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Two Views of the Craft School Experience

aerial views of the Haystack and Penland campuses

Haystack and Penland seen from the air.

 

When we say “Craft School Experience,” we’re referring to the total immersion workshops offered at Penland and our sister schools Arrowmont, Haystack, Peters Valley, and Pilchuck. We’re referring to the beautiful and often isolated environments of these schools, their deep history, their shared eating and living spaces, and of course their well-equipped studios that support top-notch instruction. The craft school experience means the special community atmosphere that inspires creativity and motivates new discoveries, new ideas, and new connections. It’s common to all these schools, but it’s also an experience that looks different for every individual who sets foot on our campuses.

Over at CraftSchools.us, the Craft School Consortium has been collecting stories and anecdotes to illustrate the craft school experience. Two recent ones on their blog are particularly near to our hearts. The first is by Robin Dreyer, who wrote a beautiful piece about a recent trip to Haystack from his perspective as a Penland staff member, instructor, and student of nearly twenty years. “Getting to the end of the road before I could see the school was a good indication that, while Haystack and Penland may be sisters, they are not twins,” Robin writes. He goes on to describe Haystack’s campus and facilities, its historical connections to Penland, and the little delights and surprises he experienced at this place that felt at once so familiar and entirely new.

 

Bill Griffith stands with a display of his pots

Clay artist Bill Griffith with some of his work in a recent show.

 

In another post, clay artist Bill Griffith describes the unexpected roads that opened up for him after a one-week workshop at Arrowmont in the summer of 1983. We won’t spoil the details of his journey, but we can give you a few hints by saying that he has spent many years at Arrowmont as the assistant director, program director, and now the outreach and partnership liaison. In addition, he’s a working studio artist and clay instructor. In fact, he’ll be teaching a slab-built pottery workshop at Penland during session 7 this summer!

If you haven’t had a craft school experience of your own yet, signing up for a workshop is the best way to start. We can’t be sure where it will take you, but it’s likely to be an intense and creative burst that you won’t soon forget.

 

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Our New Favorite Podcast

Make/Time podcast

 

We’re excited to share the news about Make/Time, a new podcast series and our current favorite listen. Hosted by Stuart Kestenbaum, the series explores fine craft, inspiration, and the creative process through interviews with established craft artists from across the field.

“Having conversations with leading and emerging craft artists gives me the opportunity to dig deeply behind the scenes,” says Kestenbaum. “Every episode gives us a special look at the person behind the work, their ideas, and the inspiration that helps them achieve excellence in this field.”

The most recent episode of Make/Time features furniture designer Vivian Beer. Before winning season two of Ellen’s Design Challenge on HGTV, Vivian spent three years at Penland as a resident artist. On the podcast, she discusses blending traditional making with new technology, as well as her desire to make great design more economically accessible.

 

Vivian Beer portrait

Vivian Beer talks with host Stuart Kestenbaum on the fourth episode of “Make/Time.”

 

Previous episodes of the podcast have featured Tom Joyce, a sculptor and MacArthur Fellow known for his work architectural work and large public sculptures in forged steel; Sonya Clark, head of the Craft and Material Studies Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, whose work in textiles often addresses issues of race in America; and Tim McCreight, a jeweler, writer, and publisher who has begun an innovative program with West African jewelers.

Make/Time is a project of CraftSchools.us and is part of “The Craft School Experience” initiative that promotes the value of immersive, residential craft schools across the country. Each episode is available on the Penland website or by searching “maketime” on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes are approximately 20 minutes long.

 

 

About CraftSchools.us
CraftSchools.us is a consortium of five U.S. craft schools promoting the craft school experience on a national scale. Through their efforts, they explore the values, communities and opportunities that join them as a movement of immersive, residential schools teaching a variety of craft disciplines. Members of CraftSchools.us include: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, Peters Valley School of Craft, and Pilchuck Glass School.

 

About Stuart Kestenbaum
Stuart Kestenbaum was the director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME from 1988 – 2015. He is the author of four books of poems, most recently
Only Now and The View From Here, as well as brief essays on craft, community, and the creative process. Kestenbaum is an honorary fellow of the American Craft Council and is currently the Poet Laureate of the State of Maine. He has taught at Penland and was the school’s 2015 Andrew Glasgow Resident Writer.

 

 

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The Northwind Hammer

hammer and other blacksmithing tools

The Northwind Hammer in the California shop of David Browne, its first recipient. Image: David Browne

 

“The Northwind brings change. Sometimes a dramatic storm, a swirl of luminescent clouds, or a sensation that precipitates an uneasy ambiance in the valley. Colossal gusts, howling, trees bending, everything moving and swaying. The birds and insects disappear. Slowly…it fades. Vitality is restored and a pleasant stillness remains. Every grace of nature resurfaces. This is the natural phenomena that inspired ‘Northwind’. I’ve created a hammer to exemplify the inhale, expansion, and release of the wind.” —Brent Bailey

 

Just like the north wind, blacksmith Brent Bailey’s handmade hammer is traveling and shifting and altering its surroundings. It moves from place to place, from artist to artist. First California, then on to Virginia and Tennessee and Texas. At each location, the hammer stays for a couple weeks, inspiring its current owner’s work in some way. It is an opportunity, a cue to think differently or try something new. And then it moves on. Twelve different artists will each incorporate the hammer into their forges before it ultimately makes its way back to Brent in California.

