Before Laura Wood was a jeweler, she was a dancer. It’s a history that shows in her work—earrings and brooches that flutter and flow, pendants that seem nearly weightless in their volume. In her recent pieces, Laura has been exploring lace-like constructions of delicate metal. Each one calls to mind a certain rhythm and exuberance, as if a spiraling path of movement has been temporarily frozen in three dimensions.
Laura explains that her training in dance led her to “making adornment for the body, activating pleasure and enjoyment through wearing.” As she describes it, “Each piece is very much an effort in creating body-conscious work… I strive to enhance the silhouette of the body and create work to be worn as a celebration of performance and adornment.”
“Celebration” seems like an appropriate word to describe Laura’s approach to her career as a full-time jeweler. Her designs are lively and dynamic, and she is engaged in building and supporting her community of fellow metalsmiths. As a complement to her own work, Laura co-founded Jewelry Edition, an online and pop-up jewelry exhibit that features a rotating selection of emerging jewelry artists and strives to offer “an in-depth view into the process of contemporary jewelry.”
For a lucky group of students, Laura will offer an extra in-depth view of that process at Penland this spring. Her 2016 concentration “Make, Show, Repeat: Cross Training for Jewelers” will focus on all stages of creating jewelry, from the idea phase and the technical aspects of making to finishing details and fine-tuning process.
Laura Wood – This workshop will introduce a variety of metalsmithing techniques and material exploration to use as a launching pad for new work or to enrich a jewelry-making vocabulary. We’ll engineer components, embellish surface structures, and hone finishing skills. Other highlights will include mold making, powder coating, etching, stone setting, and idea generation. A progressive timeline will guide the structure of the class to encourage fast development. We’ll share our growth in its various stages through pop-up exhibitions. Basic metalsmithing skills will be helpful, but this workshop is open to all levels. Code S00MB
Studio artist; teaching: Southwest School of Art (TX); visiting artist: Western Michigan University, New Mexico State University; gallery representation: Mora Contemporary Jewelry (NC), Signature Gallery (GA), Quirk Gallery (VA), Society for Contemporary Craft (PA), Gallery 360 (MN), Heidi Lowe Gallery (DE), Gallery Store (OR).
During his time as a resident artist at Penland, Tom Shield’s studio was constantly filled with old, worn furniture. “I collect wood furniture from the trash and let it pile up in my studio until it slowly starts to work itself into groups,” he once explained. “In the course of a few weeks, I constantly move and cluster chairs around my studio in different bunches. Once the groups get narrowed I start letting them talk.” The sculptures that result from this process are marked not only by Tom’s hands, but by the hands of those who used the furniture before him over days and weeks and years.
As interesting as it can be, working with discarded furniture does have obvious limitations. “For me, it’s always been on my list of where I want to go as an artist to up the pedigree of my materials,” Tom told me recently. Thanks to a brand-new collaboration with Century Furniture, he now has the opportunity to do just that.
Tom is the inaugural artist-in-residence at Century’s case goods factory in Hickory, NC. Hickory has long been known as one of the furniture capitals of the world, and Century has established its own reputation as a producer of high-end, heirloom-quality furniture.
During his three-month residency, Tom has free reign over what he creates—and he also has free access to a whole new caliber of raw materials. “I get to use anything that’s a second,” he explains. That means dozens, if not hundreds, of brand new furniture pieces that are only slightly less than perfect. “I’m super thankful for the whole opportunity,” he says.
A quick scroll through Tom’s Instagram gallery shows that he’s already put the time and materials to good use. Since the residency began on October 4, Tom has been working on three different sculptures made from Century tables. Two are crafted from groupings of identical tables, while the third is made from a single piece. This one is a bit of a departure for Tom: he has cut the table in two, dropped one side down three-quarters of an inch, and shifted it over two inches. “Because the pieces are so new and so pristine, I barely have to change them at all to make them into something completely different,” Tom tells me. “Before, I felt like I needed to do more to put my hand in it and have the same impact.”
The new materials are not the only departure from Tom’s individual studio practice. As he describes it, “I’m making work right on the same floor as all the people who are making the furniture for Century.” A lot of those people have been in the furniture industry for thirty or forty years, and Tom wasn’t sure how he’d be received as the first studio artist in their midst. “It’s intense, and it’s definitely working under a microscope, but everybody has been super nice and really helpful,” he says. “I feel like half of my day is spent just talking to people, sharing ideas and approaches.” And, now that he’s getting comfortable with how everything works at Century, “I’m just going to start making crazier and crazier things,” he laughs.
