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Building a Relationship with Glass

glass sculptures on display by DH McNabb
Glass artist DH McNabb with his pieces “Spherical Horizon(s)” and “Crystal Prism(s)” after JG Ballard’s “The Crystal World.” Both works were made during a residency at the Saint-Louis Crystal Factory in France.


Glass is a particularly beguiling material. It’s so common around us, so everyday, and yet very few people have actually worked with glass as the scorching hot, malleable substance it is coming out of a furnace. Even then, an artist can only get to know it through a certain separation, using jacks and blocks and paddles as extensions of the fingers. The work is quick, but it takes years to develop facility and fluidity with it.

DH McNabb knows this slowly-blooming relationship as well as anyone. For nearly two decades, he’s worked with glass as a student, assistant, teacher, artist, and collaborator. It’s taken him to graduate school and around the world—Seattle, New York, Japan, Italy, Istanbul, Prague. Even now, he sees his career in glass as a process. “I am not consumed with immediate success, but instead with a long-term practice and relationship with this material,” he explains. “Glass is a communicative endeavor, at times a struggle. It is not something you master in one year or five or ten.”


glass mangrove root sculpture
Detail of “Mangroves” by DH McNabb


All questions of mastery aside, DH has developed impressive glass skills. His portfolio of work includes neon signs, delicate stemware, orbs with shifting color gradations, sharply reflective crystal prisms, and the branching roots of a mangrove rendered in barely-green translucent glass. The ideas behind them are as varied as the works themselves: they reference history, explore light and landscape, speak to transience and memory, and investigate our perceptions of value.

This fall, DH will be coming to Penland to teach an 8-week concentration in the hot shop, and the workshop will have loads to offer aspiring and established glass artists alike. Titled (in)between, it will start by establishing a vocabulary of shapes and solid communication as the foundations for a wide range of directions in glass. Students will be encouraged to explore the forms and ideas that interest them, from functional goblets to conceptual sculptures. Nothing could sum it up better than the final line of DH’s course description: “We’ll assist each other, we’ll fail together, and somewhere through this we’ll succeed with our own material voice.”

Registration is currently open for (in)between and Penland’s other fall workshops. A handful of scholarships are also available for concentrations in glass, clay, metals, photography, and wood. Apply now and join us in the studios this September 24 – November 17!


glass sculpture
“Phantom Limbs” by DH McNabb



DH McNabb
September 24 – November 17, 2017

This workshop will be a journey that teeters between art and design. We’ll start by making and replicating basic shapes and then venture into other shapes that will become part of each individual’s voice. We’ll experience making from both sides of the pipe, learning what the assistant can do to better help the maker and what the maker can do to better communicate with the assistant. We’ll cover a range of color applications and discover new ones. Techniques will include cane, murrine, incalmo, and folding. Readings, drawing, walks, and other activities will help you conjure ideas from functional usefulness to thought-provoking concepts. We’ll assist each other, we’ll fail together, and somewhere through this we’ll succeed with our own material voice. All levels. Studio fee: $140. Code F00GA

DH McNabb is a studio artist who has taught at Centre College (KY), Pilchuck Glass School (WA), and the Chrysler Museum (VA). His work has been exhibited in spaces including 12 Gallery (Norway), a space (NYC), and Steel Yard Gallery (RI) and is in the collections of the Corning Museum (NY) and Fondation Hermés (Paris).



clay  |  glass  |  iron  |  metals  |  photography  |  wood  |  mixed media
September 24 – November 17, 2017
Register here





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A Concentration in Iteration

colorful wooden bench
“Patterned – A Bench” by Christina Boy, ash, stain, milk paint


There’s something special that happens in the wood studio over the course of a workshop. Students find the patience and focus to work intensely on just a few, longer-term projects rather than a large number of clay pots or a collection of forged utensils. Powerful shop saws transform from intimidating blurs of teeth into efficient and flexible tools. And a new level of precision emerges: the 1/8″ and 1/16″ increments that most of us think in now seem hopelessly clumsy to eyes and brains that have re-calibrated to think to at least the nearest 1/64″.

It’s certainly not magic that allows a solid, artfully-proportioned table or chair to emerge from a rough-sawn pile of lumber, but it can seem like it. That’s why this fall, we’re lucky to have Christina Boy coming to Penland to give students in the woodshop an in-depth opportunity to work through the furniture making process—not once, but a few times over. Her eight-week concentration is appropriately titled Design. Build. Repeat. and it will focus on developing woodworking skills through making multiples.


woman in woodworking shop
Christina Boy at home in her shop.


