Thanks again to the Rural Academy Theater for another evening of stories, music, dancing, and even a movie — all magically appearing from their horse-drawn theater wagon.
Thanks again to the Rural Academy Theater for another evening of stories, music, dancing, and even a movie — all magically appearing from their horse-drawn theater wagon.
Though small in physical scale, a single innovation changed the course of glass making in America: in 1962 Harvey Littleton, with the help of Norm Schulman and Dominick Labino, built and demonstrated a studio-scale glass furnace at a workshop for university ceramics professors held at the Toledo Museum of Art. Prior to their demonstration, glasswork had been closely linked with production factories, and a studio glass practice was pretty much unheard of.
Two years later, a fortuitous meeting between Littleton and Penland director Bill Brown at the World Craft Conference, held at Columbia University in New York City, triggered another turning point. Once again, Littleton built and demonstrated a small glass furnace, and Bill Brown left that conference determined to build a glass studio at Penland School of Crafts. In 1965, Bill Boysen, a student of Littleton’s, arrived at Penland to build that studio, and hot glass at Penland became a reality. Penland’s first formal offering in glass was the following summer when Boysen taught two classes. Glass has been a vital component of Penland’s program ever since.
Cynthia Bringle, longtime Penland clay instructor and local resident, was here when Boysen arrived to build the studio. When asked what that felt like, she says, “Like many of the early studios, everyone was just doing what it took to make it work. Bill Boysen came down and did it. I just came down and helped!” She remembers early work made from melted glass marbles (one of the forms you could buy raw glass in back then). Clay and glass remained intertwined in the early years: Norm Schulman, local resident and Penland clay instructor, worked in both media and was an advisor for Littleton’s furnace design. When Richard Ritter was a resident artist in the 1970s, Bringle made ceramic collars for him to use for making glass murrinis, and she filled in as an impromptu gaffer.
Littleton’s technology and Brown’s vision for a glass program at Penland acted as a springboard for the studio glass movement. The technology was accessible, and Penland’s glass program became an influential hub. Penland’s resident artists program—a unique program offering long-term housing, studio space, and creative community to a group of craftspeople—was instituted by Brown in 1963. The first resident in glass, Mark Peiser, arrived in 1965. That program and Penland’s immersive learning environment, along with the progressively more sophisticated glass studios, made Penland a magnet that attracted a community of glass artists to the area surrounding the school. In the late 1970s Littleton retired from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and built a home and studio in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, close to Penland. He was part of Penland summers as a visiting scholar for eight years between 1976 and 1984.
Fifty years after the first glass studio at Penland was built, there are, according to glass artist Kate Vogel, approximately sixty active glass artists living and working in the surrounding community—about forty of whom work full time in glass. The Glass Art Society was founded at a gathering at Penland in 1971 and has held their annual conference here a number of times. The second Penland glass studio, the Bonnie Willis Ford Glass Studio, opened for classes in 1977. The current studio, the Bill Brown Glass Studio, was dedicated in 1995 during a Glass Arts Society conference. Many glass artists, from all over the U.S. and the world, have come to Penland to teach and to learn: in fifty years over 700 classes in glass have been offered, taught by almost 300 different instructors, and 27 resident artists in glass have worked in the glass studio at the Barns. In that time, Penland programs have stretched the boundaries of how glass can be worked at the studio scale, all the while fostering a global community of glass artists.
— Carey Hedlund, Penland Archivist
Byrd, Joan Falconer. Harvey K. Littleton: A Life in Glass. New York: Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc., 2011. Print.
Documentary by WGTE television, Toledo, OH: features film footage of the Toledo workshops and interviews with Littleton, Labino and Schulman: http://www.wgte.org/wgte/watch/item.asp?item_id=11648
Glass Arts Society website: http://www.glassart.org/about.html
Penland School of Crafts, Jane Kessler Memorial Archives
Conversations with Kate Vogel and Cynthia Bringle, August 2015
Core fellows got their name because they are at the very core of the Penland community. They are fully engaged with life at the school—they take classes, work in their own studios, live together on campus, and keep the school running alongside Penland’s staff. It’s a pretty special and unique opportunity for emerging artists, and most core fellows find that their two years here are transformative in ways they didn’t even anticipate.
Here’s how some past core fellows have described the experience in their own words:
“I have learned so much about so many different materials and so many different approaches to art and living in community. Because I make things, I get to have experiences that I would never be able to have otherwise. As a core student, I’ve been able to take fourteen Penland classes in two years. That’s a pretty incredible gift.” —Amanda Thatch
“We work so closely together and influence each other so much that the program is like an idea factory. It’s definitely a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We work hard, but we get a lot for it. I find that the work makes me feel more integrated into the whole school.” —Daniel Beck
“I learned so much from being exposed to different teachers and different ways of doing things. I also learned about many things other than craft or art: I learned about landscaping and cooking, for instance, and, more than anything else, about communicating with other people. I think I’ve grown more in the past two years than in any other time of my life.” —Courtney Dodd
“My time as a core student has been seminal in every regard. I have grown immensely in my understanding of material and process, and in the sophistication of my artistic vision. I have lived, worked, and learned with people who have had a profound impact on me, and whose influence I will carry forever. I have had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and the most cups of coffee.” —Jack Mauch
“Being a core fellow at Penland is an incredible blend of being an artist, a staff member, a student, and living in a very close community. Everything is intense: so much more than I think it normally would be. Living with the other core fellows and learning from them—as artists, as colleagues, as people—has been amazing.” —Rachel Mauser
If the Core Fellowship Program piques your interest, then mark down October 15, 2015 on your calendar. That’s when applications for next year’s core fellowships are due. For more information, visit the Core Fellowship page.
Stuart Kestenbaum spent two weeks at Penland in July as this year’s Andrew Glasgow Writing Resident. Stuart is the author of four books of poetry and a book of essays on craft and creativity. His work has been published in a number of magazines including Tikkun and The Sun and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He sent us this account from his time at Penland. Scroll to the bottom to see a video of Stuart reading a couple of poems.
During my last week of the job I had held for 27 years, I received a call from Penland’s program director Leslie Noell asking me to be the Andrew Glasgow Visiting Writer at Penland for a two-week summer session. Sometimes before picking up a ringing phone I reflect for a moment that it could be either a wonderful opportunity or really bad news. Most times the call is far more mundane than that– a reminder of a dental appointment or a robo-call from a nonexistent bank. The call from Penland, though, was of the rare wonderful opportunity variety, particularly since the job I was leaving was as director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a program in Maine so similar in concept to Penland that we think of ourselves as sister schools. Penland inspired the founding of Haystack in 1950, and Bill Brown, who was assistant director at Haystack, became director of Penland in 1962. We’ve been sharing faculty and educational strategies for a long time.
At Penland I would be able to experience the powerful creative energy of a community of makers—much like what I’d lived with at Haystack—but without any of the responsibility. Someone else would be thinking about plumbing, food, kilns, and fundraising. And, while I always loved the group energy of each session at Haystack, there was rarely time for my own work; these two weeks at Penland would give me time to focus on my writing.
A number of the workshop leaders—Bob Ebendorf, Jason Pollen, and Patricia Wheeler—had all taught at Haystack, so I had connections with the studios from the very start of the session. At Haystack I would introduce evening program by reading other people’s poems, so Bob invited me into his workshop to read poems to his class in the mornings. He said that I was like a tinker, traveling to the studio with poetry. I responded by saying that I would be more like a tinker if people gave me words that I could turn into a poem—repairing them or giving them new life in a sense. I would be a tinker of words. This began a series of daily poems with words from Bob’s class and later words from Kip O’Krongly’s clay class too.
It was liberating for me to use words that weren’t of my own choosing and exciting for the people in the studios to see their own words transformed. Each morning I’d return with a poem from the day before—some a little crazier than others—but the writing had allowed me make discoveries. And isn’t that what we want from our making? To employ what skills we have to travel along an unknown path into a new place. Using other people’s words provided me some distance from my writing self and allowed me to go inside more deeply, or at least differently. When the clay group left me a list of sixteen words (marsupial, mountain, basket, cleft, immense, bacon, pattern, noodle, anxiety, rigor mortis, stoicism, applesauce, stressed, passion, silhouette, and bedfellows) here’s what I wrote.
Living on the mountaintop, I missed
coffee and bacon at first—who doesn’t?
and later began to dream of simple things like
applesauce and noodles, since I was living
on air. Passion takes many forms,
my master had always stressed.
Look for patterns he said.
Being and non-being are strange
bedfellows. One day anxiety left me, drifting
off and settling in a rock cleft far below.
When the light was right, I could watch
its silhouette moving wildly.
I learned the names of my fears
and put them in a basket. Each day I would
climb the ledges, remembering who I
had been, feeling like a marsupial carrying
all those personalities in my pouch.
Then there was nothing. But it’s not what we
fear. No rigor mortis. I was alive and
dancing in this immense emptiness that
is everything. Stoics were laughing. Birds
were singing. First morning.
It was a dynamic partnership with the studios that I would look forward to each day. I’d receive my list of words in the late afternoon and work on the poems at night, ready for delivery to the workshops in the morning. I had my materials and I had a deadline—two key components of any creative process—and people eager to listen to poetry. What more could a writer want?
–Stuart Kestenbaum, September 2015
Here’s an excerpt from Stuart’s reading at Penland.
Stuart’s only complaint about his time at Penland was that, for some reason, nobody was playing frisbee or volleyball that session. He left us this poetic visual comment.
