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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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Environmental Portraiture with Mark Tucker | April 20 – 26, 2014

marktuckerpenland

Great face on this young skateboarder today. Late afternoon soft diffused light on the Venice Boardwalk.

Mark Tucker, February 2014

 

This spring, Mark Tucker will teach a workshop exploring how to find and harness light outside of the studio in service of the great faces of the world.

 

Mark Tucker
Environmental Portraiture
In the photo studio
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best approach. In this workshop we’ll learn to make strong portraits using available light. We’ll find the best light, and if it’s not perfect, we’ll modify it with reflectors and fill cards. A field trip to a nearby town will help students learn to approach strangers and to quickly find the best angle and light for a portrait. We’ll learn the emotive difference between hard and soft light and how to use various light sources to achieve the mood you are after. This is a digital photography workshop, which will include enhancing your portraits with basic adjustments in Lightroom/Photoshop. All levels. Code S03P

 

Register here for this workshop

 

Mark Tucker is a portrait and advertising photographer. His clients have included Amtrak, Jack Daniels, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Harper Collins, Penguin Books, Alabama Tourism, Colonial Williamsburg, and many others. He is represented by MergeLeft Reps (NY). He documents his portrait-making adventures on Instagram and Tumblr.

 
 

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Form Focus with David Eichelberger

 

The concept embodied in a jar, a bowl, or any vessel for containment is, at its root, about generating a special place for something specific. The immediate connection someone has with a container regards its use. When we conjure an idea about using a container, we are practicing a basic ordering of our environment.  By selecting a particular something to live inside that place, we act in harmony with our desire, as human beings, to recognize patterns and order in the world.

Drawn objects on my work act on the same principle as their parent vessels–a desire for order–but through a different avenue. Just as we are quick to create uses for a container, we are quick to create narratives when given a set of props. Entire, elaborate stories blossom nearly instantly in our minds from the simplest of starts. I am interested in acknowledging Order by offering a setting for it to occur in a vessel, and by recognizing it in our need for Story, developed through imagery.David Eichelberger

 

 

David Eichelberger, platter: bird and kites, earthenware, sgraffito, 3 x 19 x 12 inches
David Eichelberger, platter: bird
and kites, earthenware, sgraffito,
3 x 19 x 12 inches

David Eichelberger
Form Focus
In the clay studio
In this workshop we’ll slow down and approach handbuilding in a way that will make every pinch count. Ideas will start with functional forms and grow from there. Techniques will include slab, coil, and pinching methods, bisque and plaster molds, and a variety of surfaces and finishes such as terra sigillata, sgraffito, and laser print decals. We’ll use earthenware clay and explore various firing possibilities. With the help of visiting artists and discussions, this studio immersion will be about ideas and how to realize them in clay. All levels, although some experience with wheelthrowing or handbuilding will be helpful.

In addition to simple laser-printed decals, students in David’s workshop will create, as a class, a silk-screened series of low-fire china paint decals in coordination with resources in Penland’s printmaking studio.

Students will also observe and pitch in, if they choose, on a slipcasting project generating molds and mugs led by David Eichelberger’s wife, artist Elisa Di Feo–but the main focus of Form Focus will be on handbuilding.

 

To find out more and register for this workshop click here.
Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.

Please note: applications need to be at Penland by this date to be considered for scholarship. Overnight service may not deliver to Penland’s campus on time, please plan accordingly.

 

 

David Eichelberger is a resident artist at Penland School of Crafts. He has taught workshops at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Appalachian Center for Craft (TN) in addition to Penland. He has been a resident at Energy Xchange (NC) and the Appalachian Center for Craft. His exhibitions include Santa Fe Clay, Ferrin Gallery (MA), The Clay Studio (Philadelphia) and AKAR Design Gallery (IA), among others.

For the third time recently, David listened to the BBC program A History of the World in 100 Objects, and it continues to amaze him to think of how rich objects can be with information.

 

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Make Do with What You Have, Take What You Can Get: Woodworking with Tom Shields

 

I don’t draw something and then go find a pile of wood and build it.
I find the pile of wood, respond to that pile of wood,
and then make something based on what’s there
.”
Tom Shields

 

Found wood and one’s attention to it as inspiration for design will be at the core of Penland resident artist Tom Shields’s spring woodworking workshop. “Patinas, nail holes, rot in an old piece of wood–all of these can be springboards into what gets made,” says Tom.

