The Shape of Craft: A Conversation with Elizabeth Essner and Ezra Shales

Saturday, July 14, 2018, 3 pm to 4:30 pm

Free for members or with Museum admission
Registration recommended at

Join Elizabeth Essner, curator of current Aldrich exhibition Handheld, and Ezra Shales, author of The Shape of Craft, for a compelling conversation about craft. Through the lens of Essner’s exquisite exhibition, the duo will explore and debate key questions about the craft tradition, the current transformation the craft movement is experiencing, and our understanding of what craft is. A casual reception and book signing by Shales will follow the participatory talk.

Ezra Shales, Professor in the history of art at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, is currently writing introductions for new editions of David Pye’s seminal books The Nature of Design (1964) and The Nature and Art of Workmanship (1968). Shales is active as a curator and organized Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today for the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City (2015) and has published in dozens of museum exhibition catalog essays. His first book, Made in Newark (Rutgers University Press, 2010), explores craft as an anchor of regional identity in Progressive-era New Jersey. He has a Ph.D. from the Bard Graduate Center and an M.F.A. from Hunter College. At the Aldrich Museum he will discuss his most recent book, The Shape of Craft (Reaktion Books, 2017) looks at people who make wonders within our reach and grasp —and situates craft in tangible terms distinct from the fine art market and theoretical niceties.

Elizabeth Essner is an independent curator, writer, and researcher based in Brooklyn, New York. A recent Curatorial Fellow with the Center for Craft, she has curated exhibitions for institutions including Arizona State University Art Museum and UrbanGlass. She has written for magazines including Modern and Metalsmith and serves as a researcher for two forthcoming craft-focused publications. She received her MA from the Bard Graduate Center and has previously been an auction house specialist and an appraiser.