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Photo of the Week: TV Crew at The Barns

Seth Gould on Craftsmans Legacy

This crew, from the TV show A Craftsman’s Legacy, was at Penland last week filming in the studio of resident artist Seth Gould (in the gray and white check shirt). That’s host Eric Gorges (in the blue and black check shirt) next to Seth. The weird thing on the tripod is a camera jib. There’s a camera on one end and a counterweight and monitor on the other.

The show is available online and also airs on CreateTV. We don’t know when Seth’s episode will be available, but we’ll keep you posted.

 

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Summer 2016 Workshop Catalog

Three men working together at the anvil

We are working right now to update the website with complete summer information. Meanwhile, we have just posted a PDF of the summer catalog, which features some of our favorite blacksmiths on the cover. Left to right: studio coordinator Daniel Beck, instructor Andrew Dohner, studio assistant Eric Smith. In the background is student Don Walker.

View the Summer 2016 Catalog PDF here.

 

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Core Show Slideshow

Left to right: Tyler Stoll, Meghan Martin, Joshua Kovarik, Elmar Fujita, Daniel Garver, Jamie Karolich, Bryan Parnham, Emily Rogstad, Morgan Hill
Left to right: Tyler Stoll, Meghan Martin, Joshua Kovarik, Elmar Fujita, Daniel Garver, Jamie Karolich, Bryan Parnham, Emily Rogstad, Morgan Hill

 

The annual October Core Show is a much-anticipated highlight of fall at Penland, and this year was no exception. Our nine core fellows came together to put on a stunning show of pieces from their workshops across the Penland studios. Titled Personal Effects, the show featured furniture, prints, photographs, weaving, ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, and much more. It was a great opportunity to see the cumulative talent of this group of young artists, and also to show our appreciation for these people who do so much at the very heart of the Penland community.

View lots more images in the Personal Effects slideshow.

 

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Guests admiring work at the opening reception. The table in the front is by Elmar Fujita.

 

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The Northwind Hammer

hammer and other blacksmithing tools
The Northwind Hammer in the California shop of David Browne, its first recipient. Image: David Browne

 

“The Northwind brings change. Sometimes a dramatic storm, a swirl of luminescent clouds, or a sensation that precipitates an uneasy ambiance in the valley. Colossal gusts, howling, trees bending, everything moving and swaying. The birds and insects disappear. Slowly…it fades. Vitality is restored and a pleasant stillness remains. Every grace of nature resurfaces. This is the natural phenomena that inspired ‘Northwind’. I’ve created a hammer to exemplify the inhale, expansion, and release of the wind.” —Brent Bailey

 

Just like the north wind, blacksmith Brent Bailey’s handmade hammer is traveling and shifting and altering its surroundings. It moves from place to place, from artist to artist. First California, then on to Virginia and Tennessee and Texas. At each location, the hammer stays for a couple weeks, inspiring its current owner’s work in some way. It is an opportunity, a cue to think differently or try something new. And then it moves on. Twelve different artists will each incorporate the hammer into their forges before it ultimately makes its way back to Brent in California.

 

Andy Dohner and the Northwind Hammer
Andy Dohner holding the Northwind Hammer

 

This spring, the Northwind Hammer made a visit to Andy Dohner. At the time, Andy was in the Penland iron studio teaching our spring 2015 concentration. He and his students, like the blacksmiths before them, assimilated the Northwind Hammer into their studio work. It was both a tool in their creative process and the inspiration for that process. As Andy commented, “The concept we are using with the Northwind is one hammer, eleven students. Together we are working on a sculpture of an astrolabe.”

 

the spring 2015 iron students
Andy and his students in the Penland iron studio this spring

 

The astrolabe is an ancient tool, one which captures the changing positions of the sun and stars in the sky. Just like the north wind, it brings to mind time and travel and strips bare our sense of constancy. And, just like the Northwind Hammer, the astrolabe is a relatively simple tool which opens up new doors for those who use it. How appropriate, then, that Andy and his class selected this subject as the focus of their work. Their completed sculpture combines the nested circles and rule of an astrolabe with the simplicity of the hammer itself.

