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2011 Penland School of Crafts Ornament of the Year

2011 Penland ornament

This is the third in our series of annual Penland School of Crafts ornaments. In 2009 we began our tradition of an ornament of the year. We hope each of these ornaments captures a bit of the spirit of creativity that lives at Penland throughout the year.

Penland School of Crafts 2011 Ornament

Created by Lucy Dierks

Lucy Dierks is a full time studio artist who has been working with ceramics since 1997. She was a ceramics concentration student at Penland in 2003 and her work has been flying out of the Penland Gallery since 2004.  Her studio is in Norfolk, VA, but she also spends some quality time at a mountain hideaway in North Carolina.

You can visit Lucy’s website by clicking here

2011 Penland ornament

“My pieces express my delight with nature and like nature; I want them to reflect a harmony of form, surface, and purpose. I strive to make small intimate pieces whose design and texture invite you to hold them. There is something about birds that speaks to me. The contradictory aspects of their bodies intrigue me. I find the exquisite detail of their claws and the patterning of their feathers very satisfying. I perch them on my containers to encourage contemplation and conversation. Currently I work solely in porcelain and mix my own glazes. I am fascinated with creating surfaces that mimic nature such as lichen, stones, or tree bark. Many of my pieces are designed as flower containers and are intended to reflect and compliment the natural environment they inhabit.”

2011 Penland ornament

Chickadee, Bluebird, and Thrush
Hand-built porcelain
2.5 – 2.75” high by 1.5” deep x 2” wide, 3.25” high including ribbon
Each native North Carolina bird is unique and varies a bit in size and shape.
$50 each, plus tax when applicable, includes gift box
Shipping is via USPS, $5.50 for a single bird (shipping cost adjusted for multiple birds).

To order:
Please call the gallery at 828-765-6211 or email
We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.
You may also purchase a bird in person at the Penland Gallery.

2011 Penland ornament

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Pierce Freelon: In the Spoken Word Studio

Pierce Frelon

Pierce Freelon, musician, educator, poet, and activist, will perform a specially-commissioned spoken word piece at this year’s annual benefit auction in August. In preparation, he recently spent a few days up on the mountain, exploring the studios, meeting students and staff, and taking in the mission and atmosphere of the place. It seems he did quite a bit of writing as well. Before he left, we sat down to talk about his impressions of Penland.

Tell us about yourself and your work. What brought you here to Penland?
I am a MC, an educator, and I am in a hip hop and jazz band called The Beast. I’m the griot, or the MC, or the rapper, or poet, or spoken word artist; however you want to define it, I’m the voice of that group. We’re based out of Durham, NC. I’m also an educator. I studied African American Studies and Pan African Studies for my master’s degree, and I’ve traveled around the world doing music-related education and community activism projects. I met (Penland’s director) Jean McLaughlin at an education and innovation forum in Raleigh. I was there with The Beast, and we were giving a presentation about education and creative innovation through the arts; it was a spoken word piece with a video montage behind it. Jean asked me if I would write a piece about Penland. So we came up here and played a show, which was awesome, but I only got a glimpse of the school. I got to poke my head into a couple of studios and see just a sliver of what was happening here; I met some of the resident artists, and that was really great. We decided after that visit that I would  come back for an extended stay and do some real research for the piece.

How has the research been going?
Really well. I came with an open mind and a clean canvas, and I’ve been interacting with a lot of beautiful people and a lot of beautiful art, and it’s been inspiring. I’ve exceeded my own expectations for the pieces, in terms of how quickly they’re coming together and the quality of the content. I didn’t realize this was one of the sayings of the school until after I’d said that to Jean and she said, “Oh, did you get that phrase from our mission statement?”

“It is a place where people often exceed their own expectations.”
I hadn’t read that. Certainly, without having been aware of that, I’ve felt it. I guess that’s part of the nature of this place – exceeding expectations, awesome creativity, and collaborative expression.

Have you found a favorite medium or studio?
Glassblowing. Oh my goodness, it’s so amazing, partially because it’s so foreign. You interact with glass on a daily basis; it’s in your windows, it’s in your cups, it’s in your car. I’ve never really gotten behind the scenes before to see what goes into creating these things that we use every day. That’s the case for everything around the school – chairs, books, everything. Everything is made by people’s hands here, which is really interesting, but glassblowing…. As a wordsmith, I find a lot of possibilities in glass, from the furnace to the robes that the artisans wear. It’s just such an interesting thing; it comes from melted sand, and it’s fascinating.

Obviously, you’ve been hard at work on expressing these ideas in your poetry. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share conversationally about art and education?
I think it’s so important for people to stretch their creative limbs, and to try different things, and to put themselves in uncomfortable places and new contexts. It’s valuable to your quality of life that you engage in these kinds of things, and you can see it here. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re coming from in life. One man, a banker, ended up in one of my poems when he told me that he quit “moving money and owning stocks to mold clay and throw pots.” There are a lot of older people here who are still finding ways to challenge themselves. One lady, who said she’d been coming here for over 40 years, told me she wanted to set up something with the AARP so they could bring more senior citizens to a place like this. When you think about that…. You’re enhancing your quality of life – that’s an important thing for the individual – but you’re also creating something that can be utilized by the community. It’s simultaneously important for the individual spirit, and for a sense of collective responsibility when you create something that can be used by other people or appreciated in an art gallery. I think that is so important for us, connecting as individuals, and for our education. You never want to stop learning. That’s why we’re here on this earth, in my opinion, to learn and to share.

