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Auction Heat


It may only be February but we’re busy planning for the 2015 Penland Benefit Auction–our 30th–to be held August 7 and 8th at Penland. Tickets can be purchased online here.


This year, glass artist and Penland trustee Tim Tate will be leading a collecting group from the Alliance for Contemporary Glass to the Benefit Auction–and glass will be centerstage with works commissioned by glass artists Susan Taylor Glasgow and one-of-a-kind table centerpieces by Sally Prasch. For previews of these works and many more in the coming months, please sign up for our auction e-newsletters here or join our auction event page on Facebook here.



Tim Tate, Maybe She Dreams of Rivers, cast glass, video, 18 x 24 inches. Featured work of the 2015 Penland Benefit Auction. Retail value: $12,000.00


For those of you who may not receive our auction e-newsletters, we wanted to share this month’s edition featuring Tim Tate’s glass and video work Maybe She Dreams of Rivers, seen above.  Glenn Adamson, director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, writes about Tate and this particular work in the essay below. (We’ve also included the video component of the work following the essay.)


Tim Tate by Glenn Adamson

“Last year, I attended my first Penland auction. Of the many great pleasures involved in the event, none was greater than meeting Tim Tate. A figure of Falstaffian charisma, Tate lit up the tent with his humor and heart. I was glad to discover that his work lives up to the man. He is that rare artist who combines true generosity of spirit with a razor-sharp intellectual acuity. By putting glass together with video, one of the art world’s most apparently traditional media with its most apparently progressive, he shows that such oppositions are in fact groundless. Any medium has the potential to support new ideas – and Tim Tate has plenty of new ideas to go around.


In the case of Maybe She Dreams of Rivers, he offers an interpretation of a classic artistic theme, Shakespeare’s Ophelia. One thinks immediately of John Everett Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite treatment of the subject, a fragile maiden floating face-up in the weeds, her hands spread in a gesture of eternal prayer. Tate’s version is less sentimental, yet I find it even more haunting. Ophelia floats slowly from side to side, doubled as if caught in the slippery slide from life into death.


Interestingly, Tate has imagined the doomed heroine dreaming of her own fate–captured permanently in a virtual state. As he notes, our relationship to technology is just as destabilizing today as it was in Victorian times, when the skies filled with industrial smoke and trains first churned their way across the landscape. Our encounters with technology are more private, often occurring within the small dimensions of a touch screen. Yet they are no less unsettling, conveying us across time and space in a constant frictionless glide. In Ophelia, he has found an ideal personification of this state of perpetual drift. Shimmering in her ornate surroundings, viewed as if through a glass darkly, she holds a mirror up twenty-first-century life, lived all too often at one remove.”


Dreaming Of Ophelia from Tim Tate on Vimeo.


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Photo(s) of the Week: Dots and Lines

The studio of Penland School resident Micah Evans

This is what the studio of Penland resident artist Micah Evans looked like last week. Normally Micah works by himself, but he was hosting a collaborative work week with Japanese flameworkers Akihisa Izume (left) and Takao Miyake (center). This involved two torches brought from Japan and a lot of red and green hoses for propane and oxygen. Micah’s studio motto is “hustle!” and, despite the room being almost quiet (except for Phish playing at a low volume), it was clear that there was calm but intense hustle — and some high-level work — going on.


Akihisa Izumi at Penland School of Crafts

Akihisa and Takao were both working with a technique that involves making patterns on the top of a domed piece of glass tube and then transforming the top of the dome into a disk that encases the pattern between two layers of clear glass. Akihisa was using thin glass cane to make patterns of white lines.


Takao Miyake at Penland School of Crafts

Takao was creating designs by applying thousands of tiny, colored glass dots. Here he’s working on a piece that Akihisa had already partially covered with a twill-like pattern of diagonal lines.


Takao Miyake at Penland School of Crafts

This is the last step of the process, in which the patterned dome is shrunk, flattened, and encased in clear glass. Although I watched Takao do this, I have no idea how he made this happen.


