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Penland featured on ‘Around Carolina’

A new piece about Penland made for the series Around Carolina, produced for Time Warner Cable in North Carolina. It features short interviews with student Katie Fee, metalsmith Ndidi Ekubia, core fellow Angela Eastman, and deputy director Jerry Jackson–and many faces from our mid-July workshops. If you’ve never been to Penland before, this is a good appetizer. Thank you to Richard Green for stopping in to visit with us.

 
 

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Chasing Penland

 

It’s the last day of the session and I need to find Orly Wexler in Upper Metals. When I get to the studio, Orly is gone. “She left at 5 am to catch her flight,” says the instructor, Lawrence Woodford. He sighs. “Her work was so beautiful.”

Dang. Two weeks at Penland can go quick–just when I get used to people being here, they’re off. Next on my list to track down for her story: Martha Todd in lower Clay.

Martha, recipient of a Penland fellowship through the Crafts Council UK, has been blogging about her Penland experience in Thaddeus Erdahl‘s workshop. I would like to meet and interview her for the blog before she leaves. On the porch of Lower Clay, the busts the class has made are out: cats, humans, animals grand and strange. I find Martha’s bust–a dog–but no Martha. Someone tells me that she’s headed toward the coffee house wearing a pink shirt.

 

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Busts made by Thaddeus Erdahl’s workshop by Robin Dreyer

When I get to the coffee house, there are three women with pink shirts. Dang again. Here’s an occupational hazard of working in the Penland communications office during the summer: the cast of students and instructors changes in a flash. Too many luminous people to chase. Too many names. They appear, make art, and then leave us. To complicate matters, people reappear with steady frequency. My brain hurts.

I approach a familiar woman in pink near the creamer and ask if she’s Martha Todd. “No,” she smiles warmly, “I’m Mary.” It isn’t until later that I realize she’s Mary Zicafoose, textiles instructor and maker of the brilliant-colored tapestries I saw, days ago, displayed in Lily Loom.

Mary, my bad.

 

Marie Fornaro at Show and Tell. Photograph by Robin Dreyer

Marie Fornaro at Show and Tell. Photograph by Robin Dreyer

I head to the wood studio for Show and Tell, a chance for all classes to display their work before heading home. The studio is packed. A sea of Penlanders crowds around tables. Shane Fero‘s flameworking students stand close to their dazzling pieces and organize trades. I sidle up to the table with forged steel works, and watch as a woman nearly stabs her arm on branches extending from an inflated steel form. Near a window, young James Haley escapes the dangers of crowds and art by playing with nesting cork forms made by someone in the cork design class. Hi, James.

I snap Elizabeth Brim‘s picture but it’s the wrong moment (another occupational hazard of my job: Pictures Taken at the Wrong Moment). Elizabeth is talking with a woman I’ve noticed all summer. She’s carrying Donna Tartt‘s The Secret History. “I’ll loan it to you when I’m done,” she says when I ask how she’s liking it. I should know her name. But at that moment Paulus Berensohn goes by, slow, like some unearthly snow king. And it’s true, you just want to watch him float.

I end up outside chatting with iron coordinator Daniel Beck and Adam Whitney. Adam looks very tired after captaining the metals workshop this session. He wants to fit in some of his own work before he heads back to Detroit. “You have Flutagon?” he asks Daniel, and I laugh because it’s true: the language of metals sounds like Klingon. “Yeah, you know, Flutagon, Atlantic 33,” says Daniel, jokingly, when I say that I’m about to totally tune out of their conversation.

 

Malika Green's shoes at Show and Tell. Photograph by Robin Dreyer

Malika Green in the shoes she made. Photograph by Robin Dreyer

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my job at Penland as “chasing Penland.” I chase people. I ask them what they do and listen. But in the summer, I’m more like a slipping glimpser. I take a last pass around Show and Tell. Shoemaker Malika Green in bright orange pants, saying goodbye. Nearby, a woman packs up the board game she made in Julie Chen‘s class. The table is thinning out. One of the remaining board games displayed is by studio assistant Isabel Duffy. “In process,” reads a sign. It’s impossible to tell what the game is, or if it’s even meant to be played, and one of the face-out cards reads:

If possible, forgive anyone who is upset that time alone is still necessary and desirable. After the long countdown and anticipation of return, intimacy is one of the things that cannot be pulled out and expected to unfold without creases.

