Will Maguire, from Elderslie, Australia, and Sven Bauer, from Womrath, Germany, spent the last two weeks of January in the Penland iron shop as part of this year’s winter residency. They met a decade ago when they worked for a time in the same blacksmith’s shop in England. After returning to their respective countries and being out of touch for a few years, they reconnected through their mutual friend Rick Smith, who is a Penland instructor and a former resident artist. Rick had told both of them about Penland, and they decided to use the winter residency as a chance to work together again.
“We work in small shops by ourselves, and this was a good chance to do some work around other people,” Will said. Their plan was to make collaborative work, but the projects they set up for themselves didn’t really gel. The attempt did result, however, in great conversations and useful critiques. And everyone who passed through the studio could attest to the fact that they each made some beautiful work.
Asked why they wanted to have this reunion at Penland, Sven answered, “I don’t know of any place in Europe where we could do this—to be able to do an artist residency of a few weeks in a shop with this kind of equipment. This does not exist for blacksmithing. There are programs like this for musicians, writers, and painters, but not for what we do. It’s also been great to visit the other shops, see what everyone else is doing, and talk to people working on other mediums with a similar intent.”
They expect to meet up at Penland again, and we hope they will.
On December 31, 2017, Jean McLaughlin retired as Penland’s executive director, a position she had held since May, 1998. During her two decades at Penland School of Crafts, Jean led the school through a remarkable time of change, growth, and stabilization.
This is a slideshow assembled as part of a tribute to Jean at her last board of trustees meeting in November, 2017.
You can read more about Jean here and about her successor, Mia Hall, here.
Iron student Josh Toller, being interviewed for a Penland video back in November. Josh attended the fall iron concentration with a Glassroots-Penland Fellowship, a grant-funded program that provides scholarships for students recruited through Glassroots in Newark, New Jersey. “At this monastery for the hands,” said Josh, “I have acquired a new found and deeper respect for artists and art itself, I have obtained an aesthetic that I am proud to call my own, and most importantly I have gained knowledge from those around me that I have lived with for two months.” Josh and his fellow travelers from Newark made a big impact on the fall session, and we hope to see them all here again in the future.
Support for the Penland-Glassroots Fellowship is provided by a grant from The Nicholson Foundation.
Holly Roberts, who will be teaching an eight-week Penland workshop beginning in March, is a painter and a photographer. Her work with paint tends toward color and layers, while her photographs often highlight everyday patterns and textures in black and white—the branches of trees against the sky, the coiled springs of a mattress, the pebbly surface of a paved driveway. But her real work is in combining the two into narrative collages.
Holly’s collages speak to specific memories, thoughts, or individuals, and she can elaborate on the stories behind each. There’s the yellow collage of a cowboy, for example, loosely inspired by her husband’s grandfather in his ranch hand days out in Texas and New Mexico, or the aqua and dull red image of three faces inside separate houses that deals with the growing rifts between siblings as they age.
On the surface, some elements of these stories are obvious—the cowboy boots, the human features, the three peaked roofs. But deeper inspection draws out more depth from the constructed layers. The cowboy’s belt buckle is pasted from a photograph of a bird’s nest, and the squiggling “bones” that run the length of his body are the branches of trees. In the collage of houses, there are recognizable shapes, but others draw questions—are those hands reaching up from the bottom, or roots? Is the sky filled with clouds, or are those thought bubbles brimming with the unsaid words between siblings?
There’s a directness to these pieces that belies their depth and consideration. What first appears playful or happenstance is the result of careful arranging, rearranging, testing, and experimenting. Holly understands her materials as language and has gained the fluency to communicate through them on an immediate, elemental level.
The short video below is an illuminating view into her creative process in the studio:
This spring, we are thrilled to welcome Holly back to Penland to share her approach to narrative collage with our community. She and her students will go in-depth with the possibilities of paint mixed with other media during her concentration The Perfect Union: Paint, Collage & Transfers. The workshop will run March 11 – May 4, 2018, and registration is open now. Students can expect eight weeks of investigation, exploration, questions, and camaraderie.
