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Photo of the Week: Abstraction

Sheridan Davenport at Penland School

Sheridan Davenport was a student this summer in an abstract painting workshop taught by Tonya D. Lee. Sheridan is a student at Xavier University in Ohio, where her advisor is Kelly Phelps, a regular instructor at Penland. Kelly encouraged her to apply for a scholarship to attend Penland. “I haven’t done much abstract work,” Sheridan said. “But I loved Tonya’s work so much that I had to take this class. It’s definitely opened things up for me.”


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Where’s Jerry?

Jerry Jackson getting ready to drive away after the annual benefit auction.


On August 12, shortly after the last piece was sold at Penland’s annual benefit auction, Jerry Jackson got in his car and headed for Brasstown, North Carolina where he joined the staff of the John C. Campbell Folk School as its new director. “I started at Penland as an auction volunteer thirteen years ago,” Jerry said just before he left, “so it seems fitting for me to finish up at the auction.”

Three years after that first auction, Jerry moved to Penland to become deputy director, a new position that carried responsibility for much of the day-to-day management of the school so director Jean McLaughlin could focus on  relationship building, fundraising, strategic planning, and national representation of the school. At his going away party, Jean simply said, “I couldn’t have done my job the past ten years without him.”

Jerry came to Penland after eight years as the cultural arts administrator at the Rocky Mount Arts Center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. At Penland he assumed supervisory responsibility for facilities, student services, food services, human resources, and information technology, working closely with the managers of each of these areas. He also worked with the finance director and two dozen staff members to develop each year’s budget and he was involved in strategic planning, campus planning, financial planning, and marketing strategies.

He brought with him considerable skills in designing and outfitting spaces and was integrally involved in Penland’s most vigorous period of facilities improvement. He helped develop the new studios for drawing and painting, book arts, photography, and papermaking, plus renovations to the clay and metals studios. He also worked on the new Northlight social hall, the renovation of The Pines and Horner Hall (including the Penland Gallery), several new housing buildings, and most recently, the restoration of Dora’s Place, a log farmhouse that dates back to the early 20th century.

Jerry worked constantly. He was always on call, and he got a lot of calls: everything from medical emergencies to people upset about a moth or a mouse in their room. He was one of several people who intervened when students or classes were having problems. Sometimes these situations required tough decisions, and those often fell to Jerry. He was also an important face of Penland locally and statewide. He served on a number of boards, he curated and designed exhibitions for the Toe River Arts Council, he juried shows for other organizations, and he just knows a lot of people.


Jerry Jackson and Penland director Jean McLaughlin (who will be retiring later this year) in costume for their “Swan Song” float in this summer’s July 4 parade.


Deploying other skills, Jerry created memorable decorations for Penland holiday parties and celebrations, and we always looked forward to seeing what outlandish costume or float he would cook up for our July 4 parade. Jerry is also an artist, working in mixed-media painting and found-object assemblage. He started his final summer at Penland by co-teaching (with Jane Wells Harrison) a successful workshop in the drawing and painting studio.

During his ten years at Penland, Jerry gained skills that will serve him well in his new position. And when he drove out of here after the auction, a lot of institutional knowledge went with him. There have already been several meetings in which someone said, “I think Jerry always took care of that” or “Do we know how Jerry did that?” And registrar Amanda Hollifield showed up at last week’s staff meeting wearing a T-shirt that just said, “Where’s Jerry?”

Well, we know where Jerry is, and we wish him great success.


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Photo of the Week: Penland Family Hour

It’s pretty common for family members to attend Penland together. But last session we had an unusual number of family groups, so we got them all together for a picture. From top to bottom: Scott Woskoff (father, clay), Zev Woskoff (son, books); Mary Fout (sister, clay), Monroe Moore (brother, clay); Sabiha Mujtaba (mother, wood instructor), Aalia Mujtaba (daughter, metals); Forrest Bacigalupi (son, brother, metals), Lori Bacigalupi (mother, drawing), Serene Bacigalupi (daughter, sister, books); Ruth Martin (mother, books), Ben Martin (son, clay). Thanks to long-time Penland student K.C. Wagner, who figured all this out and instigated this picture.


