The Mint Museum announces ‘Craft in the Laboratory: The Science of Making Things’ — the first installation in the Southeast to explore how creative ingenuity melds with STEM concepts

The MInt Museum
Simone Elizabeth Saunders (Canada, 1983– ), She Holds the Key, 2019, cotton and linen ground cloth; wool threads. 62 x 60 inches. Collection of The Mint Museum. Museum Purchase with funds from the Charlotte Debutante Club. 2021.14. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist.

The Mint Museum announces ‘Craft in the Laboratory: The Science of Making Things’ — the first installation in the Southeast to explore how creative ingenuity melds with STEM concepts

For Immediate Release 

Charlotte (January 7, 2022)Craft in the Laboratory: The Science of Making Things, presented by Müller Corporationopens February 12 at Mint Museum Uptown. The installation is the first of its kind in the Southeast to explore how craft artists and designers use science and math concepts, and celebrates a revitalizing and reinstallation of the Mint’s highly acclaimed Craft + Design permanent collection.

Co-curated by the Mint’s Senior Curator of Craft, Design, and Fashion Annie Carlano and Assistant Curator for Craft, Design, and Fashion Rebecca Elliot, Craft in the Laboratory includes 100 works from the Mint’s collection that are made from precious metals, wood, steel, polymers, and even agricultural waste, that emphasize the preciseness of science used to craft works of art. Made by nationally and internationally renowned artists, the objects are organized by material and subject throughout the galleries.

Craft in the Laboratory: The Science of Making Things is the first project of its kind in the Southeast to examine how artists and scientists think and work alike, and how designers of all types use science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in their making,” Carlano says.

The Mint’s head of school and gallery programs, Joel Smeltzer, worked with Carlano, Elliot, and educators from other museums across the United States to enhance the reinstallation with gallery features, including videos of makers showing and describing their processes, touchable material tiles hand-crafted by STARworks in Star, North Carolina, and detailed gallery labels that convey the technical aspects of the materials and processes used by the artists.

Smeltzer is also working with a team of eight Charlotte teachers to develop future gallery interactives and lesson plans for field trips to The Mint Museum to experience Craft in the Laboratory.

In partnership with Müller Corporation and the Craft & Trade Academy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing trades and craft in Charlotte, a series of future workshops featuring local and international artists related to the Craft in the Laboratory are also being planned.

“During these workshops the Craft & Trade Academy will seek to immerse participants and apprentices in the art of craftsmanship and in the beauty of working with natural materials. This will show the arc of suspense between craft and trades, and how everything is connected with each other,” says Frank Müller, president and CEO of Müller Corporation and president of the Craft & Trade Academy.

New acquisitions in the installation include She Holds the Key by artist Simone Elizabeth Saunders, Nyala Chair by Jomo Tariku, and Rainbow Chair by designer Patrick Norguet. Other works in the installation from the Mint’s collection include artist Kate Malone’s stoneware vessels with crystalline glazes Mr. And Mrs. Tutti Atomic; artist Brent Kington’s forged and welded Weathervane; artist Susan Point’s carved and painted red cedar work Salmon Spawn Running; and designer Laura Kishimoto’s Yumi Chair II made of wood veneer and steel.

“The reinstallation of the Craft + Design galleries allow us the opportunity to bring new works out on view and to interpret the collection through new pairings and themes,” says Todd Herman, president and CEO at The Mint Museum. “Craft in the Laboratory examines how investigation, experimentation, and critical thinking are common to both science and art, and the correlation of art with science, technology, engineering, and math that effectively changing STEM to STEAM concepts.”

The installation is accompanied by an important and timely catalogue on the topic, with contributions by several scholars and a lead essay by Rebecca Elliot. The fully illustrated catalogue of the same name, published by Dan Giles Ltd., also includes contributions from Carlano, Smeltzer, and guest essayists

Zoe Laughlin, PhD, materials scientist and director of the Center of Making at University College London; and Hideo Mabuchi, PhD, a physicist at Stanford University who is also a weaver and potter.

Craft in the Laboratory is the first publication in over 20 years to discuss The Mint Museum’s Craft and Design collection in depth,” Elliot says. The book will be available for purchase at The Mint Museum Store in February 2022.

Craft in the Laboratory: The Science on Making Things is generously presented by Müller Corporation. Generous individual support provided by Beth and Drew Quartapella, Mary Anne (M.A.) Rogers, Ann and Michael Tarwater, and Rocky and Curtis Trenkelbach. Additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The catalogue is supported by the John and Robyn Horn Foundation.

Ticket Information 

The Mint Museum exhibition is free for members and children ages 4 and younger; $15 for adults; $10 for seniors ages 65 and older; $10 for college students with ID; and $6 for youth ages 5–17. 

The Mint Museum  

Established in 1936 as North Carolina’s first art museum, The Mint Museum is a leading, innovative cultural institution and museum of international art and design. With two locations—Mint Museum Randolph in the heart of Eastover and Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon Street—the Mint boasts one of the largest collections in the Southeast and is committed to engaging and inspiring members of the global community. 

