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Photo of the Week: Eight Shots of Spring

Penland runs well over 100 workshops every year, and this fast pace means it can be hard to fully appreciate the creative leaps and transformations that happen—quietly but powerfully—in each one. Before we move on to the exciting flurry of summer workshops starting this Sunday, we want to spend another moment or two taking in all the great things that came to life during our spring sessions, from new shoes to new furniture designs to new friendships. Below, we present a mini slideshow of eight photos, one from each of our eight-week concentrations and an extra one of the sweet moments in between. For more spring photos, including shots from our spring one-week workshops, head over here to view our longer album.

"Experimental Editions" with Marianne Dages
"Meta-Furniture" with Tom Shields
"Persuading Metal" with Adam Whitney
"The Perfect Union: Paint, Collage & Transfer" with Holly Roberts
"Wheelthrowing and Handbuilding Techniques" with Sunshine Cobb
"Sculpture with Fierce Intention" with Christina Shmigel
"From Shoes to Boots: Footwear 101" with Amara Hark-Weber
...and a moment of friends and spring green outside The Pines


Registration just opened for our next round of fall and spring workshops—take a look at all the great instructors we have lined up! There are also spaces open in many of our summer workshops starting as soon as May 27th.

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Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 Workshops!

Catalog cover: woman winding a warp in the textiles studio

The beautiful thing about the Penland schedule is that it is simultaneously very regular and very unpredictable. We know that there will be seven 8-week concentrations and nine 1-week workshops offered in the fall and spring, but their content can vary dramatically from year to year—will textiles students be sewing quilts or making shoes? Will the iron studio be forging or pouring iron? Will the clay class be firing sculpture at cone 03 or pots at cone 10?

Today, we’re thrilled to answer these burning questions and reveal our Fall 2018/Spring 2019 workshop lineup! We’ve got classes programmed in each of our studios (including our shiny new paper and photography studios), and there’s something on offer for just about any creative interest. Get a peek at our Fall 2018 Concentration workshops below, or browse our workshops by studio or by session to see everything we have planned.

2018 Fall Concentrations
September 23 – November 16, 2018

  • Clay – Red Clay Every Way with Maggie Jaszczak & Tom Jaszczak
  • Glass – Pattern & Texture with Benjamin Johnson
  • Iron – Forged & Filed with Seth Gould
  • Letterpress – Letterpress Possibilities with Beth Schaible
  • Painting – Color & Abstraction with Tonya D. Lee
  • Textiles – Surface Design: Fundamental to Experimental with Tim Eads
  • Wood – Seriously Messing with Wood with Stephen Proctor

Registration for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 workshops will open Monday, May 21 at 11:00 AM EST on a first-come, first-served basis. Scholarships are available for all 8-week concentrations—apply by August 1 for fall and November 28 for spring.

And if you’re the type of person who just loves to leaf through our offerings in paper, don’t fear; the catalog is at the printer now and will be on its way to mailboxes across the country shortly!

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Inside Out: Sketches from Inside

“If I am to have a message to the world out there, let it be: ’There are some of us, a good number of us, who strive to be better versions of ourselves, even from behind these walls. Don’t forget about us.”
—Robert Reid, Inside Out artist

Guests enjoy the artwork at the opening reception for “Inside Out.”

This spring, through a new collaboration between Penland and the Avery/Mitchell Correctional Institution, three Penland artists led a Prison Arts Pilot Program with a group of local inmates. Iron studio coordinator Daniel Beck, core fellow Sarah Rose Lejeune, and former resident artist Rachel Meginnes worked with fifteen incarcerated men over a period of nine weeks. “Our original intention was to solely focus on drawing exercises, as many of the men were most interested in learning skills and art terms that others are able to learn in school,” they explained. “Over the weeks, though, our drawing exercises turned into communal teaching opportunities in which all participants taught each other and we all learned to grow together as artists.”

The program culminated last month in an exhibition of artwork titled Inside Out: Sketches from Inside. The show, held at Fox & the Fig coffee shop in downtown Spruce Pine, was a collection of drawings from twelve artists who participated in the program. Their pieces included work in pencil, pen, pastels, and watercolor, with subjects varying from landscapes to detailed portraits of people and animals to works combining words and images. The common thread that connected them all was an astonishing level of talent and a real dedication to the practice and craft of drawing. As Daniel, Sarah Rose, and Rachel noted in their introduction for the show, “More than anything, the men at AMCI would like you to know that they have talent, heart, and soul and do not want to be forgotten.”

