Posted on

A Quiet Hum of Activity

Although, like everyone else, we’re in a strange, in-between state at Penland right now, there is activity in our wonderful studios. Thanks to our productive core fellows and a limited program of studio rentals, things are still happening.

Here are a few of the people who have been animating our spaces the past few weeks.

Jennifer Schmidt in the letterpress studio

Jenn Schmidt filled the letterpress studio with hundreds of multi-colored prints for an upcoming project. Jenn is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives in Brooklyn and is the chair of print, paper, and graphic arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (Boston).

 

Erica Stanwytch Bailey in the Penland metals studio.

This is Erica Stanwytch Bailey, a jeweler from Asheville, working in the upper metals studio. Right now on her Instagram page, you can see a video of Erica talking shop with jeweler Anna Johnson, who will be teaching at Penland in May.

 

 

Tasha McKelvey in the Penland clay studio

Tasha McKelvey is a ceramic artist from Richmond, Virginia. She was in the upper clay studio making some production work: brightly colored, tiny houses.

 

maria fernanda nunez in the Penland iron studio

Core fellow Maria Fernanda Nuñez, a.k.a. Mo, makes evocative artwork in a number of different media. On this day, she was, very practically, making wedges for splitting wood.

 

Leslie Smith and Jean McLaughlin in the Penland print studio

Here in the print studio, safely distanced from each other, are Leslie Smith and Jean McLaughlin. Leslie is the director of graphics and textiles at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, NC. Jean was Penland’s director for 20 years. Lately she’s been spending a lot of time with ink and paper.

 

Chalkboard in the Penland wood studio.

And finally, here is some guidance for wood studio renters from our studio coordinator, Aspen Golann. Remember, you should only use the big belt sander between 7 and 11 with a buddy in the building, but you can make models and dream all night long!

The studio rental program, which is limited to people who have worked in our studios in some capacity in the past, has been extended to April 24. Complete information is here.

Posted on

Photo of the Week: From a Slab to a Head

Tomorrow, we’re marking a milestone in our new online programming initiative—our first live event! Renowned ceramic sculptor and instructor Cristina Córdova will hold a live Q&A session over Zoom for participants in her online demo, A Simplified Way to Make a Hollow Head. Cristina’s demo is a remarkable distillation of years of her own learning and discovery in the studio, and we’re thrilled to offer participants a direct window into her practice.

Here’s a quick look at Cristina’s transformative abilities with clay in three images. Each of these shots is a frame taken directly from Cristina’s hour-long demo.

3 minutes in—forming a flat slab into a hollow cylinder for the beginnings of the head

Cristina forming a clay slab into the beginnings of a head

 

20 minutes in—using proportions as guides to establish the facial features

Cristina refining the features of her sculpted head

 

55 minutes in—experimenting with gesture before attaching the head to the neck

Cristina playing with gesture with her nearly completed head and neck

 

Intrigued? Register to take part in the demo! But hurry, you’ll need to sign up before 1 PM tomorrow, January 23 to join the Q&A.

For more about Cristina’s process and the way teaching and making blend in her practice, watch this short video visit with her!

Posted on

Penland Everywhere: Online Programming Coming this Winter

We’ve been holding this one in for a long time, and we’re thrilled to finally be able to announce: Penland is going online!

We are planning a series of online programming for you, including online demonstrations with Q&A sessions and immersive online workshops. Our goal is to give students who have never been to Penland an opportunity to experience our unique approach to teaching and learning in community and to give past students a chance to reconnect with the familiar rhythms and spaces of time at Penland. You’ll be able to enjoy the same studios, same expert instruction, and same generous and engaged peers—now in a new format that makes the Penland experience more accessible than ever!

We are not developing these online programs as stand-ins for our on-campus workshops. Rather, they are a way to seize this moment and bring the skill, creativity, inspiration, energy, and focus of a Penland session right to you. Wherever you are in the world, and wherever you are in your artistic journey, we hope you’ll join us to go a little deeper with Penland Everywhere.

Our first demonstrations and workshops will be available in January. Subscribe to Penland newsletters and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get the details as we release them.

 

This project is funded in part by a grant from South Arts with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

Posted on

Dorothy Gill Barnes: Material Poet

 

Dorothy Gill Barnes working with bark
Photos by Tim Johnson

Penland was saddened by loss of fiber artist, wood sculptor, and teacher Dorothy Gill Barnes, who died on December 2 at age 93 after a short battle with COVID-19. As an artist, Dorothy’s consistent points of reference were the methods and materials of basketry. Working with natural materials that she harvested herself, she created beautiful, soulful, innovative forms and textures. She was also a beloved and generous teacher of workshops, include many at Penland. She continued to teach well into her 80s and amazed her students with her energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. She wanted students to be intimate with their materials, and her workshops were built around harvesting trips—always being mindful of what could be taken without damaging the local ecology.

work by dorothy gill barnes

Dorothy was a fellow of the American Craft Council and a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, and the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin.

In 2013, she was honored as Penland’s Outstanding Artist Educator. In that year’s auction catalog, writer and artist Eva Tuschman, who was in Dorothy’s 2010 Penland workshop, wrote this: “Just as a bird gathers fibers to build its nest, or bees instinctually know the patterns to construct their hives, Dorothy’s relationship to natural materials, from harvesting bark to weaving it into sculptural baskets, seems entirely intuitive. Dorothy was born to be a maker. Her life’s work embodies an expression of reverence for the natural world—its forms and textures, an ongoing dialogue with its lines and structures. One could say Dorothy is the Mary Oliver of the craft world: a poet whose words take the form of bark curling off a limb, or the gentle shaping of tree skin around a stone. Each piece is a poem, an object that invites us to pause and settle our attention, with delight and gratitude for what her hands have touched.”

