Susan Leveille

2017 Penland Benefit Auction Centerpiece Artist


Our home was always welcoming to all family and friends, whether they just wanted to visit a while on the porch or they needed a place to live for a while. We knew most of our relatives, including Aunt Lucy, and thus we knew about her Penland School of Crafts. My Dad and many of the other relatives had spent time at Penland. We spent time there in the summers, as my Dad’s sister had built Heavens Above as a summer home.

At my request arrangements had been made and I was allowed, as a young girl, to take a one-week weaving class at Penland to learn to set up the loom. I was already skilled at passing the shuttle, but I was determined to do well and learn all that I could. I was terrified of Colonel Fishback, who was in charge of the weaving studio at the time. I am sure he was a very nice man, but I had never been around the military before, he wore his khakis every day and spoke in a tone that was not to be questioned. Of course, the Army way was the only way in his mind. But that discipline was just the thing this young girl needed to solidify her journey to becoming a weaver. And to be in a large room full of others working at different projects on all of those looms, it was magical. I will never forget one woman, who I think must have been an assistant to the Colonel, weaving with two shuttles to make a slit in the fabric for a poncho-type garment. That set my imagination whirling—there must be all kinds of things you could do when you weave your own cloth.

I must have behaved well enough as the privileged child in an otherwise adult-only class because I was allowed to stay a second week. I would get to set the loom up for a second time, and I imaged weaving a rug for beside my bed at home. But I wanted it to be unusual. My Uncle John helped draw out the image I had in my head, the lady in the studio helped me locate a weave structure that would work for the design, and I left that second week with an asymmetric rug that I was so proud of.

As an adult, as I have gotten to know Penland, I can see that much of what excited me as a child is still what draws people to the school today to study and teach. The instruction is solid, the sharing is everywhere, and there is a magic that inspires one to accomplish so much more than they ever thought possible. The campus is truly a bit of God’s country, and you can’t help but be inspired to create in such a beautiful setting. What an incredible place Penland School of Crafts was, is, and will be in the future.