For six weeks last winter, Penland opened its studios for our first ever Winter Residency Program. We welcomed potters and glass blowers, weavers and wood workers, painters and photographers and writers and more. Some came from nearby, while others traveled internationally. But all came with the goal of spending some focused time in our studios to make, experiment, and connect with others who were doing the same.
This year, we are pleased to be hosting the second annual Winter Residency from January 3 to February 13. We hope that, like last year, the program will provide artists with a unique opportunity to take advantage of Penland’s well-equipped studios and creative community to bring new ideas and projects to life. If you sound like one of those artists, then please visit our winter residency page for more information.
Applications for 2016 Winter Residency spots are due October 1, 2014.
“Winter at Penland provided state-of-the-art facilities and the serenity of its mountain setting to focus on my work in a manner I have not been afforded in many years. It allowed me to refresh my creative spirit and create an entirely new body of work. Since the winter months are particularly quiet, an intimate bond can be found with fellow artists who share the time. It is a unique time for intense focus in outstanding studios with a select number of highly-skilled makers.”
Former Penland Winter Resident
Many people who have spent time around Penland know Cristina Córdova, a former Penland resident and established ceramic artist whose studio is just down the hill from the Penland Gallery. Cristina’s sought-after sculptures are figurative and expressive, often mesmerizing and sometimes haunting. Once you’ve seen her deft and intuitive approach to clay and the human form, it’s not hard to see why one of her workshops would produce some very compelling art.
But this summer’s Sculpture in Motion class was far more than just remarkable ceramic sculpture. To teach the course, Cristina teamed up with her younger brother Arturo Córdova, an artist in his own right. Arturo trained as an animator and also works out of Brooklyn, NY to build sets and props for commercials and films. Together, they proposed and developed a workshop that combined both of their talents together in the form of stop-motion animation.
Students in Sculpture in Motion first constructed intricate ceramic sculptures, each one articulated to allow for re-positionable movement. Next they built sets for their figures to inhabit. Once these visual pieces were in place, they used digital software to shoot individual frames and compile them into animation sequences. Somehow, all of this work fit into one two-and-a-half week whirlwind, and the results are bursting with the session’s creative energy. From a cartoon rabbit and a blooming flower to curling tentacles and disappearing heads, the animations are as varied as they are awesome. View clips from the workshop here, and prepare to be impressed.
The Japanese art of shibori, or shaped resist dyeing, is as old as it is varied. Since the first known example of the technique in the 8th century, artists have used shibori methods to produce patterns of miniature dots and bold lines, sharp angles and soft curves. Shibori has traditionally been done with indigo dye on natural fibers such as silk and hemp. And the intricate patterns it produces often echo the natural world as well—from the driving diagonal lines of a rainstorm to the rippling patterns on the surface of a lake to the delicate symmetry of a spider’s web.
Textile artist Carol LeBaron’s work is, at first glance, a far cry from the indigo and white designs that many people associate with shibori. But she is one in a long line of artists using and reinterpreting these techniques. Much of her current work draws from itajime shibori, a method of folding and clamping to produce pattern on cloth. And her imagery, like many traditional shibori patterns, also reflects nature. Her fabrics are rich with color—deep greens and saturated reds outline leaf shapes, while bright golds and oranges suggest dappled sunlight filtering through a forest canopy. As Carol explains, each piece “elicits the specificity of a particular time of day, weather, or place.” She describes her work as “a combination of contemporary aesthetic, modern technology, and ancient techniques.”
This fall, Carol will bring her knowledge of those techniques to Penland when she teaches “Explore Shibori: Acid Dyes” from October 18-24. Like Carol’s work, the one-week course will use traditional shibori methods as a jumping-off point to create new layers of pattern and color on cloth. Students of all levels will get the chance to put their own spin on techniques that have captivated artists for centuries. Space is still available to take part in Explore Shibori. Register here.
This workshop will explore the limitless possibilities inherent in acid dyes. We’ll begin with simple immersion techniques, creating a base and adding layers with direct application. We’ll explore shibori techniques in the hot acid dye pot, which can cause wool and silk to hold the shape when dried. This week will be an investigation that will result in a rich assortment of samples and many techniques and ideas to follow up in your own work. All levels. Code F02TA
Carol LeBaron is a studio artist who has taught at Haystack (ME), Arrowmont (TN), Campbell Folk School (NC), Peters Valley (NJ), and East Tennessee State University. Her textile work has been exhibited at the Nashville Airport, the Textile Museum (DC), and the International Shibori Symposium (Hong Kong) and has been included in publications such as Surface Design Journal, Fiberarts Design Book Seven, and 1000 Textiles (Lark Books).
REGISTER NOW FOR FALL 1-WEEK WORKSHOPS
October 4 – 10 | October 18 – 24 | November 1 – 7