Work by Takao Miyake and Micah Evans

The finished disks are generally made into into jewelry or large marbles. But this week, Micah was incorporating them into his existing glass designs. Here’s one of Takao’s disks that’s now part of a glass yo-yo. (This was all done freehand.)


Work by Akihisi Izumi and Micah Evans

This yo-yo was made around one of Akihisa’s pieces.


Work by Akihisi Izumi and Takao Miyake and Micah Evans

This is the collaborative disk that Takao is working on in the pictures above.


Micah Evans

As if that wasn’t enough, they made this off-the-hook  three-way collaboration — a large bottle that houses a chameleon skeleton sculpted by Akihisa and has a stopper topped with one of Takao’s disks. (This picture was swiped from Takao’s Instagram feed.)


Thanks to Micah, Takao, and Akihisa for letting me invade their quiet hustle and take these pictures (after I got my jaw off of my chest).  -Robin Dreyer


Micah Evans on Instagram: @micahglass
Takao Miyake on Instagram: @takaomiyake
Akihisa Izumi on Instagram: @a_k_i_o


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2015 Penland Resident Artists

We are happy to announce that four artists have been selected to join Penland’s resident artist program. Dean Allison, Maggie Finlayson, Tom Jaszczak, and Seth Gould will join Andrew Hayes, Mercedes Jelinek, and Jaydan Moore in mid-September, 2015, to begin their three-year residencies.


Dean Allison

Dean Allison’s cast glass portraits exploit the nature of his chosen material and process to capture the finest details of the human form as he explores the subtleties of the human condition. Dean has worked at Penland for the past six years as our glass studio coordinator. In this time he has established himself as a respected emerging artist in the national glass community. He has exhibited his work widely with esteemed galleries such as Habatat Gallery and Riley Gallery. He was represented by Riley at 2014 SOFA Chicago and was named a “2013 Rising Star” by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass. Dean has been a visiting artist and workshop instructor at The Glass Furnace (Istanbul) and Pittsburgh Glass Center, and will be an instructor at Penland this spring and a demonstrator at this year’s Glass Art Society conference in San Jose, CA. Dean is ready to take the leap to become a full-time studio artist. During the residency he plans to build and acquire necessary studio equipment while devoting time and research to develop the type of glass most suited to his technical and aesthetic ideals. He looks forward to working with glass artists in the extended Penland community like Richard Ritter and Mark Peiser to develop his research and learn from their combined expertise. Meanwhile, he will continue to make new work and seek and strengthen professional opportunities and relationships that will support his career. Dean holds a BS in Studio Arts from Illinois State University and an MFA from Australian National University.


Maggie Finlayson and Tom Jaszczak

The work of collaborators Maggie Finlayson and Tom Jaszczak spans the full spectrum of contemporary ceramics. Maggie’s recent work explores ceramics, mostly porcelain and earthenware, in combination with a host of other materials (fabric, wood, bone, horse hair), merged and deftly handled to create rich, intimate installations that explore domestic objects and spaces, ritual and memory. Tom combines traditional and digital techniques to create thoughtfully designed functional pottery with rich, subtle surfaces that inspire and speak of daily use. The pair will come to Penland from Montana where they have, most recently, been resident artists at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena. While continuing to make their own individual work, Maggie and Tom look forward to exploring a line of collaborative functional work—combining their technical and creative strengths and sensitivities. They see this residency as the chance to combine resources for a future career that will support them both as artists/makers. Between the two of them, Maggie and Tom have exhibited work and taught at art centers and universities all over the US and Canada. They have also received several awards and grants to support their creative endeavors. Tom earned a BA in Visual Art and a BS in Biology from Bemidji State University (MN); Maggie earned a BA in Religion/Philosophy from Concordia University (Montreal) and an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Minnesota.


