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Between seven concentrations and nine 1-week workshops, we’ve had a busy spring at Penland. It’s been exciting to see the progress that long classes make, whether it’s transforming straight beams into a fully-realized timber frame structure or collecting plant material to make into paper to make into books. Scroll through the photos above to get a glimpse of the colorful, experimental, detailed, thoughtful, beautiful things underway in the studios. And, if you’re in the area, please join us on May 5th at 8pm to celebrate the end of the session at the scholarship auction in Northlight!
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This year’s Penland Community Open House was another big success! Over 700 people from the Penland community came up to try their hand at a new craft. Artists young and old alike were busy forging in the iron studio, flameworking beads in the glass shop, making colorful portraits in the photo studio, creating wooden whistles, and lots more. We’re grateful to all volunteers for helping us to share this fun day with our community, and to all the visitors who join us with such enthusiasm.
Are you a weaver? It’s a question that asks more than whether or not you can weave. At its heart, the question probes our personalities and preferences, asking about the processes that speak to us and the mental spaces which we most like to inhabit. Weaving is not for everyone, but it definitely is for tapestry artist Mary Zicafoose. “From the first moment I sat at a loom, there was not a question in my mind that I was a weaver,” she says. That was over twenty years ago, and Mary has been weaving ever since.
“There is something timeless and inner-dimensional about the process of weaving,” Mary explains. “The work takes weeks. As the planet speeds along, the weaver sits hour by hour, day by day, slowly and steadily building a tapestry. No amount of adrenaline, caffeine, or technology alters the pace of the unfolding. To be a weaver is an almost surreal occupation placed against the backdrop of linear time, and the pace, demands, and deadlines of contemporary life. Nothing in the making of a tapestry happens quickly. It is a deep inward breath, a meditative activity that draws you in, not out.”
So, are you a weaver? If yes, Mary’s spring 2016 concentration Artist & Weaver could be a transformative eight weeks. The class is tailored to intermediate weavers, those who already have some experience at the loom. As such, it will cover the technical aspects of weaving, but it will also go beyond to focus on weaving as an art. Registration is now open.
How can each artist tell a unique story in a unique voice? It’s a question that Mary has been focused on with her pieces for years. As a weaver, she has developed a distinct expression of ideas through the imagery and colors she chooses. “I use color boldly, with a sure hand, creating strong visual statements in fiber. It is my relationship with color, the use of intensely dyed primaries within large planes and fields of color, which distinguishes my work,” she says. One of Mary’s goals for the class is to help each of her students to develop their own woven voice—be it a bright and bold one like Mary’s or one characterized more by softness and subtlety.
As part of her focus on color, Mary will bring in guest instructor Catharine Ellis for part of the class. Catharine, like Mary, has developed a distinct voice in fiber over the years. Hers is distinguished by the use of natural dyes and innovative techniques in woven shibori. Catherine will share her expertise in dyeing with the class, helping to give each student the palette they need to weave their visions into tapestries.
If you are ready to take your weaving to the next level, or if you would like to work with master weavers and dyers, or if you could simply use eight weeks of focus at the loom—join Mary this spring in the textiles studio.
This eight-week textile intensive will provide mentorship with the goal of igniting and focusing studio practice. Our main areas of emphasis are as follows: Developing personal voice at the loom: we’ll build tapestries in series using classic and slit tapestry techniques, surface design, compression and resist applications, stitching, and off-loom embellishments. Color: guest teacher Catharine Ellis will lead us in a dyeing workshop that will help students gain creative fluency with both synthetic and natural dyes. Professional practice: the workshop will include a strategic planning curriculum for artists: goal setting, statements, résumés, PowerPoint, social media, record keeping, promotion, exhibition, and more. Intermediate level: prior weaving experience required. Code S00TB
Studio artist; teaching: Arrowmont (TN), Penland, weaver’s guilds nationwide; recent exhibitions: World Ikat and Shibori Conference (China), Joslyn Art Museum (NE); work in 12 U.S. embassies worldwide.
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.
We stopped in the textiles studio this morning where Robin Johnston’s weaving class was hard at work at the looms. Robin took some time to show us around the kitchen. A ferrous vat of indigo was stirred, a piece of cloth dipped. Another vat totally slept through our visit. And someone was dyeing with lichen in a silver pot.
Taped down on a table in resident artist Robin Johnston’s studio is a map of the stars. Next to it is smaller map, loose and folded and used, with a handwritten note in the margin: WE SAW FIREWORKS. A map handed out on the Fourth of July last summer, Robin tells us. Robin and her husband and her son (age 2) watched the sky light up above Penland.
The moments of immanence that the artist experiences are collapsed into the work, to be revived or reimagined by the spectator when she enters its arena…–Ann Lauterbach, The Given and The Chosen
Fireworks, family, the night sky, perception in summertime–Robin is collapsing these moments in her newest work. No, it’s more accurate to say: she’s recording them across the stretched map, each weft piece to be marked with a star’s position before it’s dyed and then the weaving begins. In the final part of the process, Robin will embroider the star charts of each season on the finished piece. This will take months and months. “I love tedious work,” she says quietly, grinning.
If you don’t believe that Robin loves tedious work, please note:
She’s the artist who gathered around 4,000 walnuts, soaked over a hundred of them, wrapped yarn around each one, unwrapped the dried strands, and used them to weave 143 Walnuts, the piece hanging on the wall in the photograph below. Against another wall in her studio, next to an installation of walnuts still attached to strands suspended from the ceiling, is an old walnut picker. Her grandmother used it first–a handle attached to a metal cage, rolled over a carpet of grass to collect the fallen nuts on her sheep farm in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. “Robin’s work deals with measuring time, capturing moments as they pass, and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing,” her website tells us.
One last note: “immanence” is the opposite of transcendence, and Robin Johnston is an artist residing in what’s in her earthly grasp: 4,000 walnuts, millions of stars, the moth wing-resilience of ikat tape, the fact that indigo is insoluble in water and must first be reduced to a form called indigo white. When the thread is dipped and then pulled from the vat, Robin explains, a molecular change occurs. The indigo reverts to its insoluble form. It retakes its blue from the air.
Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney
Student Alke Groppel-Wegener experimenting with warp painting in the weaving studio. Alke teaches writing to art and design students at the University of Staffordshire in England. The university gave her a term off so she could take Robin Johnston’s weaving Concentration. The class was introduced to painted warps by visiting artist Andrea Donnelly.
This is a single warp with a section painted by each member of the class. It will be wound onto a loom and woven into one long piece of cloth.