The Perfect Union: Paint, Collage & Transfers
Holly Robert—Students will begin the process of combining media by experimenting with different ways of applying paint. Painted surfaces will serve as the core of the images to follow and will guide students in forming these images. Students will experiment with transfer processes, gluing and adhesive techniques, and using their own source material to build images onto their painted surfaces. The workshop will stress investigation, exploration, and risk in an attempt to marry disparate media such as print, text, photographs, and any other material students want to use. All levels. Studio fee: $170. Code S00D
Studio artist; teaches nationally and internationally; two NEA fellowships; monographs of her work published by Nazraeli Press and Friends of Photography; collections: Art Institute of Chicago, Center for Creative Photography (AZ), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Art Houston, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
We’re excited to introduce our five new Penland core fellows: Joshua Fredock, Luke Gnadinger, Kento Saisho, Katherine Toler, and Devyn Vasquez! They will join second-year core fellows Stormie Burns, Elliot Keeley, Sarah Rose Lejeune, and Corey Pemberton on March 1, 2018 to begin their two-year fellowships.
As always, there were many outstanding candidates for only five available positions. We received 61 applications from across the United States. Our selection committee did an excellent job reviewing and evaluating these materials; we couldn’t conduct such a thorough process without their generosity, time, and energy. Thank you to everyone involved in this year’s selection.
Joshua Fredock is a former navy rescue swimmer who lives in Asheville and has interned and worked at Monarch Glass Studio (MO), Rock Cottage Glass Works (KS), Metalabs (MO), and STARWorks Glass Studio (NC). Josh has been part of two Penland concentrations—once as a work-study student in the glass studio and once as a Christy Wright scholarship recipient. As a core fellow, Josh is primarily interested in building skills in glass and metals and developing his ability to express himself through his work. Josh’s website Follow Josh on Instagram
Luke Gnadinger currently works at the KMAC Museum (KY) and is a studio assistant for Jason Bige Burnett; he also spent years working at Kentucky Mudworks in Louisville. Luke has a BA in Studio Art from Transylvania University (KY) and has attended Indiana University Southeast as a post-baccalaureate student. At Penland, he has been a clay studio assistant and winter resident. He is interested in how creative practice can be a connector and catalyst for social change and plans to explore classes in various media towards this end over the next two years.
Kento Saisho is a Windgate Fellowship recipient who is currently working as a freelance fabricator in Brooklyn, NY. Kento has interned and worked at Iron Mountain Forge and Furniture (RI) and Fort Standard (NY). He has a BFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and was a work-study student in iron at Penland this summer. During his core fellowship Kento plans to explore sculptural works in iron, works on paper, and how these two areas of interest intersect.
Katherine Toler currently lives in Little Rock, where she works at the Museum of Discovery. She has previously spent quite a bit of time at Penland—as a work-study student, studio assistant, and summer intern in our textiles and drawing/painting studios—and is looking forward to returning. Katherine has a BFA from the University of Central Arkansas. Her background in painting and her interest in textiles have recently led to explorations in mixed-media sculpture, an area she plans to pursue at Penland.
Devyn Vasquez lives in Miami and works at the Fletcher Arts & Cultural Center while maintaining a studio and teaching art classes. She has also worked at Baltimore Clayworks and the Turchin Center for Visual Arts (NC) and has been an assistant to both artists and curators. Devyn has a BFA from Appalachian State University (NC) and has taken a summer metals workshop and fall clay concentration at Penland. Ceramics and jewelry have been her main focus, but she is looking forward to exploring new mediums and finding connections between technique and concept throughout her fellowship.