As a woodworker who has spent so much time with old furniture, Tom is intimately aware of what can bring a piece to the end of its life: the disposable design, planned obsolescence, and shoddy craftsmanship that are so common in much of today’s mass market furniture. Being at Century has provided a reassuring look at the other end of the furniture spectrum. “Every piece of furniture is touched by so many hands and created with such individual care,” Tom states. “I think people have this misconception now that there are CNC machines and other tools and you just put a bunch of wood in one end and it comes out as a piece of furniture at the other end. That’s not the case at all. So many different people are involved in every aspect of creating a piece.”
In fact, Tom revealed that the high level of craftsmanship at Century has actually changed the way he works with furniture. As he describes, “Normally I take everything apart by just banging on the joints. But at Century, I can’t get pieces apart. I’m having to learn to do everything I’ve been doing with all the pieces completely intact. It’s a whole new challenge, but it’s been an amazing opportunity.”
The opportunity was made possible by Ande Maricich, an active friend and supporter of Penland’s. Ande has deep ties to the furniture industry, and her husband served as Century’s CEO for a while. “Ande is really invested in both the craft world and furniture manufacturing,” Tom remarks. She had been excited by the partnership of artists and manufacturing facilities in the Kohler Arts/Industry residency and wanted to create a similar partnership at Century. When she saw Tom’s furniture sculptures a few years ago at the Penland Benefit Auction, she talked to him about the possibility of a residency at Century. Now that it’s become a reality, Ande would like to expand the program to include other artists and other factories and further strengthen the reciprocal ties between art and industry.
Reflecting on those ties, Tom points out that both he and the Century employees he’s working alongside are making things by hand. “I’m an artist, but they’re all artisans working on the floor, too—what’s really the difference?” he asks.
After completing his residency at Century in December, Tom will be at Penland for the spring as the studio assistant to Raivo Vihman’s timber framing concentration. He was also just selected for a Kohler Arts/Industry residency—congrats, Tom!
The fall Empty Bowls event was a great success, raising $1350 that went to Shepherd’s Staff, which runs a food bank here in Mitchell County. Instead of the usual dinner, this event took place for a week during lunchtime in the Penland Coffee House. Each participant donated $20 and got tasty soup from the Penland kitchen in a bowl donated by someone in the fall clay workshop. And, of course, they got to keep the bowl. A poster for the event was made in the print studio with contributions from the clay folks and the sign painters. In the front are Shepherd’s Staff director Martha Gordon (with poster) and board chair Bill Sweetser. They are joined by the students and instructors from the clay studio (Pat Nevin was added to the picture later) and, in the back, the folks from the kitchen who made the soup. Bill said the money would go straight to Thanksgiving dinners. Thanks, everyone, for helping to build community through craft. More about Empty Bowls here.
“My first frame was raised by hand with a group of a dozen friends, and by the end of the day limitless space was bounded by posts and rafters into the shape of a house. I was bewitched.” So Raivo Vihman describes his first experience constructing a timber frame.
Looking at the many timber frames Raivo has designed and built since, it’s not hard to see the appeal. His structures are at once graceful and solid, intricate and beautifully simple. Together, the wooden beams take the familiar shape of a house or a barn, but individually their knots and exposed grain still speak of nature. His structures are built with wood in the truest sense of the word—each beam is unique, and each one gives something of itself to the frame as a whole. For Raivo, even after years of building, every new timber frame is an opportunity: “It’s still about the act of creation, the interplay between aesthetic grace and functional design, and the beauty hidden in the wood.”
This spring, Raivo will be here at Penland to share his craft—and his love of his craft—with students in Timber!, an eight-week timber framing concentration. Like all Penland workshops, Timber! will be an opportunity to gain technical skills, a deeper understanding of materials, and exposure to new ideas. What makes it extra special is that students in the workshop will come together to build an enduring structure on campus. The resulting timber frame will reflect each of the students who’s hands worked to build it, as well as the Penland landscape it will become a part of.
In fact, the structure has already been set into motion. In spring of this year, Raivo was at Penland preparing wood. He and his studio assistant (and former Penland resident artist) Tom Shields stacked dozens of fir, pine, and cypress beams under temporary roofs. The beams have been curing so that they will be ready to frame come next spring:
Raivo also cut a number of beams from the woods right here at Penland. He wanted the structure to include local trees, and he wanted to incorporate pieces into the design that have natural curvature to them. With the help of some eager Penland volunteers, those logs, too, are awaiting next spring:
“The class will be tailored to student interests,” Raivo says. He has structured it to introduce students of all levels—from complete beginners to experienced builders—to the details of timber framing. The workshop will move through the complete process of designing and raising a frame, from drafting plans and building models to working with hand tools and different species of wood. For anyone like Raivo who is fascinated by the potential for both beauty and function in this type of building, Timber! will be an invaluable eight weeks.
