Domestic craft has long been admired for its aesthetic qualities — quilts, ceramic plates and baskets are objects of both function and beauty, inspiring exhibitions, museums and even a movement. William Morris led the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century, famously saying, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft borrows Morris’s axiom as the launching point for its newest exhibition. “Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft” presents 13 artists whose works explore usefulness and beauty in craft through a wide variety of mediums.
As is the show’s intent, the textiles and ceramics presented here go beyond being mere objects or tools, subtly or explicitly commenting on such big ideas as gender and labor and challenging notions of what domestic craft can look like — rather successfully, too (there were some items that, frankly, we couldn’t tell what they were supposed to be). But after taking in the show recently, we still couldn’t help but look at the pieces in the context of their use. So to follow, here are some of the highlights of the show categorized by those that are the most useful in their roles, and those that, simply, aren’t.