Müller Corporation

Founded in Germany, and family owned and operated, Müller provides commercial surface installation, and cleaning and maintenance services to the solar, hospitality, automotive, food and beverage, and other industries. European standards and in-house trained craftsmen ensure superior results and unmatched client service. To learn more, visit

Craft & Trade Academy

Founded in 2019, the training programs and apprenticeships are based on the international recognized German model. In order to develop apprentices into quality craftsmen, the Academy runs classroom and workshop training, as well as on-the-job training recognized by the Department of Labor. The Craft & Trade Academy is a public 501(c)3 nonprofit higher education institution committed to providing paths and expanding skills within the construction industry. To learn more, visit


Michele Huggins, Interim Director of Marketing and Communications at The Mint Museum | 704-564-0826 

A Conversation with the Haas Brothers

Join us for an evening with the Haas Brothers, the inimitable trailblazers of art and design. Twins Simon and Nikolai “Niki” Haas are known for blurring the line between art and design through their furniture design and fabrication studio in Los Angeles.

Their works are playful, provocative, and striking, and the materials range from brass, bronze and porcelain and fur to highly technical resins and polyurethane. They’re hailed in celebrity power circles, with projects that have included creating masks for Lady Gaga, creating gold-leafed furniture for Louis Vuitton stores, and designing limited-edition book stands for Rihanna’s newly released visual autobiography.

And as the artists are in town for SOCO Gallery’s new fall exhibition featuring their work, they’re stopping by the Mint for an evening open to the public.




Schedule of Events

Crown Society Members
6 PM – Cash bar opens in Atrium
6- 6:30 PM – Crown meet on L3 Landing outside of the permanent gallery for champagne and mingling
6:30-6:50 PM – Senior Curator Annie Carlano and HAAS Brothers walk through and discuss 2-3 predetermined pieces in the collection

Open to the Public
7-7:45 PM – Discussion in Auditorium
7:45 PM – Discussion ends and mingling in Auditorium
8 PM – Event concludes

November 15, 2019 

Friday |  6 – 8 PM
Event is free after paid museum admission. 
Cash Bar available.








This event is located at Mint Museum Uptown



The Mint Museum organizes first-ever retrospective of N.C. artist Michael Sherrill

In his delicately rendered sculptures, Michael Sherrill seeks to elicit a sense of wonder from viewers, and to make them see the natural world anew as he works with clay, glass, and metal to create exquisite floral forms. This retrospective organized by The Mint Museum illustrates the artist’s evolution over his more than 40-year career and highlights his contributions to contemporary art, craft, and design.

Michael Sherrill Retrospective opens later this month at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon Street. The museum will offer member-only hours 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. on Friday October 26; Sherrill gives a public talk, free with museum admission, 11 a.m. Saturday October 27. It is followed by a book signing in the Mint Museum Store with a new, lavishly illustrated catalogue published by The Mint Museum to accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition will travel to the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in summer 2019, and the Arizona State University Art Museum in early 2020.

Temple of the Cool Beauty (Yucca)
Michael Sherrill
Created: 2005
Materials: polychrome, porcelain, Moretti glass, silica bronze
Gift of Ann and Tom Cousins. 2014.78a-b. Collection of The Mint Museum.

“The idea for a Michael Sherrill Retrospective was ignited by close study of one of the Mint’s sculpture’s, Temple of the Cool Beauty (Yucca), then on loan from Ann and Tom Cousins, and further research,” said Annie Carlano, the Mint’s curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion. “Surveying contemporary clay globally, Michael’s work is exceptional in its sheer beauty—delicate botanical reveries that chronicle life cycles from blossom to wither. His command of materials, not just clay but metal and glass, and his brilliance as an inventor of tools and technologies, make the magic happen. There is simply nothing like his work anywhere on the planet.”

Carlano serves as lead organizing curator and Marilyn Zapf of The Center for Craft is guest curator; filmmakers Matthew Mebane and Maria White contributed video to the exhibition.

Primarily a self-taught artist, Sherrill moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to the Western North Carolina mountains in 1974. His early influences came from the North Carolina folk pottery tradition and the community surrounding Penland School of Crafts, Seagrove Potters, and the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, as well as from his studies of the ceramics of Asia and the Americas. These influences are apparent in Sherrill’s functional objects from the late 1970s and 80s. These early explorations led quickly to a new sculptural vocabulary, strong minimalist organic forms inspired by the botanical world. Sherrill’s unique aesthetic sensibilities are matched by his extraordinary skill and inventiveness. A true innovator, he has developed clay bodies and special tools to make the material fulfill his desired artistic outcome.

Over 70 objects will be on view, from a group of Steins (1977) to A Beautiful Death (2017).  Loans from institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Racine Museum of Art; and individual collectors in Oregon, Florida, Vermont, and North Carolina are featured.