It’s a shock to read this here, at Show and Tell: a quiet and difficult thought about one’s need to make art.  Isabel’s words suddenly make the whole thing emotional: how fleeting Penland time is for our students and instructors, who have left their cities and homes and respective intimacies to come here and work like total maniacs.

 

 

Evie.

Evie.

Everyone starts to trickle toward the Pines for lunch. In a corner, instructor Evie Woltil Richner kneels with a portfolio of her prints. They spill out on the floor. I try to photograph what’s happening: Evie showing her prints to Tiffany Dill‘s young daughters, and asking them which ones they like. This one? Maybe this one? Interest is expressed. Evie stops. “I’ll trade you this for one of your drawings, okay?” The deal is sealed.

Yes, the world is not all magic and pure exchange. But sometimes it is.

Elaine Bleakney 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo of the Week: Dit-Dah

rachael garceau installation at Penland

This is artist, former core fellow, and now Penland yoga instructor Rachel Garceau, putting together a ceramic installation outside the Pines. Made from slipcast porcelain, the piece is modular and variable, and Rachel has installed several versions in different places. The pattern represents the dots and dashes of Morse code. In this case, she’s spelling the words, “I can’t just limit it to a note.”

This phrase was said to her by instructor Dolph Smith, who was telling her that he’d been asked to write a sentence or two about Penland. He had a lot to say on the subject, so instead he sent a page or two along with the explanation, “I can’t just limit it to a note.”

Among Dolph’s many skills and interests is Morse code. He was trained by the Army, which stationed him as a signal interceptor in Berlin during the early days of the cold war. “Morse code is almost like handwriting,” he explained, “so we could identify individual operators, write down what they were transmitting, and also triangulate their locations. It’s all very archaic by today’s standards but it was interesting work.”

So, in honor of their shared affection for Penland and Morse code, Rachel used Dolph’s words for this installation.

Here’s a recording of Dolph speaking the phrase in dits and dahs.

For those of you who are completely puzzled by all of this, here is an explanation of Morse code.

-Robin Dreyer

 

 

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The Penland Hummingbird Cocktail

Woodman-Pieper auction piece

As everyone probably knows by now, this fantastic cocktail service by Julia Woodman with goblets by Kenny Pieper is the featured artwork for this summer’s annual benefit auction. This put cocktails on our minds.

Our friend Nate Allen (chef and co-owner of Knife and Fork restaurant in Spruce Pine) is a cocktail aficionado, so we asked him to create a special drink for the auction. He came up with the Penland Hummingbird–a refreshing mixture of North Carolina’s own Cardinal gin, Luxardo maraschino, lemon juice, and an infusion of locally-gathered bee balm flowers (beloved by bees and hummingbirds). We’ll serve the drink at the auction and Cardinal is generously donating the gin.

 

So, for your entertainment, here is a video of Nate making the cocktail at his newly opened Spoon bar using Julia’s shaker and Kenny’s glasses. The recipe is at the end of the video.

If you would like to see more (and sillier) videos of Nate making cocktails, he made a series of them a few years back.

If you would like more information about the Penland auction, it’s here, and the whole auction catalog is now available here.

 

 

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Papermaking at Penland in June

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Hellen Colman, a student in Aimee Lee’s Eastern papermaking workshop this June, sent us a trove of photographs about her experience. We love watching how June at Penland–in the studio and out–bloomed in Hellen’s camera.

(This slideshow will play automatically or press the arrow to scroll ahead.)

