The Art of Persuading Metal

Penland spring concentrations are coming up this March 11 – May 4, 2018. Registration is now open and scholarships are available. Scholarship applications are due by 11:59 PM EST on November 28, 2017.


Stirrup Cups by Adam Whitney

“Sea Monster Stirrup Cups,” Adam Whitney


It’s hard to hold one of Adam Whitney’s sea monster stirrup cups without being drawn in by memories of old maps, aquarium trips, and the open sea. They’re exquisite objects with incredible detail—shiny protruding fangs, shadowy eyes, and dimpled, scaly skin that looks as cold and wet as any creature drawn from the ocean’s depths. But seeing the finished projects is only half the story. The other half is seeing how Adam takes a solid silver ingot and transforms it with a hammer and anvil into a raised vessel before adding layers of detail with chasing, repoussé, and great patience and skill. If that sounds like magic, we’d suggest watching Adam’s animation below.


animation of silver ingot being raised into a pair of cups


This spring, Adam will be sharing his expertise with students at Penland during an eight-week concentration. The workshop is titled, appropriately, Persuading Metal and will introduce students to the process of coaxing silver, copper, and other metals from solid chunks into refined vessels, as well as jewelry techniques, tool making, hydraulic forming, chasing and repoussé, and more. Whether you’re a jeweler who wants to learn some new skills, an experienced metalsmith hoping to hone your work, or a complete beginner interested in gaining proficiency in metals, this workshop has plenty to offer, and Adam is an expert instructor (and former Penland metals studio coordinator!).

Registration is now open, and scholarships are available for all spring concentrations. The scholarship application deadline is November 28, 2017. See below for more details, and see Adam’s website for more images of his incredible work.


Adam Whitney working on a silver cup

Adam adding detail to a raised silver cup.

Persuading Metal

Adam Whitney—This workshop will be an exploration of manipulating metal and creating holloware. We’ll begin with the hammer: forging, sinking, and raising samples to establish a foundation in metal forming. Basic metalsmithing and lesser-known (and underappreciated) jewelry skills will be introduced with attention placed on working in a larger scale. Then we’ll move on to chasing and repoussé, basic tool making, and hydraulic press forming. We’ll start with lots of demonstrations and samples. As students become proficient with materials and processes, the emphasis will move to individual guided projects and discussions of historic and contemporary holloware. All levels. Studio fee: $160. Code S00MA

Studio artist; teaching: Center for Metal Arts (NY), Smith Shop (MI), Fritz & Friends (MI), Raffles College (Malaysia); visiting artist: Rhode Island School of Design.


raised cups by Adam Whitney

A selection of raised silver cups by Adam Whitney


clay  |  letterpress  |  painting  |  metals  |  textiles  |  wood  |  sculpture
Scholarship applications due November 28, 2017


Comments are closed

Core Show 2017

The following post is a photo slideshow. If you’re looking at it in email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.


Penland's A+ core fellows! Thomas Campbell, Eleanor Anderson, Kyle Kulchar, Elliot Keeley, Sarah Rose Lejeune, Stormie Burns, Rachel Kedinger, Corey Pemberton, and Alex McClay
Only a gold van is fit to chauffeur the core fellows on their big day!
BE IN TOUCH: 2017 Core Fellowship Exhibition
In addition to making all the work, the core fellows select the pieces to exhibit and do all the installation themselves.
Every year, this special night draws a crowd of staff, students, instructors, friends, family, and community members.
Director Jean McLaughlin welcomed everyone and introduced the Core Fellowship Program.
Penland's program director Leslie Noell introduced each core fellow with observations about their work and growth as artists.
A look through weaving by Sarah Rose Lejeune at the show on opening night
Alex McClay, Net Series, steel wire, sterling silver, linen knotted netting by Sarah Rose Lejeune
Alex McClay, Net Series (detail)
Alex McClay, May I Leave Now? etching on handmade paper
Corey Pemberton, On Separation, pen and ink on paper
Corey Pemberton, Auxiliary, Diptych (detail), fused glass
Eleanor Anderson, Studies from Penland Summer 2017, assorted media
Eleanor Anderson, Wood Quilt #1, plywood, paint, wire, waxed linen thread
Elliot Keeley, Basket Nasty, collagraph
Elliot Keeley, Bottle Permutations (details), wood-fired stoneware, steel, copper
Kyle Kulchar & Daniel Garver, Ikat Settee, ash, double weave-double ikat
Kyle Kulchar, Torsion, steel
Rachel Kedinger, Producing Connections, steel, enamel
Rachel Kedinger, Shoe Making Hammer
Sarah Rose Lejeune, At least there were some good dreams, cast and dyed silk organza
Sarah Rose Lejeune, Neither here nor there, handwoven ondulé devoré in cotton, silk, and stainless steel
Stormie Burns, left: Skew Bowl, cast glass; right: Skew Bowl (with Courtney Martin), wood-fired stoneware
Stormie Burns, Everything is Fine, screenprint
Thomas Campbell, Bronze Pin Container, bronze, salvaged steel
Thomas Campbell, Brake Vessel, salvaged steel, stainless steel
Congratulations on such a beautiful show, Core!


