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Studio Visit: Molly Kite Spadone

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Core fellow Molly Kite Spadone was in Penland’s cool lower clay studio this winter, making, among many other things, large porcelain fermentation crocks. (Part of the crock’s mold is pictured with Molly at right.) The crocks have a long, tissue-thin wall that feels impossibly solid.

Molly pulls out a bucket of slip to show us how she starts–and what her winter process has been.

We stick our fingers in the tense and smooth liquid. The chatter in my mind immediately dims. Molly explains “deflocculating” from the slip caster’s lexicon: breaking down and dispersing clumping particles.

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“Deflocculating” is the most beautiful word in the English language when you have your hand in a bucket of slip. Slip is the color of milky tea, air, maybe a gray rain cloud mixed in. I rinse my fingers off in the sink.

“You are making a membrane,” says Molly, explaining how she fills the mold with slip, hoping for a set form with no cracks.

All winter, Molly dealt with the rigors of membrane-making and the effects that duration can have in the process of slip casting. Under a light, she has spread the shards of broken membrane that she’ll reuse.

“I’ve been looking at the failures,” she says with a strange mix of affection and frustration as we tour the slip cemetery.

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How does the hairline fracture start? Molly’s at home with this question–winter has given her time for it. It’s her last winter as a core fellow at Penland, and she’s getting ready to move back to her native Maine with just enough time to unpack before she makes her way back to Penland to assist in David Eichelberger’s spring clay workshop. [Ed. note: she’s back now, and David’s spring workshop has begun.]

“I have such a sweet taste in my mouth for this place,” she says, looking around her as we take a last look at one of the finished crocks. No cracks.
View more of Molly’s work in clay this winter–including the crocks, featuring newsprint transfers of drawings by Molly’s friend and collaborator, Kay Kelley–on Molly’s blog.

 

Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney

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Photo of the Week: Community Open House

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Saturday, March 1 was a beautiful early spring day–perfect for the Penland Community Open House. Thanks to the Penland staff (especially the studio coordinators), more than 100 volunteers, 560 visitors, Mitchell County Transportation (who provided shuttle buses), Dr. Taylor Townsend, DDS (who bought lunch for the volunteers), and United Way of Mitchell County for a great day at Penland.

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Studio Visit: Audrey Bell

 

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Audrey Bell remembers her father bringing home old typesetting drawers, fiddling with the compartments inside, and then filling them with objects. She laughs after saying it, maybe because it’s such an obvious connection to what she’s making now: wood compartments populated by figures and objects, habitats within cabinets, drawers that aren’t drawers, and frames that aren’t frames.

 

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Here’s one (at left) she finished this winter. The painting moves: lines in the bodies, the woman’s hair, a sweeping slant of sky, shapes and colors brought out from the wood. The dark stain of a shadow. There’s a hairline of aqua tracing this shadow–another kind of container. This is microwork, drawing one very close to the wall, asking a viewer to consider what is the nature of the mark or the surface? And then you step back: funny yellow dart, yellow of the toy store blaring yet somehow in check with the shifting subtle tones in the painting and the wood.

 

The painting and the wood in this work–it’s a palette reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth, one of several artists Audrey notes as an influence. Influence is tracked in Audrey’s world. This is an understatement. Um, just take a look at her journal:

 

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Audrey is wild about Giotto’s geometry, colors, and figures; old masters like Hans Holbein and Jan van Eyck (subjects of drawings she’s done this winter and letterpressed on cards). She tells us about a painting she saw on a recent trip to D.C: Honore Sharrer’s Tribute to the American Working People. “Oh my god I wish I’d done it,” says Audrey, paging through her journal for Sharrer’s name. “Pea-green next to vibrant–I don’t know–green-green?” she says, describing Sharrer’s use of color.

 

Sharrer’s painting took five years, and Margalit Fox’s 2009 obituary for Sharrer in the New York Times closes with the fact that she used “more than 200 delicate, ‘double-zero’ paintbrushes” for the work. It’s a detail from the world of concrete things, 200 double-zero paintbrushes, brought to the foreground by the writer. In Audrey’s work, a similar instinct for the double-zero: a tenderness for it.
Photographs by Robin Dreyer, writing by Elaine Bleakney