Josh Johnson breaks the mold when it comes to the stereotypical crafter: He's a man, for one thing, and he's more of a fixture in the Indianapolis gallery scene than in craft circles. Johnson earned his BFA in studio art at the School of Fine Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington about 10 years ago, and has been working as a fine artist ever since. That said, Johnson's work — edgy watercolors wrought in smoky earth tones and mossy greens, with a quirky, at times dark, edginess — fits the contemporary craft aesthetic as not-your-typical nature or figurative artist.
In his own words, Johnson's work "dwells in the realm of the lost, forgotten and overlooked," with subject matter such as "marionettes, flying squirrels and by-gone eras." As a means to these ends, he employs letterpress and linoleum-cut printmaking as well as watercolors. Johnson has also done handmade books and enjoys storytelling — evidenced by his "Spindletons" series. "I do some illustration here and there, and I do comic book shows," he adds.
At the same time, Johnson doesn't see himself as a typical crafter. "I'm not immersed in that culture," he says. "It's pretty tight knit, with the people that support it and the people that create. It's a pretty supportive community. But I'm really more of an observer. The printmaking aspect of my work is the handmade aspect that's most applicable."
Johnson is by no means a newbie, though; the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange will be his fifth contemporary craft fair. He credits Amanda Maurer Taflinger, founder of the exchange, with bringing him in. "I was interested but she urged me to do it," he says. Johnson's experience has been largely positive: "I put my work out there and different people are drawn to it for different reasons."
As a fine artist, Johnson has also sold his work at traditional art fairs such as the Broad Ripple Art Fair. He acknowledges that there's quite a range in quality as well as expression in the contemporary handmade community: everything from $5 greetings cards to original artwork at a much higher price point.
"I have a certain vision and I stick to that," Johnson says. "It's a fun environment and it's a good bridge; I think it might get people interested in looking at art. In some ways it's a more relaxed way to look at art."
Take a look at John Johnson's work at www.spindletons.com.