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thumb SamMeketon_copyGlass vases and woven pillows by Tennessee Tech University seniors Sam Meketon and Jessica Hagar, respectively, are in the running for awards from one of North America’s top fine craft competitions.

Meketon won last year for a collection of jet-black vases, and several faculty and alumni of TTU’s Appalachian Center for Craft were finalists as well. The Craft Center has a history of students submitting and winning at the NICHE Awards. In 2011, students Abraham Pardee and Jason York won for mixed media and non-wearable sculpture, respectively.

“These pillows had been recognized before when they were chosen to be in one of the juried student shows,” said Hagar, of McMinnville. “It’s really nice when someone sees what you’re doing and appreciates it.”

Hagar’s pieces were created for a weaving course. The class was required to weave something in an overshot pattern – where weavers use two sizes of thread so one stands out more. In addition to using different sizes of thread, the art education and fibers double major wove two diamond patterns into each of the two pillows. Each pillow took her more than 40 hours to make.

Meketon submitted three pieces to the student functional glass category, and two were accepted. Both entries are vases that were created using layers of different colored blown glass. He carved into the top layer of color to allow the one underneath to show.

thumb JessicaHagar_copy“Technically, I’m 40 percent of the category,” Meketon said. “There’s no money in this award, just a whole lot of people who recognize what I’m doing. It’s serious recognition.”

Sponsored by NICHE magazine, the NICHE Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in American and Canadian fine craft. Professional and student artists submit nearly 2,000 pieces, which are judged by a panel of gallery owners, museum directors and industry experts. The top five pieces in each of the 14 student categories and more than 25 professional categories are named finalists.

One award is given to an artist from each category at the American Made Show, the nation’s premier sale of American and Canadian fine craft, in January in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center. It was formerly called the Buyers Market of American Craft.

Oddly enough, it is one of his best friends whom Meketon considers to be his toughest competition. Bowling Green State University student Ryan Thompson’s collection of black and white vessels bear some similarity to Meketon’s winners from last year in that they are both a collection of sleek, related vases.

thumb JessSam_copy“Every time I go home, I stop in Bowling Green and Toledo and I always get together with Ryan to blow glass,” Meketon said. “When Ryan and I met, our work looked nothing alike. Then we saw each other’s work later on and realized our stuff is starting to look similar.”

Hagar and Meketon will travel to his native Philadelphia for the awards ceremony. Winners are not announced until after a large group critique with the judges and the category finalists.

“Good or bad, I think it’s going to be some really good feedback,” Hagar said.