Philadelphia Art Alliance Blog

Connie Rea: Squishable Stuffed Animals


One of Connie Rea’s toys poses festively at Geppetto.

Another of the featured artists at our pop-up shop, Geppetto, is Connie Rea. Rea has worked for years as a children’s educator, and her knit toys are inspired by the art made by her young students. Two of Rea’s characters, a dog and a bunny named Fibby and Capwell, are making an appearance at Geppetto. Each lovingly handmade toy is subtly different, with its own individual personality, so you are sure to find one to charm any child on your list.


Fibby and Capwell toys poised for action at Geppetto.

Fibby and Capwell are dressed in printed skirts or charming little knitted sweaters, the bright colors of the clothing contrasting with the soft white and grey wool bodies of the toys. Rea has carefully stitched contrasting colors such as blue, green or black around their ears and eyes, while the eyes themselves look like round buttons made of felt. These toys are soft to the touch and eminently squishable, made of natural fabrics and filled with polyester fiberfill.


One of Connie Rea’s Twice as Nice Productions toys, accompanied by the drawing that inspired it. Courtesy of the artist’s website.

In addition to her Fibby and Capwell creations, Rea is also the owner and artist behind Twice as Nice Productions, which makes custom toys based on children’s drawings. Send her your child’s drawing, and she will create a plush toy modelled on it. Rea will also be participating in our Toymakers Tea events on December 19 and 20. Come to the Art Alliance for an afternoon of special holiday snacks from Le Chéri, plus crafting and shopping for adults and children. For more information on the Toymakers Tea and to purchase tickets, check our website.

Geppetto will be open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 to 7 pm from December 10, 2015, to January 3, 2016. Please note that the Art Alliance is closed on Mondays.

Text by Flora Ward, intern.


Karen Rodewald: Holiday Cards’ New Twist


3D Anaglyph Cute Reindeer Homemade Blank Card.

Who says holiday cards have to be boring? Karen Rodewald reinvigorates this holiday tradition with a new twist—a literal one with her 3D cards. The many layers of the design make the characters—reindeers and snowmen alike—rounded and full of movements.

Rodewald designs and prints all her cards. To create the desired 3D effect, she digitally collages the many layers of the image (usually in contrasting colors) with clipart and photo editing software. The contrasting colors form a perfect shading to make the characters full of life: the snowman skis at full speed, Rudolph approaches you with his adorable face, and you can almost hear the birds chirping on the branch. These jolly beings seem to glow with the halos around them. Each card comes with a pair of 3D glasses and is sure to brighten your loved one’s day. A perfect choice for everyone young at heart!


3D Anaglyph Santa & Reindeer “Happy Holidays” Blank Greeting Card.

A photographer based in Philadelphia, Karen Rodewald received her MFA from Tyler School of Art. An active member of Vox Populi Gallery, she’s exhibited widely across the nation. Rodewald taught at various institutions and currently teaches photography at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The Philadelphia Art Alliance is pleased to present Karen Rodewald’s 3D holiday cards at its pop-up shop—Geppetto. Geppetto will be open December 10, 2015 – January 3, 2016 from Noon – 7PM Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Mondays.

        Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern.

Sharif Pendleton: Jack of All Trades, Master of None

           After having invented and produced board games, written a one-man show, composed music, and practiced sculpture, screen-printing, and stained glass, Sharif Pendleton launched Masters of None in 2008. Designated for those with eclectic taste, this urbane line consists of thoughtful and playful housewares and accessories made in many different materials and methods.


Classic Textile Coasters: Variety Pack. Bamboo. Courtesy of artist’s website.

        Marrying form and function, Masters of None products are elegant and fun. Classic Textile Coasters come in preppy patterns of plaid, argyle, houndstooth, and hexagonal. They are made of bamboo, which is highly durable, eco-friendly and naturally water-resistant. Highly utile and flexible, Interlocking Houndstooth Trivets also appeal to your inner artist. The pattern makes it easy for you to turn them into a trivet, a placemat or a table runner depending on the size of your party. Holiday Hanging Ornaments come in handy to prepare for your holiday gatherings. Besides the classic “Rudolph”, they also come in “Bumble” and “Mr. Grinch”. The vibrant red base on which the characters rest really makes them pop! For your everyday accessories, Zip Code Culture Keychains are sure to show your neighborhood pride and inspire zip code envy. Coming in moustache, bicycle and tux, Hipster Collection Cufflinks add a touch of humor to the modern gentlemen.