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A Concentration in Iteration

colorful wooden bench

“Patterned – A Bench” by Christina Boy, ash, stain, milk paint


There’s something special that happens in the wood studio over the course of a workshop. Students find the patience and focus to work intensely on just a few, longer-term projects rather than a large number of clay pots or a collection of forged utensils. Powerful shop saws transform from intimidating blurs of teeth into efficient and flexible tools. And a new level of precision emerges: the 1/8″ and 1/16″ increments that most of us think in now seem hopelessly clumsy to eyes and brains that have re-calibrated to think to at least the nearest 1/64″.

It’s certainly not magic that allows a solid, artfully-proportioned table or chair to emerge from a rough-sawn pile of lumber, but it can seem like it. That’s why this fall, we’re lucky to have Christina Boy coming to Penland to give students in the woodshop an in-depth opportunity to work through the furniture making process—not once, but a few times over. Her eight-week concentration is appropriately titled Design. Build. Repeat. and it will focus on developing woodworking skills through making multiples.


woman in woodworking shop

Christina Boy at home in her shop.


As the owner of a one-woman furniture studio in Madison, Virginia, Christina is perfectly positioned to teach students not just how to design and build a chair, but how to fine-tune the design/build process so that making a dozen chairs is as efficient as possible. Over her years in the shop, she has perfected a handful of signature designs that she can make, remake, and remix into new pieces. Her Stool 33, for example, has a hexagonal top made from three sections of wood. Christina can alter the stool’s look by changing the finish or the color of the legs, but she can also use it to make new pieces. One top on the wall becomes a coat rack, and six arranged together in a ring become a honeycomb coffee table. It’s a beautiful approach that creates both efficiency and harmony in her designs.

Design. Build. Repeat. is equally well suited to new students who want to try their hands at woodworking and experienced woodworkers who want to focus on their design skills or learn about small batch production. It will run in the Penland wood studio September 24 – November 17, 2017. Registration is currently open to students of all levels. Read the full course description below, and then join us in the shop!


wooden stool and table designs that both incorporate a central hexagon of wood.

Christina Boy’s “Stool 33” on the left and “Table 366” on the right.


Design. Build. Repeat.

Christina Boy
September 24 – November 17, 2017

While learning the fundamentals of woodworking technique, tools, and safety, we’ll dive into the process of making multiples. Each student will design a limited line of products from concept to completion: sketching, designing, drafting, making the necessary templates and jigs, and building prototypes for the purpose of understanding the steps of small batch production. Demonstrations will cover basic woodworking skills and will continue in depth based on the needs of each student’s designs and projects. All levels. Studio fee: $155. Code F00W

Christina Boy is a studio artist and former Penland core fellow. She has taught at Arrowmont (TN), Chestnut Creek School of the Arts (VA), and Orange County Libraries (VA) and is represented by Troika Contemporary Craft Gallery (VA) and the Penland Gallery. Her work has been exhibited at La Difference (VA), Penland’s Focus Gallery, Southern Highlands Craft Guild (NC), and Crossroads Gallery (VA).



clay  |  glass  |  iron  |  metals  |  photography  |  wood  |  mixed media
September 24 – November 17, 2017
Register here











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Photos of the Week: Celebrating Paulus Berensohn

The post is a photo slideshow. If you are seeing it in e-mail, we recommend viewing it on the blog.

The memorial structure on the knoll was designed and built by Jonah Stanford using Penland bamboo and shade-cloth panels (made from recycled plastic bottles).
People gathering on the knoll.
There were many little reunions as people gathered.
A procession to the knoll, with music.
Umbrellas came out and we took a little break while it poured for a bit.
Debra Frasier welcomed everyone as it started to rain.
As the rain subsided, Joy Seidler continued with the program.
The sun came out as Diann Fuller led everyone in a little bit of qigong.
Nick Joerling spoke about being Paulus's neighbor, friend, and landlord for many years.
David Perrin spoke about Paulus's role as "fairy godfather" to many young people--a number of those young people stood with him as he spoke.
Poet Stuart Kestenbaum read "Goldenrod," one of Paulus's favorite poems by his great friend Mary Oliver.
Debra Frasier and Joy Seidler took turns describing the many ways that Paulus made art and taught others -- dancing, clay, drawing, paste-paper, journals, letters, envelopes, color copies, etc.
Round singing finished out the program.
Everyone gathered for a picture.
In front of The Pines, some folks did the dance that Paulus used to end his workshops.
The last event was Splash -- a social gathering in honor of Paulus's daily ritual of welcoming anyone who showed up around 5:00 PM to join him for conversation and a bit of refreshment.
Splash featured Paulus's favorite drink: cheap scotch and grapefruit juice. It's really quite good.