The annual core show in October is one of the most special events of the Penland year. It’s a time for us to celebrate our nine incredible core fellows, who give so much energy, hard work, and life to the studios and the school for the two years they’re here. This year’s show, BE IN TOUCH, featured pieces in metals, wood, textiles, print, glass, and more. The work ranged in size from earrings and delicate baskets to furniture and a giant stitched accordion book that, even partially folded, stretched up to the ceiling. Each piece was an exquisite representation of the dedication, exploration, and talent of these emerging artists. Congratulations Thomas, Eleanor, Kyle, Elliot, Sarah Rose, Stormie, Rachel, Corey, and Alex—and thanks for such a great show!

The work from BE IN TOUCH is currently on display at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. It will be up through December 7 and is well worth a visit if you’re in the area!


Comments are closed

Penland at SOFA CHICAGO 2017

aerial view of SOFA Chicago exhibit hall

We’re eagerly anticipating another year of incredible art, fascinating lectures and demonstrations, good friends, and more at this weekend’s SOFA CHICAGO 2017. The expo opens tonight and runs through November 5 at Navy Pier. It will feature work by hundreds of artists across a range of media from glass and metal to painting and textiles. Penland’s director Jean McLaughlin will be there, and we’ll have a table staffed by some wonderful Penland volunteers all weekend—please stop by and say hi!

If you’re in the Chicago area, a day at SOFA CHICAGO is a unique opportunity to see some of the best in sculpture, craft, design, and more all under one roof. It’s also a great way to see the recent work of many Penland instructors who are represented at the event. A few will be presenting as part of the SOFA lecture series, including jewelers Kat Cole and Janis Kerman, curator and glass artist Susie Silbert, and ceramic sculptor Esther Shimazu.

And for all of us who can’t be there in person, the lush photographs of this year’s art on the SOFA website are well worth a look. Take a peek and be inspired!












Comments are closed

Spring with Sunshine Cobb

Sunshine Cobb’s mugs, jars, and bowls have the sort of effortless personality that can only come through great skill, a highly refined process, and, yes, a good deal of effort. Their soft, matte surfaces play up the textured forms and rich, red clay underneath. They’re quirky, bright, and inviting—much like Sunshine herself. It’s hard to mistake this work for anyone else’s, which is a large portion of its brilliance.

This spring, Sunshine will be returning to Penland to teach our 8-week spring clay concentration March 11 – May 4, 2018. Israel Davis was originally scheduled to teach in the slot, but Sunshine graciously stepped in when he had to cancel. The workshop will be an intensive look at building forms on and off the potter’s wheel and the wide range of surface options to complement them. For beginning students, it will be a guided jump-start into the world of clay. For those with more experience, it will be a valuable opportunity to develop new ideas and refine personal style, as well as get practical advice on the business side of making a living as an artist.

Registration is currently open on a first-come, first-served basis for spring workshops. Scholarships are available for all spring concentrations—apply by November 28!


ceramic trays by Sunshine Cobb


Wheelthrowing and Handbuilding Techniques

Sunshine Cobb, March 11 – May 4, 2018
This intensive workshop will be explore form and content through functional ceramics by diving deep into a combination of both handbuilding and wheelthrowing techniques. And we will cover a broad range of surface solutions. Participants can also expect creative exercises and critical discussions relative to form, surface, and the balance of both. We’ll also have sessions on developing online and social media content and discussions of business models that working artists are using today. You will delve into your makers’ mind and develop new approaches and ideas to your work. All levels. Studio fee: $245. Code S00CA

Studio artist; teaching: Red Clay Lodge (MT), Santa Fe Clay (NM), Anderson Ranch (CO), Penland; Archie Bray Foundation (MT) long-term residency; named 2013 Emerging Artist by Ceramics Monthly and NCECA; author of the forthcoming Mastering Hand Building: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Slabs, Coil, and More (Voyageur Press, 2018).


clay  |  letterpress  |  painting  |  metals  |  textiles  |  wood  |  sculpture
Scholarship applications due November 28, 2017







Comments are closed

Photo of the Week: Dovetails

Christina Boy at Penland

Instructor Christina Boy demonstrating hand-cut dovetail joints. During the demo we learned that there were dovetail joints in furniture entombed with mummies during the first Egyptian dynasty and also in the tombs of Chinese emperors. Thanks, Wikipedia.


