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Photo of the Week: Nancy Callan Glass Demo


Instructor Nancy Callan making one of her glass clouds.

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Photo of the Week: Zones and Tones

Dan Estabrook at Penland School of Crafts

Instructor Dan Estabrook and student Cynthia Cukiernik discussing the fine points of exposing black-and-white film. (On a fine spring day.)


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Heft & Light



One day last winter, I ran into Daniel Beck in the coffee house, and asked him how he was. “Not great,” he said. “I’m down. Not really sure why.” He said it to a few of us. Nothing in his voice induced worry. No one clipped the moment with concern or sympathy. The room paused, and held what he said. That was it.

Months later I’m looking at “Entry,” Daniel’s inflated steel sculpture, shown above. The coffee house moment comes back. How do we make space for what we can’t say? Outside the fond ambush of being social—how do we make ourselves known? “Entry,” for start, might give someone’s lonesomeness a landing place.

“Entry” began, Daniel says, with an idea about thought bubbles: white, graphic space that hosts speech. The  steel is thin to the touch, and the welded seams at the sides of the hollow add another signature of intention. “I get super snapped in, welding those,” Daniel says about the seams with firm delight. “I want to make work that’s visually direct, but the process, for me, needs to be challenging.”

Part of the directness in this piece is the black strip: coal dust and fire scale applied to white paint that continues, down the “soft square,” below the seam. “The black mark is the material,” Daniel says, “a way to keep with the material’s integrity.” And then he adds, in his thorough chuckle, “It’s totally a door to me.” Daniel’s friend, Ian Henderson, recently wrote about “Entry” and Daniel’s work at large for the Penland Benefit Auction e-newsletter. (“Entry” will be auctioned at this summer’s event.) Ian marvels: “Nimble, efficient construction somehow produces visual heft in one piece and cloud-like lightness in another.”




This winter, Daniel set up his studio space in what used to be Canipes Wrecker Service in downtown Spruce Pine. He also worked on multiple projects in Penland’s iron studio. One, a huge steel frame to anchor a roadside sign welcoming drivers to Spruce Pine. (One end of this frame can be seen behind Daniel’s shoulders in the portrait above). In another wintertime feat of heft, Daniel made a blacksmith’s ideal work table, constructed side by side with his friend, resident artist Andrew Hayes.

As Penland’s able and amiable iron studio coordinator, Daniel finds ample chance for friendship, collaboration, and a consistent soundtrack of power hammers and forging. Quiet can be hard to come by. Why not take over a local auto-body shop in the name of space, time, thought, and abstraction? We won’t intellectualize it. We’ll call it awesome and leave it at that.

Read Ian Henderson’s writing about Daniel T. Beck and his sculpture here.

Follow Daniel on Instagram here.


Writing by Elaine Bleakney; portrait of Daniel T. Beck by Robin Dreyer


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Photo of the Week: Steel Collars

Andy Dohner at Penland School of Crafts

Instructor Andy Dohner demonstrating the use of collars, a component of blacksmithing joinery. “This doesn’t look like much, me just holding it like this,” Andy said, “but there’s a lot going on here.”



Andy Dohner at Penland School of Crafts

Let’s just take a closer look at what’s going on here (not the least of which is Andy’s stylin’ safety glasses).


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Photo of the Week: Mug Lottery

Penland Mug Lottery

Students in Cynthia Bringle’s fall clay workshop have been making a lot of mugs. So today they had a mug lottery. You pay $10 and pull a number out of a bowl. Then you look through all the mugs on the desk and find the one that has your number; that’s your new mug. Cynthia and the class are encouraging everyone to take their mugs when they go to the coffee house so they can cut down on paper cup consumption. This is staff member Yolanda Walker finding her mug. As it happened the guy at the wheel behind her made one with her number on it.


Penland mug lottery

Happy days.


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Auction Heat


It may only be February but we’re busy planning for the 2015 Penland Benefit Auction–our 30th–to be held August 7 and 8th at Penland. Tickets can be purchased online here.


This year, glass artist and Penland trustee Tim Tate will be leading a collecting group from the Alliance for Contemporary Glass to the Benefit Auction–and glass will be centerstage with works commissioned by glass artists Susan Taylor Glasgow and one-of-a-kind table centerpieces by Sally Prasch. For previews of these works and many more in the coming months, please sign up for our auction e-newsletters here or join our auction event page on Facebook here.



Tim Tate, Maybe She Dreams of Rivers, cast glass, video, 18 x 24 inches. Featured work of the 2015 Penland Benefit Auction. Retail value: $12,000.00


For those of you who may not receive our auction e-newsletters, we wanted to share this month’s edition featuring Tim Tate’s glass and video work Maybe She Dreams of Rivers, seen above.  Glenn Adamson, director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, writes about Tate and this particular work in the essay below. (We’ve also included the video component of the work following the essay.)


Tim Tate by Glenn Adamson

“Last year, I attended my first Penland auction. Of the many great pleasures involved in the event, none was greater than meeting Tim Tate. A figure of Falstaffian charisma, Tate lit up the tent with his humor and heart. I was glad to discover that his work lives up to the man. He is that rare artist who combines true generosity of spirit with a razor-sharp intellectual acuity. By putting glass together with video, one of the art world’s most apparently traditional media with its most apparently progressive, he shows that such oppositions are in fact groundless. Any medium has the potential to support new ideas – and Tim Tate has plenty of new ideas to go around.


In the case of Maybe She Dreams of Rivers, he offers an interpretation of a classic artistic theme, Shakespeare’s Ophelia. One thinks immediately of John Everett Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite treatment of the subject, a fragile maiden floating face-up in the weeds, her hands spread in a gesture of eternal prayer. Tate’s version is less sentimental, yet I find it even more haunting. Ophelia floats slowly from side to side, doubled as if caught in the slippery slide from life into death.


Interestingly, Tate has imagined the doomed heroine dreaming of her own fate–captured permanently in a virtual state. As he notes, our relationship to technology is just as destabilizing today as it was in Victorian times, when the skies filled with industrial smoke and trains first churned their way across the landscape. Our encounters with technology are more private, often occurring within the small dimensions of a touch screen. Yet they are no less unsettling, conveying us across time and space in a constant frictionless glide. In Ophelia, he has found an ideal personification of this state of perpetual drift. Shimmering in her ornate surroundings, viewed as if through a glass darkly, she holds a mirror up twenty-first-century life, lived all too often at one remove.”


Dreaming Of Ophelia from Tim Tate on Vimeo.


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Photo of the Week: Glass-Furnace Builders


This is the gang that just finished building a new furnace for the glass shop. The furnace-building workshop was lead by Mac Metz, Pablo Soto, and Jasen Johnsen.



Here’s what they built. The new furnace incorporates a number of energy-efficiency improvements, allowing it operate with a significantly smaller burner than the furnace it is replacing.



Action shot from Dave Somers, Penland’s director of facilities.

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