I spent the last few days in Philadelphia catching up with old friends and colleagues and taking part in the Center for Art in Wood’s (nice videos on this site!) Challenge VIII event in conjunction with the Bartram Gardens – more (probably much more) on this later. Its been more than 8 years since I last set foot in this town and I’d forgotten how interesting a city it is.

I stayed with my longest standing friend in the US, the incredibly talented and charming Michael Hurwitz, his sculptor wife Mami Kato and vivacious daughter Marina. They have a great house and enviable studio space in the middle of the Old City. Michael showed us around his studio space and gave us an inside peek at some of the pieces he is working on. I believe Michael is one of the most talented and accomplished furniture craftsmen in the US at the moment and its always an inspiration and education seeing inside his working processes.

Michael explaining it all - well, some of it.

His action packed studio

We also got to see behind the scenes in Mami Kato’s adjacent studio. Mami’s work draws on the material culture and her associated memories of northern Japan where she was raised.

New work in the making

Tiny handmade rice straw brushes waiting to be inserted into a sculpture

I was lucky enough to get a chance to see some of her completed works in a show at the Asian Art Initiative. Delicate but robust work with an intriguing and compelling materiality! In a 3-person group show entitled “Moving Through Memory” on until November 18th – see it if you live anywhere near.

Love reading wall labels!

Hand Wrapped with Butterbur Leaf

Umbilical Field

Umbilical Field - detail

Hydrostatis (looking through version) with Don Miller Jr. and Michael Hurwitz

Later in the day we went to a totally enthralling little museum called the Wagner Free Institute of Science. Really cool! I’ll write about it in the next post.

Then to top of a great day, Michael took me to enjoy another museum piece in a way; Bob and Barbara’s Lounge. Famous for its ‘liquor drinking music’, exceptional Hammond B3 action and the classic “special” (a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam for just $3.50). The current incarnation of the in-house band “The Crowd Pleasers” were in fine form by the second set – The Crowd Pleasers consists of Bob Hampton on the drums, Howard “Candy Man” Candy on the Hammond B-3 Organ, and Wilbur DuPont on the tenor sax – he has the most amazing and huge hands. There’s a great article about the original “Crowd Pleasers” led by the late, great Nate Wiley and Bob and Barbara’s Lounge here.

The Crowd Pleasers - take it Wilbur


  1. Great story, Donald! I was just in Philly myself over the past weekend visiting family. Next time we should coordinate!! Hope to see you soon- Scott


    1. I can’t believe we missed a chance to throw back a few specials at Bob and Barbara’s together! Next time I’m heading that way(in the Spring sometime), I’ll definitely give you a heads up!


  2. Hey Donald, glad you had a good time and thanks for the kind words–but it’s a long time to have been standing–may I sit now?

    The last time I proudly declared to have been friends with someone for over a third of my life I was only three and it didn’t carry that much weight. Now that I’m considerably older it means exponentially more with each passing year.


    1. It was a choice between “longest standing” or “oldest” – you choose!
      Thanks for being such an awesome host last week! I can’t wait to visit again in the Spring. And thanks for the caption suggestions for my next post!!


  3. Hi Donald,
    Thank you for mentioning about my show with those nice big photos!
    I wish I could have spent more time with you guys, but anyway, I’m glad that you had a good time in Philly!


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