Archive | Penland Archives RSS feed for this section

The Penland Archive: Linking Past and Present

Dan Bailey Penland image

Carey Hedlund’s office is packed from floor to ceiling with shelves and boxes, each carefully labeled and filled with a piece of Penland history. When you enter the room, your eye spends a few moments taking in the sheer density of the files before settling on a large framed photograph on the far wall. The image, created by Dan Bailey in 1983, is a piece that Carey cites as one of her favorites in the Penland archives. It’s a familiar view of the Penland knoll with The Pines behind it, but with a long-exposure twist: the photographer took a light and moved it in concentric rings so that the knoll looks like it is covered in a layer of glowing topographical lines. There are no people in the picture, but the gentle kinks of the ribbons of light record the path of a person walking a hill at night.

Carey’s own path to Penland was similarly circuitous: “a long and twisted one” as she describes it. Growing up, she spent time at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, where she learned crafts such as ceramics and metalsmithing. She’d heard of Penland by the time she was in high school, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2014 that she finally arrived for the first time as a new member of the Penland staff. In between, she got an undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, spent a few years in the visual collections of MIT’s architecture program, obtained a graduate degree in landscape architecture, worked for two decades as a landscape architect, teacher, and illustrator, and eventually found her way back to working with collections.

portrait of Carey HedlundAs collections go, the Penland archives are a bit unusual. “There are some archivists who believe that objects have no place in a collection,” Carey explains. “But how would you tell Penland’s story without them?” Indeed, in addition to the many thousands of pages of old publications and photographs and letters, the Penland archives include a rich array of objects, from textiles and pottery to more humorous items like a knit doll of an eccentric woman who worked at Penland years ago. “I’m still seeing things for the first time,” Carey adds. “Whenever I pull a box out and start reading, I find something that’s fascinating or funny or moving. There are real people in those boxes.”

For Carey, one of the primary challenges now is to make the existing Penland archives more pertinent and accessible. “It’s not a collection to hold close to myself,” she said, “it’s a collection to spread out and share.” She would like to see the archives cataloged in an online database where they would be visible. “That would also make them sustainable,” she notes.

One of the things that drew Carey here was Penland’s deep living history. “All archives are about a certain continuity,” she explains, “but there really is this fascinating tie between the early history here and what we do now.” Carey sees Penland as a school, but also a web of people and connections that make up a rich community. Reflecting on her first year here, she concludes, “It was a joy to find work in a rural community—that was a goal. The mountains are glorious. And Penland itself is what most people say: an incredibly beautiful place with an incredible energy.”

–Sarah Parkinson

Comments are closed

The Early Days of Studio Glass

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the American studio glass movement was still in its infancy. “Learning to manipulate the glob of hot glass and create the shapes and details we wanted was very experimental,” explained Fritz Dreisbach, a pioneering early glass artist. “In the sixties, we often joked that mentors were glassblowers who had only a few more hours experience than their ‘students.’”

In 1971, a small group of studio glass artists started the Glass Art Society to share information, techniques, and enthusiasm. Their first meeting of nineteen glassblowers took place in Penland’s original glass studio. It was deemed such a success that they arranged a second meeting a year later, also at Penland. Henry Halem, one of the artists who attended the GAS II meeting, recently posted video footage showing Penland, these early glass artists, and the camaraderie of the meeting. “Hopefully this jiggly underexposed film will give you a bit of what it was like in those early days,” he wrote.

Take a look at the video below to see just how far the studio glass movement has come—and also the things about craft at Penland that haven’t changed a bit.
 

 

For more information about the history of the Glass Art Society, read Fritz Dreisbach’s full account on the GAS website.

 

Comments are closed

Penland’s Favorite Waffles

making waffles at a round table

Lucy Morgan prepares waffles at a table in the Pines, 1957 (unidentified photographer).

 

Lucy Calista Morgan, Penland’s founder, had a penchant for craft, international outreach, and waffles. In 1957 a group of international students stayed at Penland over the holiday season. They studied in the studios, enriched the season with dance and music performances from their own cultures, sang Christmas carols, and had snow ball fights. They were also introduced to the waffle.

Laurel Radley, Lucy Morgan’s great niece, shared some of Lucy’s favorite recipes with the archives. As she wrote, “Aunt Lucy loved waffles and had about a half-dozen recipes. I’m happy to have her waffle-iron and her recipes.” She also notes that the following recipe wasn’t credited to a source and explains, “Aunt Lucy of course had no occasion to cook really until she retired [from Penland]… I wonder if it wasn’t Henry. Who better to ask than the one who cultivated her favorite food tastes during her adult years?”

Henry Neal was Penland’s chef for over 20 years (c.1933-1955). Each summer he traveled by train from Chapel Hill, where he cooked for one of the University of North Carolina fraternities, to Marion, NC where Lucy would pick him up and drive him up to school.

