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Photo of the Week: It’s Like a Rainbow

Mary Zicafoose and tapestry class

Mary Zicafoose and her tapestry class with the yarn they spent much of this week dyeing. Now, it’s on to the looms!

 

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Photo of the Week: July 4 (er, 2)

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Kat Cole’s “Found and Fabricated” metals class representing in the July 4 parade, which happened a couple of days early on account of Friday being the last day of the session.

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Snapshots from a Penland tour

It's important to stay hydrated on a Penland tour. After stopping at the Penland coffee shop, we head up to the Drawing & Painting studio, where instructor Michael Dixon's students are working on self portraits.
Mikaela Darnell draws herself with her left hand. All the students in this workshop are drawing themselves with their non-dominant hand as a morning exercise.
Next door, in the Books studio, studio assistant Cheryl Prose pops out to show us the vats, fibers, and watery containers used in Eastern papermaking.
Check out the goo! (We check out the full spread of beautiful hardware and materials too.)
On the porch of the glass studio, our intrepid Penland tour guide, Val Schnaufer, prepares us for the awesomeness that is the hot shop.
Behold the awesomeness.
At this point, the other members of this tour (student-artists from Carolina Friends School in Durham, NC) are growing weary of my camera. And rightly so. But look! Instructor Katie Hudnall stops to talk with us about how her students are working intuitively with wood.
From the Wood studio we walk to Photography (where we disappear in the darkroom) and then over to Print, where instructor Kristin Martinic dazzles us with her work--prints inspired by swimming and swimming pools.
She is fun.
We peek into the Penland clay studios. Out back, Joe Pintz demonstrates a mold-making technique to his class, which we only catch a glimpse of because DEMOS ARE SACRED and Penland tours totally respect this.
Meanwhile, we climb the wood steps of Lily Loom House to visit Nick DeFord's embroidery-on-paper workshop. The students stitch and chat about local thrift shops, a potential Asheville trip, and how to find Black Mountain College.
Their table is a mountain of inspiration.
 It's hard to end a Penland tour. Thank you to our wonderful guide Val, the Penland Gallery staff, Amelia Shull, and the young artists from Carolina Friends School for visiting and letting us tag along.

 

Interested in taking a Penland tour? Tours are free and start at the Penland Gallery and Visitors Center every Tuesday and Thursday, March through early December, 10:30 am and 1:30 pm. Reservations are required. Please call the gallery at (828) 765-6211 to schedule a tour.

 
 

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Ruth Easterbrook’s New Love

 

ruth easterbrook in the penland clay studio

 

Ruth Easterbrook was a work-study student in the spring 2014 concentration session. She fulfilled part of her work-study obligation by doing research for the Penland communications office (the folks who bring you this blog). Sometime near the end of the session, she needed a break from looking things up, so we asked her to write us a story about her time at Penland. Here it is–straight from the Penland clay studio.

Being here, at Penland School of Crafts for eight weeks, I feel like the luckiest person. I am surrounded by beautiful hills, talented people, and find myself in one of the most inspiring classes I have taken. I am in the clay concentration taught by David Eichelberger, which has forever expanded my perspective on handbuilding. In the past I have taken many classes that focus on using the wheel and throwing uniform practical shapes. By removing the wheel, the entire process is slowed down and there is a new attention to the surface and form that creates a perfect combination for wonderful things to emerge. And that is exactly what has been taking place for me and all the unusually talented people who surround me in my class.

Looking back at the first day of our time here, it all began with simple pinch pots like the ones elementary school kids make. We were each given a lump of clay to pinch into a cup-like form. Working with the clay in this way, pinching it between your fingers to slowly open and thin out the walls, there is a wonderful expression of the individual in the touch. This same individual presence has continued as the weeks have gone by. A class like this doesn’t come around very often: there is a playful, hardworking and supportive environment that spurs on the making in a way that is an honor to be part of.

 

ruth easterbrook butter dish

One of the butter dishes of Ruth’s dreams.

 

I have completely fallen in love with pinching, using it as a tool to form walls, and create textures that leave evidence of the hand. We have also been building our own molds, which enables an endless number of options for shapes and sizes. With these new tools I have been able to solve a few problems I have run into in the past. For example, I have always wanted to make butter dishes, but I found making them on the wheel unsatisfying. I now have the tools to make the butter dishes of my dreams.

