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Focus on: Charity Hall

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is pleased to present its sixth Focus exhibition of the year, Tangere, a new suite of  wearable artworks by Tucson, Arizona-based artist Charity Hall. This show is open to the public in the Focus Gallery from Friday, August 31st through Sunday, September 30th.


“Lumenorbis” brooch; bronze, brass, copper, enamel

Lumenorbis, literally meaning ‘light of the world,’ examines the complex microcosm of a tiny foreign organism.  Thousands of minute creatures remain elusive, completely unknown to science. They survive in specialized niches within the depths of deep sea vents, crevasses, or even in plain slight and will flourish or perish, irrespective of our awareness. The enamel in this piece glows in the dark.”


“Metallodesmus Trigintaduopes” ring; bronze, copper, brass

“A millipede crawling upon your hand feels halfway between barely noticeable and lightly tickling. You can feel the overall sensation of movement, but not the individual legs so delicately fragile on your callused hand. But if you existed on the same scale as a millipede and had it walking upon you, I imagine it would feel quite differently; its legs formidable, with the tips digging as it marches doggedly along.”


“Virilis” brooch; silver, copper, brass, pink sapphires

“In this body of work, I am using copper, brass, bronze, and silver along with a variety of tiny semi-precious gemstones.  The appendage-like protrusions are made individually out of brass wire, and each ‘segment’ is cut with a jeweler’s saw.  Some of the pieces glow in the dark, which is accomplished by a special firing process of fusing glow powder with enamel. This exploratory work examines tactility from the perspective of minute organisms, from radiolarians to millipedes. Tiny creatures experience and palpably digest their environment using an arsenal of appendages: antennae, flagella, legs, and tentacles. The dogged march of a millipede, the rhythmic undulation of feeding tentacles, and the quivering antennae of a lacewing each relay segments of information mechanistically necessary for survival. Although I’ve never studied entomology, I have always been an avid bug enthusiast and am fascinated by the intricate textural and mechanical details of invertebrates.  I married an entomologist, and we spend time in the field collecting millipedes in California and in the Appalachians.  We recently began keeping live millipedes, and it is fascinating to watch their rhythmic movements as they walk about.”

Charity Hall is a metalsmith and enamelist with a background in biology. She has a B.A. in  botany and conservation biology from Colorado College, where she also took jewelry classes with Dindy Reich. After college, she worked as a biological surveyor and as a botanist for the U.S. Forest Service before pursuing graduate studies in Quaternary Sciences (paleobotany). After taking a ring-making workshop at Penland, where she met many working artists, Charity knew she wanted to become a metalsmith. She left her graduate program in the sciences to pursue an M.F.A., which she received from East Carolina University in 2008.

You can click here to visit Charity’s website, where you can see more of her work.

You can click here to visit the Penland Gallery website.

Penland’s Focus Gallery is a space primarily dedicated to single-artist exhibitions. Focusing on individual artists over the course of the year, it presents a larger selection of their work to gallery visitors and patrons.

You can click here for more information about Focus Gallery artists.


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Penlanders: Eric Steenlage

Eric Steenlage at Penland
Eric with an iron tree he made in his sixth-session workshop, “By Any Means Necessary.”

Eric Steenlage, an orthopedic surgeon from Atlanta, Georgia, represents a great fusion of multiple interests in handwork. Trained as a metalworker, then as a doctor, he’s developed both skill sets in parallel, and occasionally in tandem. His instructor Jon Shearin relates that in their class slide show, Erik showed complex metal armatures he’s designed and constructed to aid in surgery, and offered to share a prototype he’s developing from an orthopedic surgical clamp, modified to ease the difficulty of holding multiple pieces in place when forging complicated ironworks.

“Due to some family situations, I ended up dropping out of school when I was pretty young. I went to welding school when I was 16, and worked in construction – a lot of metal work, driving truck, pouring concrete, a lot of different things. I didn’t do anything artistic, but I built some trailers, did metal work for structures and buildings. It was hard enough work that it definitely motivated me to go back to school. So I eventually got my GED, then went to college, and decided to go into medicine. I went to medical school and kind of left all the metalworking stuff behind. I was always interested in artistic stuff, but I felt that with my background, I needed something a little safer, a little more predictable than trying to make a living as an artist. Then in my last year of medical school, I met a metal sculptor. He had worked in industry and then retired early with the financial means to support himself as an artist, which gave him some liberty. I went back into the welding a little bit, and started trying to get more creative, doing some ornamental furniture, and made a couple of nonfunctional pieces which, for me, were a big leap, because if you’re making something nonfunctional, it has to stand on its own as art.

“Throughout my medical training – six years after medical school – each place I went, I tried to find a metal shop, or the art department, somewhere to experiment a little bit on stuff that was more creative. I moved to Atlanta when I finished, and didn’t have anywhere to do any metal work, but I wanted to be creating something, so I tried blowing glass for about a year. I met some people in the arts community in Atlanta, and the folks at the metal  supply shop referred me to Julia Woodman, because they knew I was interested in getting back into metal work.
“The hardest thing for me was time, my schedule. I do orthopedic surgery, specializing in trauma, so it’s very unpredictable, with weird hours and so forth. Julia was very helpful; she was very flexible, and let me come to use her studio when I could. I took some informal lessons from her, and helped her do some commissioned projects she was working on – kind of an apprenticeship sort of situation.

