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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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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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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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Andrew Hayes: Volumes

Former core fellow and incoming resident artist Andrew Hayes has an exhibition opening tonight at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, California. The catalog is available online, and is accompanied by an essay written by Penland’s own far-flung correspondent, Wes Stitt. “Andrew Hayes’s sculptures embody a tactile exploration of scale, a push-and-pull between the immense and intimate,” writes Wes. You can explore Andrew’s work and read the rest of Wes’s introductory essay online:

And if you happen to be in northern California, the exhibition opens tonight at 6:00 pm, and runs until March 2.

Andrew’s altered book structures have also garnered the attention of British bibliophile Robert Bolick. He interviews Andrew and explores his work in-depth over on his blog, Books On Books.

The interview begins with a premise: Andrew picks a book from the middle of his own shelf and then opens it to the middle. Bolick explains what happens next: “[the artist] tells me the author, title and page number, and so the interview begins about the experience and how it might relate to the artist’s work.” Andrew picks from a collection of poems by e.e. cummings, leading Bolick into a lively examination of Andrew’s forms and titles, using cummings as a spark.

Read the interview here.

 

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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.

 

jay-1

 

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

 

jaybk

 

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.