A viewer admiring some of the work, including portraits of a German shepherd and a parrot
Admiring the details on a portrait of a German shepherd

Although none of the artists could be at the opening, many had written statements about their practice that were on view as part of the show. Just like the drawings, these statements communicated a deep commitment and focus. “When our voices can’t reach the outside we still express our language of art as a reminder of our humanity, love, and our deepest feelings and expression,” wrote Nick Tucci-Caselli. “Art has completely changed my life, and with it came hope, purpose, goals, dreams, and a coping mechanism in times of stress, depression, and loneliness.” Another artist, Frederick Brason, wrote, “I hope to learn as much as I can from this class and all the incredibly talented inmates around me before I go home in three years and have a good foundation to build upon for the future. Through my art I hope to inspire others to explore their own creativity in whatever capacity it manifests.”

Alongside the statements from the artists there was a guestbook that viewers were encouraged to sign to share their thoughts and feedback with the artists. Reading through those pages revealed the power of the show and the impact of each artist’s talent. “I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to see your work and read your words—I see your hearts and souls throughout your creative expressions,” commented one guest. “Thank you for sharing this part of yourselves with us. We need your gifts more than ever and welcome them among us,” wrote another.

Angela Lamm of AMCI explains the impact these art classes had on the inmates she works with. She told one story about an inmate who had put in a request for a transfer but then cancelled it when he learned about the classes because he finally felt like his voice was being heard.

Inside Out: Sketches from the Inside will be on view at Fox & the Fig in Spruce Pine, NC through May 19. Visitors are encouraged to come and appreciate this special exhibition and to leave a message for the artists. Donations are also being collected to help support the continuation of the art program at Avery/Mitchell Correctional Institution; in the words of the teaching artists, the classes have been “successful beyond our greatest expectations.”

Thanks to teaching artists Daniel T. Beck, Sarah Rose Lejeune, and Rachel Meginnes; Penland’s Community Collaborations Manager Stacey Lane; Aaron Buchanan at Fox & the Fig; and Angela Lamm, Dawn McMahan, and Jason Penland at AMCI for organizing this program and show. And a big thanks to the artists who participated: Bobby Autry, David Baugess, Frederick Brason, Tyvon Gabriel, Eric Hughes, David Jones, Michael Lewis, Robert Reid, Juan Santiago, Michael Sheets, Antonio Trejo, and Nicolas Tucci-Caselli.


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Photo of the Week: Nice Boot!

Student Mira Brown finishing up a beautiful pair of work boots at the end of the stellar eight-week shoemaking workshop taught by Amara Hark-Weber.


Here are shoes from the whole class on display at shoe-and-tell.

And more!

WLOS, the local TV station, came by and did a short piece on the class for the evening news. Watch it here.

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Teacher, Mentor, Friend: Remembering Doug Sigler

Doug Sigler at Penland
Doug Sigler working with a student in the Penland wood studio.

Woodworker, furniture designer, teacher, and Penland neighbor Doug Sigler died—surrounded by family and friends—on April 11, 2018 at age 77 after suffering a major stroke and then a heart attack.

Doug was born in Red Hook, New York. He attended the School for American Craftsmen of the Rochester Institute of Technology and then went on to teach there for 25 years, mentoring several generations of woodworkers. He first taught at Penland School in 1964 and began building a home near the school in 1978. Along with his friend and teacher Skip Johnson, Doug worked closely with Penland’s second director Bill Brown to establish woodworking as a regular program at Penland.

After he retired from full-time teaching in 2000, Doug and his wife Kathie settled permanently at Penland. He continued to make furniture and also began building houses, mostly designed by his friend and former student Bob Leverich. Doug built beautiful houses and employed a number of skilled, younger craftspeople in the process. He continued teaching at Penland (most recently in the summer of 2017), often with his friend Terry Hunt. Their workshops were aways full. Doug and Kathie created a home and studio at Penland that was a gathering place for craftspeople from around the world.

Doug was selected as the 2018 Penland School of Crafts Outstanding Artist Educator and will be honored as such at this year’s benefit auction. There will also be an open memorial event in the Penland wood studio on the evening of Saturday, August 11.

Family and friends have requested that memorial donations go to Penland School of Crafts for a scholarship fund honoring Doug. (Please mention Doug Sigler if you make a donation.)

In an effort to convey the impact that Doug Sigler has had on Penland School, the Penland community, and his hundreds of students, we contacted several people who knew Doug well and asked them to send us a memory or a story. We received an outpouring of love and appreciation; people had a lot to say about Doug. Some of what follows are excerpts, but in those cases they are followed by a link to the full text we received.

Wood sculptor Sylvie Rosenthal
Thoughts about my dear friend, mentor, and second father Doug Sigler.

Doug taught, inspired, and encouraged countless people as an educator, mentor, and friend during his time as a professor at Buffalo State, RIT, and Penland.

Early in my time working with and for Doug, we had a conversation about the difference between a boss and a mentor. A boss is someone you work for, a simple exchange. A mentor is someone who has the other’s best interest in mind, encourages them, and holds them accountable to their own dreams. Doug is a mentor in the truest sense; for those of us Doug mentored, his words and encouragement are with us.

