Brim, Bourdain, and Blacksmithing


Most folks who have spent any time around the iron studio know Elizabeth Brim. She has been a longtime friend, neighbor, and instructor at Penland and an important shaping force in our iron program. She’s also a wildly skilled and accomplished artist, and we’re proud that her talents were featured on the most recent episode of Raw Craft with Anthony Bourdain.

In the episode, Bourdain visits Elizabeth’s shop and the Penland iron studio where she taught spring concentration. He looks on as she forges an intricate flower and demonstrates the technique she invented for inflating iron. “You have to be awfully tough to make metalwork look this easy,” he comments.

At the end of the epidode, Bourdain concludes, “Elizabeth is a perfect example of somebody who’s chosen to go against the grain, who’s chosen to do a difficult thing, who’s decided to follow a passion. She’s a perfect example of the type of people we’re celebrating: an artist, a professional, an educator, somebody unlike just about everybody else.” We couldn’t agree more, and we couldn’t be luckier to have Elizabeth here at Penland. See for yourself by watching the episode above!


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Stories in Clay

Nan Smith, "Twenty Twelve," glazed and painted earthenware, glazed porcelain, concrete, sand, wood

Nan Smith, “Twenty Twelve,” glazed and painted earthenware, glazed porcelain, concrete, sand, wood


Sculpting a figure in clay is about far more than trying to recreate recognizable form in three dimensions. That’s why instructor Nan Smith chose Personality Plus as the name of her Penland workshop this November 6-12. “I want students to investigate what transforms figure sculpture into something dynamic and alive,” she explains. “What will make a bust look like it has a story?”

If there’s anyone who can help students answer those questions, it’s probably Nan. She’s had a long and successful career as a sculptor and installation artist. She’s taught ceramics at the University of Florida for over thirty years, and she’s led workshops at universities around the country and as far away as Israel. Her work has been featured in publications like Sculpture magazine and Ceramics Monthly. She has exhibited at dozens of venues like SOFA Chicago, the Red Lodge Clay Center, and the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Perhaps most importantly, “I really do love teaching people at all levels how to sculpt a figure, and I’ve been doing that a really long time,” she says.


Nan Smith, "Spill," glazed and painted earthenware, glazed porcelain, metal, rubber, wood

Nan Smith, “Spill,” glazed and painted earthenware, glazed porcelain, metal, rubber, wood


Personality Plus will be a hands-on, high-energy week of ceramic figure sculpting that uses the bust format and self portraiture to help students develop their perceptual and conceptual skills. It may be only a one-week class, but it certainly won’t stick to one technique. “We’re going to be building sculpture, but we’re also going to be making life casts and learning to take a mold from a piece,” Nan explains. “I wanted to give the course a twist and allow students to try using molds as another tool to develop perceptual skill.”

Personality Plus is a workshop for the curious beginner and for the experienced sculptor looking for new ideas. It’s a workshop for ceramic artists interested in new ways of working with clay. It’s a workshop for anyone interested in the details of the figure and how to bring them to life. Is it a workshop for you? Registration is open now.


Nan Smith, "Mercury" (detail), glazed and painted earthenware, glazed porcelain, photo montages on fabric, metal, wood

Nan Smith, “Mercury” (detail), glazed and painted earthenware, glazed porcelain, photo montages on fabric, metal, wood


Personality Plus

Nan Smith, November 6-12, 2016
Who are you? What causes presence in the sculpted human form? By investigating questions of identity in addition to studying anatomy within the bust format, students will create a life-scale self-portrait that reflects their inner personality and self-perception. Demonstrations will cover life-casting techniques, life modeling, photo-documentation, and rendering an expressive and anatomically believable human form. We’ll create solid-built busts over metal armatures. Students will leave with a life cast and a sculpted portrait bust in wet clay. All levels. Code F03CB

Professor at University of Florida; publications: The Figure in Clay, Sculpture, Ceramics: Art and Perception, Ceramics Monthly, CFile Weekly; collections: American Express (NY), Lamar Dodd Art Center (GA), Givat Haviva Art Center (Israel), World Ceramics Exposition Korea International Collection.



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Photo of the Week: The Penland Family


The couple weeks between the end of summer sessions and the beginning of fall concentrations is something like the eye at the center of a very creative tornado. On Wednesday, we took advantage of the current calm to come together for an all-school meeting, something that Penland’s staff, core fellows, and resident artists do three times every year. This time we made it extra special by taking a photo of the (almost) complete Penland family!






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Highlights of the 2016 Benefit Auction


With concentrations set to start this Sunday, we’re working on wrapping up the last details of summer so we can turn our attention to the fall ahead. But we certainly can’t move on to a new season without mentioning one of the big highlights of every Penland summer: the Annual Benefit Auction!

