Geraldine

geraldines

“Marjorie is encouraging us to work with what we know,” says Geraldine Murphy of Dublin, Ireland, about the metal objects being shaped and enameled by students in Marjorie Simon’s workshop.

We couldn’t help noticing that one of the wildest “work-with-what-you-know” forms, in Geraldine’s case, is her name.

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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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Photo of the Week: Auction Mugs!

auction mugs by Lisa DiFeo at Penland School

These are just some of the 500+ souvenir mugs made by potter Elisa Di Feo for this summer’s benefit auction. Elisa will be teaching a workshop during sixth session focused on tableware.

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Field Trip

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We spied a batch of sketchbooks sitting out in front of the Pines dining hall last week (not an unusual sight at Penland, but still, we wondered who belonged to them.)

After lunch the artists appeared: eighth graders from Harris Middle School, visiting Penland as a final field trip before summer vacation.

Some of the students showed us their sketches–Penland trees, artworks they had seen being made in the studios, buildings on campus, and a real or imagined owl–before heading off with Penland’s community collaborations director Stacey Lane and Leslie Dickerson, their teacher, for a walk to Cynthia Bringle’s studio.

 
 

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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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Someone is Drawing on the Meadow

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(A short history of the mowed meandering path at Penland)

 

In 1999, Penland drafted a campus master plan. The plan included a boardwalk. The boardwalk would border Conley Ridge Road along the meadow, connecting the main campus to Horner, where students were then being housed.

Like many great ideas, it was an expensive one, and Penland’s boardwalk never braced the grassy circle dipping from the road, a field expanding and rising steadily into a perfect knoll—“the knoll,” as Penlanders call it—across the road from the Pines.

In the summer, the field becomes an intoxicating green bowl. On windy days, shadows fold out and flash before the green assembles in the sun again. Wind-waves. Daydreamer bait.

Maybe because the dream of a boardwalk had been hatched and deferred, an idea for some kind of path system took shape. Two very functional paths were mowed before summer sessions started: a straight-shot from the Pines over the knoll to the resident artist apartments, and another along Conley Ridge down to Horner and the Penland Gallery, which visitors could use to avoid walking with the cars:

 

An aerial view of the campus from over the meadow.

 

Not long after this 2010 aerial shot for the Penland catalog (above) was taken, Jean McLaughlin, Penland’s executive director, had an idea for a meandering path—a kind of line drawing on Penland’s most visible and public field.

“It’s not like we sent an artist out there with a plan,” she recalls. “The guy who mowed at the time was told go out, have fun, make a path.” Like the most crackerjack ideas, this one cost next to nothing and became a recurring signature in the Penland’ summer landscape.

 

 

For the past five years, Terry Boone has been the artist behind the paths. Like many unsung masters, he knows how to shut down a compliment. “I just start driving and let [the mower] go,” he says about his process.

“It’s different every year—crazy-crooked—but I’ll be around today if you want to talk more,” says Terry jovially before hanging up the phone.

Terry also mows lines to mark the part of the field used for septic, facilities director Dave Sommer explains. “And the path over the knoll has to be offset each year,” Dave adds, “so we don’t get a worn path.”

No worn or set paths, lines fresh and familiar, straight and spiraling–it all harmonizes with a salient point in the Penland master plan, written by architect and planner Abie Harris. In a list of guiding principles for Penland’s grounds and facilities, he wrote:
 

Preserve the reasonable disorder.

The Penland campus has grown in an organic fashion. Excessive order could be detrimental to the feeling of the place; planning should assume and tolerate a certain amount of creative chaos.

 

 

The open sloping green along Conley Ridge Road has assumed and tolerated—along with Terry Boone’s straight and “crazy-crooked” lines and a twice-a-year hay cutting—countless installations, structures, meditative walkers, llamas, bonfires, picnickers, stargazers, giant puppets, horses, gardeners, easels, dogs, balloon launchers, deer, lovers, fireworks, bunnies, revelers, a grass-braider, dancers, fireflies, and all manner of performing and off-duty daydreamers. “It almost hurts to see people hay it,” Dave Sommer says, looking out from the Pines portico at the view.

 
Elaine Bleakney, photographs by Robin Dreyer

 

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Photo of the Week: Home Stretch in Metals

penland metals studio

April 28, week eight of the spring concentration. Things can get intense at the end of a long session.

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