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Toe River Studio Tour This Weekend

Toe River Arts Council

The Studio Tour event, sponsored by the Toe River Arts Council (TRAC), is held twice a year: on the second weekend in June and the first weekend in December. This weekend’s self-guided free tours offer the visitor an opportunity to search out the professional artists and craftspeople working in the coves and hollows of the two rural mountain counties. Many stops on the map will showcase more than one artist.

Art lovers create their own tours, travel at their own pace, and stop for lunch on their own schedule, with help from the TRAC Studio Guide, and arrowed Tour signs.

Over 100 artisans and galleries open their doors and invite the public. It is a rare opportunity to visit the actual workplaces. From world-class to emerging… glass blowers, potters of every description, wood turners, basket makers, printers, painters, fiber artists, photographers, sculptors, jewelers, metal workers, and more. No wonder it is known as the premier open studio tour in the country.

The Spruce Pine TRAC Gallery at 269 Oak Avenue will host a reception to “meet the artists” on Friday, November 30 from 5 to 7 pm.

Tour map guides can be picked up ahead of time or during the Tour at either TRAC galleries, the Yancey or Mitchell Chambers of Commerce, participating studios, galleries and other local businesses in Mitchell and Yancey counties, and many other regional locations.

A PDF of the tour map and guide can also be downloaded by clicking here.

For more information contact Toe River Arts Council at 828-765-0520 or 828-682-7215 or click here to visit the TRAC website.

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Spring into Metals with Ruth Reifen!

Ruth Reifen


“Be aware of beauty.”
“A phrase I have been hearing at home for as long as I can remember.

“I wish to carry, through my art in jewelry, the message further; and what could be more prominent and enhance beauty more than a jewel? I strive to design and create pieces of jewelry that will present beauty that is beyond trend, that others will be able to relate to and to weave it into the ongoing process of their lives.

“I am a tactile artist, drawn to earthy substances. The texture and pliability of porcelain and cement and the way they are incorporated into rigid metal structures, is what I find most exciting. When these elements come into contact with the live skin, the different way that the body’s temperature suffuses them is what enables a full expression of their beauty.”

“Finding ways to express my creativity, to keep innovating, while avoiding trivializing jewelry design, my goal is to make others be aware of beauty.” – Ruth Reifen


Ruth Reifen Floral Charades
Ruth Reifen, “Floral Charades Pendant 01,” copper, auto-paint, epoxy, thread


You can click here to watch an American Craft Council interview with Ruth at the 2012 ACC show in San Francisco.


Ruth Reifen Waiting for Godot
Ruth Reifen, “Waiting for Godot Rings,” porcelain, gold-plated brass


Prototype to Prototype, March 10 – May 3, 2013, in the metals studio

In this class we will explore wax carving and sculpting to produce original compositions for casting and electroforming. These processes can be used for one-of-a-kind designs and for reproduction. A variety of materials (primarily casting rubbers) will be used for mold-making, to create multiples from our individually crafted work. Once we have cast them in metal, we will practice silversmithing techniques to complete finished jewelry pieces. Then more prototypes!


Ruth Reifen Floral Charades
Ruth Reifen, “Floral Charades: Log and 5 Rings,” copper, auto-paint, epoxy, thread


Ruth Reifen is a Brooklyn-based jewelry artist, part-time faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and teaches at the 92nd Street Y in New York. She has also taught at the Rhode Island School of Design. Ruth received her BFA in Jewelry Design from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has beeen shown in Israel, Europe, and the U.S., most recently in Holland, Florida, Texas, and San Francisco. She is represented by Gallery Loupe in Montclair, New Jersey, and has work in the permanent collection of of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.


Interested? You can click here for more information about this and Penland’s other spring concentration workshops.


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

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Spring into Iron with LeeAnn Mitchell!

LeeAnn Mitchell
LeeAnn Mitchell and her studio assistant Richard Shrader


In this class, students will be encouraged to work on as many pieces of sculpture as possible. Everyone in the class will do a What does that thing do, anyway? project, which will be due at the end of the session. We will work from drawings and in-progress critiques to keep everyone on track.