Dapper Collection: Tie the Knot Tux Cuff Links. Courtesy of artist’s website.

        Masters of None is an Earth-friendly line. Everything (including the packaging) is made locally in Philadelphia. All the metals Pendleton uses are base metals. Many products are made of acrylic and bamboo. Coming from responsible farms, the rapidly renewable bamboo is formed with low-emitting adhesives. Whenever possible, recycled and local materials are used.

        Selections of Masters of None products are on sale at the Art Alliance’s holiday pop-up shop–Geppetto. Geppetto will be open December 10, 2015-January 3, 2016 from Noon – 7PM Tuesday-Sunday, closed on Mondays.

        Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern.

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Jae Yong Kim: Donut Craze


Snailing on the Hill. Courtesy of artist’s website.

Jae Yong Kim has made a name for himself with his humorous, pop-art inspired ceramic creations. This December, the Art Alliance is pleased to present Kim’s installation, Donut Craze. Consisting of dozens of individually crafted ceramic donuts, Donut Craze explores issues of consumption, globalism, mass production, and pleasure through the lens of the humble glazed donut.

Currently based in New York City, Kim grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and has travelled extensively. Much of his earlier work revolved around the notion of home as, in his words, “a verb rather than a noun.” Before creating his donuts, Kim used cartoon-like snails to express his ideas about home and belonging. These slow-moving creatures literally carry their homes on their backs, so home is wherever they happen to be. Similarly, Kim has spoken of his own sense of home as a sense of constant movement and, most importantly, creative work. To make is to be at home, wherever in the world the artist finds himself.

donut craze 3

Donut worry be happy. 2013-2015. Ceramic, under glaze, luster glaze, Swarovski crystals, mixe media. Courtesy of Artsy.

Closely associated with American popular culture that has spread its franchises across the globe, the donut speaks to the rootless globalized world of production and consumption. Rather than offering us an overt critique of this reality, Kim’s work conveys an almost child-like joy and pleasure. His glazed donuts look good enough to eat, and viewers can’t help but smile at their bright colours and sometimes humorous shapes. Kim has said that he targets his work at young people, aiming “to make them happy.” Kim’s artistic process is also guided by the principle of pleasure: he works with each individual donut until he is happy with it, a process which takes three or four firings in the kiln over the course of many days. We might even think of the kiln as being like a baker’s oven, and indeed Kim has organized his studio to look like a bakery, with trays full of glazed donuts.


Donut Madness, detail. 2013. Ceramic, luster glaze, glaze, Swarovski crystals. Courtesy of Ferrin Contemporary.

Despite their mass-produced appearance, each of Kim’s donuts is individually crafted in his workshop. The layers of glaze are meticulously applied, sometimes playfully alluding to the work of artists like Jackson Pollock, Claes Oldenburg, and Yayoi Kusama. Some of the donuts are shaped like Mickey Mouse heads, tempting the viewer to bite off an ear. Our consumer culture is made literal here, but it is also frustrated, because we can’t actually eat Kim’s ceramic donuts. After our initial delight at these whimsical donuts, we start to ask questions about production and consumption in a globalized world. Can we really just take uncomplicated pleasure in these donuts, or should we instead be asking, who is consuming whom?

Donut Craze will be on view from December 10, 2015 to January 3, 2016. The Art Alliance is open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 to 7 pm. Closed on Mondays.

Text by Flora Ward, Intern.

Gretchen Diehl’s Nature in a Nutshell

Whimsical, eerie, and surreal are the words you can use to describe Gretchen Diehl’s works, but they are so much more. Inspired by the artist’s vivid and sometimes even frightening dreams, her beloved people and animals, as well as verbal and visual misinterpretations, these works unravel surreal narratives. Diehl frees her subjects from their “actual” physical form so that they can better represent what they are, not what they seem to be. Delicately and beautifully executed, Diehl’s imageries draw viewers in with their seductive charm and surprise them with unexpected intimacy.


Luna Moth Necklace. Ink jet shrink film, metal, acrylic. 2015. Courtesy of artist’s website.

Based on her drawings, Diehl’s nature-inspired jewelries share this fascinating trait of her artistic creations. Many of the images were originally created for her BirdQueen Tarot Deck series and have a message behind them. Take Luna Moth Necklace as an example. The butterfly is in fact an image the Queen of Wands, a spiritual advisor with strong intuition.

Diehl’s jewelry line connects deeply with the Earth. Besides sourcing imageries from the natural world, this line also strives to improve productivity and reduce its carbon footprint through its evolving policies to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Whether a nature enthusiast, a social butterfly, or an Earth lover, Diehl’s jewelries are the best gifts for you.


