WHEN THE Senate wives come to the White House for lunch with Rosalynn Carter at noon Monday in the State Dining Room, they will sit down to round tables set with what Rosalynn Carter calls "people's art": American pottery and glassware, wrought iron napkin rings, honeysuckle and white oak baskets filled with cornshuck and woodshaving flowers, nd favors of handmade books.
This luncheon will mark the the first time that the contemporary American craftsworker has been so honored in the White House.
The tablesettings were all made in less than six weeks and lent by American craftsworkers who were first told their work was for the White House when they were writing the shipping label.
The Renwick Gallery, across the street from the White House, will hold a show of the crafts opening Saturday in the Palm Court and continuing through July 10, according to Lloyd Herman, Renwick director.
The White House is a magnificent showcase of the work of American craftsmen of the first third of the 19th century. But visitors might believe that our culture and our taste ended in 1833. Carter is the first First Lady to make a major effort to bring the 20th century to the White House interior design.
Rosalynn Carter sets her own style, not limited by the "way things have always been done" at the White House. She brings her own taste to her entertaining; white wine instead of hard liquor, classical music instead of nightclub humor, and open houses for the handicapped and the aged as well as politicians and potentates.
"Today people care so much about the functional arts," she said the other day as the pottery was unpacked in the main floor family dining room. "SO I thought it would be grand to recognize the work of the American craftsman."
The book the Senate wives will receive points out that "approximately two out of five Americans are in some way involved with making crafts . . . We are witnessing a flowering of the crafts as the people's art - an art people can appreciate, use and live with to the daily enrichment of their lives . . . the White House celebrates the continued viability of our cultural heritage."
Asked if she had crafts in her own home in Plains, Carter replied, "I should hope so. Jimmy's cousin, D.X. Gordie of Lumpkin, Ga., is a potter. And many people in our area make baskets from woodshavings." On the Carter mantlepiece in Plains is a small piece of pottery by potter Joan Mondale, wife of the Vice President, who collects crafts and art for the Vice President's House.
The idea to borrow the works of outstanding American craftsmen for the luncheon was Rosalynn Carter's, according to her social secretary, Gretchen Poston. "She thought it was in keeping with the President's populist style." Elena Canavier of the National Endowment for the Arts, who coordinated the project said, "The whole idea came up just six weeks ago." She asked help from the major craft organization who chose the craftunen in their area.
The potters are: Roberta Bloom, Maarblesead, Maine; Cynthia Bringle, Penland, N.C.; Dora De Larios, Culver City, Calif.; Lewis Dimm, Livingston, N.Y.; Seth Duberstein; New Paltz. N.Y.; Joh Glick, Farmington, Mich.; Barbara Grygutis, Tucson, Ariz.; Catherine Hiersoux, Kensington, Calif.; Derek Marshall, Center Sandwich, N.H.; Duke Miecmikowski, Mannington. W. Va.; Todd Piker, Cornwall Bridge, Conn.; Ron Propst, Penland, N.C.; Lewis Snyder, Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Anne B. Shattuck, Eastham, Maine, and Harriet and Michael Cohen, Amherst, Maine.
The usual prices for 12 place settings of the pottery work sent to the White House range from a low of $360 for Snyder's no-rim flat plates to $720 for Hiersoux's gray plates with red design. Most of the plates would sell for about $12.50 each. Other settings include Bloom's oyster-color plates with a raised, almost art nouveau design; Bringle's calligraphic design on a brown plate; Dimm's feathery blue and white design.
One box - Marshall's - was badly damaged, according to Ellen Myette, assistant curator at the Renwick, registrar for the project.
The glassware is the work of: William Bernstein, Burnsville, N.C.; Steven Correia, Santa Monica, Calif.; James Engebretson, Pownal, Vt.; Nancy Freeman, Olivebridge, N.Y.; Don Gonzalez, Hampton, N.J.; Steve Maslach, Greenbrae, Calif.; Richard Poiner, Los Angels; Arthur Reed, MIllburn, N.J.; Rochester Folk Art Guild, Middlesex, N.Y.; Josh Simpson, Shelburne Falls, Maine; Rick Strini, Santa Cruz, Calif.; the Salamandra Glass Studio, Portsmouth, N.H., and Craig Zweifel, Ketchum, Idaho.
Prices range from $8 for Simpson's clear tumbler with blue and gold freckles to $12 for Salamandra's gold and yellow wine glass to $70 for Coreia's spectacular cobalt-blue tall wine goblet with a silver overlaid design.
Other designs include Masiach's brown marbelized goblet ($19); Posner's light green, almost colonial glass made from recycled mason jars (Carter said it reminded her of Coke bottle glass); Strini's yellowish-gold glass much like Corning's "aurene" ($21); Zweifel's smokey glass; Froeshan's purple tiger striper; and Engobretson's clear glass goblets in a tulip-shape on a tall stem.
The honeysuckle and white oak baskets were made by Nancy Conseen of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Cherokee, N.C.; cornshuck flowers by Shuckery and Wood Prettles Center, Lila Marshall, Mrs. Lowell Marshall and Mrs. Paul Combs of Nicklesville, Va.; woodshaved flowers by Edsel Martin of the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild, Asheville, N.C.; and wrong iron napkin rings and place card holders by David Osmundsen of Skunk Hollow Forge Blacksmithing School, Morrison, Colo.
The favor for the Senate wives books bound with hand-marbled endpapers and hand-fed letterpress printing was made by Center for Book Arts, directed by Richard Minsky, New York City; covered with handmade linen paper by Douglass Morse Howell of Locust Valley, N.Y.
In the books, Carter wrote:
"The heritage of our crafts has not been lost under the weight and speed of advancing technology. Indeed it is thriving. Right now. In all parts of the country."