 

Tom Shields in the studio
Tom Shields in the studio

Along with covering traditional woodworking techniques, the eight-week workshop will veer to embrace the nontraditional. Conversations about idea and content will be generated by activity in the workshop. For example, the first project: Shields’s students will all be asked to bring a loved object with them to Penland. Then, they will create a cabinet for the object. The function and design of the cabinet will be up to the maker: would you build something to hide, display, or protect your object?

 

 

Tom Shields, Same on the Inside, railroad tie, cherry, 11 x 8 x 38 inches
Tom Shields, Same on the Inside, railroad tie,
cherry, 11 x 8 x 38 inches

Tom Shields – Make Do with What You Have, Take What You Can Get

March 9-May 2, 2014

In the wood studio

Want to learn woodworking while giving new life to discarded wood? We’ll spend time learning where to find recycled wood: the dump, junk stores, dumpsters, the woods. Then we’ll make sculptural, functional, and furniture pieces from any kind of wood object, applying traditional woodworking techniques and joinery to nontraditional materials. We’ll also use some new lumber to fabricate elements as needed. Both hand and power tools will be used as we incorporate woodworking and trash into the same vocabulary. The workshop will also cover sharpening, the proper use of tools, and safety. All levels.

 

To find out more and register for this workshop click here.
Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.
Please note: applications need to be at Penland by this date to be considered for scholarship. Overnight service may not deliver to Penland’s campus on time, please plan accordingly.

 

Making something with what’s available in the world–and wholly rejecting the capitalist enterprise that tries to commodify it–was intrinsic to the punk movement of the 1970s and 80s and to Tom Shields’s own emergence in craft. Punk’s restless creative ethos is part of his philosophy of teaching today–with an emphasis on an open invitation to anyone to take and make, dispelling the cliché of “punk” as a closed zone of angst or aggression.

Tom Shields’s students will take their own DIY impulse into time and materials, while also picking up some incomparable experiences. Timber framer Raivo Vihman will be the studio assistant–he’ll be demonstrating large-scale timber framing and joinery. Annie Evelyn will also visit to demonstrate techniques in upholstery. Bob Biddlestone will cover router jigs, fixtures, and talk about applying woodworking techniques to other materials.

 

“I definitely like to teach people how to do just about everything with as little as possible. If you have a chisel, a block plane, a hand drill, and a Japanese saw, you can build just about anything.”

 

 

Tom Shields is a resident artist at Penland School of Crafts. He has taught previously at Penland and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. His exhibitions include Blue Spiral 1 (NC) and the North Carolina Museum of Art. His work is part of collections at Decordova Museum (MA), Gregg Museum (NC), University of Arkansas, and the North Carolina Museum of Art, among others.

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Moving Pictures: Animated Letterpress with Rory Sparks

rorysparks

 

Oregon-based book artist Rory Sparks will teach an eight-week concentration in animated letterpress at Penland this spring. Rory cites the useless machines of Bruno Munari and Marcel Duchamp’s film Anémic Cinéma as two sources of inspiration for the workshop. Below, she talks more about why these two artists and works animate her thinking about motion and letterpress.

 

 

 

 

“As a bookbinder, I’m often thinking about how text is read, and how the experience and act of reading can change with movement and environment. To me, Munari’s useless machines reference words in a graphic way. Sentences, or poems floating in three dimensional space. Here is my favorite useless machine (Maccine Inutilli):

Bruno Munari, Maccine Inutilli, via instenseminimalism.com
Bruno Munari, Maccine Inutilli, via instenseminimalism.com

 

 

 

Marcel Duchamp, Disques Avec Spirales (Rotorelief), via mfranck.com
Marcel Duchamp, Disques Avec Spirales (Rotorelief), via mfranck.com

“In Duchamp’s Anémic Cinéma, the optical illusions that are produced are incredible. Especially that moment when your brain clicks and your vision shifts, and you see the depth and protrusions within the illusion. But I’m actually more excited about the concept than anything–the idea behind the project–prints meant to be viewed in motion. I’m looking forward to exploring with my students what other types of imagery would be best viewed in motion.”

(At right: rotorelief discs that were placed on a record and filmed in Anémic Cinéma. Duchamp included this note: “The disc should turn at an approximate speed of 331/ 3 revolutions per minute, this will give an impression of depth, and the optical illusion will be more intense with one eye than with two!”)
 

