Posted on

Photo of the Week: Glass-Furnace Builders


This is the gang that just finished building a new furnace for the glass shop. The furnace-building workshop was lead by Mac Metz, Pablo Soto, and Jasen Johnsen.



Here’s what they built. The new furnace incorporates a number of energy-efficiency improvements, allowing it operate with a significantly smaller burner than the furnace it is replacing.



Action shot from Dave Somers, Penland’s director of facilities.

Posted on

40 Candles


Photo above courtesy of Dan Price. Photos below by Elaine Bleakney.


This month, former core fellow Dan Price returned to Penland as a winter resident to make forty candles in the iron studio. Of course, we needed to know why.



Dan, would you tell us about the piece you’re making? 

It’s part of a series of sculptures I am making that involve contingencies. In the works, the components are all interconnected–tied together, stacked, leaning and interdependent–and the components are lifted from memorable moments in my life. This one is about my wild 40th birthday party.


How did Penland fit into your plans for making this piece? 

I actually do have a forge in Chicago, but no power hammer, so I needed to use the smithy at Penland to make the candles.



What are the next steps in your process with the sculpture? 

I am going to a manufacturer in Chicago to have a bunch of plate glass cut with a water jet cutter for the next part of the piece: a cake.


Okay, we have to ask: what was “wild” about your 40th birthday party?

It was two years ago. My neighbors roasted a lamb in the backyard. They built up a fire pit out of firebricks, and I made a steel spit in the smithy at school. We roasted the lamb and invited about 80 people. It was generally a kind of a wild party. The craziest guest shot off fireworks, throwing lit bottle rockets with her bare hands–that kind of thing. My brother was good enough to drive her home, and returned with a funny look. “Never again,” he said.


Dan Price lives and works in Chicago, where he is Chair and Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Read more about Dan and his work here.


Posted on

Penland Down Under

Jemima Parker, Undefined (wearable) object, hand-printed calico, sewing thread, 2012


This June, Penland will turn Australian for two weeks when seventeen artists and educators from Australian National University’s School of Art in Canberra take over our fifteen studios–all during the same summer session, June 7-19, 2015.


Richard Whiteley, head of the glass at Australian National University, and Ashley Jameson Eriksmoen, ANU’s head of furniture, developed the all-Aussie session with Penland programs director Leslie Noell. Both schools share an innovative, practice-centered philosophy, and the session presents an unprecedented chance for makers to study with ANU faculty in the U.S.


Students who attend the session will work with Australian artist-educators at the height of their craft. These artists include Richard Whiteley, gold- and silversmith Simon Cottrell, textile and installation artist Jemima Parker, book and multimedia artist Nicci Haynes, and the artists listed in the teaching studios below.


“There is always an easy, open conversation between studios at Penland, and I hear from students and instructors all the time that this creative exchange across media is one of the things that, in addition to the daily focused classroom experience, makes their time at Penland even more rich, said Leslie Noell.


“Now imagine what this conversation will be like with seventeen vibrant instructors who have all known and worked together for years. (Not to mention the accents!) I expect the entire campus to crackle,” Noell said.

Ashley Eriksmoen, who ​previously ​taught at Penland​ ​and will teach woodworking during the 2015 session, sees a progressive synergy between ANU’s ​hands-on ​approach to​ teaching​ craft in the academy and Penland’s intensive workshop context.


“[ANU’s] ​undergraduate and graduate programs​ are centered on thinking through a material,” said Eriksmoen. “Our workshop discipline​​s​ involve art, craft, and design–and​ are closely aligned with those at Penland. We offer a high-caliber program Down Under. At Penland, we’ll offer it to students who wouldn’t otherwise make the antipodal journey.”

Among the Australia-based artist/educators who will be teaching during the session are:


AA IMG_8464-8459-8462


Simon Cottrell’s jewellery and objects have been extensively published and exhibited worldwide since 1996. He is currently a researcher and professor in the Gold and Silversmithing Workshop, School of Art, at ANU. Metalsmith magazine published an 8-page feature article on his work and practice, which can be read here.









Nicci Haynes stretches the definition of book arts to include prints, costumes and performance, video, projection, and spoken word collaboration. Her work explores the idea of the inner world being described physically. Nicci teaches in the Print Media and Drawing discipline at ANU. Nicci’s work was included in the 2014 exhibition Behind the Personal Library: Collectors Creating the Canon at the Center for Book Arts, NYC.







