A self-described "mud man," a video fabulist, and an architect exploring the inner space of biological forms are among this year's 12 recipients of Pew Fellowships in the Arts.

Those selected for the $60,000 awards were tapped first by an anonymous group of nominators, then vetted by a batch of "evaluators," and finally selected by a small panel of artists and arts officials.

In the past, artists themselves applied for fellowships in specific disciplines and winners were selected by discipline panels.

For the Philadelphia-based ceramic artist William Daley, 85, the fellowship means "I can really keep doing what I want to do."

He's not exaggerating. Daley, who calls himself a mud man, has been creating clay vessels on a very large scale, sometimes so large he has difficulty toting them around.

"I've been working for 50 years at it," he said. "I really wanted a way to continue. This means I can afford to get some help for some of the parts that aren't so easy at my age."

His grandchildren have been assisting, but Daley has also been reducing the size of his pieces - just to be able to move them. Maybe not so much anymore.

Melissa Franklin, who runs the fellowship program for the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, a unit of the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the new selection process involved 30 nominators, some from Philadelphia, some not, who each submitted two nominations. Those nominated were then invited to apply.

Franklin said that while some of the nominators would remain involved for next year, others are leaving. All who take part in the selection process, she said, are asked to sign a code of ethics that precludes, among other things, selecting colleagues and friends.

Scuttling the discipline-based selection process, Franklin said, has allowed artists working in multiple disciplines to apply.

In addition to Daley, this year's grantees include fiction writer Max Apple, jewelry maker Melanie Bilenker, and jazz violinist, composer, and arranger John Blake Jr.

Fellowships also went to Kara Crombie, who weaves video, animation, and photography into narratives with a social-cultural bite; jazz pianist, composer, and arranger Orrin Evans; tap performer and choreographer Germaine Ingram; violinist and classical Arab musician Hanna Khoury; and documentary filmmaker Tina Morton.

Jenny Sabin, an architect and designer who works with mathematicians, scientists, and cell biologists to analyze living biological systems and develop insights into ecological design, received a fellowship this year. So did solo theater performer, sound designer, and composer James Sugg, and producer-songwriter Charles "Chuck" Treece, who plays multiple instruments and composes in a variety of styles.

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or ssalisbury@phillynews.com.