 

metal astrolabe sculpture
The finished astrolabe sculpture created by Andy and his class

 

The sculpture may be finished, but the Northwind Hammer’s journey is not. From Penland, it traveled on to Jim Masterson at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Tennessee. Next, it made stops in California, Detroit, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Massachusetts, collecting stories and each artist’s touchmark along the way. In these places, the projects the hammer was a part of were as varied as its locations, from sculptural metal feathers to a railing recreation to a patterned table frame.

The Northwind Hammer has one last stop before it returns home to its creator. Its final location and artist are still unknown, but one thing is already certain: the Northwind Hammer altered the creations of the blacksmiths who received it, and they, in turn, altered it. As Brent reflected, the work of each artist “imparts and impregnates their essence into the steel.”

To read more about the hammer and follow its journey, visit Brent Bailey’s Northwind page.

 

 

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The Half-Remembered Object

 

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Michael Rossi, Mass Effect, 2013, forged steel, 5′  overall, longest 34″ Image from rossimetaldesign.com

 

I’m standing in the Penland Gallery, looking at the forged steel objects in Mike Rossi’s Mass Effect,—eleven of them—hanging. They look like tools. They’re tools? They’re rusted and somehow shifting in their surfaces—evoking human use in their gallery-ready context. Names for each object form in my mind: Key to the Secret Wall. Golden Hornshoe. Deep Pincer. Reading left to right, I flunk each thing with my imagined names, and wonder, if I could steal just one, which one would I slip into my bag?

 

[Ed. note: Penland School of Crafts does not condone stealing art or sentences about stealing art.]

 

“I wanted it to look like the nicest tool rack ever made,” says Rossi half-jokingly as we talk about Mass Effect. Each piece was forged out of his desire to push the boundaries of forging: the objects were made without grinding, filing or welding. Rossi used only a power hammer, the anvil, and a rod the size of the one resting on top of the upper right corner of the work—1 x 5 inches. (“Mass effect,” then, refers to each object being forged without a loss of material–each has the same mass and volume.) Within this premise, Rossi proceeded in an effort to work without certainty—to play call and response with steel.

 

This call and response, for Rossi, produces objects “half-remembered, half-forgotten, mash-ups of other objects I’ve seen.” There are references to forms he encountered in childhood—from books or from his youth in Michigan—“plumb bobs, garden tools, marine hardware.” It’s a bit like Proust’s adult narrator in Remembrance of Things Past, slipping into reverie when the form of the shell-shaped cookie from his childhood dissolves in his tea. Except, in this case, we have a blacksmith, working toward an endlessly dissolving form.

 

And standing in front of each object in Mass Effect, the viewer is invited into the forged space where things have been drawn from the unconscious. Remember being a child, thunderstruck by the appearance of some beautiful and mundane thing? Like the shapes, the rusted surfaces of the objects in Mass Effect (“planished,” Mike emails me later, “struck lightly to achieve a more uniform surface”) gesture toward the recurring astonishment of first perceptions—those moments when the child sees oneself suddenly apart from things in the world, and wants, more than anything, to catch the foreign object. Having time to dive into this way of making has helped Rossi sharpen his way of seeing for client-driven, architectural commissions. “I pay attention differently,” he says, “[making sculpture] increases my ability to observe the world.”

 

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Mike Rossi and students in his spring 2014 Concentration at Penland. Photo by Robin Dreyer.

 

The ways Rossi involves intuition, memory, and play into object making resonates with his teaching style, too, as the students in his Penland iron concentration this spring experienced firsthand. One of his workshop assignments involved forge objects for an EDC—an everyday carry—based on what each student would take in a small pack on her or his person in order to live. A survivalist’s game, but Rossi opened up the assignment, inviting his students to create an EDC for a fictional dream character if they chose, and several of them did.

