pharaoh’s Chair. Found chair, fabric, and bottle caps by Mr. Imagination (b. Gregory Warmack), 2003. Permanent Collection, Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, PA. Photo: ©Nerds behind the Lens, 2011.)

Purchase information and other details regarding upcoming book interviews and reviews:

Comment Wall


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Comment by Lorena Angulo on February 28, 2014 at 8:32am

that is great!!!!!

Comment by Brigitte Martin on February 28, 2014 at 8:15am
Comment by Brigitte Martin on February 28, 2014 at 8:08am

Phil Renato just sent this image of the upcoming Humor in Craft exhibition at Ferris University. Thank you - this is nice!

Humor in Craft, March 4-April 19, 2014

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
17 Fountains St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

The Reception @ Kendall will take place April 1, 2014 @ 6:30PM

Yes, April Fool's Day - it was Kendall U's funny idea and, of course, I jumped on it.

Comment by The Justified Sinner on October 9, 2013 at 10:13am

Excellent! SOFA is wonderful. I loved it last year and kind of wish I could go again. Lots of my Craft Scotland colleagues will be there, so go and say "hello" at their stand.

I've just realised that I didn't get you to sign my copy... Aw.

Comment by Harriete E Berman on October 9, 2013 at 9:42am

Great news. Have a good time. SOFA is always a shock.


Comment by Brigitte Martin on October 9, 2013 at 9:21am

SCHIFFER Publishing just told me that they arranged for a book signing engagement for me at SOFA Chicago! Thank you Pete Schiffer and Karen Choppa - I look MUCH forward to this. 2:30 pm, 2-Nov-2013 @ Schiffer Publishing, SOFA CHICAGO Partner Pavilion

Author Brigitte Martin signs copies of her groundbreaking, award winning book – celebrated as the most thorough collection of contemporary craft artists exploring the often ignored/hidden/neglected topic of humor.

Comment by Harriete E Berman on August 10, 2013 at 10:21am

What a great idea!

Comment by Brigitte Martin on August 10, 2013 at 7:06am

The Humor in Craft Reception @ Kendall will take place April 1, 2014 @ 6:30PM !

Yes, April Fool's Day - it was Kendall's funny idea and, of course, I jumped on it.

Comment by Brigitte Martin on June 17, 2013 at 9:30am

The Humor in Craft exhibition will travel in 2014 to Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, MI

March 4-April 19, 2014! Mark your calendars.

Comment by Brigitte Martin on December 3, 2012 at 12:56pm

The book just received a very glowing review in Rapid River Magazine from Asheville, NC:

Thank you to writer Marcianne Miller!


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