101 Bowls Exhibit

Bowls have an ancient and organic shape, one that connects across generations and cultures. The 101 Bowls exhibit at the American Swedish Institute (ASI), allowed for an exploration of the bowl shape, community narrative, and organic yet minimalist aesthetics. I was brought onto this complex project to not only act as art director, design an identity, and create collateral, but also help the ASI team decide how to organize 101 bowls and share 101 stories.

American Swedish Institute Team:
Scott Pollock, Director of Exhibitions and Programs
Curt Pederson, Senior Curator of Historic Properties
Sean Connors, Senior Exhibitions Designer
Inga Theissen, Collections Manager

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Photo: American Swedish Institute

Photo: American Swedish Institute

About 101 Bowls

From the American Swedish Institute: “101 Bowls is an ambitious, wildly creative and one-of-a-kind collage of local and international handmade vessels that showcase the work of more than 101 different artists and organizations that ASI intersects with.  

…101 Bowls from local, regional, national and internationally based artists and organizations come together in this installation in the Osher Gallery at the American Swedish Institute. Each bowl represents its maker's commitment to a deeper understanding of the form and use of bowls. Each bowl has a story and an explanation of its significance to the makers and the world of handcraft. Full of personal meaning, they are symbols of tradition and innovation, loss and celebration, nature and human influence. There are four sections exploring ASI's enduring links to the Nordic region, leadership in the arts and cultural community, stewardship of heritage and promotion of craftmanship.” Read more here.

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The design for this gallery space, its labels, and the guide, was informed by earthy and organic shapes, colors, and textures. It also put storytelling and way-finding at the forefront of the exhibit’s functionality, prioritizing narrative and visitor experience. I wanted to create a gallery space that aligned with the ASI’s aesthetic, looked at new ways of moving through the exhibit and its content, and explored the humble origins of the bowl as a vessel. While working with the ASI team, my art direction and design informed the fabrication of pedestals, platforms, and other curatorial choices. I also designed the labels and gallery guide, ensuring visitors could navigate the space and learn the story of each bowl.

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Object Labels

An important part of the 101 Bowls experience was learning the stories behind each submitted piece. Knowing that these bowls were more story-based than art-centered, I played with hierarchy to tell a different kind of narrative. Typically, a label highlights the title and artist. For this exhibit, rather than artist, I highlighted the person or organization that loaned the bowl, and the bowl’s number became the object title. To ensure further engagement, I designed labels that could hold the entirety of each story, as well as a sketched illustration of the bowl. This allowed labels to sit slightly farther from their bowls, allowing curatorial decisions to remain organic. Finally, acrylic labels made it possible for the 101 labels to fade behind the 101 bowls, reducing visual clutter while still being readable.

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Gallery Guide

With so many stories involved in this exhibit, we wanted to create a guide that could act as both a map and a storytelling aid. Inspired by folded maps and poster mailings, I designed a piece that was able to hold all 101 stories, the didactic information about each category of bowls, and an image of each piece. I worked with a strict grid system to ensure readability and structure, but also designed within the constraints of the folded design. Like the gallery, the printed piece needed to be interactive. Thus, as the reader unfolds each panel, new information is revealed and stories shared.


101 Bowls in the Media


American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis celebrates beauty of '101 Bowls'
Star Tribune (February 9, 2018)

‘Legally Blonde’ to open Artistry’s 2018-19 season; CraftBOWL at ASI
MinnPost (March 30, 2018)

The Other Bowl in Town: ASI ushers in 2018 with “The Handmade,” a series of exhibitions beginning with CraftBOWL
Midwest Home (January 15, 2018)

Inspired by 101 Bowls and the stories it told, Dan Berggren, an Adirondack folk singer/songwriter composed, Share the Bowl.

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