Comments are closed

Photo of the Week: Work-Study Rules!

This is the lunch work-study crew on October 4 posing for our Giving Day campaign. Work-study scholarship students are a critical part of Penland’s labor force. They balance their time and energy between making beautiful work in the studios and washing dishes, staying on top of things in the dining hall, helping in the garden, etc., etc. We love our work-study students; they really do make Penland go.


Comments are closed

The Snow Leopard Departs

The Penland kitchen crew

The Penland kitchen crew in 2015: (left to right) David Chatt, Big John Renick, Richard Pleasants, Day Dotson, Kirk Banner, Y-Sam Ktul, Bill Jackson

Sometime between Penland’s summer and fall sessions, we said goodbye to Richard Pleasants, who has retired after eight years as our food services manager and at the end of a long career working in kitchens, restaurants, and hotels. Richard moved to Manhattan where he is living with his son and family. Under his guidance, the food has been great and the kitchen and coffee house have been well-managed and efficient. Most importantly, however, Richard created a calm and supportive place to work, and he empowered the skills and creativity of the people around him. The affection that developed between Richard and his staff was a beautiful thing to see, so we invited the folks who worked most closely with him to offer a few words of tribute.


To simply say that Richard was my boss would be a complete disservice to his tenure here. Richard was my boss; but he is also my friend, my champion, my life coach, my spiritual consigliere, my guru. He taught me about the kind of manager I want to be, the kind of friend I want to be, the kind of human being I want to be. He taught me to respond instead of react and to look at all sides of a problem. Simply put, he taught me to be better.

When I remember Richard’s time here I think of inside jokes, Neil Young radio, fresh tomato soup, and French macaroons made from scratch. I think of his kindness and his generous nature, his sense of humor, and his willingness to do what’s right instead of what’s easy. I can’t help remember how he would come into the kitchen to work at unnatural hours because he liked the solitude or his desk stacked with so many papers it made my brain itch wanting to organize everything. While Richard was here at Penland he fed us food for our bodies, but he also helped nourish our spirits. Knowing Richard for the eight years he was here, I can anticipate the eye roll that statement will produce. But it’s the truth, and I’ll stand by my sappiness.

Working at Penland offers us all a chance to meet and work with so many people. We overlook that a lot, but in this instance I can’t. Richard made our lives better, and I’ll always be grateful that he wanted to move to the mountains and live a quieter existence. It gave us all the opportunity to get to know an amazing human being. He may not be here in body anymore, but his steady guidance still quietly leads us.

-Crystal Thomas, coffee house manager


Richard for President 2020
The fearless leader. One of the most intelligent, suave individuals on the face of the earth. He is kind, patient, and understanding. He made sure we did everything to the best of our abilities and supported growth in anybody. (He also loves Neil Young.)

-Y-Sam Ktul, former prep crew


Richard, I’m pissed!

Where is my morning coffee? My Neil Young? Who am I going to talk to about Social Security? The 60’s? Arthritis? And our favorite, those cute fifty-somethings in the lunch line? Who? Oh, I guess I have to make the oatmeal and grits now too! Thanks a lot. But don’t worry about me, I’ll get by somehow.

-Bill Jackson, prep crew


Richard, you are an aptly named man, as it was certainly my pleasure to work for and with you these past two years. Thanks for being a kind and caring individual, traits I’d say carry over into your management style. I wish you a joyful next adventure.

-Alena Applerose, baker


Richard Pleasants in the Penland kitchen

Richard Pleasants: master of the kitchen, wearer of berets, reader of many books, honorary core fellow, and a guy you’d be lucky to work for.


Richard and Pearl. Just now I was thinking about Penland without the two of them…

You see…at Penland School the years kinda seem to just slide off the wall in one of those cool, Western North Carolina mountain breezes. Three hundred and sixty-five days will be gone before you’ll ever even know that it happened.