What does that thing do, anyway?

Make a piece of sculpture that has at least two gears, one lever and does something! (Pulleys and cams count as gears.) It’s time to pay attention to the mechanized world – take a look at machines, toys, bicycles, etc. Should you use found parts or make your own? Should you use electricity or wind or water or a hand crank? Decisions, decisions! And hey, what does that thing do, anyway?


Other than this one assigned project, the class will be totally open as we explore the nature of metal and the myriad ways in which it can be manipulated. While the emphasis of this class is on metals, other media are welcome and encouraged.

I love teaching at Penland because I always learn from my students. My studio assistant Richard Shrader is a master woodworker and well on this way to becoming a great blacksmith. He is exactly one week older than I am, so we are both nice Libras! I think we will make an excellent team.

We are also fortunate to have Ian Schneller as a visiting artist. He will present a lecture, work with students, and talk about his experience getting an MFA and following his dream, creating a successful business and school.


LeeAnn Mitchell – Mostly Metal: March 10 – May 2, 2013 in the Iron studio

This class will focus on learning the language of sculpture through a variety of metalworking techniques. Students will learn the basics of forging, welding, and general metal fabrication skills and are welcome to incorporate mixed media and alternative materials into finished pieces. There will be a strong emphasis on the aesthetics and language of sculpture in both group and individual critiques. Whether you choose steel, bronze, aluminum, or iron, you will learn to speak through metal. This class is open to all levels.


LeeAnn Mitchell "Subtle Mutations"
(L to R) LeeAnn Mitchell, “Subtle Mutations: New Farmington Flora for Nancy Jo,“ 2011, cast and fabricated iron, “Subtle Mutations: Altered Skyline for Greg & Kay,” 2012, cast and fabricated bronze


LeeAnn Mitchell‘s work has been included in over one hundred exhibitions with solo shows at the Memphis Center for Contemporary Art, Zoller Gallery at Pennsylvania State University, and the William J. Thompson Gallery at the University of Georgia. She has shown her installations, sculptures, and paintings throughout the United States. Recent group exhibitions include ARTPRIZE, in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Houston, Texas.

She served as the Public Art Assistant for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad in 1996, was the Associate Curator for the University of Tennessee Sculpture Tour in Knoxville, Tennessee from 1987-1993 and has served as an independent curator for the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. From 1999-2006 she served as Central Office Executive Director for the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America.

She is President and CEO  of LeeAnn Mitchell Arts, a professional company dedicated to managing individuals, projects, and organizations in the arts and crafts, with a particular focus in metal. LeeAnn works and resides in Farmington, Georgia with her husband and fellow sculptor Jim Buonaccorsi and their dog Sparky Jones.


Interested? You can click here for more information about this and Penland’s other spring concentration workshops.

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Bound for Success at Power2Give


Community Collaborations


Bound for Success: Bookmaking in Mitchell County Schools

“It was hard to learn so many facts about the moon – before this project I never really paid attention.”  –  Mitchell County 3rd grade student

Penland’s Community Collaboration crafts powerful learning experiences for youth, deepening their connection with curriculum and engaging their creative minds.  Beginning today, there’s an exciting new way you can help us keep students bound for success, as Penland joins for its Western North Carolina launch.  is an online cultural marketplace that makes it easier for you to nurture specific Penland programs that you are passionate about. We are launching our participation with a project that is near and dear to our hearts: bringing high quality bookmaking experiences to 3rd, 4th and 9th grade students in Mitchell County.  By following the link below, you can find out more about the project and your options for helping to bring this magical experience to students in the classroom. Today’s launch also provides a special opportunity to double your contribution through NC Arts Council matching funds.  Matching funds are limited, so we are hoping you will jump right in!

Click the link below to visit our page at Power2Give, where you can learn more about this project and, if you like, make a donation: