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Books, Relics, Curiosities

Daniel Essig sculpture

Daniel Essig, “N’Kisi Bricolage Sturgeon,” 13 x 59 x 14 inches

 

Daniel Essig makes book-based sculpture. To be more precise, he makes fantastical, elaborate, majestic book-based sculpture like nothing you’ve seen before.

Books are at the heart of each piece, but it’s as if their contents have left the confines of paper sheets and gained form outside the covers. Fish, birds, bridges, and buildings take shape in wood, and books may be tucked into a beak or studded like fins on the back of a sturgeon. Each book is expertly bound using the centuries-old Ethiopian Coptic binding technique, but many contain only blank pages. Text itself may appear instead as pattern transferred to a wooden figure, individual characters of lead printer’s type, or sheets of pages recycled from 19th-century Bibles. Together with paint, handmade paper, mica, rusted nails, thread, fabric, fossils, and other found objects, Daniel brings it all together into three-dimensional storybooks that are part fantasy, part history, and fully engrossing.

 

Daniel Essig portrait and book piece

Daniel Essig and his piece “Sacred Geometry,” 10 x 14 x 2 inches

 

Daniel describes the small room in his house where he stores his lifetime’s collection of inspiration—rocks, bones, seedpods, shells, and more—as a German Wunderkammern, a “cabinet of curiosities.” And for eight weeks this fall, a portion of that Wunderkammern will make its home in the Penland wood studio for Daniel’s concentration Books, Relics, Curiosities. The workshop, like Daniel’s own pieces, will combine elements of bookbinding and woodworking. Sculptors, woodworkers, book artists, and total beginners are all welcome—the only prerequisite is curiosity.

Books, Relics, Curiosities will run September 25-November 18, 2016. Registration is open now, and a few work-study scholarships are still available. Call the Penland registrar at 828-765-2359 ext. 1306 for more information.

 

two book sculptures by Daniel Essig

Left: “Needle Nose,” 33 x 13 x 8 inches; right: “Fisheye,” 12.5 x 12 x 4.5 inches

Books, Relics, Curiosities

Daniel Essig—This workshop will use wood to explore and honor elements of the book. After learning the basics of woodshop safety and tool use, we’ll investigate the infinite possibilties of book-based sculpture. Techniques will include carving, turning, burning, sanding, altering, distressing, painting, and bookbinding. Students will be encouraged to collaborate and to explore alternative materials. They can expect to complete a series of book sculptures. We’ll have daily demonstrations as well as discussions of historic and contemporary book forms. Everyone is welcome: book artists, woodworkers, curious beginners, etc. All levels. Code F00W

Studio artist; teaching: Anderson Ranch (CO), Arrowmont (TN), University of Georgia Cortona Italy Program, Penland; collections: Renwick Gallery (DC), Mint Museum (NC); representation: Vamp and Tramp Booksellers (GA); publications: The Penland Book of Handmade Books, Masters: Book Arts (both Lark Books).

danielessig.com

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Photo of the Week: Hot Shop Action

Penland Hot Shop

Students Patty Yockey and Char Walker know their way around a hot glass studio. This week they are taking a workshop taught by Chuck Lopez that’s focused on cane work.

 

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Off the Clock: Penland Studio Coordinator Show

art image

Clockwise from top left: Jay Fox, Ellie Richards, Amanda Thatch, Susan Feagin, Betsy DeWitt, Ian Henderson, Daniel T. Beck, Nick Fruin

 

The job of a Penland studio coordinator is a many-faceted one. Our eight coordinators order materials and keep studios clean and equipment running smoothly. They manage budgets and large inventories of supplies. They work with our programming office to plan upcoming workshops, and instructors to provide for specific classes, and individual students to solve problems on the fly. It’s a demanding and unpredictable job, which makes it all the more impressive that these eight individuals are also working artists in their own right. We are thrilled and proud that they have come together to put on a group show of their work at the Asheville Area Arts Council. Appropriately, the exhibition is called Off the Clock.

As curator and Penland friend Elaine Bleakney writes:

OFF THE CLOCK features eight artists, all full-time studio coordinators at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. The work on view here was made in the off-hours by friends and colleagues who see each other daily and exchange interests, affection, knowledge, and regard for each other.

This is not a group show in the traditional sense. These artists are not strangers, and the works are not estranged from each other, despite their singular presences. Rather, looking from artist to artist, the viewer might pick up a magical sense that the works were made on the same set of evenings, in studios closeby. One of these artists might have looked up from her work and gazed out the cool, green window. She might have seen one of the other artists riding by on a bike, and waved.

