Stuart Kestenbaum: Tinker Poet

Stuart Kestenbaum spent two weeks at Penland in July as this year’s Andrew Glasgow Writing Resident. Stuart is the author of four books of poetry and a book of essays on craft and creativity. His work has been published in a number of magazines including Tikkun and The Sun and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He sent us this account from his time at Penland. Scroll to the bottom to see a video of Stuart reading a couple of poems.


Stuart Kestenbaum at Penland

Stuart Kestenbaum reading a poem in the metals studio.


During my last week of the job I had held for 27 years, I received a call from Penland’s program director Leslie Noell asking me to be the Andrew Glasgow Visiting Writer at Penland for a two-week summer session. Sometimes before picking up a ringing phone I reflect for a moment that it could be either a wonderful opportunity or really bad news. Most times the call is far more mundane than that– a reminder of a dental appointment or a robo-call from a nonexistent bank. The call from Penland, though, was of the rare wonderful opportunity variety, particularly since the job I was leaving was as director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a program in Maine so similar in concept to Penland that we think of ourselves as sister schools. Penland inspired the founding of Haystack in 1950, and Bill Brown, who was assistant director at Haystack, became director of Penland in 1962. We’ve been sharing faculty and educational strategies for a long time.


At Penland I would be able to experience the powerful creative energy of a community of makers—much like what I’d lived with at Haystack—but without any of the responsibility. Someone else would be thinking about plumbing, food, kilns, and fundraising. And, while I always loved the group energy of each session at Haystack, there was rarely time for my own work; these two weeks at Penland would give me time to focus on my writing.


A number of the workshop leaders—Bob Ebendorf, Jason Pollen, and Patricia Wheeler—had all taught at Haystack, so I had connections with the studios from the very start of the session. At Haystack I would introduce evening program by reading other people’s poems, so Bob invited me into his workshop to read poems to his class in the mornings. He said that I was like a tinker, traveling to the studio with poetry. I responded by saying that I would be more like a tinker if people gave me words that I could turn into a poem—repairing them or giving them new life in a sense. I would be a tinker of words. This began a series of daily poems with words from Bob’s class and later words from Kip O’Krongly’s clay class too.


It was liberating for me to use words that weren’t of my own choosing and exciting for the people in the studios to see their own words transformed. Each morning I’d return with a poem from the day before—some a little crazier than others—but the writing had allowed me make discoveries. And isn’t that what we want from our making? To employ what skills we have to travel along an unknown path into a new place. Using other people’s words provided me some distance from my writing self and allowed me to go inside more deeply, or at least differently. When the clay group left me a list of sixteen words (marsupial, mountain, basket, cleft, immense, bacon, pattern, noodle, anxiety, rigor mortis, stoicism, applesauce, stressed, passion, silhouette, and bedfellows) here’s what I wrote.


Hermit’s Dream
Living on the mountaintop, I missed
coffee and bacon at first—who doesn’t?
and later began to dream of simple things like
applesauce and noodles, since I was living
on air. Passion takes many forms,
my master had always stressed.
Look for patterns he said.
Being and non-being are strange
bedfellows. One day anxiety left me, drifting
off and settling in a rock cleft far below.
When the light was right, I could watch
its silhouette moving wildly.
I learned the names of my fears
and put them in a basket. Each day I would
climb the ledges, remembering who I
had been, feeling like a marsupial carrying
all those personalities in my pouch.
Then there was nothing. But it’s not what we
fear. No rigor mortis. I was alive and
dancing in this immense emptiness that
is everything. Stoics were laughing. Birds
were singing. First morning.


It was a dynamic partnership with the studios that I would look forward to each day. I’d receive my list of words in the late afternoon and work on the poems at night, ready for delivery to the workshops in the morning. I had my materials and I had a deadline—two key components of any creative process—and people eager to listen to poetry. What more could a writer want?

–Stuart Kestenbaum, September 2015



Here’s an excerpt from Stuart’s reading at Penland.





Stuart’s only complaint about his time at Penland was that, for some reason, nobody was playing frisbee or volleyball that session. He left us this poetic visual comment.




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Penland, Winter, You

woman working with a CNC Dremel tool

Winter resident Marilyn Martinez in the Penland metals studio with her kit-built CNC Dremel tool, which she used to make dies for the hydraulic press.


For six weeks last winter, Penland opened its studios for our first ever Winter Residency Program. We welcomed potters and glass blowers, weavers and wood workers, painters and photographers and writers and more. Some came from nearby, while others traveled internationally. But all came with the goal of spending some focused time in our studios to make, experiment, and connect with others who were doing the same.

This year, we are pleased to be hosting the second annual Winter Residency from January 3 to February 13. We hope that, like last year, the program will provide artists with a unique opportunity to take advantage of Penland’s well-equipped studios and creative community to bring new ideas and projects to life. If you sound like one of those artists, then please visit our winter residency page for more information.

