BOSTON — September 23, 2021 — Boston’s Society of Arts + Crafts announced today that Jamie Herman is the 2021 recipient of
the John D. Mineck Fellowship, a high-profile award that includes an unrestricted $25,000 prize and is given annually to an
early-career furniture artist.
Herman is a woodworker, sculptor, and teacher currently working at the Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey. He is an alumnus of the Vermont Woodworking School. He stood out to the Fellowship jury as a talented artist with solid skills, a commitment to artistic growth, and a comprehensive plan for the prize money. His selection, made from a national pool of applicants, will be recognized September 30 at an award ceremony in Hingham, Mass.
Herman was born and raised in Kentucky before moving to Ohio, where he completed high school and earned a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology and archaeology from the University of Cincinnati. He received a Certificate in Woodworking and Furniture Design from the Vermont Woodworking School in 2017, and is currently an Artist Fellow and Wood Studio Coordinator at the Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey.
In his search for a creative outlet, Herman explored music and classical trombone, but his experiences studying archaeology — and a trip to Belize for the excavation of ancient ruins — ignited a deep curiosity about craft. “We were pulling out incredible pieces of pottery that no one had touched or seen in hundreds of years. That really struck me,” Herman says of his work on the dig. Upon his return, he took a job restoring historical buildings and applied to the furniture program at the Vermont Woodworking School.
While in Vermont, Herman began teaching community classes and created several major furniture pieces before moving on to complete a studio fellowship at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. His style is markedly contemporary, finely-tuned, and wildly imaginative, with many piece s featuring gravity-defying angles and unexpected silhouettes.
Herman’s beautifully off-kilter designs reflect a deeper process whereby artistic creation functions as a way to heal and manage personal issues. “Making has always been a form of therapy for me,” Herman says. “I struggled with mental health during my time in Vermont. But having a project in front of me that was all-consuming and occupied my hands gave me a chance to process things in a more useful way.
“When I was in school, I didn’t think critically about what I was making; ideas just popped into my head,” Herman says. “In retrospect I realize I was making things that were functional, but just barely. They were reflections of my mental state at the time. I’m so proud of the things I made then because they symbolize overcoming dark thoughts…and getting through.”
Herman plans to use his Fellowship prize to set up an independent studio, continue his education in new mediums, and develop programs that connect young furniture makers with mentors in the field. “Jamie’s building process, his deep commitment to craft, and his desire to assist young makers exemplifies the heart and soul of the Mineck Fellowship,” says Society of Arts + Crafts Executive Director Brigitte Martin. “The jury who chose him as the winner liked Jamie’s plan that includes other talented woodworkers and provides a tangible way to support them.”
The John D. Mineck Furniture Fellowship is one of the largest furniture and craft prizes in the field, and one of the grants supported by the Boston-based John D. Mineck Foundation, created to honor the diverse interests Mineck pursued throughout his life. The Fellowship focuses on rising furniture makers whose work is contemporary and functional, and supports young artists with financial assistance to develop skills and transition to independence. The Society of Arts + Crafts, where Mineck once served as president of the Board of Trustees, has administered the fellowship since it began in 2007.
For more than a century, the Society of Arts + Crafts has connected artists with the communities that sustain them, and has been at the forefront of the American craft moveent, fostering the development, sales, recognition, and education of fine craft. Its mission is to support and celebrate craft makers and their creativity; its vision is to build and sustain a vibrant and diverse community and to shape the future of craft.