On July 22, friends of artist and teacher Paulus Berensohn gathered at Penland to remember him. The day began with art making and a chance to visit Paulus’s house. At 3:30 everyone assembled on the knoll, where Jonah Stanford had created a beautiful structure for the event. (Photos by Robin Dreyer)

If you are looking for large files for the group picture, you can find them here and here.


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Mia Hall, Penland’s Next Director

Mia HallPenland School of Crafts is pleased to announce that artist, educator, and administrator Maria “Mia” Hall will be its next director, succeeding Jean McLaughlin, who has led the school since 1998. Mia is currently interim chair of the Department of Art and Design at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she has been a faculty member for ten years.

A native of Sweden, Mia holds an MFA in furniture design and woodworking from San Diego State University in California, where she worked closely with renowned woodworker and teacher Wendy Maruyama. In 2007 she was hired by UALR to develop a furniture design program and to teach furniture design and contemporary craft courses. During her time in Arkansas, she worked on the development of the department’s curriculum, served on six hiring committees, helped design and establish a visiting artist workshop series, and organized public events that increased awareness of the university’s craft program. In 2016 she was asked to take the position of department chair, leading fifteen full-time faculty, four staff, and twelve part-time instructors.

She has also been involved with the funding, design, and construction of the new, 65,000-square-foot Windgate Center of Art + Design at the university. She worked on the feasibility study and the design development phase, and she served on the committees that chose the architect and the contractor. As chair, she is the department’s project manager and will be overseeing the task of moving ten disciplines into the new facility before it opens in January, 2018. In addition to her many activities at the university, she has served on several foundation  boards.

Mia’s personal work, primarily furniture and mixed-media sculpture, has been shown in numerous exhibitions at venues such as the Arkansas Art Center, 108 Contemporary (OK), University of the Arts (Philadelphia), and Blue Spiral 1 (NC), and is held in many private and public collections.

Mia describes Penland School of Crafts as “one of the leading institutions for the study of craft-based art making,” going on to say that, “in a society that puts increasing value and importance on science, technology, engineering, and math, promoting the hand skills, decision making, ingenuity, inventiveness, and analysis that are required to practice skilled making is not only necessary, but essential.”

Alida Fish, chair of the Penland board of trustees and a member of the search committee, says that the committee saw in Mia the kind of skills and experience it was looking for in a new director. “We were particularly struck,” she says, “by her genuine interest in people and her commitment to Penland. This, combined with her forward-looking and innovative thinking, is sure to result in a winning outcome for the school.”

In accepting the position, Mia said, “I am honored and humbled to be chosen as the next director of Penland School of Crafts. Jean McLaughlin has for years been a formidable role model for me, and I find the Penland staff truly inspiring. My family and I look forward with great enthusiasm and excitement to being part of this phenomenal institution’s future.”

Mia is married to metalsmith and educator David Clemons, a long-term artist-in-residence at UALR and a regular instructor at Penland. They have a ten-year-old daughter, Fiona. Mia Hall will become Penland director on January 1.


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Welcoming Andrew Meers

We learned recently that ceramic artist Yoonjee Kwak, who was slated to join the Penland resident artist program in a few months, will instead be accepting a long-term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation. We are disappointed that Yoonjee will not be joining us, but we are happy that she will have this great opportunity to be part of a close-knit community of ceramic artists.

Andrew Meers

We are just as happy to announce that metalsmith Andrew Meers will be joining the Penland residency this fall. Andrew currently lives in Philadelphia where he works as a metalsmith and master bladesmith. His work has been shown throughout the US, and he has been a resident artist at the National Ornamental Metals Museum (Memphis) and an instructor/technician at the Appalachian Center for Craft (TN).

He has also taught workshops at several schools and universities including Penland. Andrew has an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Boston). As a resident artist, Andrew wants to advance his knife designs by incorporating innovative locking mechanisms and more intricate hidden compartments. He also plans to explore inlay techniques that merge Western and Japanese engraving styles.

“I am attracted to the challenge of balancing the forging process with machining delicate and precise mechanisms.” Andrew said. “Through one functional object I am able to utilize multiple skills and combine my interests in blacksmithing, metalsmithing, engineering, and chemistry. The result is work that is personal, useful, and treasured.”

Andrew has been to Penland a number of times, and are thrilled to welcome him back as a Penland resident artist.

Andrew Meers, Mouse Folder, steel, silver, gold, 6 inches long


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