Emil Milan was involved in the earliest exhibits of the fledgling American Craft Council including the landmark Designer Craftsman USA 1953 exhibit, and the subsequent Design Wood exhibit, both of which traveled nationally as examples of the finest craft being produced in America. Emil was also featured in Craft Horizons (now American Craft magazine) in 1957. A photo spread by famed photographer Raymond Jacobs depicted Emil’s work process.
EXCERPT #1 FROM EMIL MILAN: MIDCENTURY MASTER:
Designer Craftsmen, USA, 1953
In a major breakthrough, a cutting board with an integrated scoop and a carved bowl made by Milan were selected for the landmark exhibit Designer Craftsmen, USA 1953. (fig. 31) Intended to "take stock of the state of American craft," this was arguably the most important craft exhibit of the postwar decades. It was the brainchild of Aileen Osborn Webb, the founder and driving force behind the American Craftsmen’s Educational Council, the forerunner of today’s American Craft Council. It was the first national, traveling exhibit of fine craft in the country. The objective was to raise awareness and appreciation of American craft among the buying public. It is no exaggeration to say that the early momentum of the studio craft movement in the United States hinged on the success of this exhibit.
EXCERPT #2 FROM EMIL MILAN: MIDCENTURY MASTER:
Following the successes of Designer Craftsmen USA, the American Craft Council continued using touring exhibits to extend their programs beyond New York City and raise public awareness of American craft. One exhibit focused exclusively on wood. This was partly because Paul J. Smith had just been hired by new ACC President David Campbell. Smith had a background in woodworking and served as curator for the exhibit that was entitled "Design Wood." From its inception, Design Wood was thought of as an "educational unit" intended to provide insight into the tools and techniques involved in woodworking. As such, no exhibit catalog was produced.
Smith drew broadly from a wide range of woodworkers including Wharton Esherick, James Prestini, Bob Stocksdale, Tage Frid, Sam Maloof, Joyce and Edgar Anderson. Designers such as Charles Eames and Tapio Wirkkila were represented as well. Emil joined them with three creations in the exhibit, a carved tray and two spoons.
The exhibit premiered at the 1957 Boston Art Festival in an impressive, if not ponderous, display structure designed by Campbell, who was an architect. The exhibit moved to the ACC's Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City and eventually the artworks were acquired for the Museum's nascent permanent collection. Milan's three pieces were shown again in the 2011 "Eat Drink Art Design" exhibit, at what is now called the Museum of Arts and Design. More than fifty years after they were made, Milan's creations were on public display once more in New York City, this time next to four vessels by legendary American potter Karen Karnes.