I had the pleasure of working with the Penland core fellows this fall. We met one night each week in the living room of Morgan, the home they share on campus. The purpose of our seminar was to explore writing. They wrote a letter to a stranger. They wrote stories about objects. They wrote about themselves. They wrote (and rewrote) their artist statements. Our final writing exercise involved creating a slideshow using just one image. I pitched it to them like this: ‘If you could tell a story about yourself or your work using one image, which would you choose?’ There was one more rule: the stories they wrote had to start with a sentence that began: ‘I love…’ Here is how some of them fielded the assignment.–Elaine Bleakney
I love my eyes.
This is a not a picture of my eyes. This is a picture of the way I see.
I see the world in compositions, framed forms and patterns and textures. I find solace, wonder, and inspiration in the unceasing beauty of the world. There is nothing more rejuvenating for me than to spend time reconnecting to the delights of seeing.
I try to share the way I see through my work. It feels like a small but important gesture to be able to translate the beauty that is inherent all around us into objects and spaces. My view is but one of ten thousand ways of seeing the world, and feels at the same time deeply personal and deeply connected.
I love making things using my hands. The act of making has always excited me; I have always felt an inherent need to be making. Not only do I love to make things by hand but I enjoy seeing others make, create, and exist in a world where the handmade is valued. I feel the world we live in is devaluing the handmade in its attempt to make things easier, faster, and more efficient so that we can “do more.” Within this we are losing our valuing of the small scale and “slow” production of goods, music, poetry, theater, and self-expression. I worry this trend will continue. Having a specific set of hand skills is crucial to my happiness. I love being able to share these skills with others, passing along a tradition of making in a world where making is no longer a necessity but a choice. It is important to remember these things as we proceed.
[To view drawings by Josh, click on the image above.]
I love this place.
This is the home that I grew up in, but this is not the only reason that I love it.
I love the knowledge that over this house’s lifetime I was just one of the many children who got to climb that tree, and swing from that branch.
I love seeing the history, and knowing that I am a part of something deeper and older.
I love the feeling of your bones settling when you’ve found this place.
A restlessness you don’t notice until it’s gone.
I love scars. I have a lot: on my feet, my legs, back, face, arms, and more on and around my hands than anywhere else. My hands see a lot of action.
I was given a writing prompt once that began, “My hands _______.” I responded by describing the things that have happened to my hands as a maker. My hands have been cut, scraped, burned, broken, and scarred.
The scar in this photo is from a surgery I had after over a year of working in the studio with a fractured wrist. The scar reminds me of the consequence of pushing through discomfort and pain. It reminds me to be aware and protective of my body. It’s my body’s memory of that time.
There is no recollection of a story more genuine than one your body doesn’t allow you to forget.
I Love Taking Chances
The woman in the center of this image is me, twenty-two years old in Seattle for the first time. I was asked to roadie for some close friends on their six-week tour taking them to the West Coast; prior to this I had never been past Nebraska. I had quit my job, left my college classes behind, jumped in a van, and set forth for an adventure. I saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, rode a ferry, raged in L.A., and met some truly, incredible people. On the left is my dearest friend Lexi. On my other shoulder is Jakes. Jakes would become the reason that Lexi, our friend Pete, and I would move to Seattle three months later. Lexi and Jakes were, and continue to be, a force to be reckoned with.
As I move toward the end of my core fellowship at Penland, I’ve been thinking a lot about change and how often it involves a certain amount of risk. If I hadn’t moved to Seattle, I wouldn’t have taken a night class and met my instructor Sarah Loertscher, who introduced me to Penland. I wouldn’t have had this incredible chance.
—Sarah Rachel Brown
I love my hands.
As a child, I remember the day that my mother called me and my brother and sister into the kitchen. She rolled blue ink onto our hands and set a piece of paper in front of each of us. Pressing down onto that crisp white paper, we left behind the imprint of our fingers outstretched and the small space unchanged by the slight rise of our palms. To us at the time, it was just a matter of having blue hands for the rest of the day. However, she had also done this when we were babies, and to her it was a quiet documentation of our growth. I found them years later and remember the feeling of disbelief that these small blue handprints belonged to me.
If anyone has ever asked you, “What part of yourself could you never live without?” I would never want to imagine losing my hands. They are the interpreters of my life. Through touching, handling and feeling, they assess, reevaluate, maintain and discard. In my life as a maker my hands are the biggest tool at my disposal. Like work horses silently enduring the constant summoning of my mind, they are the steadfast companions accomplishing my tasks.
I learn best by watching, taking in information and knowledge with my eyes. My hands decipher what I see and remember these moments of instruction. Since I began blacksmithing I have continually been surprised that they seemingly have always known what to do. Although my hands started out small, they are significant. In their wrinkles and scars is the story of my life. This history moves through them in all the work that I create.
Image of Meghan’s hands by Penland resident artist Mercedes Jelinek.