Of course, the excitement of this announcement comes with a twinge of sadness as we prepare to send five of our current core fellows on their way at the end of the winter. Eleanor Anderson, Thomas Campbell, Rachel Kedinger, Kyle Kulchar, and Alex McClay have achieved some really incredible things in and out of the studios, and we will miss them dearly. We’re looking forward to seeing where their ideas and talents take them—and not-so-secretly hoping that we’ll see them back at Penland on occasion!
There’s a certain fearlessness to Christina Shmigel’s sculpture. Her pieces include traditional materials such as steel, wood, and paint, but they don’t stop there. From bright plastic pinwheels and cardboard to plumbing parts and found furniture, everything is fair game as a building block in her thoughtful, observant tableaus and constructions. Each finished piece is like a reflection of the world around her filtered through her keen eyes, skilled hands, and the particular quirks of her attention. There’s a fearlessness in that attention, too.
Christina comes to her sculpture practice with a particularly broad base of experience to draw on. Her BFA from RISD is in painting, and she followed it with an MFA from Brooklyn College that she describes as “more conceptual.” Later, she returned to school for a second MFA at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, this time with an emphasis on technical skills like blacksmithing and casting.
Despite this rigorous training, Christina’s sculptures are anything but precious. “I work in a very crafted, un-crafted way,” she says. “I’m interested in that place where you make something, and you solve the problem with enough elegance so it ‘works’—it’s a little sloppy, but it has beauty, too… How do I bring that incidental beauty into my work?”
A simple answer to that question would be to look at one of Christina’s larger undertakings, A Foreigner’s Cabinet of Chinese Curiosities. The piece is built into the sixty-seven drawers of an old Chinese medicine cabinet and is a visual journal/scrapbook/“memory palace” of the years she has spent living in Shanghai. Each drawer is full of incidental beauty, found humor, and the little puzzles of the everyday in a vibrant, adopted city: discarded trinkets, cardboard reconstructions of Shanghai’s ubiquitous air conditioners, the peculiar packaging of a Chinese detergent. Together, they paint a nuanced portrait of a particular city at a particular point in time, and they give us a view into the mind of the artist as she takes it all in.
This spring, Christina will bring her keen observations and relentless inquiry back to Penland, where she will teach the eight-week concentration Sculpture with Fierce Intention. The workshop is for students with an ongoing studio practice who are eager to uncover the “why?” behind the work they make. It will take place in the Penland iron studio but will welcome a wide range of media based on student interest. Guest instructors Mike Rossi and John Watson will each join the workshop for a week to teach their specialties of steel and wood/plaster.
Christina Shmigel—Who am I as an artist? What distinguishes me as a maker? How do I work beyond what I know? Develop a serious body of work in sculpture/installation while digging deep into what gives you pleasure, purpose, and meaning. Through a guided series of riddles and playful explorations, you’ll investigate the why. Technical demonstrations (as needed) will assist you with the how. Guest instructors Mike Rossi (steel) and John Watson (wood/plaster) will each join us for a week of material improvisation. Students may work in any medium in object- or space-based sculpture. Penland’s iron studio will be transformed into a sculpture studio for this workshop. For artists with an ongoing studio practice in any material. Studio fee: $275. Code S00I
Christina: Studio artist; former Penland resident artist; teaching: Webster University (St. Louis), frequent Penland instructor; exhibitions: Ukranian Museum (NYC), Duolun Museum of Art (Shanghai), Laumeier Sculpture Park (St. Louis), St. Louis Art Museum. Mike: principal of Rossi Metal Design (Philadelphia) making unique architectural works, furniture, and sculpture; teaching: Ox-Bow (MI), Haystack (ME), Bryn Athyn College (PA), Kalamazoo College (MI); Windgate Artist in Residence at State University of New York-Purchase. John: Studio artist: teaching: Webster University (St. Louis), Belmont University (TN); exhibitions: Vanderbilt University (TN), hemphill Fine Art (DC); co-author of Living the Dream…The Morning After Art School (Kendall Hunt Publishing).