“The Mint Museum is committed to collecting, publishing, and exhibiting the best of contemporary craft,” said Dr. Todd A. Herman, President & CEO of the Mint. “We have recognized the unique talent of Michael Sherrill since his early forays in functional vessels, and through accessions and exhibitions have acknowledged his creative expression and skill. This retrospective is the culmination of several years of dedication and excellence on the part of Mint staff and I am proud of our team and other contributors.”

Exhibition sections and catalogue

Michael Sherrill Retrospective begins with a sense of place, as the visitor walks through re-creations and interpretations of his cobalt blue studio doors and the woods of his mountain home. Twenty-first-century ceramics, like contemporary art in general, can be characterized as an exciting period of experimentation: to express their creative vision, makers are incorporating new media and technologies to reach beyond traditional methods. Sherrill is one of the foremost practitioners of this approach. His inventiveness and worldview play ahead of current trends, and working off the beaten track, he developed a naturalist’s sensitivity to the botanical wonders of Bat Cave, North Carolina. Finding the universal in the close at hand, Sherrill’s extraordinary evolution in creating with clay—and other materials—is conveyed in this exhibition.

The first section of the exhibition, Early Works, features functional stoneware forms that demonstrate the young artist’s influences from both historic and contemporary North Carolina pottery as well as Native American and Asian inspired shapes, glazes, and raku firing techniques.  It’s the smallest section of the show, due to the fact Sherrill’s oeuvre evolved so quickly from an artist’s initial period of exploration to maturity.

Teapots is the largest section of the exhibition and illustrates the way in which Sherrill uses the utilitarian object as vehicle for his forays into materials, process, and aesthetics. Here we can see sober Minimalist designs, drawing on traditional squat round forms, exuberant colorful expressionist compositions, and pure abstract forms.  In this rich and imaginative installation, reminiscent of a fine tea shop, what is unseen is as important as the surface ornamentation, as Sherrill moves fluidly from stoneware to porcelain. Installed in an imaginative teashop-like setting, this section of the exhibition includes a hand-on activity related teas from around the world.

In an intimate room off the Teapot section is Studio.  In this section of the exhibition visitors will encounter a selection of tools, organic materials, and other curiosities from Michael Sherrill’s actual studio Wonder Wall—a space filled with objects that inspire and invite contemplation.  Underscoring the inventor in the artist, across from the Wonder Wall is an installation of array of colorful clay work tools from the artist’s Mudtools line. Visitors will be able to scroll through the twitter feed of Mudtools to see the amazing ways people around the globe are utilizing these implements.

Contemporary Sculpture begins with transitional objects from teapot botanical abstractions to full blown sculpture. Inspired by the ubiquitous rhododendron that he sees every day on his daily walks with his wife Margery, the artist crafted a series of ceramic and life size sculptures in 2008. Still, this is not entirely a linear path, as Sherrill hones his naturalist sensibilities, skill, and technologies creating both large scale an intimate ornate plant forms and makes huge creative leaps to Neo-Minimalist sheaths, reminiscent of Agnes Martin paintings. The last group of objects in the visitor’s path was created since 2014. Showing his fantastic facility with clay, glass, and lost wax casting bronze in wall mounted and freestanding sculptures, objects such as Black Medicine, A Beautiful Death, and Dutch Solomon eschew any doubt that he is a Southern American master.

Each section is introduced by a video that features Michael Sherrill addressing the visitor. Shot on location in Bat Cave and including some vintage film, the videos were produced by Matthew Mebane and Maria White, award winning documentary filmmakers based in Charleston, South Carolina.

A scholarly exhibition catalogue, edited by Carlano, accompanies the exhibition. It features essays by Marilyn Zapf, Assistant Director and Curator, The Center for Craft and Guest Curator; and Ezra Shales, Associate Professor of Art History, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Published by The Mint Museum, the book will be available for $40 at both museum locations; beginning November 15, it will be available online at

Michael Sherrill has received numerous prestigious awards, including the US Windgate Fellowship: Crafts and the Arts, US Artists (2010) and is a highly regarded teacher and lecturer throughout the United States, and in Japan and China.  He serves on several non-profit boards and councils including the Archie Bray Foundation, and the Center for Craft, and has served as a member of the Founders’ Circle Board of Directors.

Mint curators Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion and Emily Pazar, former curatorial assistant for Craft, Design & Fashion are the organizing curators; Marilyn Zapf, Assistant Director and Curator, The Center for Craft, Asheville, N.C., is Guest Curator.

The exhibition is organized by The Mint Museum. STEELFAB is the presenting sponsor for the exhibition. Generous support for the exhibition catalogue and tour provided by the Windgate Foundation; additional funding from the Founders’ Circle and Bank of America.

Media and invited guests are invited to preview the exhibition from 10 a.m.-noon on Thursday October 25; RSVP to