 

a man baking

Henry Neal preparing a meal in the old Pines kitchen, 1949. Fadyk collection, Penland Archives.

 

So next time you fire up your waffle iron, try this recipe out with a nod to Lucy Morgan and Henry Neal!

 

Waffles for 6

1 ¾ cups white flour
¼ cup corn meal
½ tsp. soda
Pinch salt
4 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, whites beaten stiff
¾ cup oil
1 cup buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients, then add all other ingredients but the egg whites and combine thoroughly. Fold batter into stiff egg whites and spoon into hot, oiled waffle-iron. Cook until steam rises and appears crisp and brown.

 

Carey Hedlund, Penland Archivist

 

 

Comments are closed

50 Years of Glass at Penland

Though small in physical scale, a single innovation changed the course of glass making in America: in 1962 Harvey Littleton, with the help of Norm Schulman and Dominick Labino, built and demonstrated a studio-scale glass furnace at a workshop for university ceramics professors held at the Toledo Museum of Art. Prior to their demonstration, glasswork had been closely linked with production factories, and a studio glass practice was pretty much unheard of.

Two years later, a fortuitous meeting between Littleton and Penland director Bill Brown at the World Craft Conference, held at Columbia University in New York City, triggered another turning point. Once again, Littleton built and demonstrated a small glass furnace, and Bill Brown left that conference determined to build a glass studio at Penland School of Crafts. In 1965, Bill Boysen, a student of Littleton’s, arrived at Penland to build that studio, and hot glass at Penland became a reality. Penland’s first formal offering in glass was the following summer when Boysen taught two classes. Glass has been a vital component of Penland’s program ever since.

 

man blowing glass

Bill Boysen in the Penland glass studio in 1965. Photographer unknown, Penland Archives.

 

Cynthia Bringle, longtime Penland clay instructor and local resident, was here when Boysen arrived to build the studio. When asked what that felt like, she says, “Like many of the early studios, everyone was just doing what it took to make it work. Bill Boysen came down and did it. I just came down and helped!” She remembers early work made from melted glass marbles (one of the forms you could buy raw glass in back then). Clay and glass remained intertwined in the early years: Norm Schulman, local resident and Penland clay instructor, worked in both media and was an advisor for Littleton’s furnace design. When Richard Ritter was a resident artist in the 1970s, Bringle made ceramic collars for him to use for making glass murrinis, and she filled in as an impromptu gaffer.

 

woman in a glass shop

Cynthia Bringle working in the Penland glass studio in 1965. Photographer unknown, image courtesy of Kate Vogel.

 

Littleton’s technology and Brown’s vision for a glass program at Penland acted as a springboard for the studio glass movement. The technology was accessible, and Penland’s glass program became an influential hub. Penland’s resident artists program—a unique program offering long-term housing, studio space, and creative community to a group of craftspeople—was instituted by Brown in 1963. The first resident in glass, Mark Peiser, arrived in 1965. That program and Penland’s immersive learning environment, along with the progressively more sophisticated glass studios, made Penland a magnet that attracted a community of glass artists to the area surrounding the school. In the late 1970s Littleton retired from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and built a home and studio in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, close to Penland. He was part of Penland summers as a visiting scholar for eight years between 1976 and 1984.

Fifty years after the first glass studio at Penland was built, there are, according to glass artist Kate Vogel, approximately sixty active glass artists living and working in the surrounding community—about forty of whom work full time in glass. The Glass Art Society was founded at a gathering at Penland in 1971 and has held their annual conference here a number of times. The second Penland glass studio, the Bonnie Willis Ford Glass Studio, opened for classes in 1977. The current studio, the Bill Brown Glass Studio, was dedicated in 1995 during a Glass Arts Society conference. Many glass artists, from all over the U.S. and the world, have come to Penland to teach and to learn: in fifty years over 700 classes in glass have been offered, taught by almost 300 different instructors, and 27 resident artists in glass have worked in the glass studio at the Barns. In that time, Penland programs have stretched the boundaries of how glass can be worked at the studio scale, all the while fostering a global community of glass artists.

Carey Hedlund, Penland Archivist

 

Micah Evans working on a flameworked glass piece

Former resident artist Micah Evans working on a piece in the Penland glass studio in 2011. Photo by Robin Dreyer.

 

Resources:

Byrd, Joan Falconer. Harvey K. Littleton: A Life in Glass. New York: Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc., 2011. Print.

Documentary by WGTE television, Toledo, OH: features film footage of the Toledo workshops and interviews with Littleton, Labino and Schulman: http://www.wgte.org/wgte/watch/item.asp?item_id=11648
http://www.toledoworkshop.org/toledo-1962-the-liberation-of-glass.html

Glass Arts Society website: http://www.glassart.org/about.html

Penland School of Crafts, Jane Kessler Memorial Archives

Conversations with Kate Vogel and Cynthia Bringle, August 2015

 

Comments are closed