Seth Gould

Seth Gould is a contemporary metalsmith and toolmaker dedicated to the study and stewardship of traditional metalwork techniques. His work is strongly influenced by historic design and technique from both Western and Eastern craft traditions. Seth draws inspiration from the classically forged forms and highly ornamented designs of European ironwork from the 17th-19th centuries. He forges, files, chases, and carves utilitarian objects in steel—ranging from hammers to cookware—following in the intricate footsteps of this tradition. Once the work is formed, he moves to a jeweler’s bench to develop detail and ornamentation through inlay and engraving of nonferrous metals; these techniques borrow heavily from Japanese traditional metalwork. During his residency he hope to continue his education and mastery through complex projects of his own design. The skills and techniques Seth uses in his work were once more widespread, but there are fewer and fewer metalsmiths practicing them. He hopes to pass on this knowledge through his work and studio practice. Seth shows his work nationally and has been an instructor/demonstrator/presenter at the 2014 Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference, Peters Valley School of Craft (NJ), Smith Shop (Detroit), SIMS Conference at Southern Illinois University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a Penland instructor and will return this fall to co-teach a toolmaking concentration in the iron studio with renowned smith Peter Ross. Seth has a BFA in Metalsmithing from Maine College of Art and was a Penland Core fellow from 2011-2013.



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A Wood Studio Jam About Ellie Richards


Ellie Richards is up in the wood studio this winter, making tables.


She started with one, commissioned for the exhibition Dining and Discourse, curated by Kathryn Hall at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. One of the exhibition’s aims is to examine how the lavishness of our decorative arts past might surface in today’s “artisanal” and “farm-to-table” dining culture. With this in mind, Ellie designed her table. She painted bands of color on the apron and legs–the shape of the legs riffing on a Queen Anne cabriolet style. “I was thinking about the cover of an album by A Tribe Called Quest,” she says about the polychrome surface. “It had all kinds of geometric shapes working with and off each other.”


Ellie Richards’s “Polychrome Dining Table” in progress via Instagram
Cover image of A Tribe Called Quest’s album, released in 1990.


A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm has the song “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” on it. In the song, Q-Tip tells an epic story of driving west out of Brooklyn with his friends in a Dodge Dart while his mom’s away on an ocean cruise. Out west, one friend drinks the fruit punch while our hero enjoys the enchiladas. Inevitably, all encounter a “beautiful wicked lady.” Q-Tip is mightily distracted. He loses his wallet. He’s got to go back.


When Ellie Richards went west after finishing undergraduate work in Ohio, it was to make sculpture in the graduate program at Arizona State University. She liked the quickness involved in sculpting–the impulse to create, fast. But she missed being in a woodshop, and sought out ways to become more facile at making furniture.


“I walked out of graduate school more of a construction worker than a woodworker,” Ellie admits. She went back east, looking for something she hadn’t forgotten (both her grandfather and great grandfather kept woodshops) and wanted to pick up again.


As Ellie talks about making a leg for a new table from a square, tapering and sawing new shapes along the path, she sounds like she’s exactly where she needs to be.


When Q-Tip repeats “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” you’ve got to pick it up.  Your ear, heart, in hook, in rhythm: “I gotta get it, I got-got ta get it.” A play on another hit written in Brookyln, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “I Left My Wallet” is about getting your gold–whatever real thing you need most–and losing it, finding it, losing it again. Meanwhile, traveling with friends who love you is key.
























Ellie, on her own instinctive travel following graduate school, picked up residencies and studio assistant gigs at Peters Valley, Arrowmont, and Anderson Ranch–experiences that would bring her in direct relationship with her material and tools. Eventually, she landed a residency at the Appalachian Center for Craft. Now, as Penland’s wood studio coordinator, she’s managing a shop, and enjoying the collaboration to be found there. She’s making tables. She’s making totems. She’s getting her gold. “I’m still discovering what can be done with wood,” she says, showing us a new table she’s making with a curly maple top, and a few totems on a high shelf.




You could call Ellie Richards’s jam “Geometric Shapes Working Off Each Other.” You could call it an ongoing play between woodwork and sculpture. You could call it losing your wallet in El Segundo–and being game for losing it again.–Elaine Bleakney. Photographs by Robin Dreyer (except where noted above).



View more of Ellie’s work here and process shots for her Houston table here.

Listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” here.



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A Letter from Penland


This winter, Martha Park returned to Penland as a winter resident in writing. We were curious about her experience, and in response to our questions about it, she composed the essay that follows. The photographs are hers as well. Martha is an MFA candidate at Hollins University’s Jackson Center for Creative Writing, where she works as a Teaching Fellow and the Assistant Editor of the Hollins Critic


When I arrive at Penland, I carry my bags up to my room and try to settle in, feeling the nerves of newness. I stack my books on the nightstand and spread journals and pens across the huge desk. Downstairs, a group of artists is finishing up their lunch, and I listen to the clatter of dishes and muffled conversation drifting up through the floor. Then I confront my nerves the way I usually do, by taking them for a walk.


deskThis is my first time at Penland working outside the studios. Over the past six years I’ve come to Penland to study textiles and printmaking, but this time I am here to write. I have a graduate thesis due this spring, a collection of essays that needs lots of work. In past sessions at Penland, with twenty-four hour access to studios, I went sleepless most nights, working past the point of delirium. That kind of energy can be productive to my practice in visual art, but to write well I need long stretches of quiet and calm.


I walk a loop around campus. It’s sunny out, warm despite the cutting wind. At the ceramics studio, the artists are loading the kilns, wearing t-shirts and tank tops. By the time I circle back, smoke is tracing a long line from the ceramics studio across the cloudless sky. I find a wooded path back to Long House. The rhododendron leaves are still green, but curling inward against the winter chill. I calm my nerves thinking of all my half-finished essays. The words seem scattered in the wind. I return to my room and try to gather them up.


That evening, the sun sets incrementally in Penland’s wide sky, and the studios’ lights spread like a constellation across the hillside. In each of those dots of light, I know someone is setting type, etching a plate, throwing a mug, turning a bowl, forging a ring. At my desk, I sit and rearrange words, the glow of my laptop my own little bright light.


Mid-morning, I cook bacon and biscuits while a photographer simmers mushrooms, peppers, and onions on the stovetop. She tells me she’s driven here from California and is looking for a new home. We talk about home, about place. My essays are about Memphis, my place. I’m not looking for a new home but ever trying, it seems, to get back to that one. We talk a while, and then I retreat upstairs to my room, to the desk covered in scribbled notes and dried plants I’ve been collecting on my walks.


shadowsTo be a writer, there is a test we must take again and again. The test concerns various kinds of silence: the silence of a day spent alone, unspeaking, or the silence of day without writing, when the words won’t come, or the silence of rejection and self-doubt. For most of my week at Penland I abide well in silence: I work on essays, I read, I write in my journal. But when I feel restless, I let myself cheat. One day I go on a walk and end up in the midst of a search party, a hodgepodge group of photographers, printmakers, and woodworkers looking for a lost Chihuahua. Or I go sit in Bamboo House, the temporary coffee shop, and feel the warmth of other people in that sunlit space. Or I go visit my friend Wyatt, a woodworker I met at Penland four years ago, and he shows me how to use a lathe, how to color a piece of turning wood by holding a colored pencil up to it. After these excursions I return to my room, to my writing, ready to start again.


fogOn the last morning I wake before dawn, intending to go on a walk in the early-morning light. But I can hear hail hitting the window panes and the ceiling, so I sit down at my desk and write. The ice accumulates throughout the morning and by noon Penland’s campus is so shrouded with mist that the mountains disappear. From my room I can hear the scraping of someone’s spoon against bowl. The stomp of snow boots. I go downstairs and find my new friend Lydia, a photographer doing research in the Penland archives, sitting at the table. She is sweatered and braided, eating a bowl of the collard greens she made in the crockpot the night before. We walk to the coffee shop, gripping each other’s arms on the slick, ice-covered stairs. Later, when I walk back to my room alone, the fog has thickened. The knoll’s yellow grass is startling against the flat, white mist. I watch four crows land on the grass, calling to each other, or calling just to hear the echo of sound against this suddenly solid air, this great silence.–Martha Park


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Photo of the Week: Make a Bowl from a Tree


Winter resident Wyatt Sievers with a large bowl he’s been working on in the wood studio. The bowl started as a section from a downed tree. Wyatt rough-turned the piece in his shop in Kentucky and brought it with him to finish the turning at Penland. Right now, he’s keeping in a plastic bag to slow the drying and keep cracking and checking to a minimum. There’s more sanding to be done, then finishing, and he’s thinking about covering the rim with copper leaf. Whatever he does, we know it’s going to look good.


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Begin Again




Begin again. Two words woven into fabric. The weaver is Amanda Thatch. The words belong to her and, as with any communication, quit belonging to anyone the moment they are formed.


Amanda is alive to this fact. As one of Penland’s most voracious readers, she’s interested in language as its own material. In her recent work, words, prefixes, and suffixes surface in the fabric. Text in textile. It’s a linguist’s dream: “text” appears in English from French and Latin, and in “textus,” we have the printed word and its style; “texture” and “textile” deriving from the Latin “texere” (to weave). Writer and weaver have long been in etymological entanglement.




In Amanda’s textiles, textual elements blur and waver. She ties the warp threads to create the letters; they resist the dye. The result is clear and distorted. You can run your hand across the fabric but someday the suffixes above may be cut and displayed separately.


Last summer, Amanda played with ikat–tying the warps multiple times to make these pieces. She doesn’t have the heart to place them behind glass yet. Or iron them, for that matter. “I’m attracted to things that are problematic to presentation,” she says. “Books and textiles.” Works that need to be touched and have a history of being touched. An invisible history.


Begin again.


If I could begin this essay again, I’d start with the term “resist,” and how, in order to be visible, the words Amanda intends to make in fabric must hide from the dye. Then each thread is woven and, Amanda reminds me, thought about as a group performing the structure. The process takes forever, if by “forever” we mean more time than most things take. There’s something spectacular about the weaver in the age of the IPhone. Tedium and loneliness are givens; the loom’s technology provides for an embodied solitude. Hours of it. Alone with warp and weft.


“I don’t like it when I can’t touch the material directly, and I’m not interested when I can’t see the material transform,” says Amanda. “Or when, as with clay, substance goes through a hypermaterial change I can’t touch. I don’t want to give that control of material over to the kiln gods,” she says.


“For me,” Amanda says, “it’s all about the loom. Maybe I should have been an organist?” she quips.



“Only lonesomeness allows one to experience radical singularity, one’s greatest dignity and privilege,” writes novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, a writer important to Amanda. When I look at Amanda’s fabrics, spread across the table, I think of Robinson. It’s hard for me not to. In this short essay, my essay, Amanda Thatch and Marilynne Robinson text each other without using phones. One, in Iowa, writes a sentence in a book. The other takes her hands to a loom overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s winter. Both believe in the “radical singularity” to be experienced in art and solitude, in reading, in the act of thinking, writing, weaving.


Begin again.


Amanda, does the imprecision of language disturb you?


[Amanda laughs.]


“What’s disturbing to me is to be a singular consciousness,” she says. “I want a possibility of communication that’s complete. But it’s not possible. Apart from regular speech, I think there’s a role that art plays in bridging the gap.”–Elaine Bleakney


Amanda Thatch is a former core fellow and the Textiles, Painting & Drawing Studio coordinator at Penland. View more of her work here.


Photographs by Robin Dreyer.