Chip Thomas, a.k.a. Jetsonorama, is a physician, artist, and activist who lives and works in the Navajo Nation. He spent 10 days at Penland as a visiting artist this spring. Chip gave a beautiful presentation about his art and his life, and he created this piece, which covers two sides of a small storage building called Green Acres.
Chip made the photograph in the Penland clay studio. It was printed in 3-foot-wide vertical strips on an architectural plotter. He carefully applied the strips to the building using acrylic matt medium. He was assisted by Kristyn Watson, who is a student in the spring textiles workshop. Chip developed this method as he created numerous installations on roadside stands, abandoned buildings, and other structures in the Navajo Nation. He has also made posters and large graphics for protest marches and other events, and, through his Painted Desert Project, he has brought other street artists and muralists to the reservation to work with him.
The pots Chip photographed were on their way to the wood kiln, so he titled the installation, Clay Pieces Pretending to be Contestants on The Apprentice (i.e., pots waiting to be fired.)
Everybody loves an iron pour, because you’ve got flames, molten metal, face shields, leather suits, and a cheering crowd. Really, what more could you ask for?
The spring iron workshop, taught by Remy Louis Hanemann, has spent the last three weeks building a cupola furnace and all the tools needed for casting metal. This was the first test. It went well. (And it looked good, too.)
Hands-on craft activities, a legion of wonderful volunteers, hundreds of eager visitors, and some beautiful spring weather all came together this past Saturday to make the 2017 Penland Community Open House a rousing success. Visitors tried their hands at perennial favorites like glassblowing and wheel throwing, as well as new additions like origami, sewn tote bags, and a letterpress scavenger hunt. We look forward to the open house every year as a way to welcome spring and bring together community members of all ages and skill levels. Thanks to all who participated for making it such a fun day!
In the photograph above, metals studio coordinator Ian Henderson guides two young visitors through the process of casting a spoon out of pewter. It took mere minutes to transform the hot, pourable metal into a spoon to take home and enjoy.
Meanwhile, in the photo activity, Penland resident artist Mercedes Jelinek was busy taking hundreds of portraits of open house attendees. Everyone who sat for a portrait was able to take home their own black-and-white print.
Visitors to the flameworking studio got to work up close with torches and glass. Here, one attendee learns how to melt the colored glass and shape it around a metal rod to make a unique bead.
To see dozens more photos from the day’s activities, take a look at our complete album of Community Open House 2017 pictures. We hope they inspire you to join us for Community Day 2018!
Northlight has long served as a community hub here at Penland. For over twenty-five years, students have started their mornings there with early yoga classes, enriched their evenings with instructor slide talks, and celebrated the end of sessions with auctions and show and tell displays. It has also hosted dances, parties, symposiums, weddings, memorial services, benefit auction art displays, theatrical performances, core shows, lectures, and other events. The planning for the original building began around 1984, they broke ground in 1987, and construction was completed by 1991 thanks to a big push of community energy led by then-director Hunter Kariher and maintenance man Harold Jones. Shortly thereafter, the Fall 1991 issue of the Penland Line praised the project with these words:
The Northlight Building has added to the quality of the experience for Penland students because there is now a place in a central location where everyone can fit under the same roof at the same time. Northlight has enabled us to bring all of the studios to the center of campus.
Northlight earned a special place in many of our hearts, but it also caused a few headaches in its time. To name a few, it tended to flood in heavy rains; its heating, ventilation, and electrical systems could be lacking; the acoustics left something to be desired; it was the only building we’ve ever seen with a gutter on the inside (long story); and current building code requirements had long since left it behind. Nevertheless, it served us well for a long time.
Now, thanks to the gifts of many generous supporters and friends, we are building Northlight 2.0. The new Northlight complex will house state-of-the-art papermaking and photography studios and two levels of social space for slides, exhibitions, orientation meetings, auctions, movement classes, and more. The studios have been planned with close participation from Penland staff and instructors to allow increased flexibility and range in our workshop programming. The social area will enhance Northlight’s important role as a place to build community and bring people together at Penland, complete with a kitchen, gallery space, common room, landscaped outdoor areas, porches, and yes, those beloved rocking chairs looking out over the mountains. Floods will be a thing of the past and landscape features will help mitigate runoff problems in the lower part of campus. The new space will be accessible and adaptable. In short, we think it will be an amazing addition to the Penland campus, and we are eagerly anticipating its completion (planned for summer 2018).
Of course, as with all dear friends, we prefer to say “see you later” to the old Northlight than to wish the structure a permanent goodbye. We are excited that members of the Penland community have been carefully salvaging siding, rafters, windows, and other materials to give these pieces new life in other projects. Former resident artist and woodworker Tom Shields has been collecting hemlock boards from the exterior to use in the construction of his new studio in Asheville. Penland grant writer Nancy Lowe has saved some of the big windows from the face of the building to create a greenhouse in her garden. Wood studio coordinator Ellie Richards has recovered flooring and windows with the hope of incorporating them into a tiny house someday. And some of the siding and flooring will be used in the new building.
So in a summer or two, when you’re at Penland for a workshop or an artist talk or a July 4th community celebration, we hope your enjoyment of Northlight will be twofold—once in appreciating the beauty and functionality of the new structure, and once again in knowing that the old building lives on in the hearts, minds, and creative endeavors of our community.
See more photos of the Northlight deconstruction project in the slideshow below. (If you are reading this post as an email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.)
Penland’s team of studio coordinators can generally be found working behind the scenes to support the hundreds of artists that come through our studios every year with their knowledge and skill. But they’re also accomplished artists in their own right, and we’re thrilled that their personal work is on display in the Main Gallery of the Turchin Center at Appalachian State University through June. Studio Practices: Penland 9 includes sculptural, functional, and two-dimensional pieces in a variety of media. The artists address a broad range of themes in their work, from secrecy and family memories to language and play. “Working together to support the practices of other artists at Penland has given the talented coordinators a remarkable synergy,” the show’s curator states. “Their artwork is individually strong and compatible with one another – creating a dynamic and moving installation.”
Studio Practices: Penland 9 features Daniel T. Beck (steel sculpture), Betsy DeWitt (photography), Susan Feagin (ceramics), Melanie Finlayson (printmaking), Jay Fox (paper and print), Nick Fruin (glass), Ian Henderson (concrete and metals), Ellie Richards (wood), and Amanda Thatch (textiles and drawing).
The show is on view Tuesday-Saturday through June 3, 2017. In addition to regular gallery hours, visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibition further through the following events:
Friday, February 3, 6-9 PM: “Fizzy First Friday” Reception
Come view Studio Practices: Penland 9 and the Turchin Center’s three other new exhibitions while enjoying snacks, drinks, and music.
Friday, April 7, 6-10 PM: Spring Exhibition Celebration
Explore the Turchin Center’s galleries and exhibitions, meet the artists, and have a cocktail or a snack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)