 

Penland studio coordinators

Penland’s studio coordinators: Jay Fox, Susan Feagin, Nick Fruin, Ian Henderson, Ellie Richards, Amanda Thatch, Betsy DeWitt, Daniel T. Beck

 

Off the Clock will be on view at the Refinery Creator Space at 207 Coxe Ave in Asheville through September 16, 2016. It features the work of Daniel T. Beck (iron/sculpture), Betsy DeWitt (photography), Susan Feagin (ceramics), Jay Fox (print), Nick Fruin (glass), Ian Henderson (metals), Ellie Richards (wood/sculpture), and Amanda Thatch (drawing/textiles).

There will be a reception for the show on Friday, September 2 from 5 PM to 8 PM, and the artists will present a public talk on Saturday, September 3 from 4 PM to 6 PM. More information about both events is available on the exhibition’s Facebook event page.

Visit the Asheville Area Arts Council website to learn more about Off the Clock.

 

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Elephants at the Gallery

gallery-maruyama

 

The Penland Gallery proudly presents Wendy Maruyama: the wildLIFE Project, a mixed-media exhibition that draws attention to the plight of elephants. Through a moving installation of large-scale objects, shrine forms, and informational panels, the show creates a powerful aesthetic environment and makes a compelling case for the preservation of animals in the wild. This touring exhibition originated at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and will be on display at the Penland Gallery through September 4. All are welcome to join us for the opening reception on Saturday, July 16, 4:30-6:30 PM, which will celebrate The wildLIFE Project as well as a show of paintings by Kreh Mellick in the Focus Gallery.

Furniture maker, artist, and educator Wendy Maruyama has been making innovative work for forty years. While her earlier work was built around traditional craft objects, in recent years she has moved beyond the boundaries of studio craft and into the realm of installation and social practice. The wildLIFE Project was inspired by a trip to Kenya where she saw elephants and other large animals in the wild and met with wildlife advocates to learn about the impact of poaching.

In this show, the elephant is memorialized in monumental form through a series of masks, eight to twelve feet in height and constructed from wood panels tied together with string. Several shrine forms are also on display, one of which is based on a traditional Buddhist altar. This beautifully crafted furniture piece incorporates an image of an elephant, flowers, a candle, an incense burner, and a handmade bell that rings every fifteen-minutes to memorialize the elephants that are being killed for their ivory. Another piece, titled Sarcophagus, is a wood and glass box that encases a stack of tusks made from blown glass. Maruyama made these objects in collaboration with glass artists Nancy Callan and Dan Friday during a residency at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. A third shrine incorporates video, and the wall panels complement the artwork with photographs, text, and graphics.

elephant mask

“Orkanyawoi,” Wendy Maruyama

Curator Elizabeth Kozlowski has followed Maruyama’s work for many years. She says the artist views this body of work not only as an art project but as an advocacy tool. “The social-practice component of her artwork is successful in combining art, advocacy, education, and community. Her work manages to pull you in with stirring visuals and keep you engaged with multiple layers of content.”

Wendy Maruyama was a professor of woodworking and furniture design at San Diego State University in California for more than thirty years. Her work has been exhibited in New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul, and London and can be found in many museum collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Japan/US Fellowship, a Fulbright Research Grant and the California Civil Liberties Public Education Grant. She has also been an instructor at Penland School of Crafts several times.

The wildLIFE Project has been shown at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Texas and the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia. After it leaves the Penland Gallery, it will travel to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA and the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design.

This exhibition is a great opportunity to visit the recently renovated and expanded Penland Gallery, which also features paintings by Kreh Mellick in the Focus Gallery beginning July 15. As something special, Kreh’s work not only hangs in frames for the exhibition, but has moved onto the walls themselves in the form of large-scale murals. Come by the opening reception on Saturday, July 16, 4:30-6:30 PM to see the exhibitions, or stop by anytime during gallery hours Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM.

 

gallery-kreh-1

 

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Photo of the Week: Watering Can!

Nick Fruin in the Penland glass studio

Penland glass studio coordinator Nick Fruin finishing up a demo for Kenny Pieper’s glass workshop. The piece is in the form of a watering can. Here, let’s get a better look:

 

Nick Fruin at the Penland glass studio

 

 

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A Well-Deserved Honor

Award recipients pose after the ceremony

Jean McLaughlin (right) with the other recipients of the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Educator Award. Left to right: Paul Sacardiz for the Haystack Fab Lab, Chunghi Choo, Jamie Bennett, Jean McLaughlin.