Jemima Parker, whose wearable work is shown at the top of this blog post, is a Canberra-based artist and screenprinter using traditional textile materials and methods, along with drawing and printmaking processes to create work that moves between disciplines and blurs boundaries of creative practice. She teaches textiles at ANU and more of her work can be seen here.





Richard Whiteley is a glass artist renowned for his restrained yet monumental cast glass sculpture. Employing mass, negative space, transparency and translucency, Richard’s work and teaching career have helped shape the current state of contemporary glass. After several years of teaching and studio-based work, he is back in Canberra as Head of the Glass Workshop at the School of Art at ANU. He also maintains his own practice from his studio in Queanbeyan.






Apply for a scholarship or assistantship by February 17.

Not applying for a scholarship? Register in our summer lottery by February 11.




All-Aussie Penland Session 2: June 7-19, 2015

Click here for full course information.

Click on the names below for websites of the artists.


Books: Nicci Haynes

Printmaking: John Pratt

Letterpress: Caren Florance

Upper Clay studio: Greg Daly

Lower Clay studio: Michael Keighery 

Painting: Ruth Waller

Glass: Nadege Desgenetez

Glass casting: Richard Whiteley

Upper metals studio: Simon Cottrell

Lower metals studio (3-D design): Gilbert Riedelbauch

Iron: Suzie Bleach & Andy Townsend

Photography: Matt Higgins & Denise Ferris

Upper textiles studio: Jemima Parker

Lower textiles studio: Valerie Kirk

Wood: Ashley Eriksmoen 


Posted on

April in Iron



April Franklin is back at Penland this winter, and for the first time, her job is simply to make what she likes. A former core fellow, April has previously appeared at Penland as a work-study student, a studio assistant, and an instructor. For the past week, she’s been a winter resident in the iron studio, making (among other things) two Damascus rings:




The rings, we’re happy to note, are for April’s marriage next fall to ceramic artist and frequent Penland instructor Kathy King. The couple makes their home in Watertown, Massachusetts, with April visiting Providence to forge and teach at the Steel Yard, while Kathy teaches at “that school in Cambridge.”

April and Kathy met during Penland’s spring concentration in 2012. During the concentration, Kathy (instructor in the clay studio) broke her hand and underwent surgery. All is well now, and the accident “slowed Kathy down for me,” said April, half-joking.

During our visit to the studio, April helped current core fellow Meghan Martin with some strategy for a buckle. She also took some time to give a knife-sharpening demonstration this week. April had a dose of dry wit for fellow blacksmiths who specialize, as she does, in knife-making. “Do not tell anyone that you know how to sharpen knives. People will show up with a bag of them.”

We’ll have more posts here about our winter residents in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can keep up with the flurry of studio activity on our Instagram account.


Posted on

Something About Susan

Does anyone remember Jago? Handsome, brooding, and mysterious, Jago (pronounced HA-HO) was a Penland core student in the late nineties. He missed every changeover. Every meeting. He never appeared in the studios, as far as anyone knows.

Jago was the invisible hot mess invented by Susan Feagin and Kara Ikenberry during their core fellowship. He was, Susan recalls, a character in a romance novel that was read, out loud, during a Kathy King class. When Susan left Penland in 1998, Jago left too, probably in pursuit of an aging heiress in the south of France. Susan remained stateside, pursuing other inventions, mainly in clay.

As a core student, Susan fell for ceramics, printmaking, and Jago-fiction as independent media. After core, Susan moved to Athens, Georgia, working in production at the now defunct Athens Banner-Herald. For the next four years she served as the newspaper’s last paste-up artist before continuing her clay (and screenprinting on clay) activities in graduate school at the University of Florida.



Screens by Susan Feagin in the Penland clay studio. Photograph by Robin Dreyer


Paste-up artists are now extinct. For those of you who don’t remember life before desktop publishing, allow us to explain: at the Banner-Herald Susan set type in columns by hand, adhering the columns to photo paper. The completed camera-ready pages were then photographed to make negatives that were then used to make plates for printing. Susan spent hours inside of rigid borders, looking at text in terms of column inches–adding, removing, and also sizing photographs. It was collage on a deadline. Not a job for the likes of Jago.

But the paste-up experience suited Susan fine, and her taste for text as a shiftable visual element can be found on the pots she makes today.



A Susan Feagin creation. Photograph by Robin Dreyer


Recently, Susan made a few screens from a manuscript, a history of great moments in aviation that her dad, an aeronautical engineer, wrote for teens and never published. She will print selections from his typed pages on clay, handbuilding a vessel with his text layered in.

susan“It’s more liberating for me than working at the wheel,” Susan says, “I’m free to explore as I go.” Susan makes colored slabs, draping them on molds to shape her asymmetrical works. Surfaces are spaces where text or prints along avenues of underglaze can appear, and when the clay hardens, there are strips for sgraffito.

A flimsy romantic fiction like Jago probably wouldn’t get Susan’s choices, in life or art. But Rabulette and Maynard, Susan’s friends in Penland’s clay studio operation, do. Rabulette, a stuffed bunny rescued by Susan from a departed copyeditor’s file cabinet back at the Banner-Herald, is a somewhat high-strung conceptual artist assisted by the small and dedicated plush bison, Maynard. (For those of you who haven’t met these two tiny beings, they are real, and thanks to Susan, real presences at Penland.)



Rabulette and Maynard on vacation. Photograph blatantly stolen from Jane Crowe on Facebook.


“I adore Susan,” Rabulette says. “For Susan, pattern is a place where invention happens. But you should really ask Maynard to fill in for you all the details, as it’s time for my lunch.”

This winter, Susan will let go of surface control a bit–firing colored porcelain vessels in the salt kiln with Penland winter resident Janice Farley. She will also take a short break from her coordinator duties at Penland to teach, in late January, a screenprinting on clay workshop at Clay Works in Charlotte.–Elaine Bleakney


To watch Susan Feagin demonstrate screenprinting on clay, please take some time with two videos by John Britt here.


Posted on

Photo of the week: Flashdance, 1984



Our archivist, Carey Hedlund, has been settling into the Penland archives this winter, finding gems like this photograph taken by Dan Bailey during the fall of 1984. The photograph was later used for a Penland catalog, and Dan left a note: “It was taken at night and each window was a separate flash exposure. Probably took a couple of hours to do.”

Each week, Carey sends us a photograph from the archive to post on the Penland Instagram account as part of #tbt or “throwback Thursday” (one of those new-fangled Internet hashtag phenomena you may already know about). Scroll through our Instagram feed here to see more of Carey’s selections.

“Somehow, window-dancing struck me as a lovely way to ring in the new year,” Carey notes about Dan’s picture.


Posted on

Knock, Knock

Bryan Parnham, Penland student and soon-to-be core fellow, has been knocking on the doors of a few Penlanders, talking with them about the objects they love, and documenting the conversations on his blog. The conversations are unedited, raw material from the houses and hearts of his subjects. Inspired by a series that ran in the Wall Street Journal, Bryan asks his subjects to talk about seven objects they love.

chattglassesA recent two-part post on Bryan’s blog features glass artist David Chatt. It includes this photograph of a shelf-lined window in David’s kitchen occupied with glasses made by Pablo Soto, Mike Krupiarz, Sam Stang, Ethan Stern, Kaeko Maehata, and others. Looking at the window through Bryan’s camera, reading David’s voice transcribed, one gets a sense of how David’s drinking glass collection represents a moveable community of fellow artists, guests who’ve been invited to leave a shape, a bright ghost. Bryan quotes David talking about a glass by Kaeko Maehata:

“This is my Kae glass and I would say that it’s my favorite. She made me a collection of glasses and she made them for my hand. I am a person who is extraordinarily proportioned and so I like things that fit me. I like things that are made for me by people that I love that are useful in my everyday world.”

Bryan’s blog has the totally unassuming label “What’s a Better Word for a Blog?” In a recent email, Bryan wrote to me about his interviews. “This project is meant to question the significance of objects and how an individual uses them to navigate their lives. Also, it’s an excuse to get to know some really interesting people better.”

So far, Bryan has sat with interesting people like Chatt, Elisa Di Feo and David Eichelberger. To me, Bryan’s impulse to interview others he admires is a reminder: if there’s no sign that reads BEWARE, knock on the door rather than strolling on. We are all collectors. Our collections, pared down to the most meaningful, contain stories, a storyteller, and an opportunity. One only need try.–Elaine Bleakney