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Snapshots from a Penland tour

It's important to stay hydrated on a Penland tour. After stopping at the Penland coffee shop, we head up to the Drawing & Painting studio, where instructor Michael Dixon's students are working on self portraits.
Mikaela Darnell draws herself with her left hand. All the students in this workshop are drawing themselves with their non-dominant hand as a morning exercise.
Next door, in the Books studio, studio assistant Cheryl Prose pops out to show us the vats, fibers, and watery containers used in Eastern papermaking.
Check out the goo! (We check out the full spread of beautiful hardware and materials too.)
On the porch of the glass studio, our intrepid Penland tour guide, Val Schnaufer, prepares us for the awesomeness that is the hot shop.
Behold the awesomeness.
At this point, the other members of this tour (student-artists from Carolina Friends School in Durham, NC) are growing weary of my camera. And rightly so. But look! Instructor Katie Hudnall stops to talk with us about how her students are working intuitively with wood.
From the Wood studio we walk to Photography (where we disappear in the darkroom) and then over to Print, where instructor Kristin Martinic dazzles us with her work--prints inspired by swimming and swimming pools.
She is fun.
We peek into the Penland clay studios. Out back, Joe Pintz demonstrates a mold-making technique to his class, which we only catch a glimpse of because DEMOS ARE SACRED and Penland tours totally respect this.
Meanwhile, we climb the wood steps of Lily Loom House to visit Nick DeFord's embroidery-on-paper workshop. The students stitch and chat about local thrift shops, a potential Asheville trip, and how to find Black Mountain College.
Their table is a mountain of inspiration.
 It's hard to end a Penland tour. Thank you to our wonderful guide Val, the Penland Gallery staff, Amelia Shull, and the young artists from Carolina Friends School for visiting and letting us tag along.

 

Interested in taking a Penland tour? Tours are free and start at the Penland Gallery and Visitors Center every Tuesday and Thursday, March through early December, 10:30 am and 1:30 pm. Reservations are required. Please call the gallery at (828) 765-6211 to schedule a tour.

 
 

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Ruth Easterbrook’s New Love

 

ruth easterbrook in the penland clay studio

 

Ruth Easterbrook was a work-study student in the spring 2014 concentration session. She fulfilled part of her work-study obligation by doing research for the Penland communications office (the folks who bring you this blog). Sometime near the end of the session, she needed a break from looking things up, so we asked her to write us a story about her time at Penland. Here it is–straight from the Penland clay studio.

Being here, at Penland School of Crafts for eight weeks, I feel like the luckiest person. I am surrounded by beautiful hills, talented people, and find myself in one of the most inspiring classes I have taken. I am in the clay concentration taught by David Eichelberger, which has forever expanded my perspective on handbuilding. In the past I have taken many classes that focus on using the wheel and throwing uniform practical shapes. By removing the wheel, the entire process is slowed down and there is a new attention to the surface and form that creates a perfect combination for wonderful things to emerge. And that is exactly what has been taking place for me and all the unusually talented people who surround me in my class.

Looking back at the first day of our time here, it all began with simple pinch pots like the ones elementary school kids make. We were each given a lump of clay to pinch into a cup-like form. Working with the clay in this way, pinching it between your fingers to slowly open and thin out the walls, there is a wonderful expression of the individual in the touch. This same individual presence has continued as the weeks have gone by. A class like this doesn’t come around very often: there is a playful, hardworking and supportive environment that spurs on the making in a way that is an honor to be part of.

 

ruth easterbrook butter dish

One of the butter dishes of Ruth’s dreams.

 

I have completely fallen in love with pinching, using it as a tool to form walls, and create textures that leave evidence of the hand. We have also been building our own molds, which enables an endless number of options for shapes and sizes. With these new tools I have been able to solve a few problems I have run into in the past. For example, I have always wanted to make butter dishes, but I found making them on the wheel unsatisfying. I now have the tools to make the butter dishes of my dreams.

I am always surprised at how long and short the time feels here on the hill. I have done months worth of learning and growing but it only feels like yesterday that I arrived. I left my routine, home and job to be here and make the leap toward taking myself more seriously as an artist. I have surrounded myself with people who are equally trying to find their way. I find it comforting that I am not alone in the unknown that comes with trying to find your path as a young artist. I am also constantly inspired by Penland’s instructors, studio assistants, resident artists, and the potters of the area. They give me hope, courage, and living proof that what I want to accomplish is attainable.

As I prepare to leave the nest of Penland once again for the big real world, I would like to thank David and his assistants Molly Spadone and Nick Moen for their leadership and the fun environment that made this a class I wish could continue for another eight weeks. I would also like to thank every single person who was here at Penland for their inspiration and support. Not only do I feel that I can pinch clay better then ever before, but I also feel better prepared to embrace my future in the arts.

 

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