Applauding Excellence: Meet the 2012 NICHE Award Winners

October 2012 | BY | Fall 2012

Jennifer McCurdy and Susan Parrish
A porcelain “Tsunami Bowl” (left) by Jennifer McCurdy; and a found object teapot called “Remembering Tea of 1969,” by Susan Parrish.

Serious craft collectors always keep an eye out for new work, new artists and emerging talent. One of the most consistently reliable sources for satisfying all three of these conditions is the annual winners’ list of the NICHE Awards, a juried competition launched 23 years ago by AmericanStyle’s sister publication, NICHE magazine, as a way to recognize talent and encourage creativity in all craft mediums.

Artists from the U.S. and Canada are invited to enter their best work for consideration. This year, a panel of six judges—Julia Daily, executive director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi; Arthur DeBow, exhibitions director of the Hoffman Gallery at the Oregon College of Art and Craft; Leslie Genszler, retail operations director at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Wisconsin; Gwynne Ruckenbrod, executive director of the nonprofit oganization HandMade in America; Ruth Misenko, owner of Seasons on St. Croix Gallery in Hudson, Wis.; and Betsy Poole, museum shop manager at Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house preserved by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy— worked their way through more than 1,100 entries in nearly 40 categories in the professional division to choose the winners.

Each work was judged on technical excellence, both in surface design and form; a distinct quality of unique, original and creative thought; and market viability. The 2012 awards were presented earlier this year during ceremonies at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, in conjunction with the 30th anniversary edition of the winter Buyers Market of American Craft.

What you see here is just a sampling of the extraordinary work produced by the winning artists. A full list of all the 2012 winners and finalists, complete with images of their entries, can be found at

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