 

Andy Dohner and the Northwind Hammer

Andy Dohner holding the Northwind Hammer

 

This spring, the Northwind Hammer made a visit to Andy Dohner. At the time, Andy was in the Penland iron studio teaching our spring 2015 concentration. He and his students, like the blacksmiths before them, assimilated the Northwind Hammer into their studio work. It was both a tool in their creative process and the inspiration for that process. As Andy commented, “The concept we are using with the Northwind is one hammer, eleven students. Together we are working on a sculpture of an astrolabe.”

 

the spring 2015 iron students

Andy and his students in the Penland iron studio this spring

 

The astrolabe is an ancient tool, one which captures the changing positions of the sun and stars in the sky. Just like the north wind, it brings to mind time and travel and strips bare our sense of constancy. And, just like the Northwind Hammer, the astrolabe is a relatively simple tool which opens up new doors for those who use it. How appropriate, then, that Andy and his class selected this subject as the focus of their work. Their completed sculpture combines the nested circles and rule of an astrolabe with the simplicity of the hammer itself.

 

metal astrolabe sculpture

The finished astrolabe sculpture created by Andy and his class

 

The sculpture may be finished, but the Northwind Hammer’s journey is not. From Penland, it traveled on to Jim Masterson at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Tennessee. Next, it made stops in California, Detroit, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Massachusetts, collecting stories and each artist’s touchmark along the way. In these places, the projects the hammer was a part of were as varied as its locations, from sculptural metal feathers to a railing recreation to a patterned table frame.

The Northwind Hammer has one last stop before it returns home to its creator. Its final location and artist are still unknown, but one thing is already certain: the Northwind Hammer altered the creations of the blacksmiths who received it, and they, in turn, altered it. As Brent reflected, the work of each artist “imparts and impregnates their essence into the steel.”

To read more about the hammer and follow its journey, visit Brent Bailey’s Northwind page.

 

 

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Strengthening Penland’s Future

Rina Kawai drawing

Rina Kawai works in color on her drawing of the Penland knoll in the new drawing and painting studio during Susan Goethel Campbell’s session 6 class Field Work.

 

“I feel as though I have a wealth of new knowledge to take home with me,” said Penland student Margaret Lindsay Barrick. “My time at Penland has reinforced my lifelong dream of becoming a working artist and has given me the courage to pursue that goal with fresh, renewed vigor.” Margaret received a scholarship from Penland to take a painting workshop in the summer of 2013. That workshop took place in a makeshift studio carved out of a building that had once been Penland’s woodshop. When Margaret comes back for another workshop, she’ll find a beautiful new painting and drawing studio with lots of natural light, flexible work-spaces, and an up-to-date ventilation system. This studio was built with funds from Penland’s ongoing Campaign for Penland’s Future.

Launched in 2010, this five-year, thirty-million-dollar campaign was designed to strengthen Penland’s educational programs by improving its studios, housing, and other facilities; rehabilitating historic buildings; increasing program and scholarship endowments; and establishing an elevated, sustainable goal for Penland’s annual fund. The campaign total currently stands at just over $29,000,000, representing 97 percent of the goal.

“This level of support is unprecedented in Penland’s 86-year history,” says Penland’s director, Jean McLaughlin. “People come here from all over the world for new ideas, new skills, and remarkable educational experiences. This campaign is creating improved facilities that will elevate the student experience and financial stability that will help Penland transform lives for generations to come. So many people love this school and want it to have a sustainable future.”

 

Lisa Blackburn working on top of her photographs

In the new drawing studio, each student has the space to work with the techniques and materials that speak to them. Here, Lisa Blackburn uses her photographs as a canvas to work back into.

 

More than 2000 individuals and 200 organizations have contributed to campaign projects, which are being launched as funds come in. Students are currently living in two new housing buildings and using new outdoor work spaces at the clay and metals studios funded by campaign donations. The Pines—which includes Penland’s dining hall and kitchen—has been fully renovated. The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is currently under renovation. Drawing, painting, and book arts workshops are taking place in beautiful new studios. A major information technology upgrade (partially supported by a rural broadband project funded by the USDA) has recently brought high-speed Internet access to all parts of the campus. And campaign fundraising is ongoing for several other infrastructure projects that will begin as soon as funding is complete.

Penland’s endowment has grown from $8.6 million to $17 million, including support for thirty-eight new scholarships and endowments that ensure the long-term future of Penland’s resident artist and core fellowship programs. A further goal of the campaign was to increase unrestricted annual giving from $500,000 to a sustainable $650,000 annually. Penland has met or exceeded this target for the past three years.

While the campaign is not quite complete, its impact on individual lives is already clear. “Without the incredibly generous support of this scholarship, I would never have been able to experience this wonderful place,” wrote Victoria Buchler, a ceramics student who received a scholarship supported by a campaign endowment. “It is incredibly empowering to be immersed in a community of makers, many of whom have dedicated their lives to their craft,” she continued. “Outside of Penland, being an artist can make you the ‘other,’ but here I have been able to refill my wells of confidence and creativity, preparing me to move forward with my art career.”

Detailed information about the Campaign for Penland’s Future, including stories of how the campaign is benefitting Penland’s programs and the lives of individual artists, is available at penland.org/campaign.

 

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It Came from the Kitchen!

Penland Friends snack tray

Penland Friends snack tray

Penland Friends snack tray

Feast your eyes on these adorable creations from the Penland kitchen, for Wednesday’s Penland Friends party at the Pines, proof that our kitchen staff are up to some deliciously creative mischief. Need more evidence? Behold, from Thursday’s lunch…

Penland kitchen deviled eggs

The Devil’s eggs!

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