This year’s was a rousing success, and we owe that success to the hard work and support of so many of you in the Penland community—from our 263 contributing artists and 216 volunteers to the 161 newcomers who joined us this year for their very first auction weekend. Through art sales, ticket sales, gifts, sponsorships, and more, you helped us to raise over $698,000 of income for Penland programs, including $141,810 of Fund-a-Need support for Penland’s new Northlight building. We are beyond grateful. As Kari Rinn said during her art talk over auction weekend, “Just a few days at Penland creates an impact that can be felt for years or even a lifetime.” Your support means Penland can continue to serve as an inspiring and vibrant community for artists well into the future. Thank you.

Auction weekend is also a time to recognize those in our community who have made a particularly lasting and cherished impact on Penland students. This year, we couldn’t have chosen a more deserving soul than Paulus Berensohn to name as our 2016 Outstanding Artist Educator. Paulus is an embodiment of the generosity and creative discovery that make Penland so special, and it was an honor and a joy to celebrate him as an instructor, neighbor, and friend. The tribute to Paulus below was presented under the tent on August 12.



We hope you can carry forward this summer’s spirit of creativity and celebration into the season ahead. If you need a little help, might we suggest taking a peek at the pictures from the auction photo booth below for inspiration?

Auction Weekend Photo Booth
Volunteer Party Photo Booth


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Happy Birthday, Miss Lucy!

It’s September 20th once again, and time to celebrate the birth of Lucy Morgan!



Lucy Calista Morgan (1889-1981)


Lucy Morgan came to Penland in 1920 to work at the Appalachian Industrial School, an Episcopal school for children. In 1923 “Miss Lucy” traveled from Penland to Berea College in Kentucky to learn to weave. She returned with three looms and the intention of helping local Penland women supplement their family incomes through the cottage industry of weaving. In 1929 Morgan founded the Penland School of Handicrafts, which became today’s Penland School of Crafts.

When Morgan first came to Penland there were very few roads and most of the traffic was on foot. In Gift From the Hills, her memoir, she describes searching out one of the remaining old-time weavers in the area, a trip she expected to be two and a half miles long:

“We walked down hill and up, and down again, over rocky, furrowed roads, through short cuts, along bypaths, around big rocks, over fallen tree trunks. After miles of walking we met a man and asked him how far it was to Aunt Susan Phillips’ house… ‘Nigh on to two miles and a half.’ [he said].

…We trudged on, relieved when we came to a downhill stretch but discouraged when we began another uphill climb. We crossed small streams, pushed brambles and vines out of our way to keep to the twisting path, and plodded across hollows. Then we met another man. We told him we were on our way to the home of Aunt Susan Phillips…

‘Right from here, best I can figure it, ‘twould be about two miles and a half.’ [he said].

…When we were certain we had walked the third two miles and a half, we came to an open place and saw in the field down below us two sunbonneted women planting corn. We called down to them: ‘Could you ladies please give us directions how to get to Aunt Susan Phillips’ house?’ One of them pointed to the other. ‘Here she is.’”

We invite you to join us in celebration of this woman of indomitable spirit, honoring her birth and her vision for a crafts school in these mountains.


—Carey Hedlund, Penland archivist












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Remembering Jane Hatcher


This Saturday, we’ll celebrate the life of Penland’s dear friend and close neighbor Jane Hatcher, who died last month at age 77 after a long and courageous struggle with vascular dementia. Jane and her partner, Mary Anglin, lived for decades just around the corner from Penland. She was a frequent visitor to the school–a person we saw often at the coffee shop and show-and-tell and occasionally as a student or yoga instructor. Jane was caring, funny, energetic, and enthusiastic: about life, about creative work, about other people, about nature, her home, and whatever she was learning at that moment. Any day that included a conversation with Jane was a better day.

Mary wrote these words about her partner:

“Born in Columbus, Georgia, Jane had a successful career as an educator before moving to North Carolina in the 1970s to take courses in clay and participate in the Resident Artist Program at Penland. In addition to her career as a studio potter and a teacher in Penland’s clay program and through the “artist in the schools” program, she worked for many years as a massage therapist and practitioner/ teacher of yoga. Above all, she was an ardent student of life; a reader of poetry, literature, philosophy, and systems of healing; an artist who continued making work throughout her life; and friend to all she knew.”

There will be a short ceremony on the knoll at Penland at 2:00 PM on Saturday, September 17. This will be followed by a reception at The Pines, with a slideshow and a display of Jane’s work, including some pots and paintings made in the last few years. The reception will be catered but anyone who wishes to is welcome to bring food to the celebration. Please come a few minutes early to find parking.

The family has suggested that memorial gifts be made to Hospice of Yancey County (856 Georges Fork Road, Burnsville, NC 28714), the Jane M. Hatcher Scholarship at Penland School (PO Box 37 Penland, NC 28765), or  Memory Care (100 Far Horizons Lane, Asheville, NC 28803.


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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 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 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 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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