Artists from Pittsburgh-based trade group Monmade will have their work featured at a trunk show from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10, in Strohl Art Center, hosted by Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution.
Monmade (named for Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River) supports regional art-oriented producers and businesses. The trunk show today will feature products from technology-integrated ceramics to artisan men’s bow ties.
Maia Leppo, a metalsmith and jeweler who originally planned on becoming a doctor, is one of the featured artists.
Leppo was a biology and community health major in college and planned to go to medical school. But after taking an organic chemistry course and deciding she didn’t actually want to apply to medical school, Leppo signed up for jewelry-making classes.
“It was hard to make the decision, but once I did, it felt right,” Leppo said. “I just feel really lucky that I was able to find something I was so passionate about.”
Leppo took around 15 metalworking courses after realizing she wanted to be a jeweler. Although she veered far from her planned medical school route, Leppo hasn’t forgotten everything about being a pre-med student.
“I think the style of learning and analysis I bring to my work comes from being a bio major and doing research,” Leppo said.
To craft her jewelry, Leppo works with the computer program Rhino. After designing in the program, she either cuts her materials by hand or sends them to be laser-cut.
Leppo described her aesthetic and the materials she uses as “clean, minimalist and slightly industrial.”
“But then, I try to transform these materials,” Leppo said.
Julian Maturino and Leah Lynn operate Salvador Alane, which they derived from their middle names. The duo will offer their glassware and home decor at the show.
Maturino and Lynn met while taking summer classes at the Penland School of Crafts back in 2011. After working on drinkware together in the school’s glass shop, they stayed connected and ultimately founded Salvador Alane.
Lynn typically designs their products, while Maturino handles manufacturing, according to Monmade’s website.
Maturino said his and Lynn’s creative process is “pretty back-and-forth.”
“It definitely changes project to project,” Maturino said. “But it’s always a similar process of brainstorming and trying to make something a tangible object.”
Andrew Jowdy “AJ” Collins’ ceramics will also be featured at the show, from his company Jowdy Studio. Collins has lived around the United States, on an island north of Sicily and on a patch of land between Mozambique and Swaziland.
Collins cited Swazi tribal designs as an example of patterns that inspired him during his travels.
“You see that these things we think of as decoration are not really decoration at all,” Collins said. “For them, it’s what they wear.”
Collins said he crafts both “functional and decorative” pieces. He also makes his own glazes, and said he’s working on “bright, stark and vivid” pieces at the moment.
While traveling the United States and the rest of the world, Collins said he appreciated getting to “rub elbows against traditions that were completely foreign to the ones (he) was trained in.”
“You pick up on the tools of the trade wherever,” Collins said.
This is Monmade’s first collaboration with Chautauqua Institution. Collins described the organization as “a bunch of craftsmen that help each other,” or “a collaborative family.”
Adam Kenney, director of the Craft Business Acceleration at Bridgeway Capital and a manager of the trunk show, said the “common thread” among the featured artists is their efforts to expand their creative businesses in Pittsburgh — a city which, Kenney said, is “trying to shake its industrial baggage.”
“There’s a new generation of artists in Pittsburgh,” Kenney said.