“She was always talking about Penland; she’s been here many times as a teacher and a student. A year ago, I was driving through the area with my brother. We were hiking and visiting Civil War battle sites – we’re both kind of Civil War nuts – and she was here taking a class, so we made a detour to visit her. I was only here for a few hours, but definitely saw the appeal of the place and started making plans to take a class sometime in the future. Then she told me a few months ago that she would be here this summer, taking a class from Jon Shearin. I figured it would be a doubly beneficial experience to take a class and do it when she was here. The biggest challenge for me was trying to find a way to block out two weeks; it took me a year and I almost did it. I had to go back to Atlanta for a couple of days in the middle of the class, and I regret having to take that time away.

“It’s been a great experience. I like the isolation, I like the fact that you’re kind of forced to be here and be present here. Almost as much as the class itself, I think the aspect of a retreat, of time away from my “real” life, appeals to me. If I came back again, I’d want to take a class in something I don’t know anything about. I took iron because I wanted to get better and learn new skills, but in retrospect, I probably also took it because it’s safer for me, it’s something I know. But one of the things I enjoyed the most was going around to other studios. I must have spent half my time going around, talking to other people in their studios, asking “What are you doing,” and “How are you making that?”

“It’s such a beautiful setting – I loved just sitting and eating lunch with that beautiful view. It’s a relaxing escape from the way you normally are, and hopefully you can take some of that back with you. You also realize how little you really need. I functioned just fine without 99% of the normal crap that I have at home. And I’m impressed by all of the talent here – I’ve seen things here that I understand and appreciate, and things that I really don’t understand but can appreciate for the skill involved, and other things that I don’t get at all – it’s all people out there pushing the envelope, which I think is really important.

“I’m looking forward to coming back.”

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Auction style!


penland auction

Penland staff member Jane Crowe ready to great the public with orange accents.


Auction coordinator Kate Boyd, ready for anything with her Kate-tastic utility belt.


Kitchen staff Sam Ktul in his salad-wrangler ringer.


Studio coordinator Liz Murray and volunteer Matthew Karkutt, with textiles-workshop, safety-first jazz hands.


Ambassador Rachael Anderson, shielding herself stylishly from the sun with an official Penland auction umbrella.


Volunteer Jen Phelps in her LBD.


Bid spotter Char Walker in bid-spotter purple plus the official bid-spotter yellow spot.


Mostly black for the intrepid folks who carry the art.


Mostly white for the equally intrepid folks who mix and serve the drinks.


Volunteer Patrick Beggs with his customized auction T-shirt.

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Focus On: Andrew Hayes

Andrew Hayes


The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center presents the year’s fifth Focus exhibition, Diction, a suite of new sculptures in steel and book pages by Asheville, NC, artist and former Penland core fellow Andrew Hayes. This show is open to the public in the Focus Gallery from Friday, August 3rd through Sunday, August 26th.


Sculptures by Andrew Hayes
(L to R) Andrew Hayes, Divaricate, steel, book pages, bronze, gold leaf, brass, 9 x 14 x 5.5 in.; Haul, bronze, book pages, steel, 6 x 15 x 2 in.


“The book is a seductive object to hold and smell and run your fingers through. I am drawn to books for many reasons; however, the content of the book does not enter my work. The pages allow me to achieve a form, surface, and texture that are appealing to me. The book as an object is full of fact and story. I take my sensory appreciation for the book as a material and employ the use of metal to create a new form, and hopefully a new story.

“During the past three years since the Core Fellowship, I have been busy. Directly after leaving Penland, I started working for Hoss Haley in Asheville, North Carolina. This experience has become something I can only sum up as an invaluable education and mentorship. While working for Hoss I have started to understand metalworking, and the subtle nuances that I used to fight have become tools for forming the material. Also during this time, I have taken on the chore of rebuilding a house in Asheville, which has taken the place of my studio practice for the last two years. This is the first body of work I’ve made in what seems like a long time, at least more than a year. I was trying to make the work I’ve been thinking of while working on the house. These are some new shapes and some more recognizable forms that I’ve worked with in the past. At the beginning of making this show I was very nervous about my ability to produce for myself again, but I tried to push forms that intrigue me and discover how to breathe new direction into this work.”


Sculptures by Andrew Hayes
(L to R) Andrew Hayes, Swell, steel and book pages, 6 x 9 x 5 in.; Lean, steel and book pages, 7 x 9 x 4 in.


Andrew Hayes grew up in Tucson, Arizona and studied sculpture at Northern Arizona University. The desert landscape inspired much of his early sculptural work and allowed him to cultivate his style in fabricated steel. After leaving school, Andrew worked in the industrial welding trade. While living in Portland, Oregon, bouncing between welding jobs and creating his own work he was invited to the EMMA collaboration. This one-week experience was liberating for Andrew and he was encouraged by his fellow collaborators to apply to the Core Fellowship at Penland School of Crafts. During his time as a Core Fellow, Andrew was able to explore a variety of materials and technique. Surprisingly, the book became a big part of this exploration. In this work he faces the challenge of marrying the rigid qualities of metal with the delicacy of the book page.

Click here to visit the Penland Gallery website.
Penland’s Focus Gallery is a space primarily dedicated to single-artist exhibitions. Focusing on individual artists over the course of the year, it will present a larger selection of their work to gallery visitors and patrons.

Click here for more information about Focus Gallery artists.