Doug had incredibly high standards for craft, and he expected you to stick the landing. Do the work. If it wasn’t up to standards, you fixed it or did it again. Through building houses and projects with Doug, I learned a lot about trust. Both in myself and others. In a house, you couldn’t go back and check everything. Someone else might have nailed the trusses and you are putting the roof on. You have to trust that they did a good job or you won’t make any progress. It is the same in the studio, you have to trust yourself, that you made the best decisions you could and keep moving forward. Stick that landing.

I wish I had recording of the stories Doug told. He would explain the history of contemporary American woodworking and how it evolved, his teacher and mentor Tage Frid, the ‘old days’ at RIT and Penland, C.R. Skip ‘the former boy wonder’ Johnson, old grudges between woodworking legends, baseball—the topics were endless. Doug couldn’t keep years in order and had a penchant for embellishment, but the man could hold an audience and make laughter ripple through a room.

You had to have a sense of humor around Doug. Maybe that’s why we hit it off so well. Pranks, jokes, and some trouble-making were part of daily life. It was about entertainment, levity, and not taking things too seriously, and always in the name of adventure and fun. There are endless stories and memories of these shenanigans.

Through his life, the way he worked and lived, Doug showed countless others that what you do is more than a job, that it is making a life. Doug was a dedicated friend and mentor who influenced and encouraged many.  He took chances on projects and more importantly on people. I will love and miss him forever, though I know no one feels his absence more acutely than his wife Kathie.

Read all of Sylvie’s remembrance here.

With visitors to his studio

Sculptor Bill Brown, Jr.
My dad, Bill Brown Sr., and Doug truly loved each other and had an inseparable bond. They were extremely loyal to each other, gave each other hell, and worked extremely hard. Along with his big personality his great attribute was his passion and love of teaching woodworking and design. There was nobody better and my dad knew that!

When I was about to go to high school in my freshman year. I knew I was going to take a wood class at the high school. So I thought what a better preparation than to take a wood class with Doug Sigler. I didn’t realize what an undertaking this would be. He decided I should make a music stand. He didn’t care that I didn’t play an instrument—that had nothing to do with it. The exercise was about the clean lines of the music stand and learning how to use every tool in the wood shop correctly. And also not the least, was to totally complete the job correctly, sanding little square rectangle pieces of wood down to a glass finish. And you would not stop until he said stop. There were many times when I wanted to sneak out of the wood shop and go do anything else, but that was not going to happen on Doug’s watch.

Doug Sigler gave me many, many gifts. These are the most important ones that come to mind: always a strict loyalty to your family and friends, work as hard as you possibly can, and, most importantly, never give up! My son Gamble was born after my father died, and as time went on Doug became an important friend and grandfather figure to my son. What a wonderful gift of shared experience, friendship and family that continued through the generations. I miss him every day, and will always love him!

Read all of Bill’s remembrance here.

At Penland, back in the day

Woodworker and furniture designer Stephen Proctor
Since 1975, Doug has been to me the best friend and ally that anyone could wish for. He was honest, loyal, and generous, but most of all, incredibly fun. We had the best and stupidest adventures together. He gave his all to his students, providing them access to a vast world of possibilities, and he was available to them for help and assistance wherever and whenever. The house he shared with Kathie was a melting pot of congeniality and warmth, and I am forever grateful for their hospitality. Doug was and always will be a magic part of the Penland aura.

Bookbinder and wood student Cathy Adelman
I took a workshop with Doug Sigler and Marvin Jensen at Penland in 2000, and then I took every workshop that Doug taught for the rest of his life. I even followed him out to Anderson Ranch. I love wood, and I’ve taken a lot of workshops. Doug, bar none, was the best teacher I’ve ever had. He was as patient with a beginner as with a skilled woodworker. He was the epitome of a generous teacher and an important part of my Penland experience. Not only that, but I’ve long felt that if I were ever in trouble east of the Mississippi, the first call I’d make would be to Doug. He was the most loyal, dependable friend one could have. You could count on him no matter what.

Doug Sigler
Detail of stairs in Doug and Kathie’s house
Woodworker and Penland wood studio coordinator Ellie Richards
I came to know Doug in my first few days as a studio coordinator at Penland. I didn’t know anything about him and was left with a great amount of curiosity. Who was this gruff man who stood tall and even on our first meeting treated me as though I was one of his old friends who he could jostle with jokes and personal stories about back in the day?

