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Communicating Through Craft: A Profile of Aaron Hughes

portrait of Aaron Hughes working at the press in the letterpress studio

 

Art, activism, performance, protest—for Aaron Hughes, the lines between them are blurred and insignificant. “All my work is about creating stories and sharing stories,” he explains. “I’m trying to find space for people to bridge the divides we have in our world through art and through stories.”

As a veteran who served in Iraq and Kuwait for fifteen months in 2003-2004, Aaron is sharply aware of those divides. His deployment introduced him to a rougher and more complex world than he’d known growing up in the Midwest. “I felt like the ideas from my upbringing, my religion, my country didn’t make sense anymore,” he remembers. “But what did make sense was art. I felt like art was something I could invest in and believe in and put my energy into. It was something creative and not destructive.”

Aaron came home from his deployment determined to use art as a tool to generate conversations and connections about difficult topics like war, trauma, and oppression. In 2006 he graduated from the University of Illinois with a BFA in painting, and in 2009 he received his MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University. Then he went on to work with organizations such as the National Veterans Art Museum, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Center for Artistic Activism.

 

Drawing from the series 21 Days to Baghdad/Chicago
One of the pieces from “21 Days to Baghdad/Chicago,” a collection of drawings and maps Aaron made after returning to Illinois from his deployment.

 

In the summer of 2013, Aaron came to Penland for the first time with a Windgate Charitable Fund Scholarship. “I had spent so much time helping others to tell their stories and listening to other people’s stories that I had neglected any kind of personal work I needed to do,” Aaron explains. “I applied to Penland as a part of my transition back to focusing on my own art practice.”

He has returned to Penland each summer since to take classes in the printmaking and letterpress studios. “One reason I’m super invested in the printmaking program is that I’m interested in the way printmaking and politics can help to popularize language, stories, and movements,” he says. The connection is clear for Aaron: “Your ability to communicate lies in your ability to execute a craft. That’s what I’ve been gaining each time I come to Penland—the opportunity to develop my craft and to improve my communication skills.”

Aaron readily admits, however, that his time at Penland has been about more than gaining skills in the studio. “Penland is a generous space for me as a veteran,” he explains. “It’s a place of transformation and growth and learning. I’ve been encouraging other veterans to apply there because it’s such a healing, generative space.”

When he’s at Penland, Aaron describes himself as a “studio hound.” “I just want to make, make, make, make, make,” he laughs. But Aaron also values the quieter, more contemplative moments on campus. He describes the short walk back from dinner to the print studio: “There’s a little bench that’s halfway. I’ve often enjoyed sitting there, embracing the evening as it approaches and watching the Appalachian dusk. It’s so beautiful—transcendently beautiful. And I just sit in between all this creativity and embrace the present moment of being there. I feel like that’s healing. That’s wholesome for anybody.”

–Sarah Parkinson

 

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Where Hot Glass and Printmaking Meet

 

 

Glass instructor Rob Stern finished off this fall’s concentration by introducing his students to a whole new technique that merges the hot glass shop with printmaking techniques. Rob created a large glass cylinder and then he and his students embellished its surfaces with relief designs. Rob wrote “Penland” backwards and created silhouettes of two glassblowing figures with hot glass from the furnace. Then each member of the class wrote their own name backwards using glass cane heated with a torch. They touched up the shape of the cylinder and then rolled it—still hot—onto a flat sheet of paper. The raised designs on the glass cylinder charred the paper where they made contact, creating a lasting print with heat instead of ink. Pretty ingenious!

 

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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.

 

coreshow2
Guests admiring work at the opening reception. The table in the front is by Elmar Fujita.

 

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Printers in the Making | Fall Concentration with Phil Sanders

Phil Sanders working in a print shop

“Printmaking in and of itself is a very simple idea,” says Phil Sanders. “It’s the transfer of one image from one surface to another.” But this simple definition belies the true complexity and range of options available to the skilled printmakerlayers of ink and paper, levels of opacity, a myriad of textures and techniques. And if one thing is for sure, it’s that Phil Sanders is a skilled printmaker. Lucky for us, he’ll be coming to Penland this fall to teach an 8-week concentration on the ins and outs of his trade, including etching, aquatint, drypoint, and more. The course, as he says, “is a rare occasion to get an intaglio apprenticeship-style immersion.”