Applications for 2016 Winter Residency spots are due October 1, 2014.


man and a large wooden bowl

Wyatt Sievers brought this enormous bowl with him to finish turning in the wood studio during his winter residency at Penland.


“Winter at Penland provided state-of-the-art facilities and the serenity of its mountain setting to focus on my work in a manner I have not been afforded in many years. It allowed me to refresh my creative spirit and create an entirely new body of work. Since the winter months are particularly quiet, an intimate bond can be found with fellow artists who share the time. It is a unique time for intense focus in outstanding studios with a select number of highly-skilled makers.”

Critz Campbell
Former Penland Winter Resident

Apply to be a 2016 winter resident.


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When Ceramics and Animation Meet

man working on stop-motion animation

En Iwamura arranges ceramic elements he sculpted for his animation sequence “Mature Table Manner”


Many people who have spent time around Penland know Cristina Córdova, a former Penland resident and established ceramic artist whose studio is just down the hill from the Penland Gallery. Cristina’s sought-after sculptures are figurative and expressive, often mesmerizing and sometimes haunting. Once you’ve seen her deft and intuitive approach to clay and the human form, it’s not hard to see why one of her workshops would produce some very compelling art.

But this summer’s Sculpture in Motion class was far more than just remarkable ceramic sculpture. To teach the course, Cristina teamed up with her younger brother Arturo Córdova, an artist in his own right. Arturo trained as an animator and also works out of Brooklyn, NY to build sets and props for commercials and films. Together, they proposed and developed a workshop that combined both of their talents together in the form of stop-motion animation.

Students in Sculpture in Motion first constructed intricate ceramic sculptures, each one articulated to allow for re-positionable movement. Next they built sets for their figures to inhabit. Once these visual pieces were in place, they used digital software to shoot individual frames and compile them into animation sequences. Somehow, all of this work fit into one two-and-a-half week whirlwind, and the results are bursting with the session’s creative energy. From a cartoon rabbit and a blooming flower to curling tentacles and disappearing heads, the animations are as varied as they are awesome. View clips from the workshop here, and prepare to be impressed.


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Explore Shibori with Carol LeBaron

Carol LeBaron in her studio

The Japanese art of shibori, or shaped resist dyeing, is as old as it is varied. Since the first known example of the technique in the 8th century, artists have used shibori methods to produce patterns of miniature dots and bold lines, sharp angles and soft curves. Shibori has traditionally been done with indigo dye on natural fibers such as silk and hemp. And the intricate patterns it produces often echo the natural world as wellfrom the driving diagonal lines of a rainstorm to the rippling patterns on the surface of a lake to the delicate symmetry of a spider’s web.

Textile artist Carol LeBaron’s work is, at first glance, a far cry from the indigo and white designs that many people associate with shibori. But she is one in a long line of artists using and reinterpreting these techniques. Much of her current work draws from itajime shibori, a method of folding and clamping to produce pattern on cloth. And her imagery, like many traditional shibori patterns, also reflects nature. Her fabrics are rich with colordeep greens and saturated reds outline leaf shapes, while bright golds and oranges suggest dappled sunlight filtering through a forest canopy. As Carol explains, each piece “elicits the specificity of a particular time of day, weather, or place.” She describes her work as “a combination of contemporary aesthetic, modern technology, and ancient techniques.


textile piece by Carol LeBaron

A detail from “Taming the Forest,” a large installation piece Carol made using her clamped resist technique.


This fall, Carol will bring her knowledge of those techniques to Penland when she teaches “Explore Shibori: Acid Dyes” from October 18-24. Like Carol’s work, the one-week course will use traditional shibori methods as a jumping-off point to create new layers of pattern and color on cloth. Students of all levels will get the chance to put their own spin on techniques that have captivated artists for centuries. Space is still available to take part in Explore Shibori. Register here.


Explore Shibori: Acid Dyes

This workshop will explore the limitless possibilities inherent in acid dyes. We’ll begin with simple immersion techniques, creating a base and adding layers with direct application. We’ll explore shibori techniques in the hot acid dye pot, which can cause wool and silk to hold the shape when dried. This week will be an investigation that will result in a rich assortment of samples and many techniques and ideas to follow up in your own work. All levels. Code F02TA

Carol LeBaron is a studio artist who has taught at Haystack (ME), Arrowmont (TN), Campbell Folk School (NC), Peters Valley (NJ), and East Tennessee State University. Her textile work has been exhibited at the Nashville Airport, the Textile Museum (DC), and the International Shibori Symposium (Hong Kong) and has been included in publications such as Surface Design Journal, Fiberarts Design Book Seven, and 1000 Textiles (Lark Books).