As the owner of a one-woman furniture studio in Madison, Virginia, Christina is perfectly positioned to teach students not just how to design and build a chair, but how to fine-tune the design/build process so that making a dozen chairs is as efficient as possible. Over her years in the shop, she has perfected a handful of signature designs that she can make, remake, and remix into new pieces. Her Stool 33, for example, has a hexagonal top made from three sections of wood. Christina can alter the stool’s look by changing the finish or the color of the legs, but she can also use it to make new pieces. One top on the wall becomes a coat rack, and six arranged together in a ring become a honeycomb coffee table. It’s a beautiful approach that creates both efficiency and harmony in her designs.

Design. Build. Repeat. is equally well suited to new students who want to try their hands at woodworking and experienced woodworkers who want to focus on their design skills or learn about small batch production. It will run in the Penland wood studio September 24 – November 17, 2017. Registration is currently open to students of all levels. Read the full course description below, and then join us in the shop!


wooden stool and table designs that both incorporate a central hexagon of wood.
Christina Boy’s “Stool 33” on the left and “Table 366” on the right.


Design. Build. Repeat.

Christina Boy
September 24 – November 17, 2017

While learning the fundamentals of woodworking technique, tools, and safety, we’ll dive into the process of making multiples. Each student will design a limited line of products from concept to completion: sketching, designing, drafting, making the necessary templates and jigs, and building prototypes for the purpose of understanding the steps of small batch production. Demonstrations will cover basic woodworking skills and will continue in depth based on the needs of each student’s designs and projects. All levels. Studio fee: $155. Code F00W

Christina Boy is a studio artist and former Penland core fellow. She has taught at Arrowmont (TN), Chestnut Creek School of the Arts (VA), and Orange County Libraries (VA) and is represented by Troika Contemporary Craft Gallery (VA) and the Penland Gallery. Her work has been exhibited at La Difference (VA), Penland’s Focus Gallery, Southern Highlands Craft Guild (NC), and Crossroads Gallery (VA).



clay  |  glass  |  iron  |  metals  |  photography  |  wood  |  mixed media
September 24 – November 17, 2017
Register here











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Photos of the Week: Celebrating Paulus Berensohn

The post is a photo slideshow. If you are seeing it in e-mail, we recommend viewing it on the blog.

The memorial structure on the knoll was designed and built by Jonah Stanford using Penland bamboo and shade-cloth panels (made from recycled plastic bottles).
People gathering on the knoll.
There were many little reunions as people gathered.
A procession to the knoll, with music.
Umbrellas came out and we took a little break while it poured for a bit.
Debra Frasier welcomed everyone as it started to rain.
As the rain subsided, Joy Seidler continued with the program.
The sun came out as Diann Fuller led everyone in a little bit of qigong.
Nick Joerling spoke about being Paulus's neighbor, friend, and landlord for many years.
David Perrin spoke about Paulus's role as "fairy godfather" to many young people--a number of those young people stood with him as he spoke.
Poet Stuart Kestenbaum read "Goldenrod," one of Paulus's favorite poems by his great friend Mary Oliver.
Debra Frasier and Joy Seidler took turns describing the many ways that Paulus made art and taught others -- dancing, clay, drawing, paste-paper, journals, letters, envelopes, color copies, etc.
Round singing finished out the program.
Everyone gathered for a picture.
In front of The Pines, some folks did the dance that Paulus used to end his workshops.
The last event was Splash -- a social gathering in honor of Paulus's daily ritual of welcoming anyone who showed up around 5:00 PM to join him for conversation and a bit of refreshment.
Splash featured Paulus's favorite drink: cheap scotch and grapefruit juice. It's really quite good.

On July 22, friends of artist and teacher Paulus Berensohn gathered at Penland to remember him. The day began with art making and a chance to visit Paulus’s house. At 3:30 everyone assembled on the knoll, where Jonah Stanford had created a beautiful structure for the event. (Photos by Robin Dreyer)

If you are looking for large files for the group picture, you can find them here and here.


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Mia Hall, Penland’s Next Director

Mia HallPenland School of Crafts is pleased to announce that artist, educator, and administrator Maria “Mia” Hall will be its next director, succeeding Jean McLaughlin, who has led the school since 1998. Mia is currently interim chair of the Department of Art and Design at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she has been a faculty member for ten years.

A native of Sweden, Mia holds an MFA in furniture design and woodworking from San Diego State University in California, where she worked closely with renowned woodworker and teacher Wendy Maruyama. In 2007 she was hired by UALR to develop a furniture design program and to teach furniture design and contemporary craft courses. During her time in Arkansas, she worked on the development of the department’s curriculum, served on six hiring committees, helped design and establish a visiting artist workshop series, and organized public events that increased awareness of the university’s craft program. In 2016 she was asked to take the position of department chair, leading fifteen full-time faculty, four staff, and twelve part-time instructors.

She has also been involved with the funding, design, and construction of the new, 65,000-square-foot Windgate Center of Art + Design at the university. She worked on the feasibility study and the design development phase, and she served on the committees that chose the architect and the contractor. As chair, she is the department’s project manager and will be overseeing the task of moving ten disciplines into the new facility before it opens in January, 2018. In addition to her many activities at the university, she has served on several foundation  boards.

