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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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Going Deep: Sculpture & Furniture Laboratory with Sylvie Rosenthal

Sylvie Rosenthal in her shop

This fall, Sylvie Rosenthal will be returning to Penland to teach a concentration in the woodshop. Her course focuses on furniture and sculpture, but its audience is far wider than that. Anyone fond of whimsical details, anyone interested in conceptual ideas made tangible, anyone eager to prototype and problem solveall will find something to inspire them in this 8-week laboratory. After all, as American Style noted in a profile of her, Sylvie specializes in being able “to combine function, style and humor in one clean package.” Her work is intricate and detail-oriented, often kinetic, and, in her own words, “steeped in the impossible.” It’s a pretty remarkable combination.

There are still spaces left to take part in the workshop this fall from September 20 – November 13, 2015. Register here.

 

Going Deep: Sculpture & Furniture Laboratory

Sylvie Rosenthal – In this fun and fast-paced workshop, we’ll work in and out of the studio as we make furniture and sculpture for interior and exterior settings. While exploring experimental and traditional construction techniques—including lap, mortise and tenon, and dovetail joints—we’ll make forms, structures, masses to carve, and literal and metaphorical frameworks to support your ideas. Our main material will be wood, but we’ll use other materials—plaster, metal, ceramic, found objects—as projects necessitate. Thinking creatively, solving problems, and keeping safety in mind, we’ll use additive and subtractive processes as we cut, glue, join, shape, break, and fix. Risk taking will be encouraged. All levels. Code F00W

Sylvie Rosenthal is a studio artist specializing in woodworking and sculpture. She has taught at Haystack (ME), Anderson Ranch (CO), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Penland. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design (NYC) and the Mint Museum (NC) and is in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design, the Fuller Craft Museum (MA), and the Kamm Teapot Foundation (CA).

sylvierosenthal.com

 

Desk and stool by Sylvie Rosenthal
Birdie Suite, 2007. This desk and stool set features a kinetic bird sculpture perched next to the mirror. Ask the bird if you look good, turn the crank, and watch it nod a yes. Photo by Steve Mann.

 

Whale sculpture by Sylvie Rosenthal
Ballena, 2011. This 11-foot long “whale with a roof rack” is part of Sylvie’s series of “edificios imposibles,” or impossible buildings. Photo by Ramon C Purcell

 

O'Possum Whiskey, 2005. As Sylvie describes, "The whiskey cabinets beckon as kinetic skulls agree, you should have another drink." Photo by Larry Stanley
O’Possum Whiskey, 2005. As Sylvie describes, “The whiskey cabinets beckon as kinetic skulls agree, you should have another drink.” Photo by Larry Stanley

 

As the images above make clear, Sylvie has a strong background in wood and fine furniture, but she doesn’t let materials or traditions hold back her designs. As Andrew Glasgow put it in American Craft magazine, “Her sculpture has a fine-furniture maker’s sensibility while her furniture…possesses a sculptural quality that exhibits utter ease at flowing between the genres.” Come bend the rules and blur the lines with Sylvie this fall at Penland.

 

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

 

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Winter Studio Visit: Dustin Farnsworth

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Dustin Farnsworth’s studio is stage-bright when we walk in. He’s working on three headdresses, and brings our attention to one: three coopered towers to be mounted on the head. To see the expression on the figure’s face is to know something about where this is all going: not only to the world of  “players and painted stage” but somewhere much darker and much more strange.

 

Ah, the “dark” and “strange”–all of it has been commodified in clever ways (Tim Burton, anyone?)–and Dustin’s work nods–and then brilliantly subverts any pop-culture context, favoring more risky considerations of poverty, angst, race. The souls in his headdresses are inexpressibly clear and burdened by what they have to wear (twenty-seven essays could be written about the faces alone), and what they wear is a profound architecture.

 

As we look at the headdress-in-process, Dustin tells us he’s been inspired by Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse–the three headdress sections evoke water towers: signifiers of how we once handled water, and possible indicators of our future demise. As Dustin talks with us about his Michigan roots–“the burn’t out” feeling of Detroit arriving in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan– it’s hard not to see disaster abiding in all his work.

 

But the apocalypse hasn’t happened yet. There’s a lot to do. This, too, is part of Dustin’s sensibility. He shows us a system of walkways that will cross the towers in the headdress, a kind of back-and-forth plank-work. As he talks us through how it will go, the work immediately shifts. There will be an imagined cross-way, the kind that invites a child in. A little Borges in the gloom. A smile in the wince. On a side wall of Farnsworth’s bright studio, behind a door, he’s left a book open. The heading is: “The End Which is the Beginning.”

 

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Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney

 

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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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Winter Studio Visit: Angela Eastman

angelaeastmanpenland1

 

We stopped by the drawing and painting studio recently where core fellow Angela Eastman has set up winter operations. She showed us this span of foliage she was assembling–a shaped wire armature with painted tar paper cuts affixed (see above). The piece is Angela’s first private commission, made for a Brevard family’s home. 

 
Angela walked us through the process of creating the piece, opening her sketchbook to drawings she made at the site. “The spear pattern on the wire is a continuation of patterns I found outside of the house,” she said. 

 

As we looked back up at the piece, we saw the sketches translated into three dimensions–a challenging fluidity captured. We talked about how the installation would go. Angela smiled and recounted carrying one of her wing-like wire pieces up a hill on her back, and how it jived with an ongoing thought she has: try some paper-form costumes for dancers and pieces for the stage. 
 

angelaeastmanpenland3

 

After looking at the commissioned piece, Angela handed us one of the metal cups stuffed with black tar-paper cuts left over from the process–she will use them for something–and continue her exploration of pattern, line, and form. She expressed a desire to use all materials at hand as well as employ greener resources. Next in Angela’s sights? Chasing a balance between making smaller, functional work and larger pieces: floor-length paper-cuts, jewelry and neckpieces, ephemeral land-based sculpture.
 

 
But our eyes were drawn back to the world of small things in Angela’s work space. This table, which speaks to one artist’s close attention to visual rhythms and disturbances in nature: 

 

angelaeastmanpenland4 

 
To view an image of the finished private commission by Angela Eastman (seen above), visit: angelaeastman.com
 
Photographs by Robin Dreyer, writing by Elaine Bleakney