You can read Dorothy’s obituary here. The American Craft Council has a beautiful page about her with more pictures of her work. And there is an extensive oral history interview on the website of the Archives of American Art.

UPDATE 12/18: The New York Times just posted an article about Dorothy as part of their series on people we’ve lost to COVID-19.

work by Dorothy Gill Barnes
Dorothy Gill Barnes, Found Underground, mulberry root, 15 x 24 x 14 inches; collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Posted on

Staff Lunch: Kitchen Research

Penland kitchen staff preparing to-go lunches

This is Penland kitchen mavens Chad Mohr and Day Dotson filling to-go boxes with tasty lunches of burgers, fries, coleslaw, and fixings (vegetarian option available!). For several months, the kitchen staff has been making take-out lunch or supper available to the rest of the staff once or twice a week.

This is been a welcome development for everyone getting the meals, but what’s really going on is that the folks in the kitchen are working out methods for putting together a lot of take-out meals efficiently, which is what they will have to do when we welcome students back to campus. It’s going to be all take-out, all the time for a while.

This is just one of the ways our staff has been planning and preparing to bring back our workshop program–safely!

 

Posted on

Birds-Eye View

Floor plan of the Penland wood studio
Coordinator Aspen Golann’s floor plan of the Penland wood studio.

As Penland begins to make plans for workshops in 2021, we are thinking about many things in a new way. Among the questions we have to answer are basic ones like how many people can we safely accommodate in each studio?

This particular question is not simple, as each studio layout is different and so are the activities that happen in them. Solving this involves, among other things, cartography. To figure out how many people can safely work together in a given space using particular equipment, it helps to start with a carefully-drawn map of the space, the furniture, and the equipment.

Floor plan of the Penland print and letterpress studios
Coordinator Adam Leestma’s floor plan of the letterpress and print studios.

So, Amanda Simons, Penland’s studio operations manager, gave our studio coordinators a crash course in Adobe Illustrator, a widely-used graphic design program. The coordinators then carefully measured their studios and their contents and constructed these beautiful floor plans that can be manipulated to try different layouts. Each circle represents a person with a safe space around them. By arranging and rearranging the elements in these birds-eye diagrams, the coordinators can arrive at a COVID-conscious number for how many people can work safely in each space.

floor tape marking each student's work space in the Penland drawing and painting studio
Tape lines in the drawing and painting studio marking each student’s work area.

Meanwhile, other people on staff are rethinking our housing and developing plans for serving food. And the studios are retooling to facilitate socially distanced teaching—including installing video equipment so students can follow detailed demonstrations on a screen instead of huddling together.

We like to say that, along with teaching craft skills, Penland teaches creative problem-solving, and this pandemic is challenging us to practice it ourselves, in every part of our operation.

Posted on

Your Penland, Your Words

three images of Penland with the "We Make Penland" logo

Last month, as we celebrated our 4th annual Penland Giving Day with all of you, there was a sentiment we repeated over and over: We Make Penland.

We chose that phrase as the foundation of our campaign for a few reasons—its sense of continual action, the nod to creativity and craft inherent in the word “make,” but mostly the reference to community in the word “we.”

Penland is about people. It’s about the people who come to teach and share their knowledge. It’s about the people who bring fresh ideas and energy to the studios. It’s about the people who work every day to make sure that Penland can continue to deliver its creative programming. It’s about the people who explore and learn and grow in the studios and inspire others to do the same. In short, it’s about all of us—all of you.

As a way to celebrate this community and all of you who make it so rich, we wanted to share some of your #WeMakePenland stories. The quotes below are just a handful of the 250+ posts that you shared during Penland’s Giving Day this year. Each one illuminates a different facet about time at Penland and what it means to share it with this creative community of likeminded folks.

Three Penland staff members with "We Make Penland" postcards

In that first week there a revolution happened inside of me, liberating my vision and creative voice and showing me a life I hadn’t been sure was possible. —Susan

The people make Penland … well OK, the setting, the classes, the staff, the food, AND THE PEOPLE make Penland. —Mary

Penland changed my life—When I first moved to this area it was to learn to make pots from the amazing potters surrounding the school. What I found was finally feeling accepted as a maker and a human. These are my people!! —Courtney

My first time at Penland I was only 21 way back in 1988. It immediately changed my vision of what craft could be… Penland is imprinted on my soul. Such a powerful place to learn and share. —David

Penland gave me the confidence to pursue my passion for ceramics, taught me that true friendships can be made in minutes, and to trust myself both in the studio and out in the “real world.” —Alissa

Penland is a MAGICAL PLACE. There is so much creativity, camaraderie, and joy in a beautiful natural setting with the best-equipped studios open 24/7, delicious food, and much more. But most of all, Penland is about the PEOPLE, the special gathering of like-minded souls who come together to make art and community and leave with life-long friendships and a renewed faith in the world. Penland will always hold a special place in my heart. —Sharon

Penland reminds me what it means to be human, to connect through my heart and hands, to share, to laugh and to make. —Mary

When I think about places and experiences that have had the greatest impact on my life, Penland School of Craft is at the top of the list. During my two years as a core fellow, the trajectory of my life and career came into focus. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the skills I learned, the relationships I formed, and the encouragement and support that pours out of this magical place. —Rachel

Thank you, friends, for your love and commitment to the Penland community. We are so grateful for each and every one of you. WE MAKE PENLAND, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want even more #WeMakePenland stories? Here’s a roundup from last year and another from 2018. Enjoy!