Mia’s personal work, primarily furniture and mixed-media sculpture, has been shown in numerous exhibitions at venues such as the Arkansas Art Center, 108 Contemporary (OK), University of the Arts (Philadelphia), and Blue Spiral 1 (NC), and is held in many private and public collections.

Mia describes Penland School of Crafts as “one of the leading institutions for the study of craft-based art making,” going on to say that, “in a society that puts increasing value and importance on science, technology, engineering, and math, promoting the hand skills, decision making, ingenuity, inventiveness, and analysis that are required to practice skilled making is not only necessary, but essential.”

Alida Fish, chair of the Penland board of trustees and a member of the search committee, says that the committee saw in Mia the kind of skills and experience it was looking for in a new director. “We were particularly struck,” she says, “by her genuine interest in people and her commitment to Penland. This, combined with her forward-looking and innovative thinking, is sure to result in a winning outcome for the school.”

In accepting the position, Mia said, “I am honored and humbled to be chosen as the next director of Penland School of Crafts. Jean McLaughlin has for years been a formidable role model for me, and I find the Penland staff truly inspiring. My family and I look forward with great enthusiasm and excitement to being part of this phenomenal institution’s future.”

Mia is married to metalsmith and educator David Clemons, a long-term artist-in-residence at UALR and a regular instructor at Penland. They have a ten-year-old daughter, Fiona. Mia Hall will become Penland director on January 1.


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Welcoming Andrew Meers

We learned recently that ceramic artist Yoonjee Kwak, who was slated to join the Penland resident artist program in a few months, will instead be accepting a long-term residency at the Archie Bray Foundation. We are disappointed that Yoonjee will not be joining us, but we are happy that she will have this great opportunity to be part of a close-knit community of ceramic artists.

Andrew Meers

We are just as happy to announce that metalsmith Andrew Meers will be joining the Penland residency this fall. Andrew currently lives in Philadelphia where he works as a metalsmith and master bladesmith. His work has been shown throughout the US, and he has been a resident artist at the National Ornamental Metals Museum (Memphis) and an instructor/technician at the Appalachian Center for Craft (TN).

He has also taught workshops at several schools and universities including Penland. Andrew has an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Boston). As a resident artist, Andrew wants to advance his knife designs by incorporating innovative locking mechanisms and more intricate hidden compartments. He also plans to explore inlay techniques that merge Western and Japanese engraving styles.

“I am attracted to the challenge of balancing the forging process with machining delicate and precise mechanisms.” Andrew said. “Through one functional object I am able to utilize multiple skills and combine my interests in blacksmithing, metalsmithing, engineering, and chemistry. The result is work that is personal, useful, and treasured.”

Andrew has been to Penland a number of times, and are thrilled to welcome him back as a Penland resident artist.

Andrew Meers, Mouse Folder, steel, silver, gold, 6 inches long


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Photo(s) of the Week: Celebrating the 4th, Penland Style

The following post is a photo slideshow. If you’re looking at it in email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.

The scene on main campus, waiting for the parade
Penland's development team went all out on their recreation of the historic Travelog!
Glitter and rainbows, y'all.
Jean and Jerry's Swan Song
These swans come bearing chocolate.
Miss Lucy Morgan and Miss Edwina Bringle riding along on the Travelog with Joan Glynn behind the wheel
Bringing back the Penland llamas
The one and only Cynthia Bringle, riding the Travelog
Llamas on the knoll!
The Travelog travels on!
Hall of Fame!
A July 4th emergency - wood class to the rescue!
Doug Sigler and his wood class
Bring back the unicorns! Bring back the unicorns!
Paraders of all ages welcome!
Don't thread on me!
A message from the quilt class
A quilted snake from the upper textiles quilting workshop
The Upper Clay Terra Cotta Army
Terra Cotta Army noisemakers
Chapter 1 of the narrative float (more creatures and bubbles to come!)
A wonderful creature (who later adorned the volleyball court)
Kirk, flame juggler
Prime picnic zone
Most Memorable, Most Patriotic, Most Industrious...
The crowd outside the Pines
Ice cream salespeople extraordinaire (aka core fellows)
I scream, you scream


The festivities were so much fun that we extended our Independence Day celebrations to two days this year! (Okay, the rain that started around dark on July 4th may have had something to do with it…) The parade featured some impressive entries, including a replica of Penland’s beloved Travelog, a giant unicorn, a quilted snake, a “Swan Song” float by departing director and deputy director Jean McLaughlin and Jerry Jackson, and even a multi-part narrative float by the students in IlaSahai Prouty’s community art workshop. And, despite the 24-hour delay, the fireworks show was an impressive site to behold. Big thanks to the Penland pyrotechnics crew, the parade participants, the trophy makers, the cheering crowds, and everyone else who came out to celebrate July 4th with us!