In her South End studio, Jamaica Plain resident Jessica Burko applied a layer of wax to a paper quilt that she was in the process of making. As she painted the assembled images of a bluebird, a Victorian house, and cut-out sewing patterns, she explained what she described as a “renaissance in crafting."
"At the same time that there’s been a surge in technology,” she noted, “people find it very satisfying to make things by hand.”
Burko is the coordinator and executive director of Boston Handmade, a non-profit arts organization of fine artists and crafters. Although Burko founded the group in 2007, she modestly stated that it “belongs to everyone. All members have ownership. We provide support, sharing, networking, promotion, and inspiration,” explained Burko. “We assist artists who are active and who want to become full-time artists.”
Boston Handmade’s members, who now number 30, sell a variety of original and limited edition items on http://www.etsy.com including accessories, art and photography, bags and purses, bath and body products, books and paper goods, ceramics, children’s items, clothing, dolls and figurines, housewares, jewelry, and needlecraft.
“Four years ago,” said Burko, “it was new to sell online.”
Other than direct e-commerce, Boston Handmade members also participate in a number of regular marketplaces. With the assistance of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, for the past three years, the group has held a holiday “pop-up gallery” from Thanksgiving to Christmas at Downtown Crossing. Upcoming events for Boston Handmade include the Somerville ArtsUnion Project in July.
Under Burko’s leadership, Boston Handmade is expanding its mission. “I hope to do more for our members and the wider arts and crafts community,” said Burko. She envisions a dedicated space, “a place to make, sell, and teach art,” where the organization could hold meetings, workshops, and rent studio space to artists. “We’re looking for alternative sources of funding,” she stated. Boston Handmade is already fulfilling its educational goals. Through its partnership with the Boston Center for Adult Education, Boston Handmade members will teach a series of classes at the BCAE this spring and summer. Burko will also be teaching a class entitled “Paper Quilt Journal” this June at Jamaica Plain’s Eliot School.
Burko earned a BFA in Photography from Rhode Island Schoold of Design and a MFA in Imaging Arts and Sciences from the Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Her work has been widely shown including at the Attleboro Arts Museum, the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, and Newton’s New Art Center. Locally, she has shown at Jamaica Plain’s Open Studios and on First Thursdays. She has also been active on the JP Arts Council and served on the JP Centre/South Main Streets’ Board.
Burko showed one of her photographic-mixed-media pieces in the recent “” exhibition at . She described her paper quilts as “autobiographical” but they are subtle and symbolic. As she worked on one, she explained how her art is something of a return to her grandmother’s generation. “There was a backlash against things like sewing and knitting” by people from her mother’s “liberated” era. Though handmade, Burko’s art is not homespun. She use an app on her iPhone called “stitch finder.”
The Jamaica Plain resident of seven years finds the community’s cultural ambience “tremendously supportive. You’re surrounded by artists!” she said. As a young mother, Burko also praised JP’s parent network. “I can’t imagine being a new parent anywhere else.”
Please visit Boston Handmade’s website for additional information regarding the organization, and their upcoming shows at the 4th Annual Boston Handmade Marketplace in Union Square, Somerville on July 11.
Upcoming classes offered by Boston Handmade Members at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) include:
- Basic Embroidery with Sharon Fischer, June 6
- Beyond the Album: Crafting with Photos with Lucie Wicker, June 15
For more information and to register for these classes, please visit the BCAE’s web site.