Spring Growth by Carol LeBaron

“Spring Growth,” resist-dyed wool, acid dye, hand stitched, 48 x 96”


October 4 – 10  |  October 18 – 24  |  November 1 – 7


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The Nature of Glass with Linda Sacra

blue and clear glass bead necklace by Linda Sacra

“Moons of Triton” flameworked necklace by Linda Sacra


To look at Linda Sacra’s necklace of flameworked glass beads is to wonder about the scale of things. For a moment, it seems possible that the beads are not beads at all, but individual glistening cellsor perhaps entire swirling planets? A central air bubble trapped in those colorful whorls could as easily be a delicate nucleus as it could be a dense planetary core. Either way, the beads draw you in for a closer look and start your imagination flowing. It’s clear to see why the entire process of flameworking hooked Linda after she first tried it in 1992.


seashore beads by Linda Sacra

Linda lives near the ocean, and many of her beads mimic seashells and other treasures in miniature.


This fall, Linda will bring her love of flameworked glass to Penland for a 1-week session October 18-24. Her workshop will guide studentsboth complete beginners and those with experiencethrough the techniques she uses to achieve depth and color variation and unusual shapes in her glass beadwork. Registration is open, and space is still available to take part in the workshop.

But be careful, you might just get hookedthat’s exactly what happened to weaver and longtime Penland friend Edwina Bringle, who will be one of Linda’s students in October. Now retired after 24 years teaching weaving and textiles at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Edwina first tried flameworking at Penland’s Community Day about ten years ago. “As a weaver, I’m a colorist, and working with glass is another way to play with color,” explains Edwina. “I enjoy trying to improve my skills with flameworking. I enjoy the concentration of it.”


Edwina Bringle flameworking

Edwina Bringle concentrating on a project in the Penland flameworking studio


The Nature of Glass

Linda Sacra – Working in the flameworking studio with soda-lime glass, we will begin with basic shapes and then move on to more advanced shapes. We’ll use frits, enamels, fine silver, and etching to create surface depth and design. We’ll mix glass for a whole new palette and pull multi-color stringers and latticino for detail work. Daily demonstrations and one-on-one instruction will address the needs of students with different levels of experience. All levels. Code F02GB

Linda Sacra is a studio artist and returning Penland instructor who specializes in flameworking glass beads. Her pieces can be seen in galleries including Glassworks (NC), Sandpiper Gallery (SC), Edward Dare Gallery (SC), Watson MacRae Gallery (FL), and The Fat Cat Ltd. (NC).


October 4 – 10  |  October 18 – 24  |  November 1 – 7



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Penland Portraits

Eric_20150814©Elizabeth Ortiz

Photographer Eric Swanson enjoys shooting images of artists in their studio spaces as one of his “self assignments,” so coming to Penland this summer to teach a workshop on natural light portraiture was an easy fit. He and his students spent the two weeks of session 6 making portraits on the knoll, at the Arbuckle Rodeo, and by the river, but mostly they shot in the Penland studios. The collection of images they produced, including the one above of Eric by student Elizabeth Ortiz, captures both the intense work and the playful nature of summer at Penland. View their portraits here.


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Printing with Silver & Iron | Fall Workshop with Heather F. Wetzel

black and white portrait of Heather F. Wetzel

Heather describes this self-portrait, taken in 2003, as “the beginning of [her] journey in wet-plate collodion and historic photographic processes.”


“Photographic prints and books are being replaced by intangible, transient digital files made of zeros and ones – no texture, no smell, no weight. ” So writes photographer Heather F. Wetzel in her artist statement. “I prefer a slower pace, where one takes time to notice and appreciate those little and often discarded things.”

Her photographs echo her assertion, examining forgotten everyday details like a safety pin or a jar of buttons with uncommon attention. Though lacking the saturated colors and extensive post-production possible with today’s digital photography, Heather’s images are warm and arresting. It’s their simplicity and directness that draw the viewer in and envelop them in a moment that can feel timeless.


portrait of a broken cup by Heather F. Wetzel

An image from Heather’s series of found-item photographs entitled “Lost. Broken. Found. Fixed.”


This fall, Heather will be traveling to Penland to share her expertise in historic photographic processes. Her 1-week course, scheduled for November 1-7, will focus on printing with silver and iron using cyanotype-, salt-, and albumen-printing. Space is still available in the workshop. Register here.


Printing with Silver & Iron

Heather F. Wetzel – Beginning with an introduction to digital negatives and other means of photographic contact printmaking, we’ll explore the possibilities of the cyanotype process and two closely-related silver printing processes: salt and albumen. In addition to learning how to mix chemicals, make digital negatives for optimal image making, and the practicalities of printing and toning, we’ll consider further manipulation and mark making as well as final presentation of the prints produced in this workshop. All levels. Code F03P

Heather is a studio artist who works in traditional photographic processes as well as other media such as books and hand papermaking. She is a lecturer in the art department and a book arts specialist at Logan Elm Press at Ohio State University, where she was the 2011-2012 Fergus Family Fellow in Photography.



Salvage series by Heather F. Wetzel

Ferrotypes from Heather’s series “Salvage.” The prints are made using the tops and bottoms of recycled cans.


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 4.17.35 PM

An image from “Notion,” a series of hand-tinted, gold-toned salt prints exploring the ideas of domesticity and women’s work.


October 4 – 10  |  October 18 – 24  |  November 1 – 7


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