SYNOPSIS

The film follows Woell for six years through his teaching at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, ME, and its mentorship programs, and places him in a rightfully significant place as one of the first craft artists who opened the door to using found objects to comment on the times.  Through interviews with historic and contemporary curators, artists and writers we learn about Woell’s underlying convictions: to protect the environment, to fight against fascism, to respect all, particularly native peoples. His work is a politically progressive story, seen within the context of the history of American crafts, that speaks of his deeply held beliefs and his impact as an artist, a teacher and a mentor.

Interviewed includes:  Paul Smith, curator and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, NY; Helen Drutt, Philadelphia gallerist, curatorial consultant and educator; Glenn Adamson, former director of the Museum of Arts and Design, NY; Patricia Wheeler, artist and Fred’s wife; Rosanne Raab, curator of craft and design; Robert Shetterly, artist and political writer; and several top metalsmiths: Eleanor Moty, Claire Sanford, Tim McCreight, Jim Cotter, and Sarah Doremus. 

As an artist who believed in the power of art to call attention to attitudes and  issues of the day, this film goes well beyond the interest of other artists.  His work is one that calls upon all of us to make a better world.

“In the arts it’s all about the accidental that makes it interesting.... in terms of who you are and what happens when you’re doing it. In fact I always would talk about John Cage in my seminars and to my students.... When I was creating I’d play his music because you can’t listen to it, you know what I mean, it kind of spaces you out cause there’s no tune or melody there’s this strange discord. And I think that opens the path for your mind to kind of let go of all the other things that are in there that are distracting you.”
— J. Fred Woell
 Fred building The Road Less Traveled

Fred building The Road Less Traveled

“A wonderful tribute!”
— Lloyd Herman, former director Renwick Gallery
 Fred Woell and Pat Wheeler

Fred Woell and Pat Wheeler

“... insightful ... informative .... intelligent.”
— Susan Cummins, Art Jewelry Forum