I am always surprised at how long and short the time feels here on the hill. I have done months worth of learning and growing but it only feels like yesterday that I arrived. I left my routine, home and job to be here and make the leap toward taking myself more seriously as an artist. I have surrounded myself with people who are equally trying to find their way. I find it comforting that I am not alone in the unknown that comes with trying to find your path as a young artist. I am also constantly inspired by Penland’s instructors, studio assistants, resident artists, and the potters of the area. They give me hope, courage, and living proof that what I want to accomplish is attainable.

As I prepare to leave the nest of Penland once again for the big real world, I would like to thank David and his assistants Molly Spadone and Nick Moen for their leadership and the fun environment that made this a class I wish could continue for another eight weeks. I would also like to thank every single person who was here at Penland for their inspiration and support. Not only do I feel that I can pinch clay better then ever before, but I also feel better prepared to embrace my future in the arts.

 

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Photo of the Week: Home Stretch in Metals

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April 28, week eight of the spring concentration. Things can get intense at the end of a long session.

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The Half-Remembered Object

 

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Michael Rossi, Mass Effect, 2013, forged steel, 5′  overall, longest 34″ Image from rossimetaldesign.com

 

I’m standing in the Penland Gallery, looking at the forged steel objects in Mike Rossi’s Mass Effect,—eleven of them—hanging. They look like tools. They’re tools? They’re rusted and somehow shifting in their surfaces—evoking human use in their gallery-ready context. Names for each object form in my mind: Key to the Secret Wall. Golden Hornshoe. Deep Pincer. Reading left to right, I flunk each thing with my imagined names, and wonder, if I could steal just one, which one would I slip into my bag?

 

[Ed. note: Penland School of Crafts does not condone stealing art or sentences about stealing art.]

 

“I wanted it to look like the nicest tool rack ever made,” says Rossi half-jokingly as we talk about Mass Effect. Each piece was forged out of his desire to push the boundaries of forging: the objects were made without grinding, filing or welding. Rossi used only a power hammer, the anvil, and a rod the size of the one resting on top of the upper right corner of the work—1 x 5 inches. (“Mass effect,” then, refers to each object being forged without a loss of material–each has the same mass and volume.) Within this premise, Rossi proceeded in an effort to work without certainty—to play call and response with steel.

 

This call and response, for Rossi, produces objects “half-remembered, half-forgotten, mash-ups of other objects I’ve seen.” There are references to forms he encountered in childhood—from books or from his youth in Michigan—“plumb bobs, garden tools, marine hardware.” It’s a bit like Proust’s adult narrator in Remembrance of Things Past, slipping into reverie when the form of the shell-shaped cookie from his childhood dissolves in his tea. Except, in this case, we have a blacksmith, working toward an endlessly dissolving form.

 

And standing in front of each object in Mass Effect, the viewer is invited into the forged space where things have been drawn from the unconscious. Remember being a child, thunderstruck by the appearance of some beautiful and mundane thing? Like the shapes, the rusted surfaces of the objects in Mass Effect (“planished,” Mike emails me later, “struck lightly to achieve a more uniform surface”) gesture toward the recurring astonishment of first perceptions—those moments when the child sees oneself suddenly apart from things in the world, and wants, more than anything, to catch the foreign object. Having time to dive into this way of making has helped Rossi sharpen his way of seeing for client-driven, architectural commissions. “I pay attention differently,” he says, “[making sculpture] increases my ability to observe the world.”

 

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Mike Rossi and students in his spring 2014 Concentration at Penland. Photo by Robin Dreyer.

 

The ways Rossi involves intuition, memory, and play into object making resonates with his teaching style, too, as the students in his Penland iron concentration this spring experienced firsthand. One of his workshop assignments involved forge objects for an EDC—an everyday carry—based on what each student would take in a small pack on her or his person in order to live. A survivalist’s game, but Rossi opened up the assignment, inviting his students to create an EDC for a fictional dream character if they chose, and several of them did.

 

“There are so many places to learn cutting, welding—but by learning forging, you get a versatility with the material,” Rossi says. “You engage with the material in a different way. I want my students to have this versatility and the knowledge that blacksmithing has a place in the world today.” ”We’re still in an iron age,” he adds. “It’s the silent foundation that underlies everything.”

 

We’re wrapping up our conversation. It’s morning in the Penland Coffee House, the place is filling up, Crystal’s throwing a booming hello out to someone she loves, and Rossi’s headed back up to the iron studio. I ask a throw-away question, “Anything else you’d like to add?” He looks at me evenly, earnestly. “I want to make thoughtful objects,” he says.–Elaine Bleakney

 
 

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Photo of the Week: At work in the clay studio

 

Nick Moen in Penland clay studio

Studio assistant Nick Moen in the clay studio, behind a wall of his own works-in-progress.

 

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