Space is still open in this print concentration, and some work-study scholarships are still available. Register here.

 

Printers in the Making

Phil Sanders – As a printer and a printmaker, I understand the difficulty of switching between “printer brain” and “artist brain.” The pull between “how to do” and “what to do” can leave you lost in the middle. Consider this class a technical apprenticeship combined with the creative space to experiment with your artistic voice. We’ll demystify all intaglio processes plus monotype, monoprint, and chine-collé. We’ll make ink, grounds, and drawing supplies, review tool maintenance, paper conservation, and more. We’ll tackle drawing, composition, design, and color theory through drawing calisthenics and composition exercises. This workshop is ideal for artists looking to hone their printmaking skills and artistic voice or working toward becoming professional printers. All levels. Code F00X

Phil Sanders is the director of PS Marlowe, a creative services consultancy firm. He is a former director and master printer at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop (NYC) and a former master printer for Universal Limited Art Editions (NY). Phil’s teaching experience includes Stanford University (CA), San Francisco State University (CA), and numerous courses at Penland.

phillipsanders.com

 

Two prints by Phil Sanders
Two prints by Phil Sanders. At left, “Check Mate,” a lithograph with digital inkjet and watercolor. At right, “Black Star (IQ Test),” a six-color silkscreen.

 

Phil Sanders Print
“Presence of Another,” a four-color letterpress print by Phil Sanders.

 

In a 10-Minute Talk created for MoMA, Phil emphasizes that printmaking is a very old and diverse fieldhumans have been making prints ever since the first footprint in the sand. “One of the major reasons that printmaking has survived and continues to thrive is its collaborative nature. Printmaking is never done wholly within in a vacuum. It’s a cumulative knowledge process that we add to as participants in it.” If you want to be part of that rich history, eight weeks of instruction and experimentation with a master printer might just be your chance.

 

REGISTER NOW FOR FALL CONCENTRATIONS
September 20 – November 13, 2015

 

As for the rest of us, we can at least get a taste by watching Phil in this short video on intaglio processes!

 

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The Mystery Within the Subject: Monotype with Phil Garrett

  Phil Garrett, Thistle II Hunting Island2003, Monotype, Chine Colle,  30 x 22" on paper
Phil Garrett, Thistle II Hunting Island, 2003. Monotype, chine collé, 30 x 22″ on paper

“My work is informed by nature, a kind of mythical nature. The power of storms, the spiritual quality of the elements, the beauty, grace and ferocity of animals–something greater than myself, something I can’t comprehend. Painting and making monotypes is my search for the mystery within the subject, within myself.”

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In 1998, Phil Garrett acquired a large Intaglio press and founded King Snake Press in Greenville, South Carolina. The press “grew out of Garrett’s love for the monotype process, and is dedicated to encouraging other artists to experiment with the painterly print.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memento /Jones Gap Monotype Chine Colle' Phil Garrett, Memento /Jones Gap Monotype Chine Colle' 2007 12 in by 10 in Image Size 21 by 17 in Paper Size
Phil Garrett, Memento /Jones Gap, 2007.
Monotype, chine collé, 21 x 17″ on paper

Phil Garrett – Intuition, Ink, Paper: Monotype
October 20-26, 2013
in the printmaking studio:

This workshop will explore the dynamic medium of monotype printmaking. This user-friendly, spontaneous method allows images to be developed and printed in a short time. Because the plate retains a thin layer of ink after being printed, it lends itself to varying the image and working sequentially. After a discussion of ink, plates, presses, and paper, the class will begin with simple, reductive methods of inking on single plates and then progress to multi-plate color prints incorporating chine collé. The workshop will include demonstrations, presentations, and critiques. All levels.

Phil Garrett completed his undergraduate work at the University of South Carolina and the Honolulu Academy, studying with the late Gabor Peterdi. He received his BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1974 and lived and worked in the Bay Area until 1979, when he returned to South Carolina where he presently resides. He founded King Snake Press in 1998 for the production and promotion of monotypes. His works on paper and paintings included in public collections of the South Carolina State Museum, the State of Hawaii, and Greenville County Museum, as well as in corporate and private collections in the USA, Europe and Japan. Garrett is represented by Hodges Taylor Gallery in Charlotte, NC and If Art in Columbia, SC.

 

To find out more and register for this workshop, click here.

 

 

Phil Garrett at Penland