Penland staff member Robin Dreyer attempts to leave work on Friday, May 14.
Penland staff member Robin Dreyer attempts to leave work on Friday, May 14.
Rob has been showing his work in our gallery since 2005. Although Rob pays homage to the vase form, the work is equally respectful of sculptural vessels – robust, grounded forms with necks, collars and strong shoulders. The vessels are subtle and complex; the matte surfaces are treated to Rob’s language of mark making and edges have as much significance as the larger fields on the sides of the pots. There is a studied seriousness throughout his work; a well considered relationship with the material.
Rob founded Fiberarts Magazine in 1975, and later Lark Books in Asheville NC, that publishes some great craft books including our Penland series. Lately he is behind the project Marshall High Studios, the renovation of an old high school building into artist studios here in western North Carolina. He currently serves on our board of trustees, providing support and endless dry humor. Clearly he is not a lazy man.
No surprise that when he began doing ceramic work he took it on 200%. Since 1999, Rob has taken ten classes at Penland. Most have been in the clay studios, but just to keep everyone on their toes, he has taken drawing, glass, and iron classes as well.
I’ve been involved in the crafts/arts field in general and the fiber arts specifically for more than 30 years. This includes a checkered history as a tapestry weaver beginning in the early 70’s. Besides the design process, what I enjoyed most was the experience of the “hand” of the material.
That led me to ceramics in the 1990’s. I am in love with the basic material of ceramics: wet clay. While it took many years for the materials and techniques of textiles to become familiar to me, I have, for some wonderful reason, become comfortable with the language of clay in less than a decade. Working in clay is exhilarating, frightening, and totally satisfying.
While I have no academic background in clay (my undergraduate and graduate study was in Sociology and Anthropology), I have studied under some great ceramics teachers, all at the Penland School of Crafts. They include: George Bowes (1999), Richard Notkin (2000), Steven Heinemann (2001), Yih-Wen Kuo (2002), Richard Burkett and Lana Wilson (2004), and Anne Hirondelle (2005).
About the Work
I use high fire clays. My work is decorated with multiple layers of underglazes, stains, and oxides, which means that most pieces are fired many times. I don’t want to obliterate the clay itself, so I rarely use glazes.
I am most creative when I’m working within self-defined restrictions. My ceramic work for the last several years has had as its restriction the ability of the pieces to hold water and thus flowers or stems. Some of my forms are obvious in this, others less so. I think of my work as sculpture with a hidden ability to be functional. Commissions also give me restrictions, which is why I enjoy them.
I play with the surfaces of the clay both before and after I build the vessels. With each piece, I force myself to do something I’ve never done before. This means each piece is an experiment of sorts. It also means I destroy a lot of evidence, but it keeps the anxiety level sufficiently high and the joy of success addictively sweet.
While I’m creating, all the world, all speech, and all time stops. It’s a selfish process. But, I am extremely happy with the result of that process somehow speaks to me…..and others. It’s all a mystery, of course, but isn’t that the underlying attraction?
Golly Peters first became aware of Penland when she found the Penland Book of Ceramics in Amsterdam. She was so impressed with the book that she found Penland on the Internet and learned that it was a school that anyone could apply to and attend. She sensed that there was something special about Penland and hoped to go there one day.
Golly lives in Brussels, and has found that Belgian ceramicists are secretive about their processes and not open to sharing with others. Though she had been doing ceramics for five years, she had been struggling with moldmaking and so she signed up for Tom Spleth’s spring class in moldmaking and slipcasting. Earlier this year Golly had to have some serious surgery and coming to Penland was a tremendous incentive and helped her recovery.
Now Golly can’t wait to go home and share what she has learned with others. She feels more confident than ever with her work and now sees flaws that she didn’t see before. “Penland brought the fun back into my work and gave me permission to play again,” she said. “ I have had a great experience at Penland and feel that the class pushed me to go beyond limitations that I had previously and move onto the next phase of my work.
