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Robin Dreyer: What I Learned at Penland

Several weeks ago I attended a three-day workshop offered by the Center for Digital Storytelling. The subject was audio slideshows, a.k.a. “digital stories.” My reason for going was an interest in making short audio-visual pieces for this blog, telling stories from Penland students and instructors. However, the workshop is structured around first-person stories (they want you to “tell a story that only you can tell”), so I decided to tell a Penland story of my own.

The story comes from a photography class I taught in 2008. The class was called “A Day in the Life,” and you can see a slideshow of the whole class project here. The video above has to do with something important I learned while teaching the class.

If this style of media interests you, I can highly recommend the CDS workshop (they teach them in several different locations). You can see many other pieces made in their workshops on the CDS YouTube page.  Many thanks to our excellent leaders Stefani Sese and Lisa Haynes and to all the great people who took the workshop with me — they were so supportive and generous, I thought I was at Penland.

–Robin Dreyer, communications manager


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Spring into Wood-fired Pottery with Kevin Crowe & Dan Finnegan!

If you love wood-fired pottery, Penland’s spring clay concentration offers a rare opportunity to build and fire a wood kiln with two of the most knowledgeable and experienced teachers in the field.

Kevin Crowe

“This century will bring an even more digitized life to the developed world; the information river will be up and out of its banks and the pressure to eat it in the car will seem normal. Many of the functions we make pots for will merge, transform and disappear. Making pots will be an act of civil disobedience. Time has become money. Our pots will be needed more than ever before. A bowl of tea between silent lovers, the salad bowl at the table of noisy friends and family, the coffee mug just before the kids rise – all quietly keep our souls alive. They make love stay. When the moon is right, we make pots that recognize and define sacred spaces, mystery and tenderness. At this brittle and exciting edge of the 21st century, we will make pots with a renewed awareness of how essential our work is, that what we do matters. We make a quiet difference and sometimes that’s all it takes.” – Kevin Crowe


Kevin Crowe tea bowl
Kevin Crowe, “White Tea Bowl,” wood-fired stoneware


Kevin Crowe has 30 years’ experience as a studio potter, and 20 as a teacher.

You can click here to visit Kevin’s website, where you can learn more about him and his work.


Dan Finnegan wood firing

“It wasn’t until I went to college that I got to make my first pot. I eventually attended three different schools, getting more and more interested in clay, but with very little idea of what it could lead me to other than teaching. I found my direction when the opportunity came to train with Ray Finch and his small team at the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, England. A pottery has been on this site for 200 years, and Ray has led it making ‘domestic ware’ (pots for the table, pots for cooking and serving, and pots for the garden) for more than 50 years. Ray and his mentor, Michael Cardew, drew inspiration from rich 17th century slipware forms and the sturdy pots of medieval Europe. Not only do I admire the basic ideas of form that those old pots possess, but I’ve also grown to appreciate the important connection between food and pots that inspired their work…
I set out to make useful pots that honored the tradition of Winchcombe without being mere imitations. Using multiple layers of traditional materials and techniques, I try to make pots that fit in with today’s world.” – Dan Finnegan


Dan Finnegan vases
Dan Finnegan, “Bud Vases,” wood-fired stoneware

Dan Finnegan has also been making and firing pots for at least 30 years and teaching for at least 20.

You can click here to visit Dan’s website, where you can learn more about him and his work.

Or click here to visit his blog, where you can read up on his current projects.

Together, they will be teaching:

Building Fire, Feeding Flame: March 10 – May 2, 2013

We will thoroughly engage with wood-fired pottery by building a two-chambered wood kiln with one chamber set up for salt firing. As we build, we will explore kiln design, construction techniques, and combustion cycles. We will also throw pots for the first series of firings, developing forms, slips, and stacking patterns that best exploit flame and ash. Kevin will be with us for the first month as we build the kiln. During the second month, Dan will be joined by three guest artists, local potters Michael Hunt, Michael Kline, and Mark Peters, who will each lead a firing. Kiln building is empowering and exciting, and it’s also a construction project, so each student should bring work shoes, eye protection, and gloves, and expect to engage in manual labor. Each person should also bring a pot, any pot, to discuss and a poem, any poem, to share. This class is open to students of all levels, but a sense of humor is required.

Interested? You can click here for more information about this and Penland’s other spring concentration workshops.

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Focus on: Scarves

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is pleased to present its eighth and final Focus exhibition of 2012, a collection of special hand-made scarves by Penland affiliated artists. This collection of over 50 scarves by ten uniquely talented textile artists includes a diverse range of techniques and fibers. Woven shibori, tied shibori, machine and hand felting, natural dyes, resist and vat dye techniques, machine and hand embroidery, machine knitting, hand-woven and specialty mill-woven cloth… and skill, skill, and more skill are combined to produce this very inviting selection of textiles.

The show is on view in the Focus Gallery from Friday, November 2nd through Sunday, November 25th.