 

“There are so many places to learn cutting, welding—but by learning forging, you get a versatility with the material,” Rossi says. “You engage with the material in a different way. I want my students to have this versatility and the knowledge that blacksmithing has a place in the world today.” ”We’re still in an iron age,” he adds. “It’s the silent foundation that underlies everything.”

 

We’re wrapping up our conversation. It’s morning in the Penland Coffee House, the place is filling up, Crystal’s throwing a booming hello out to someone she loves, and Rossi’s headed back up to the iron studio. I ask a throw-away question, “Anything else you’d like to add?” He looks at me evenly, earnestly. “I want to make thoughtful objects,” he says.–Elaine Bleakney

 
 

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Photo of the Week: Anvil Checking

andrew hayes in the penland iron studio

Visiting artist Andrew “Straightedge” Hayes showing students in the iron concentration how to check the surface of an anvil for irregularities. This was important because the next thing he showed was how to flatten strips of sheet steel that have bends and twists in them. Then he staged a flattening contest to see who could make the flattest piece of steel in 10 minutes. Never a dull moment.

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Don’t Burn Up: Interview with Iron Instructor Jay Burnham-Kidwell

What’s your philosophy of teaching?
Unprintable but I’ll tell you. I didn’t plan any of this. I joined the military, got out of the war and couldn’t get a job. I went to college on the G.I. Bill. I kind of think that I was born to be a teacher; I can’t explain it more than that.

I’ve always liked teachers. Particularly in art and craft, everybody’s going to be a teacher because we’re dinosaurs–it’s not all in the books, it’s not all written down, and you won’t see every lecture. So we need to share knowledge. The internet is full of information but not necessarily knowledge. So I got into teaching–I’ve been teaching now since 1973.

 

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How long have you been teaching at Penland?

I’ve taught three concentrations, two summer classes, three guest artist [visits], and I did an instructor retreat. I would have done the first instructor retreat but I was in intensive care so I couldn’t come. Which pissed me off–I really wanted to go (give me a bunch of Demerol!) I’d like to do another sixty-seven years; I’ve had a great time.

Each group I teach tends to be a little different. They tend to bond together. The tighter they are the better it runs. Building what we call in the military “unit effing integrity:” if they’re good enough to die with they’re good enough to eat, drink and sleep with. Well here, take out the ‘dying’ part: if they’re good enough to make art with then it should become a community. You can be as individual as you want at Penland and people will respect your privacy. But you work better when you’re together. I learn more from them too.

This group is very hard working–all of them, in all the areas. I tend to trek around and see what they’re up to. And this is grueling: they’re trying to pack about a year’s work into two months.

 

Which reminds me. I saw a note on the chalkboard in the iron studio: DON’T BURN UP.

Yeah, or out! [My students] have been ’embellishing,’ let us say, up there. I encourage them to do that. My favorite one up there is ‘The more you complain the longer God makes you live.’ Favorite Jewish proverb. I love that one. No drama, no sniveling, no whining. And talk to me when you’ve got a problem, if you can.

 

Does that feel critical to your experience as a teacher here, knowing people more personally?

I think so, as much as you can know someone in a couple of months. But it’s intense. It’s not for the weak of spirit, heart, mind, body.

 

Fair enough.

The energy is here is infectious. I’m running on a twenty-two year old’s energy and the minute I drive down the hill it’s all just going to go away. That’s the not so salutary effect of adrenaline wearing off when you leave Neverland.

This a a singular place. I really wish that the rest of the world ran like this. The greatest thing about Penland besides the food, the art, the people, the place is that nobody cares up here; it all comes down to what Dr. King says: ‘it’s the content of your character.’ Everything else is just like wearing a different shirt–nobody gives a rat’s ass. And I really like that.–Elaine Bleakney

 

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Jay Burnham-Kidwell currently teaches the concentration  Smokin’ Hot Iron at Penland. He is professor emeritus from Mohave Community College in Arizona. His work is held in collections at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Tennessee, the University of Georgia, and West Dean College in the United Kingdom.