Archive | January, 2017

The Craft School Experience: Outcomes and Revelations

Anyone who has spent time at Penland or a similar school will likely understand what the “Craft School Experience” is all about. But for everyone else, it can be difficult to put into words. Time living and working at a craft school is intense and uniquely focused. It’s a rare opportunity to be fully immersed in a place, a community, and a creative process, one that many find thought provoking, inspiring, and often transformational.

Penland has teamed up with four of our sister schools—Arrowmont (TN), Haystack (ME), Peters Valley (NJ), and Pilchuck (WA)—to celebrate craft and promote the immersive workshop experience our schools offer artists of all levels. This winter, we are thrilled to be working with the Craft in America Center in Los Angeles to put on the exhibition The Craft School Experience: Revelations and Outcomes. The show strives to capture the essence of the craft school experience by featuring the work of master teachers, resident artists, and students who have studied or taught at these craft schools alongside personal narratives, quotes, and videos. Penland instructors and residents including Cynthia Bringle, Nancy Callan, Susie Ganch, Marc Maiorana, and Jaydan Moore will be among those featured in the exhibition.

In conjunction with Revelations and Outcomes, Penland Director Jean McLaughlin will present a talk entitled “Make/Time: The Craft School Experience” at the Craft in America Center on Saturday, January 28 at 4 PM. She will draw on her eighteen years at Penland to share stories about the joys and impacts that schools like Penland, Arrowmont, Haystack, Peters Valley, and Pilchuck offer individuals and the broader craft community.

We hope that everyone who is able to attend the exhibition and/or Jean’s talk comes away with a deeper understanding of the power and inspiration that is the craft school experience. And when they’re ready to experience it for themselves, we’re here with workshops and open studio doors.

 

glass work and a student making a clay piece

Left to right: exhibition piece by Nancy Callan; a student working in clay at Haystack School; exhibition piece by Lino Tagliapietra.

 

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Table in a Day!

Penland’s Table in a Day participants with their (mostly) finished creations.

 

The process of designing and making an object can be a slow and laborious one. Good craft takes time. But once a year in the Penland wood studio, time is in very short supply. For the annual Table in a Day Challenge, now in its third year, wood studio residents have only one day to craft a table from start to finish. Pre-planning and sketching are allowed, but all the cutting and construction must happen between 9 AM and 9 PM.

This year, ten seasoned furniture designers rose to the challenge. Armed with donuts, pump-up tunes, and designs (or not), they quickly spread out around the studio and got to work cutting, planing, jointing, and gluing. Meanwhile, up in Baltimore, Penland session 7 instructor Sarah Marriage was taking part remotely, hard at work on her own speed-table.

 

man shaping a wooden table leg

Core fellow Kyle Kulchar shapes a leg for his table (the black one in the center, above).

 

With this much focus and intensity, pieces take shape quickly. By early afternoon, tabletops had been glued up, legs had been shaped, and the energy was palpable. A few hours later, the parts were starting to come together into three-dimensional forms that looked an awful lot like furniture. By 8:45 PM, the artists were in a final flurry of activity brushing paint, wiping finish, and laying the final boards into place. Somehow by 9 PM (or just a few minutes after), a collection of furniture stood where there had only been open floor at the beginning of the day.

 

two women woodworking

Left: Studio coordinator Ellie Richards adding color to her design. Right: Winter residency studio assistant Christina Boy finishing her table as it nears 9 o’clock.

 

As impressive as the participants’ speed and skill was the variety in the pieces they made. The tables ranged in scale from chihuahua-sized to large enough to seat six for dinner. Some highlighted the grain and natural color of the wood, while others employed bright paint and striking textures. Angela St. Vrain, a winter resident, used a piece of blown and slumped glass she’d made as a tabletop; studio coordinator Ellie Richards covered a whole face of her table with quotes she collected from protest posters at the Women’s Marches over the weekend. The legs on winter resident Zoe Alexa’s table were solidly joined at various non-right angles, and core fellow Elmar Fujita mixed and matched a pair of turned legs with two straight, square ones.

 

woman building a table

Core fellow Elmar Fujita attaching the legs to her Table in a Day creation.

 

All told, it was a day full up with some of the best the studio can bring: camaraderie, creativity, costumes, big skill, and lots of energy. Just don’t ask them to do it again tomorrow.

See more photos from Table in a Day in the slideshow below. (If you are reading this post as an email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.)

 

Intrepid woodworkers about to start at 8:59 AM.
Game faces
Four hours in and going strong!
Ellie inscribing quotes onto one face of her table.
Morgan putting together the pieces (in costume, of course).
Zoe had to work during the middle of the day, but she still made a mini table!
Bob at the table saw
Angela creating the glass and wood top for her table
Resident artist Annie Evelyn chose to make a 12-hour valet stand, which is sort of like a little table combined with a chair and a coat rack.
Yes, Elmar is rocking a wig.
Ellie with the finished word panel for the side of her table.
A 12-hour time limit doesn't mean you can skimp on sanding!
Paint paint paint
Finishing up in the final minutes.
The finished tables!
Not bad for 12 hours, eh?

 

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Photo of the Week: Here There Be Monsters

Adam Whitney is spending the month of January at Penland as a winter residency studio assistant in upper metals. His big project for that time is to make a pair of stirrup cups, the “parting cups” traditionally used to present mounted riders with wine or spirits before they left on a journey. Because stirrup cups were used on horseback instead of around a table, they didn’t need the flat base standard to almost all drinking vessels, and many were shaped like the heads of hounds, foxes, and other animals. Adam is crafting his in the shapes of mythical beasts.

The cups are inspired by fanciful renderings of sea monsters and other creatures on old maps and books. Adam started by making a model in copper, complete with curved teeth, horns, and a scaly chin. Next, he began the methodical work of transforming solid lumps of silver into cups, first by shaping and hollowing them with a hammer and then by adding details with finer tools like punches. The process is no small undertaking, but the results so far are a monstrous success.

 

 

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Photo of the Week: Evidence of Sledding

This time one week ago, a storm was rolling in. By midday Saturday, it had dumped over six inches of fresh snow, leaving the knoll and the Penland campus blanketed in white. Winter residents wasted no time enjoying the sudden appearance of winter, and some even took advantage of our mountainous location for some just-out-the-studio-door sledding. These compacted sledding trails on the knoll were one of the last things to go as the snow melted away, like sweet memories that linger after the thrill of the runs themselves.

 

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