Zee Boudreaux, Dot Shawl, hand tied shibori (India), natural dyes, 100% silk



Raissa Bump, Felted Knit Hat/Scarf, 100% merino wool

“Enriched by my curiosity in the parallel, yet sometimes blurry line between jewelry and apparel, my work is fueled by a direct response to contrasting materials that when together, create complementary relationships. Traditional to jewelry, gold and silver are limited in the palate, fairly rigid and tend to hold their shape. Traditional to apparel, fibers such as silk can be dyed infinite colors, they are soft and tend to conform. Next to each other the contrast is heightened; it is bolder, more lively. Sheet metal seems incredibly stiff and strong. Silk appears light, delicate and vivid. Twisted thin wire is amazingly similar to the plied silk it is next to, yet functions so differently. Stone or glass beads unite, being hard like metal yet sharing color with fiber. Grids, both manufactured and organic are used in many variations, creating a surface that allows for different applications of the same materials – making evident qualities innate to them. These structures and supports are integral, sometimes they are left to appear as a visible design element, other times they disappear and only the handiwork – stitching, weaving, or knotting – can be seen. These pieces are layered, made to be worn, with the human desire to adorn at the core of their creation.” – Raissa Bump


Catharine Ellis, Lace Scarf, 100% cotton, hand gathered and hand dyed with natural plant dyes: lac, sumac leaves, mordanted with alum, iron, and titanium, woven at The Oriole Mill

“I construct fabrics by weaving threads on a loom. My original training was in traditional woven techniques, which led me to weave functional fabrics in natural fibers for many years. For the last number of years my career has been defined by the discovery and exploration of the woven shibori process. Woven shibori transforms a traditional stitched resist into one that conjoins with a woven application, providing a new freedom in fabric design. Woven shibori has challenged all that I know about weaving and has led me to investigate new materials, resists, dyes and finishing processes.” – Catharine Ellis


Yvonne Engler, Autumn Shawl, 50% cotton, 50% rayon, handwoven in opposing twill block


Carmen Grier, Stitched Scarf, multi-resist dyed and stitched wool

“The natural world is rich with eccentric surfaces and lush, layered hues. My goal is to express or reflect this deep beauty in my textiles. By manipulating fabric with dyes, shibori, screen-printing, drawing and piecing techniques, I coax the cloth into one–of-a-kind, handmade compositions – small poems that seek to represent the ephemeral and suggest the eternal.” – Carmen Grier


Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Black Cloque Scarf with Red Patches, shibori-dyed silk with needle-punched patches

“My work departs from traditional Japanese techniques and a stereotypical Japanese aesthetic…but I hope to retain some of the invention and skill found in Japanese indigo dyed Shibori. In the working “dialogue” of the studio, I incorporate western fabrics, tools, and dye techniques with traditional Shibori concepts. I have found parallels in forgotten western techniques of smocking, shirring, and ruching. Most recently I have explored digital printing based on scanned scraps of my hand dyed Shibori.” – Ana Lisa Hedstrom


Lisa Klakulak, ‘Untitled’ Body Textile, merino wool fleece, silk fabrics, cotton sewing thread; wet-felted, partial felt applique, felt-fused fabric, naturally dyed with Osage Orange wood and indigo extract, free motion machine-embroidered surface embossing

“Employed throughout antiquity for its protective qualities, felt is an ideal material to make visual commentary on our human vulnerability and the ways we seek physical security and mental defense. Lisa Klakulak incorporates both objects and images of natural materials as well as reclaimed human-made products that offer a sense of comfort and security in her work. Inspired by humanity’s age-old relationship with the community and time involved fiber processes, her primary use of fiber and natural dyes represents a fight for the threatened values of community responsibility, patience, physical activity, and an intimate relationship with our natural world. Lisa instructs workshops nationally as well as pursuing opportunities to work with children to integrate fiber art into the visual art curriculum and to raise cultural awareness and appreciation inspired by her international travels.” – Lisa Klakulak

Noellynn Pepos, Felted Scarf, merino wool, alpaca, hand-painted silk


“My work in functional fiber arts satisfies my need to contribute to and enhance the simple pleasures in daily life-warmth, comfort, texture and color….enlivening the senses. My raw materials are fine wool and silk and my process the ancient technique of felting practiced in a contemporary light. Felting in theory is simple – wool’s microscopic scales curl during the process of applying heat, pressure and moisture thus creating an interlocking fabric. Complex is my approach to composition-multiple layers blending rich tones and intricate patterns are felted then hand blocked and sculpted to achieve a harmony of color and form.” – Noellynn Peopos


Amy Putansu, Double Layer Silk Chiffon Scarf


Janet Taylor, Red and Purple Angles Scarf, silk chiffon, vat dye discharge

You can click here to visit the Focus Gallery on our website, where you can see more (yes, more) amazing scarves by these artists.

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.

You can click here to visit the Penland Gallery website.