 

Jean McLaughlin, Penland’s longtime director, was honored this spring with a 2016 Distinguished Craft Educators Award from the James Renwick Alliance in Washington, DC. The Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works to promote craft artists and craft education and helps to support the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s showcase for 20th and 21st century American crafts.

The James Renwick Alliance chooses Distinguished Craft Educators based on the recipient’s reputation for excellence and innovation in education, their influence on future artists in an education program, and their significant contributions to American education in the craft field. In nominating Jean for the award, glass artist, Renwick Alliance board member, and Penland trustee Tim Tate wrote, “When Jean came to Penland eighteen years ago, she breathed new life into the institution. She rebuilt or renovated most of the studios on campus. Thousands of students have passed through their doors, and almost every Distinguished Educator the Renwick Alliance has honored in the past has taught at Penland. Jean’s impact is hard to judge as its scope is so large.”

 

group photo with Jean

Jean celebrates after the award ceremony with a crowd of Penland friends.

 

As part of the award ceremony in April, the Alliance invited Jean to present a short lecture, which she devoted to an overview of Penland’s renowned craft workshops and residencies. “Penland is a leader in education,” Jean told the audience. “I can hardly lay claim to these accomplishments because they are the result of the minds and hands of many staff members and trustees—but my belief in Penland’s educational model is why I moved to Penland to become its director in 1998 and why I believe that I am here today!”

Congratulations, Jean, on this well-deserved honor! All of us in the Penland community benefit from your care, your dedication, and your vision.

 

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From iPhone to I, Photographer

Mercedes Jelinek teaching at Mitchell High

Mercedes Jelinek explains to her Art 1 students how to edit images on their phones.

 

“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

—Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957

 

Although darkroom photography is no longer part of many high school art programs, photography itself is more prevalent than ever. These days, most high school students walk around with camera phones in their back pockets, and snapping photos is almost second nature. As a visiting artist at Mitchell High School in Spruce Pine, NC, Mercedes Jelinek’s goal was to show students that these photos could be more than just a way to record and share—they could be a form of creative expression.

“Photos can mean a lot more than just representing likeness,” Mercedes tells her students at the beginning of class on a Wednesday morning. The students are seated in bright yellow chairs around a projector in Jennifer Robinson’s Art 1 class. On the screen, Mercedes is advancing through portraits they took of each other yesterday, each original photograph shown next to an edited version. “What makes this one so good?” she asks. Her students respond with their thoughts about composition, lighting, framing. Despite being taken with simple cellphone cameras, the photos do look good—really good. There’s personality coming through in each one.

 

black and white portraits of three Mitchell High School students

Three of the many portraits Mitchell High students took of each other during their photo classes with Mercedes. From left, images by Tanner, Kassie, and Billy.

 

As a resident artist here at Penland, Mercedes has years of professional photography experience—both film and digital—to share with her students. Her three-day visit to Mitchell High was part of the Professional Craft Study for High School Students, one of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs to bring creative experiences to students in the surrounding counties. During her lessons, Mercedes started with basics such as camera controls and simple editing, but her students were soon talking about how to interact with subjects to make them comfortable and relaxed and how to set up a shot to lead the viewer’s eye.

 

Mercedes photographs a student

During her class, Mercedes set up a photo booth to take portraits of all her students.

 

On her final day of teaching, Mercedes used the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson as an inspiration for her students. Cartier-Bresson is known for The Decisive Moment, a book of black-and-white street photography. “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression,” he wrote.

In asking her students to take photographs of “decisive moments” as their final assignment, Mercedes enabled them to bring together the technical concepts they had practiced such as lighting and exposure time with their own view of the world. “Go set up the shot absolutely perfectly, then have somebody walk through it,” she instructed them. “You decide the perfect moment to take your shot.”

There was nothing uncommon about the laughter that followed, or the knots of two or three teens talking in groups, or the students wandering on the grassy stretch in front of the school. What was uncommon was the particular care and attention taken to document it all.

—Sarah Parkinson

 

black and white photographs by Mitchell High students

A few of the “decisive moment” photographs taken during Mercedes’s class. Clockwise from top left, images by Rylie, Madison, and Devlin.

 

See more photographs from Mitchell High School Art 1 students on the MHS Art Instagram.

All of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs are funded by grants and donations. The Professional Craft Study for High School Students is able to bring artists like Mercedes to Mitchell High School thanks to the generous support of the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation Education Partnership Endowment.

 

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