Raivo Vihman – In this workshop we’ll delve into traditional carpentry as we cut, join, and raise a timber-framed structure that will become a permanent part of the Penland campus. We’ll explore various approaches to timber preparation, layout, joinery design and execution, and compound-angle joinery. We’ll also cover scribing techniques as we incorporate round logs into the structure of the frame. Students will begin by designing and building their own timber sawhorses and will leave the class with the skills needed to design and build their own timber frames. All levels. Code S00W
Carpenter, founder and proprietor of Haystack Joinery (ME); teaching: Waterfall Arts (ME), Miljandi Cultural Academy (Estonia).
Glass instructor Rob Stern finished off this fall’s concentration by introducing his students to a whole new technique that merges the hot glass shop with printmaking techniques. Rob created a large glass cylinder and then he and his students embellished its surfaces with relief designs. Rob wrote “Penland” backwards and created silhouettes of two glassblowing figures with hot glass from the furnace. Then each member of the class wrote their own name backwards using glass cane heated with a torch. They touched up the shape of the cylinder and then rolled it—still hot—onto a flat sheet of paper. The raised designs on the glass cylinder charred the paper where they made contact, creating a lasting print with heat instead of ink. Pretty ingenious!
On the left is North Carolina potter Daniel Johnston. On the right is Bill Jones. In the middle is a pot that Daniel made as a demonstration a couple of weeks ago for the two-month, fall clay concentration taught by Suze Lindsay and Kent McLaughlin. In 2011, Bill was a beginning student in Kent and Suze’s last concentration. He returned in 2012 for a concentration taught by Matt Kelleher. After that, he worked as Daniel’s apprentice for two years. This fall, he’s back in the Penland clay studio as Suze and Kent’s assistant. This is one way to become a potter.
Are you a weaver? It’s a question that asks more than whether or not you can weave. At its heart, the question probes our personalities and preferences, asking about the processes that speak to us and the mental spaces which we most like to inhabit. Weaving is not for everyone, but it definitely is for tapestry artist Mary Zicafoose. “From the first moment I sat at a loom, there was not a question in my mind that I was a weaver,” she says. That was over twenty years ago, and Mary has been weaving ever since.
“There is something timeless and inner-dimensional about the process of weaving,” Mary explains. “The work takes weeks. As the planet speeds along, the weaver sits hour by hour, day by day, slowly and steadily building a tapestry. No amount of adrenaline, caffeine, or technology alters the pace of the unfolding. To be a weaver is an almost surreal occupation placed against the backdrop of linear time, and the pace, demands, and deadlines of contemporary life. Nothing in the making of a tapestry happens quickly. It is a deep inward breath, a meditative activity that draws you in, not out.”
So, are you a weaver? If yes, Mary’s spring 2016 concentration Artist & Weaver could be a transformative eight weeks. The class is tailored to intermediate weavers, those who already have some experience at the loom. As such, it will cover the technical aspects of weaving, but it will also go beyond to focus on weaving as an art. Registration is now open.
How can each artist tell a unique story in a unique voice? It’s a question that Mary has been focused on with her pieces for years. As a weaver, she has developed a distinct expression of ideas through the imagery and colors she chooses. “I use color boldly, with a sure hand, creating strong visual statements in fiber. It is my relationship with color, the use of intensely dyed primaries within large planes and fields of color, which distinguishes my work,” she says. One of Mary’s goals for the class is to help each of her students to develop their own woven voice—be it a bright and bold one like Mary’s or one characterized more by softness and subtlety.
As part of her focus on color, Mary will bring in guest instructor Catharine Ellis for part of the class. Catharine, like Mary, has developed a distinct voice in fiber over the years. Hers is distinguished by the use of natural dyes and innovative techniques in woven shibori. Catherine will share her expertise in dyeing with the class, helping to give each student the palette they need to weave their visions into tapestries.
If you are ready to take your weaving to the next level, or if you would like to work with master weavers and dyers, or if you could simply use eight weeks of focus at the loom—join Mary this spring in the textiles studio.
This eight-week textile intensive will provide mentorship with the goal of igniting and focusing studio practice. Our main areas of emphasis are as follows: Developing personal voice at the loom: we’ll build tapestries in series using classic and slit tapestry techniques, surface design, compression and resist applications, stitching, and off-loom embellishments. Color: guest teacher Catharine Ellis will lead us in a dyeing workshop that will help students gain creative fluency with both synthetic and natural dyes. Professional practice: the workshop will include a strategic planning curriculum for artists: goal setting, statements, résumés, PowerPoint, social media, record keeping, promotion, exhibition, and more. Intermediate level: prior weaving experience required. Code S00TB
Studio artist; teaching: Arrowmont (TN), Penland, weaver’s guilds nationwide; recent exhibitions: World Ikat and Shibori Conference (China), Joslyn Art Museum (NE); work in 12 U.S. embassies worldwide.