Spear Bib Necklace. Ink jet shrink film, metal, acrylic. 2012. Courtesy of artist’s website.

Gretchen Diehl received her MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and BFA from Pennsylvania State University. She published her book of illustrations and short stories, In Loving Memory of Yellow, in 2011 and has exhibited her works widely across the nation. This holiday season the Philadelphia Art Alliance is proud to present her works in its pop-up shop Geppetto. Geppetto will be open December 10, 2015 – January 3, 2016 from Noon – 7PM Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Mondays.

Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern.

Dona Dalton: Serious Fun

Philadelphia-based artist Dona Dalton makes serious toys. Her hand-crafted wooden objects blur the line between toys and sculpture, and ask us to take play seriously. These hand-painted pieces have the charm of old-fashioned wooden toys, whimsical animals on wheels, with articulable limbs. Dalton works with pine and poplar wood, using a bandsaw, a sander, a rotary carver, and a drill. The child-like naiveté of her work is combined with close observation and careful depiction of animals, as well as unusual imagery drawn from Egyptian mythology. Dalton has written that her goal is “to capture the gesture, personality, and something of the spirit” of the creatures she carves, transforming them into animate “companions” for your home or office space. Come by the Art Alliance’s pop-up shop, Geppetto, and find your own carved wooden companion!


Kingfishers: Cerebus Dwarf, American Pygmy, Ruddy, Malachite. From the artist’s website.



Many of Dalton’s pieces are inspired by the close observation of animal behavior, including her series of birds. Each bird seems full of life and personality, conveyed by subtle details of body language. Brilliantly colored kingfishers perched on painted wheels seem to converse, their long beaks extended eagerly to chat with their fellows. The subtle carving of their bodies suggests feathers, catching the light and appearing to flutter. Plump Carolina wrens huddle together conspiratorially, their ruddy coloring contrasting to the brilliantly colored wheels. Their unlikely wheels ground Dalton’s birds, transforming them into humorous hybrids similar to those found in the pages of medieval manuscripts.


Carolina Wrens. From the artist’s website.

Some of Dalton’s work is inspired by her study of Egyptian mythology. Dalton depicts gods and goddesses from the Egyptian pantheon, such as Horus, Seth, and Anubis, in the flattened, two-dimensional manner characteristic of Egyptian art, but they all sport unlikely wheels. In addition to single pieces, Dalton also makes ensembles, rather like dollhouses. In her piece, Things To Do, that most Egyptian of buildings, the pyramid, is transformed into a funerary dollhouse, complete with everything needed for the afterlife, including food, furniture, servants and, of course, the mummy itself.


Things to Do Pyramid. From the artist’s website.


The Art Alliance is pleased to present Dona Dalton’s work as part of its holiday pop-up market, Geppetto. Geppetto will be open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 to 7 pm from December 10, 2015, to January 3, 2016. Please note that the Art Alliance is closed on Mondays.

Heidi Bleacher, the Felt Fairy

Fiber artist Heidi Bleacher creates a magical world of her own with her incredible felting skills. Fuzzy topiaries, appetizing donuts, eerie eyeballs, fanciful cartoon characters…her creation is beyond your imagination. Certain pieces may seem slightly creepy to some, but it is this nature that makes them so intriguing. Bleacher’s works, all in bright colors, evoke nostalgic childhood fantasies and bring back the warmest memories.


Photography: Christopher String

The felt sculptures are built from inside out. For most of her works, Bleacher first builds a sturdy frame for the piece, usually with pipe cleaners. She then builds on this structure with felt. The artist prefers dry felting, a method that employs a needle to blend wool fibers, but she is also knowledgeable of wet felting and uses both techniques to create the whimsical pieces. The armature under the felt makes the sculpture resilient and malleable at the same time, bringing a breath of life to the characters. Her mushroom ornaments and Christmas trees bounce back and forth, just like living plants in your backyard caressed by the wind. These sculptural pieces are sure to be a lively addition to your holiday decorations!

A Philly based florist and artist, Heidi Bleacher started making felt works in 2006. Since 2013, her felt pieces have been exhibited and sold at Stadler-Kahn. Selections of Bleacher’s felt sculptures will be sold at the Art Alliance’s holiday pop-up shop–Geppetto. Geppetto will be open December 10, 2015 – January 3, 2016 from Noon – 7PM Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Mondays.

Text by Qianni Zhu, Intern.