Here in Pearl’s Kitchen and the Penland Coffee House, though, we can rip through ‘em like they’re a cheap, dime store daily affirmations calendar. And each year, as the thin sheets of paper are falling away we see over 7,200 hungry faces fill their plates, countless work-study students learn a new job, nine core fellows trudge through their work requirements while pining for their time in the studios. We help flocks of resident artists and their broods nourish their lives, their art, and their careers. We serve coffee to a ridiculously wonderful and motley gathering of coworkers.

Oh yes, there are others we serve as well: Penland trustees, teachers, volunteers, interns, grade school kids, at least one of almost any ethnic group you could imagine, every gender and sexual orientation possible, as well as every age group you could think of. There are state, national, and international dignitaries and maybe even a few local folks from down in the holler or from over the mountain.

Yeah, The Pines is a busy place. It takes all different types of people to keep it running. I have personally been involved with that rat race in some form or another for going on twenty-five years. And you know what? I never saw anyone slide so easily and effectively into a leadership position than when I first saw Richard walk down that stone path from The Craft House on a cold winter’s day in February, some eight odd years ago. Nor have I ever seen anyone exit so graciously as when he quietly slipped out of town just as this fall was rolling in on the wind. But ya’ll want to know what sticks in my craw? It’s that there ain’t been nobody that’s been missed more up in this kitchen since the lovely and esteemed Pearl Grindstaff, herself, passed away.

Bless her Heart!

And ya’ll know what else? I think we should just go on ahead and bless ol’ Richard while we’re at it, ‘cause although he still walks among the living, he is moving on up to New York City and he might just need the blessings over there…

But, yeah, anyway…
I sure do miss ‘em both. Pearl and Richard, ya know…
I miss ‘em both…really, really bad!

Big Love, Richard!

Big John

-a.k.a. John T. Renick, III, interim food services manager

Editor’s note: Pearl Grindstaff was a wonderful and wise woman who worked in the Penland kitchen for 75 years–a remarkable tenure that lasted until 2009.


I was recently asked as part of an interview process to name someone I had worked for in the past whom I admired or particularly enjoyed working with. It was not hard to answer. A few years ago, my life needed some shaking up and the irregular ebb and flow of my art income was not going to be reliable enough. I was more than a little apprehensive as I contemplated a return to the work-a-day world after having spent the previous twenty years as a studio artist. I found out that Penland was in need of a baker and reached out to Richard. I was not sure he would have me and learned later that some had cautioned him not to hire me because I would probably not last the summer. Richard decided to ignore that advice and offered me the job. I arrived with some trepidation of my own. The changes in my life had left my confidence a little bruised. I need not have worried. Working in Richard’s kitchen was a perfect fit for me at a time when I needed it the most.

When the person conducting the interview asked what it was about working for Richard, I said he created an environment that made all of us who worked for him want to do our best.

I have come to love Richard, not just because he offered me a soft place to land in a tumultuous time, not just because he ran one of the best kitchens I have ever had the privilege to work in, not just because of his impressive mane of snowy white hair, though all those things are worthy of admiration. I love Richard because of the way he treats his people and the way he managed to create an environment where people felt valued, supported, and free to be a little weird. If I am ever in a position where other people rely on me for leadership, I hope I will remember how it felt to work for Richard and provide that kind of generosity for someone else.

Richard, thank you. I am better for having had the chance to work with you for those four years. I hope the next chapter of your life is the best yet. Please keep in touch. I love you like someone we both know loves a go-plate!

-David Chatt, former Penland baker


Richard’s parking spot. Sign by Ian Henderson and Daniel Beck.

I swear Richard has led dozens of lives. He is as likely to launch into a story about dining with celebrities in the Caribbean as he is about a penniless stretch on the streets of DC. There was the time he was a personal chef to a jet-setting billionaire and the time he’s awfully vague about that involved multiple crossings of the Mexican border. The point is that he is a changeling, renewing himself regularly, and, I hope, endlessly. And when his abilities combined with the transfigurative powers of Penland School of Crafts we got our Snow Leopard, for a too short eight years—leader, reader, kneader, and as good a friend as I ever expect to find. He’ll be sorely missed around here, and I believe he’ll miss us, too, though I’m sure he’s already transformed into some timeless hep cat on some Manhattan street corner with a devoted following wondering “where did this magical creature come from?

-Ian Henderson, metals studio coordinator and former core fellow


Comments are closed