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Artists talk about “Generosity of Spirit”

Generosity of Spirit: The Gifts of Penland Artists, an exhibition of contemporary ceramics, jewelry, and metalwork by 68 artists affiliated with Penland School of Crafts at Signature Gallery in Atlanta, opens Friday, February 10. Work in this show has been donated, and proceeds will support a new scholarship fund for clay and metals students at Penland School of Crafts. We asked some of the artists in the exhibition to share why they chose to give their work…

Becky Gray:

Becky Gray ceramics
(L to R) Becky Gray in her studio; "Protector (Saint Christopher)" and "Guardian (Saint Francis)," reduced stoneware

“I am very excited to have this opportunity to give back to Penland, a school which started me on this long good road of devotion to craft and clay. I was first introduced to ceramics at age five. My mother taught me to make a small human figure and I loved  working with clay immediately. It was magical to me as a child. But as I grew older there were no opportunities to study ceramics, and that special private world became tangled with the concerns of growing up, and was gradually forgotten. But then…the summer after I graduated from college with a degree in art, Penland happened!  I enrolled, by chance, in a ceramic sculpture session with Tom Suomalainen. Excellent, inspiring instruction, combined with the total immersion of studying at Penland re-connected me with the love of clay I felt as a child, but showed me that it could be an adult passion as well as a fulfilling career. Then and there, I embarked on the long journey of devotion to clay, and the messages one can share through ceramic art. I have always been thankful to Penland for giving me the early experiences which totally changed my life.”

Click here to visit Becky’s website.


Nancy Megan Corwin:

Nancy Megan Corwin jewlery
(L to R) Nancy Megan Corwin in her studio; "Ancient and Coral," petrified dinosaur bone, sterling silver, yellow gold

“I work alone in my studio for days at a time. At Penland, I am able to share my passion for making art through exciting and soul satisfying conversations, constant creative energy, and the inspiring artwork being produced every day. It is a wonderful place for students and professionals to mix, find common ground and refresh their artistic visions.”

Click here to visit Nancy Megan’s website.


Tom McCarthy:

Tom McCarthy jewelry
(L to R) Tom McCarthy at his bench; "Jan Necklace," rubber, sterling, pearl

“Why Penland? I wouldn’t be a jeweler today if I hadn’t taken a concentration class in 1983. Two years as a Core fellow (1984-1986) was my apprenticeship. Penland was my first teaching gig when I got to “pinch hit” for a concentration in 1987. I’ve enjoyed teaching there ever since. It is like coming full circle and always like coming home. ”

Click here to visit Tom’s website.


Gay Smith:

Gay Smith ceramics
(L to R) Gay tending her kiln; "Tall Vase," porcelain

“Penland school continues as a major influence in my life as an artist. I’ve been privileged to be studio assistant, studio coordinator, resident artist, and teacher at Penland. I settled near Penland in 1994, and this fall, I am honored to become a Penland board member. Because of Penland, there’s a strong community of artists making excellent and innovative work. Penland offers educational opportunities that nourish artistic growth and excellence; exposure to the work and the artists who come for learning and teaching enriches my work and my life tremendously. Beauty, creativity, and generosity are nurtured here; what a great benefit.”

Click here to visit Gay’s website.

The exhibition runs from February 10 – March 15, with an opening reception Friday, February 10, 6-8pm, and Artist Gallery Talks on Saturday, February 11, 2-4pm with artists Nicholas Joerling and Angela Bubash, and Saturday, February 18, 2-4pm, with artists Julia Woodman and Gay Smith. For more information, click here.

Work in Generosity of Spirit is also available for viewing and purchase in an online gallery at

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January/February Moon Journals

“Close your eyes and imagine the night sky. Are you camping by a river, snug in your bed with the sheets pulled high, drinking hot cocoa by the wood burning stove? The howl of a barn owl is in the background, or is it a coyote under a full moon? Are the rhododendrons blooming, or is it snowing,” asks Meg Peterson, teaching artist for the Penland School of Crafts Community Collaboration program. This is one of many exercises Meg uses to help third grade students in Mitchell County, North Carolina, connect art and imagination with science in their community.

Penland Teaching Artist
Penland teaching artist Meg Peterson and students

Penland School of Crafts’s Community Collaboration program works in close coordination with Mitchell County Public School teachers and principals to provide curriculum-integrated arts opportunities to over 500 rurally-based, under-served students in the Appalachian region each year. The experiential arts program teaches new artistic skills and means of expression and supports students and their teachers and principals by engaging multiple learning styles, helping fulfill the NC Standard Course of Study, and enriching school culture by promoting confidence and self-esteem among students of all backgrounds. “Studies are finding… using art as a teaching tool helps students learn, makes them more creative and improves their overall success in school,” writes T.S. Donahoe of Artsee magazine.

Currently, third grade students are completing their Moon Journal projects with the close of the January/February moon cycle. The Moon Journals help third graders learn astronomy by making meaningful connections through art with the world around them. Not only do students paint, fold, bind, illustrate, and write in journals handmade from scratch, but they persistently record scientific observations about the moon each night for an entire lunar period. “It was hard to learn so many facts about the moon – before this project I never really paid attention,” commented a 3rdgrade student about the Moon Journal project.

Penland Community Collaboration Moon Journal
Students draw and write in their journal about what they experience each night of the moon’s cycle. Along the way, students notice weather, colors, constellations, sounds, animals, and special events each day.

One goal of the project is to develop a supportive community of discovery. Within the classroom students help other students overcome difficult steps in the bookmaking process. They also share their ideas and observations about the moon with the class. Even the teachers get involved working side by side with students to make their own Moon Journal project. One 3rd grade teacher commented, “I was surprised by how healing doing the collage was. I started out really stressed out and calmed down while working on my collage. I was okay for the rest of the day.” Outside the classroom assignments bring the whole family together in observation and connection with the moon and the outdoors.

Penland School of Crafts is incredibly thankful for local support and involvement over the years and hopes that this and other Community Collaboration programs will serve to give back to the community.

Click here for more information about Penland’s Community Collaboration programs.