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Blacksmithing on NPR

mark aspery at Penland

National Public Radio’s Sunday Morning Edition had a good piece this week about contemporary blacksmithing featuring Penland instructor Mark Aspery (shown here working in the Penland iron studio). Mark tells a story about King Arthur figuring out why the blacksmith was the most important craftsman in his kingdom, and then he goes on to talk about his career as a teacher of the craft. You can listen to the story here (there’s a summary on the page, but listening to it is much better).

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Focus on: Pablo Soto

Pablo Soto
Pablo Soto and assistant Mike Krupiarz at Pittsburgh Glass Center. Photo by Nathan J. Shaulis.

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center’s Focus Gallery’s third show of the year, Pablo Soto: Incised Glass, is now open. A suite of the artist’s new work in glass, this exhibition is on view from Friday, June 1 through Sunday, June 24.

Pablo Soto Penland Focus Gallery

“My current body of work is, ironically, a reaction to the thousands of glass pieces made by me that required a flawless surface. I have begun to identify with the tool mark, and embrace the relationship between the optical qualities of glass and a visceral mark making process on the surface of the glass.  When light passes through the marks and incised lines on these vessels/panels it creates incredible projections much like a drawing on paper.  Pure glass is a blank canvas, and when you start to add or affect the surface of the glass it bends light into beautiful imagery. My attention was first focused on this phenomenon when frost on my skylight was projected onto my studio wall by the morning sun, much like a framed painting. It didn’t happen very often, so I started to make my own man made parallel attempts.

My development as a glass artist is clearly marked in stages that have become unified in my sensibilities and aesthetic of today. When I seriously committed myself to making, I already possessed a deeply ingrained sense of form, color, function, and design. This sensibility that I came preprogrammed with, was comparable to that of a folk artist. Someone that was not informed by an academic setting, rather the individual just creates what comes to mind. When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t study what is around you, so much as you absorb it. In retrospect, I was privileged to have grown up with, and around so many makers. I was constantly in a state of passive absorption.

When I was in college, I became fascinated with learning to move and create with glass. I immediately found my voice through the functional object, and sought out the skills to create what was in my head. At that point, I believed that learning technique, and different methods to meet my goals was of utmost importance. That idea has remained a constant up to the present.”

Pablo Soto Penland Focus Gallery
"Incised" Vessels, dimensions vary

“In this moment my skills have become adequate enough, so that my mind can wander into and investigate the material more lucidly. I find myself searching out what people’s perceptions are about the vessel, so that I may more clearly make a statement with my work. The history of glassblowing is rooted in the vessel, and has developed a rich language through time. I consistently refer to these templates of form and technique that precede my own investigations with the material. I can no longer fall back on what was my inherent sense of form, color, function, and design.”

Pablo Soto Meander
"Meander," 17 x 21 x 5 in.

“My new path is to understand fully why I am drawn to certain ideals, and qualities that I find in peoples works, like Tapio Wirkkila, Charles Eames, Weiner Werkstatte, Lino Tagliapietra, Alexander Calder, Poul Henningsen, and Benjamin Moore. These designers’ and artists’ work awaken my senses on two different levels. On one hand they convey a sense of beauty that doesn’t need to be questioned or justified beyond that reaction. On the other hand, if I choose to dig deeper I find an amazing amount of content relating to a pursuit of perfection, and a kindred knowledge of what it is they are making. I seek to identify with, and understand these artists success, so that I can be honest when I say that I perceive my work as the result of love for form, and a persistent study of what formal qualities can co-exist in a harmony that is pleasing to the eye and other sensibilities.” – Pablo Soto

Pablo Soto Mirrored Marks
"Mirrored Marks" Cone (detail)

Click here to visit Pablo Soto’s website, where you can see more of his work.

Click here to visit the new and improved Penland Gallery website.

Penland’s Focus Gallery is a space primarily dedicated to single-artist exhibitions. Focusing on individual artists over the course of the year, it presents a larger selection of their work to gallery visitors and patrons.

Click here for more images from the show, and information about other Focus Gallery artists.