Sondra is a full time studio fiber artist who received her MFA from the University of Washington in 1996. She has been involved with Penland School as a work-study student in 1991, a Core Fellowship student from 1992 to 1994, and a Resident Artist from 1997 to 2001. She has also generously donated her artwork to our annual fundraising auction many times since her days in the residency program.
Sondra deftly joins digital technology and traditional fiber techniques to create works that showcase her love of color and pattern. Poke berries, cicadas, mica, maple leaves, wild leeks, ferns, and protozoa all have been translated by Sondra via her computer and onto her cloth. Add some seriously detailed hand and machine stitching and the end result is a textile painting, with multiple layers of texture and intense organic color. We have been showing Sondra’s work for nearly 10 years in the gallery and although her work has altered and grown over the years – collectively the work beautifully represents her viewpoint and voice through her textiles.
I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was young, but the first time I decided to plunge myself full-tilt into this career didn’t come until 1991. It was the first time I ever went to Penland as a work-study student and my instructor, Randall Darwall, an amazing weaver and teacher, read our class a quote from Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
I think that really was the moment I saw that there might be a way to make my art my life’s work. I have tried to stay true to this path through many ups and downs. My work has always been the lens through which I view the world.
I love color and pattern and I see it everywhere. I love to find common objects and examine them until I find the compositions and patterns and colors within that may not be apparent on first glance. These discoveries are the backbone of my current work.
I now live in Asheville, North Carolina with my cat and surrounded by amazing creative energy and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
About the Work
I create my work by bringing together my love of textiles and traditional techniques with my fascination in new technologies. The images are derived from actual objects scanned into the computer, manipulated and enhanced. This is then digitally printed with dyes on 100% linen fabric. I then embellish my piece with hand embroidery, free motion machine embroidery and appliqué of hand dyed linen.
I love the twining of disparate images and approaches, some rooted in the craft tradition of textiles and others based on contemporary technologies. Instead of seeing these objects, images, colors and processes as completely unlike, I wonder and seek their sameness in how they speak to me and to each other.
Program director (and photographer) Dana Moore and I had a thrilling experience last week riding in a helicopter over Penland so we could make some aerial photographs of the campus. We’ll be using a few of them in our upcoming fall/spring catalog and we’ll find lots of other uses for them as well–starting with this blog. The photo above shows the letterpress and print studio in the middle and the clay studio on the left.
Here’s a long view from above the meadow. The red spot in the middle of the frame is the roof of the Craft House.
Here you can see from the Craft House (lower right) all the way up the hill to the wood studio.
Now we are above the wood studio looking down the hill with the meadow in the distance. To the left of the wood studio is the iron studio. The next two buildings down the hill are glass and Northlight.
This is Horner Hall, home of the Penland Gallery. There is a larger group of aerial photos on our Facebook page if you want to see more. And the answer to your question is: helicopters are really, really fun.
Sam first came to Penland as a student in 1983, and returned just over ten years later to teach, which lucky for us, he continues to do every few years. We have been showing his work in the gallery since 2007, both in exhibits and in the sales gallery. (He will be sending work for the upcoming Weight of Black exhibit later this month.)
When instructor Tom Spleth did his slide night at the beginning of his eight-week class in making ceramics from plaster molds, he projected slides of his work on the wall, then poured plaster on a large piece of masonite, cued some lovely music, and demonstrated his method for making a sculptural form from drying plaster. Staff member Mark Boyd was on hand with a camera and made this beautiful 5-minute video titled Fluid Form.
A technical note on what Tom is doing: The plaster form he makes in the video would be the first step in the creation of a hollow, porcelain sculpture or vase. After the plaster form dries, Tom refines it with scrapers and other tools, then he makes a multipart plaster mold from the form. The next step is to pour clay slip into the mold, let it sit for a bit and then pour it out again, leaving layer of slip clinging to the inside of the mold. The mold is then opened and the clay form inside can be glazed and fired. –Robin Dreyer