 
Rory Sparks
Moving Pictures: Animated Letterpress
March 9-May 2, 2014
In the letterpress studio
Let’s get things moving! We’ll explore various methods of incorporating kinetic design and animation into our letterpress work, including flip books, thaumotropes, zoopraxiscopes, red/cyan 3d anaglyphs, mobiles, and combinations of all of the above. We’ll cover the fundamentals of letterpress including press operation, typesetting, and polymer plates, and we’ll use various low-tech methods for getting images onto paper. We’ll sharpen skills and employ the letterpress as a perfect modular system for stop-frame animation. Inspiration will come from Marcel Duchamp’s film, Anémic Cinéma, Bruno Munari’s useless machines, and, of course, Eadweard Muybridge. All levels.
 

To find out more and register for this workshop click here.
Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.
Please note: applications need to be at Penland by this date to be considered for scholarship. Overnight service may not deliver to Penland’s campus on time, please plan accordingly.

 

Rory Sparks, Live Specimen: 4 Line French Clarendon, thread, paper, letterpress-printed type
Rory Sparks, Live Specimen: 4 Line French
Clarendon, thread, paper, letterpress-printed type

Rory Sparks is a book artist and founder of Em Space Book Arts Center in Portland, Oregon, a membership-based studio. She specializes in letterpress printing and limited edition books for artists and photographers. She teaches at various institutions including Oregon College of Art and Craft, Pacific Northwest College of Art, and Em Space. She produced all three Orchard Editions for the Silas Finch Foundation, as well other projects and editions for them. In 2013, she was a master printer at Penland’s Winter Letterpress and Print Residency. Right now, she’s probably listening to Willy Mason sing “Talk Me Down.”

 

 

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Personal Cartography: Weaving with Robin Johnston

Robin Johnston, 143 Walnuts, handwoven cotton, 2013
Robin Johnston, 143 Walnuts, handwoven cotton, 2013

“Above all else show the data,” wrote Edward Tufte, the trailblazing philosopher of quantitative information and how humans present it. Weaver Robin Johnston takes Tufte to heart in her practice. One of Johnston’s recent woven works, above, involves hand-dyeing yarn by wrapping it around individual walnuts. If you look closely at the image above, you’ll see walnuts meticulously placed below the finished work.

Considering her taste for slow, mysterious processes, it might be no surprise that Johnston’s favorite music to listen to in the studio is “sort of melancholy Americana: slow, sad music. Gillian Welch, M. Ward, Iron & Wine, Billie Holiday.”

Johnston will teach an eight-week weaving workshop for all levels in spring 2014 with an exploration of processes in mind, inviting her students to come to the studio with their own ideas about personal patterns and the documentation of these patterns as sources for art making.

 

 

 

Robin Johnston, Full Worm Moon, handwoven and embroidered cotton
Robin Johnston, Full Worm Moon, handwoven and embroidered cotton

Robin Johnston – Personal Cartography
March 9-May 2, 2014
In the textiles studio

This workshop will use weaving to delve into students’ individual interpretations of mapmaking. We’ll explore basic weaving and dyeing techniques that lend themselves to charting, plotting, and coding information—including pattern weaves, inlay, tapestry, painted warps, and ikat dyeing. Through daily sketchbook exercises we’ll envision woven surfaces that emphasize color, pattern, image, and texture to create maps of all kinds. Whether we are describing geographic or conceptual spaces, we’ll apply personal cartography to the art of weaving. All levels. 

 

 

 

For more information about this workshop and registration information please click here.
Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.

 

 

 

robinjohnston
Photograph of Robin Johnston by gwendolyn yoppolo

Robin Johnston is currently a resident artist at Penland School of Crafts. Her work deals with measuring time, capturing moments as they pass, and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing. Information such as light, temperature and heart rate is collected and tracked during the making, creating real-time maps of her physical experience weaving.  The levels of translation involved in the charting and integration of various data into the woven structure add to the slowness of the process, illustrating a personal reaction to fast-paced society.  Since moving to the mountains of North Carolina, Robin has been researching colonial weave drafts commonly used in the early days of Lucy Morgan’s Penland Weavers.  She is combining these traditional woven patterns with data, such as sleep patterns and moon cycles, gathered from her daily life.