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Michael Bondi in the WSJ

Penland instructor Michael Bondi was featured in the Wall Street Journal on March 28 in a nice article by Sarah Tilton. The article begins with this:

Michael Bondi didn’t set out to be a blacksmith. After starting a doctoral program in biology, the Washington, D.C., native took a year off to travel that led to an introduction to a blacksmith in Italy. Mr. Bondi then spent six months studying the craft, took a job with another blacksmith in Los Angeles and, eventually, launched his own studio in 1977 in Berkeley, Calif., with his brother, who also took up the waning art form.

More than three decades later, Mr. Bondi, 62, says he has never been without work. He is known for architectural blacksmithing using combinations of wrought iron, steel, bronze, copper, nickel alloys and aluminum. While most metalworking is now mass-produced using molds in factories, Mr. Bondi continues the tradition of working freehand, using the same tools that blacksmiths have relied on for hundreds of years. “I’m working directly on the metal,” he explains. “I’m not melting it into a liquid and pouring it into a mold.”

The story is accompanied by a beautiful slideshow of Michael in his studio (if you like tools, you’ll want to look at these pictures). You can read the rest of the story and see the photographs here.

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Focus on: Tina Mullen

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center presents its first Focus exhibition of the year, a new body of  work in drawing and painting by Tina Mullen. This show is on view in the Focus Gallery from Friday, March 22 through Sunday, April 28th, with an opening reception Friday, March 22, from 4:30 – 6pm.


"Carolina Wren," watercolor and graphite on nautical chart, 6 x 6 in.
“Crosshairs,” watercolor and graphite on nautical chart, 14 x 11 in.


“I find that I use it often – the phrase “out of the blue” – to describe events, ideas, and the way things strike me.  I wonder if I use it more than others, or if I’m just less prepared than others and things catch me off guard.  Regardless, I enjoy contemplating the notion that things happen unexpectedly. That some of the best things in life are unplanned, unscheduled, and come to us by chance – out of the blue.  The real beauty for me is what becomes of us because of them.

In my work, “out of the blue” represents migration, journey and the stories that happen along the way. Many of the drawings are done on maps. Maps of places traveled, Maps given to me by friends and Maps that come with their own history. Represented are maps of some of the places that I love – Florida, North Carolina, and Oregon.

Other points of departure for my drawings might be a piece of paper found in an old book that contains the owners’ doodles or handwriting. Those marks, the age of the paper, slight rips or tears bear witness to a past unknown to me.  I enjoy excavating through those marks, setting off on a new path – a new visual adventure.

Here’s to the journey.” – Tina Mullen


"Small Precarious Fate," watercolor, pastel, and colored pencil on vintage paper, 18 x 12 in.
“Small Precarious Fate,” watercolor, pastel, and colored pencil on vintage paper, 18 x 12 in.


Tina Mullen is an artist who lives in Gainesville, Florida. She is also the director of Shands Arts in Medicine – a program that brings the arts to patients and families struggling with serious illness.

“I have painted and drawn pictures my entire life. I believe that the arts are a vehicle for transformation and personal expression, and my passion is to help others bring art into their lives in meaningful ways.”

Tina has been a drawing instructor at Santa Fe Community College and the University of Florida, as well as Interim Director of the University Galleries at UF. Tina is also a working artist who has exhibited her work throughout the United States.  She has received numerous awards including the Individual Artist Fellowship from the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs. She has been a visiting artist at Penland, the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida and the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.

Tina has a BA from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and has an MFA from the University of Florida.


Tina Mullen
Tina Mullen


Click here to visit Tina’s website, where you can see more of her work.

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.

Click here for more information about the Focus Gallery.


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Slow and Savor

Our first one-week class at Penland this spring was a special treat, added to the schedule only a few months ago: Slow and Savor, a workshop on mindfulness and service in the craft arts led by beloved Penland neighbor and many-time clay teacher Paulus Berensohn and meditation teacher and former core student Caverly Morgan.




The class practiced daily meditation and mindful-attention to their actions from the walk to lunch to the studio bench, created handmade journals, made bowls for the Empty Bowls Project, wrote love letters to their future selves, and became more deeply acquainted with clay – its story, properties, and behavior.




The workshop reunited Paulus with one of his first students, Jeff Carter. Jeff took a class with Paulus at Swarthmore College (Paulus’ first, he says) many years ago. He came down to Penland in summer 1966 with Toshiko Takaezu and Byron Temple, staying on at the invitation of Bill and Jane Brown to manage the clay studio, in effect becoming one of the school’s first studio coordinators. He’s since had a long career as a physical therapist in Charlotte and Boone, and recently retired to Deep Gap, North Carolina.


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Open Mic Night


Last Friday in the Pines, Penland’s own supply store clerk Stephanie Ott hosted an Open Mic event organized by Community Collaborations Manager Stacey Lane and spoken-word artist Pierce Freelon (you’ve met Pierce on our blog before) to celebrate the success of Pierce’s week-long artist residency in a local high school. Pierce and his students performed spoken-word pieces individually, and shared a collaborative work as a group. Penland staff members, neighbors, and students rounded out the evening’s lineup, filling a few fabulous hours with wonderful exhibitions of local talent, live-cast worldwide by IT guru Mark Boyd. Thanks to Mark for the video.

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Photo of the Week: Dancing in the Light



On the last morning of their Slow and Savor: Mindfulness and Service in the Craft Arts workshop, beloved Penland neighbor and many-time instructor Paulus Berensohn and former core student Caverly Morgan lead their students and guests in a celebratory dance around the work they’ve made together.