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The Art of Persuading Metal

Penland spring concentrations are coming up this March 11 – May 4, 2018. Registration is now open and scholarships are available. Scholarship applications are due by 11:59 PM EST on November 28, 2017.


Stirrup Cups by Adam Whitney
“Sea Monster Stirrup Cups,” Adam Whitney


It’s hard to hold one of Adam Whitney’s sea monster stirrup cups without being drawn in by memories of old maps, aquarium trips, and the open sea. They’re exquisite objects with incredible detail—shiny protruding fangs, shadowy eyes, and dimpled, scaly skin that looks as cold and wet as any creature drawn from the ocean’s depths. But seeing the finished projects is only half the story. The other half is seeing how Adam takes a solid silver ingot and transforms it with a hammer and anvil into a raised vessel before adding layers of detail with chasing, repoussé, and great patience and skill. If that sounds like magic, we’d suggest watching Adam’s animation below.


animation of silver ingot being raised into a pair of cups


This spring, Adam will be sharing his expertise with students at Penland during an eight-week concentration. The workshop is titled, appropriately, Persuading Metal and will introduce students to the process of coaxing silver, copper, and other metals from solid chunks into refined vessels, as well as jewelry techniques, tool making, hydraulic forming, chasing and repoussé, and more. Whether you’re a jeweler who wants to learn some new skills, an experienced metalsmith hoping to hone your work, or a complete beginner interested in gaining proficiency in metals, this workshop has plenty to offer, and Adam is an expert instructor (and former Penland metals studio coordinator!).

Registration is now open, and scholarships are available for all spring concentrations. The scholarship application deadline is November 28, 2017. See below for more details, and see Adam’s website for more images of his incredible work.


Adam Whitney working on a silver cup
Adam adding detail to a raised silver cup.

Persuading Metal

Adam Whitney—This workshop will be an exploration of manipulating metal and creating holloware. We’ll begin with the hammer: forging, sinking, and raising samples to establish a foundation in metal forming. Basic metalsmithing and lesser-known (and underappreciated) jewelry skills will be introduced with attention placed on working in a larger scale. Then we’ll move on to chasing and repoussé, basic tool making, and hydraulic press forming. We’ll start with lots of demonstrations and samples. As students become proficient with materials and processes, the emphasis will move to individual guided projects and discussions of historic and contemporary holloware. All levels. Studio fee: $160. Code S00MA

Studio artist; teaching: Center for Metal Arts (NY), Smith Shop (MI), Fritz & Friends (MI), Raffles College (Malaysia); visiting artist: Rhode Island School of Design.


raised cups by Adam Whitney
A selection of raised silver cups by Adam Whitney


clay  |  letterpress  |  painting  |  metals  |  textiles  |  wood  |  sculpture
Scholarship applications due November 28, 2017


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Photo of the Week: Here There Be Monsters

Adam Whitney is spending the month of January at Penland as a winter residency studio assistant in upper metals. His big project for that time is to make a pair of stirrup cups, the “parting cups” traditionally used to present mounted riders with wine or spirits before they left on a journey. Because stirrup cups were used on horseback instead of around a table, they didn’t need the flat base standard to almost all drinking vessels, and many were shaped like the heads of hounds, foxes, and other animals. Adam is crafting his in the shapes of mythical beasts.

The cups are inspired by fanciful renderings of sea monsters and other creatures on old maps and books. Adam started by making a model in copper, complete with curved teeth, horns, and a scaly chin. Next, he began the methodical work of transforming solid lumps of silver into cups, first by shaping and hollowing them with a hammer and then by adding details with finer tools like punches. The process is no small undertaking, but the results so far are a monstrous success.








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Winter Studio Visit: Sarah Brown



Opening the freezing door to the upper metals studio last week, we were met by Penland core fellow Sarah Brown and her meticulous landscape of metals, molds, notes, and materials. She was playing Radiohead, which matched the mood exactly; entering Sarah’s work space is to enter an unpredictable and mysterious world of particulars.




During her solo studio time this winter, Sarah is experimenting with the viscosity of rhinestones. In one ring, a set opaque rhinestone with droplets of sterling silver and white rhinestone protrudes like a small undiscovered planet from a band. (The line between setting and stone wonderfully eroded.) The rhinestone is frozen in a semi-molten state, the facets overwhelmed by encroaching droplets. The whole thing seems doomed to devour itself (Sarah is calling it the “exploded rhinestone ring.”) Many of Sarah Brown’s pieces instantly project the dramas of matter.

And there’s an intense method to her magic. Sarah’s using her winter to focus on the grounding elements of jewelry production—perfecting prototypes for her pieces and her own molds—and giving time to this process before moving on to replication. She gives credit and thanks to Penlander and metalsmith Adam Whitney for helping her create a strategy for the winter. One need only to take a look at the whiteboard above her work space to know: Sarah Brown is an artist who means business.




Photographs by Robin Dreyer, writing by Elaine Bleakney