Craft award
Ellen Wieske

The Maine Crafts Association has named metalsmith, gallery owner and educator Ellen Wieske as a recipient of the 2023 Maine Craft Artist Award. The award recognizes Wieske’s many accomplishments as a metalsmith pioneering a style and use of non-precious materials, creating an exhibition space to uplift artists, countless hours of providing education to students, and in her roles and leadership at Haystack Mountain School of Craft, helping to shape their programming. 

Since 2009, the Maine Crafts Association began to annually honor individual Maine craft artists in recognition of their exceptional bodies of work and contributions to the field. The award grants acknowledgment of the artist’s work, a distinguishing mark of excellence. 

The award’s juror is guided by these benchmarks: excellence in craftsmanship, inspired design, a singular voice or style, and a career of service to the field. The 2023 awards were selected from many deserving peer nominations by author and champion of Maine artists Carl Little. 

“I first saw Ellen Weiske’s work in 2006 when I visited her Dow Road Studio in Deer Isle to write a profile of her for Ornament magazine,” Little says. “I highlighted her work in a range of non-precious materials — tin, felt, wire, plastic — and cited her motto/mission: May the ordinary be revealed to be extraordinary.” 

To each medium, she has brought an innovative eye and a design enthusiasm that makes the work personal and universal. 

Wieske is known as an artist, metalsmith, goldsmith, educator, gallery owner, curator, author and arts administrator. Her primary career as a metalsmith started after receiving an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Arts, then working in the industry for 18 years as a stone setter and jeweler in Detroit. During this time, her knowledge of the diamond and gold mining industry informed her work to move away from these traditional materials to using steel, tin, and found objects. She is well known for her wire work and for creating preciousness in everyday materials. 

Second to her career as an artist, Wieske is well known for her 25-plus-year tenure at Haystack Mountain School of Craft. Introduced to the school as a technical assistant, Wieske has had many roles including assistant director since 2005, deputy director in 2017, interim director in 2022, summer workshop instructor, and high school mentorship program leader. Her work has been integral to shaping the school’s programming and leadership of the faculty, overseeing the facility, and organizing programming and scholarships. Her time at Haystack has positively impacted hundreds of students, leading others to connect through craft and create a more equitable inclusion on and off campus.

With her wife, Carol Ann Ferr, Wieske is the co-owner and curator of Dowstudio, a seasonal summer gallery in Deer Isle, dedicated to ceramics and jewelry artists. In addition to teaching at Haystack, she has taught workshops both nationally and internationally including in Europe, Senegal, and Canada, and has dedicated countless hours to teaching emerging students from local communities. Weiske has served on the board of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, and her work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions across the country. Additionally, she is recognized as the first recipient of the Maine Arts Commission Fellowship in Craft Award. 

On behalf of the MCA, Carl Little has also selected ceramic artist Tim Christensen of Franklin as a 2023 Maine Craft Artist Award recipient. 

Both Wieske and Christensen will be honored at the annual awards presentation and ceremony to be held in December. The public is welcome to join in celebrating the lives and careers of the awardees whose work has positively impacted Maine’s most cherished craft community. Details of the presentation and event registration will be announced at a later date.

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