Now that you’ve done some research, how are you feeling about the piece you’re writing for the auction?
The auction is going to be great. I’m really proud of the work I’ve produced, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of sculpting this verse into a powerful piece. The performance at the auction is going to be cool, but beyond that, it’s been a valuable experience for me to share with the people on this campus and to write. It’s like I’m in my own Penland session, enhancing my craft as a wordsmith and an MC.

Like you’re in the spoken word studio?
Exactly, and it’s been great. The auction piece is great, and that’s going to be terrific, but today I’m even more excited about my own personal development and the ability to share with the students on campus now and in the future. I’d love to see some sort of poet or spoken word artist-in-residence here. The possibilities for collaboration are amazing.

Stay tuned! We’ll be posting a preview of Pierce’s auction piece soon.

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An excellent idea

There’s a nice interview with glass artist Brad Copping, the outgoing president of the Glass Art Association of Canada, on the association’s Facebook page. Brad talks about his work, his education, and his sources of inspiration. He also makes this comment:

“When my partner Sue Rankin and I moved out of the city to start our own studio we made a pact that each year one of us would go out and take a summer course, usually at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, or at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, in order to stay fresh and inspired with our studio practices and to broaden our network of peers.  This form of education has proved the most rewarding, as the opportunities that have come from this are many.”

We think that’s an excellent idea.

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Toe River Studio Tour This Weekend

Toe River Arts Council

Every year the high country of western North Carolina beckons to new visitors to come take the Toe River Arts Council’s popular FREE and self-guided tour of artists’ studios and galleries. Folks from all over the United States and even overseas make a pilgrimage to seek and buy art right at its creative source, a tradition that started more than 18 years ago when a small group of emerging artists decided to open their studios for a weekend holiday sale. That little tour has grown into a major event. Twice a year hundreds of craft lovers come to the scenic mountain communities of Mitchell and Yancey counties to enjoy the Toe River Studio Tour.

The next Studio Tour takes place this weekend, June 10-12, 2011. Tour participants will have a chance to meet with local artists at  a reception on the Friday at the Spruce Pine TRAC Gallery from 5 to 7 pm, where an exhibition of all Tour participants is on display. Pouring over the maps of the tour, the visitor may decide to add one or two new artists to the list of old favorites. With their itineraries planned, they head for the hills, keeping their eyes open for the red and white signs that studios and galleries post by the roadside to guide and welcome them. June Tour hours are noon to 4 on Friday, and 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The TRAC tour is a fantastic opportunity to check out all the amazing creative work that goes on here in the neighborhood. For more information, visit

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“Through the Years: Penland Ceramic Artists” at 18 Hands Gallery

Through the Years at 18 Hands Gallery

Opening Saturday, June 4th at 18 Hands Gallery in Houston, Texas, Through the Years: Penland Ceramic Artists showcases the work of more than 45 contemporary clay artists with ties to Penland School of Crafts. The exhibition, envisioned by curator, well-known ceramic artist and Penland alumnus, Malcolm Davis and one of 18 Hand Gallery’s owners, Karen Cruce, will raise funds to help ceramic students studying at Penland. 10% of all sales will be donated to Penland School of Crafts, and participating artists will make additional donations from their take of sales. “Every generation of ceramic artists has a responsibility to assure that this art form stays alive,” emphasizes creator Karen Cruce. “Funding anything from studio fees to full scholarships will guarantee that future generations will know the satisfaction of working in clay.” Through the Years will be on view at 18 hands from June 4 – July 3, 2011, with an opening reception Saturday, June 4th, from 6-9 PM.

Participating artists:

Stan Andersen, Posey Bacopoulos, Alice Ballard, Joe Bova, John Britt, Brooke Cassady, Sam Chung, Bede Clarke, Michel Conroy, Malcolm Davis, Judith Duff, Dan Finnegan, Terry Gess, Scott Goldberg, Sarah Heimann, Linda Hillman, Michael Hunt & Naomi Dalglish, Shawn Ireland, Nick Joerling, Matt Kelleher, Gail Kendall, Kristen Kieffer, Kathy King, Michael Kline, Suze Lindsay, Linda McFarling, Kent McLaughlin, Laura Jean McLaughlin, Ron Meyers, Shane Mickey, Marsha Owen, Winnie Owens-Hart, Neil Patterson, Sandi Pierantozzi, Ronan Kyle Peterson, Rob Pulleyn, Beth Rohman, Annie Schliffer, Joann Schnabel, Ken Sedberry, Jenny Lou Sherburne, Joe Singewald, Gay Smith, McKenzie Smith, Tom Spleth, Shoko Teruyama, Jerilyn Virden, Holly Walker, Paul Andrew Wandless, Lana Wilson

18 Hands Gallery
249 W 19th Street
Houston, TX 77008

We’re so very grateful to Malcolm and Karen, the participating artists, and all at 18 Hands for their effort and generosity. Many thanks!