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Keiko Ishii, glassblower

keiko ishii
Keiko Ishii

Keiko Ishii is a first time Penland student who came all the way from Japan to take Scott Benefield’s glass Concentration. She learned of Penland and Scott from other American glassworkers who have to taught at Tama Art University in Tokyo, where she takes classes. In particular, Karen Willenbrink-Johnson and Jasen Johnson both recommended that she attend Penland specifically because of the two month Concentrations sessions. In addition, she hoped that the American style of glassworking would breathe new life into her work and that the diversity of students would be beneficial as well.

Keiko first started working with glass six years ago after she recovered from a serious car accident. Her recovery and rehabilitation was a six year process during which she knew that she wanted to switch her artistic medium and career from graphic design to glass, but had to wait until her body was ready for the physical demands of the glass studio.

After Keiko completes the spring glass concentration she hopes to visit the Corning Museum of Glass and take a workshop there as well. She also plans to take some time to travel around the United States before returning to her glass studies at the Tama Art University in Tokyo.
–Karen Mahardy

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Eight weeks later…

After eight weeks of hard work and constant learning the 2010 Concentration student’s stories might best be told though their hands. Fellow-student Elliot Todd and I spent a little time during the last week of spring getting folks to show us their hands. Below is a photo essay of Elliot’s pictures of the hands of a student in each Concentration class, and also some hardworking dishwashing hands from the work-study program. Enjoy!

–Karen Mahardy

Chris Porcarelli, iron

Sara Basoula, printmaking
Ryan Flory, lower clay
Kathy DeBoy, upper clay
Abby Brock, metals
Abby Brock, metals
Justin Sanz, printmaking
Patrick Lloyd, wood
Karen Mahardy, glass

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Golly Peters, ceramist

Golly Peters
Golly Peters

Golly Peters first became aware of Penland when she found the Penland Book of Ceramics in Amsterdam. She was so impressed with the book that she found Penland on the Internet and learned that it was a school that anyone could apply to and attend. She sensed that there was something special about Penland and hoped to go there one day.

Golly lives in Brussels, and has found that Belgian ceramicists are secretive about their processes and not open to sharing with others. Though she had been doing ceramics for five years, she had been struggling with moldmaking and so she signed up for Tom Spleth’s spring class in moldmaking and slipcasting. Earlier this year Golly had to have some serious surgery and coming to Penland was a tremendous incentive and helped her recovery.

Now Golly can’t wait to go home and share what she has learned with others. She feels more confident than ever with her work and now sees flaws that she didn’t see before. “Penland brought the fun back into my work and gave me permission to play again,” she said. “ I have had a great experience at Penland and feel that the class pushed me to go beyond limitations that I had previously and move onto the next phase of my work.

–Karen Mahardy

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Spring printmaking class outside their studio

Program director (and photographer) Dana Moore and I had a thrilling experience last week riding in a helicopter over Penland so we could make some aerial photographs of the campus. We’ll be using a few of them in our upcoming fall/spring catalog and we’ll find lots of other uses for them as well–starting with this blog. The photo above shows the letterpress and print studio in the middle and the clay studio on the left.

Main campus from over the meadow (Dana Moore)

Here’s a long view from above the meadow. The red spot in the middle of the frame is the roof of the Craft House.

Main campus from above the Craft House (Robin Dreyer)

Here you can see from the Craft House (lower right) all the way up the hill to the wood studio.

Main campus from over the wood studio (Robin Dreyer)

Now we are above the wood studio looking down the hill with the meadow in the distance. To the left of the wood studio is the iron studio. The next two buildings down the hill are glass and Northlight.

The back side of Horner Hall

This is Horner Hall, home of the Penland Gallery. There is a larger group of aerial photos on our Facebook page if you want to see more. And the answer to your question is: helicopters are really, really fun.

–Robin Dreyer

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Tom Spleth Makes a Plaster Form at Slide Night

When instructor Tom Spleth did his slide night at the beginning of his eight-week class in making ceramics from plaster molds, he projected slides of his work on the wall, then poured plaster on a large piece of masonite, cued some lovely music, and demonstrated his method for making a sculptural form from drying plaster. Staff member Mark Boyd was on hand with a camera and made this beautiful 5-minute video titled Fluid Form.

A technical note on what Tom is doing: The plaster form he makes in the video would be the first step in the creation of a hollow, porcelain sculpture or vase. After the plaster form dries, Tom refines it with scrapers and other tools, then he makes a multipart plaster mold from the form. The next step is to pour clay slip into the mold, let it sit for a bit and then pour it out again, leaving layer of slip clinging to the inside of the mold. The mold is then opened and the clay form inside can be glazed and fired.  –Robin Dreyer

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Mysterious lights hover over Northlight lawn

edwina-nightSadly, this is not a fabulous UFO sighting. It’s a picture made by student Edwina Bringle during a session of night photography that was part of a photo class I taught at Penland last week. What you are seeing is an exposure of about 30 seconds made while visiting teacher Jeff Goodman was running up the hill making circles with a bright flashlight. Although most folks are used to thinking of cameras as stopping time, this is an example of how you can use a camera to record time (which, really, is what they always do, it’s just that we usually use them to record very, very short amounts of time). Both the floating lights and the circles on the ground were made by the whirling flashlight. Cool, huh?

The class was about black and white film photography, which is how Edwina made her picture, but for our night session we also made some digital images so we could get an idea what was happening in the cameras. This is one of the digitals of our studio assistant Rebecca Moyer making stars in the grass with a green laser. We love making pictures in the dark.  –Robin Dreyer

Rebecca Moyer making laser stars
Rebecca Moyer making laser stars