Doug gave me the open invitation I could extend to any of our wood instructors for a tour of his property and some of the houses he designed and built alongside Bruce Anderson. A visit usually went something like this:

First we would hang down in his wood studio, somewhat of a time capsule filled with old machines and relics that were covered in dust and cobwebs, but any woodworker would know they were still tuned well and completely in use. He would always share what he was currently working on—maybe retweaking and making an old table design, maybe fixing a door for one of his buildings, or perhaps laying a final coat of oil onto one of his beefy and beautiful butcher blocks. But, before he showed us anything, he made sure we had a cold drink in our hands. For this, he would reach into his vintage Coke machine and pull out mini Cokes or Coronitas to share. Neither of these drinks interest me on the day to day, but at Doug’s I felt as though I had never tasted anything more refreshing.

The best was when he would give a small demo on something he was doing. One day he was using hide glue to set canvas on the back of some tambour doors. Another time he talked to us about the ramifications of kiln-drying wood too fast. This is the type of knowledge and experience that simply can’t be found on the Internet.

We were all shaken when we found out about the car accident last year that left him with a major neck injury. He was very strong and made a physical recovery that enabled him to continue to act like his old self. Months later he suffered a stroke that left half of his body paralyzed. This didn’t stop him from keeping his spirits up. Kyle Kulchar and I went to visit him and he was so excited to show us the saw-shaped cane one of his friends had made him. Even with the left side of his body in forced stillness, he made Kyle and me laugh so much.

What I want for all of us is to think of the things we are doing today, what we are making with our hands, and how this behavior reverberates into the world. All moments can have significance in our lives, and recognizing them when they come can lead to possibilities for growth, optimism, and positive change that lives on beyond our time.

Read all of Ellie’s remembrance here.

Doug Sigler

Woodworker and furniture designer Annie Evelyn
Doug and I had a very unbalanced relationship. A relationship in which I took, took, took and he gave, gave, gave. He gave advice on woodworking problems. He gave advice on teaching. He gave invites to dinner. He gave comfort when I was upset. He gave love. And, of course, he also gave SASS. I first became friends with Doug because I love to laugh and he always had witty response to any words out of anyone’s mouth. But the reason I came to love him is because of his unending kindness and generosity. He cared so deeply about all he loved. He always went out of his way to help me and others succeed. He is the definition of a real friend. He will always be an inspiration to me, and I will strive to give to my friends and loved ones as much as I took from Doug Sigler. Thank you for everything, Doug and Kathie. I love you both so much.

Landscape architect and woodworker Sam Reynolds
Doug was the best instructor I ever had, and that includes five years of design school. He could explain something so that anyone could easily understand it. And he cared about his students. He would recommend other classes to take and other teachers to be exposed to. He was always putting people together that he thought would benefit from the interaction. He was always giving of his time and very generous. He made learning fun. He touched a lot of people.

A backgammon table Doug made for a Penland benefit auction

Woodworker and former core fellow Morgan Hill
I often push limits, I’m slightly insensitive, and my jokes can go too far. It might be a way I cope with things, things that make me angry or sad or that I just think deserve an emotion other than the one it naturally arouses because life is gray like that. Where some people might not want to make light of a heavy situation or a joke of something most people cry about, sometimes I do. This is what Doug and I had in common.

It wasn’t until Ellie Richards asked me to fill in for her during a class that Doug was teaching that he and I got close. It happened quickly. I became another one of his many students and he became a great friend. It was no time before he wanted to find me a good paying job (no matter who he had to sweet talk), was concerned about my love life (or lack thereof), and showed me that I was not the only one pushing limits. The thing about pushing limits is that it doesn’t always work out well. The other thing about it is that not a lot changes unless you take the risk and push a few. He reminded me that it was okay to laugh about things that made us cry.

During his class, Doug and the other gentlemen taking the workshop were uninterested in participating in the 4th of July parade but fully supported me doing it on my own. That is, until I had the bright idea to celebrate Doug by making our float about him—inspired by the neck brace he had to wear. We joked about it the whole day: if you wanted Doug to support something, make it about him. But I will always remember him proudly giggling and waving like Miss America behind that ambulance-disguised golf cart while a bunch of his students with their butts hanging out the backs of patient gowns trotted alongside of him.

July 4, 2017

The truth was that he was always so supportive of a passionate student and a good idea. I didn’t know a thing about woodworking compared to him, but he thanked me a dozen times a day for the help I gave in the studio during that session, even though I was getting paid to hang out with him, learn from him, and shoot the shit. After the class, his support became stronger along with our growing friendship. I hope the limits I push create positive change and are balanced by the love and support I give—just like Doug’s were.

Designer and former core fellow Elmar Fujita
Doug was a man who refused to discriminate.
He was generous with his knowledge and even more generous with his time.

I will never forget the countless hours I spent in his shop learning and working under his wing:

Just me, him, and Beau listening to Elvis on the radio,
The hum of the table saw and the sanders in the distant background,
The smell of Danish oil hanging heavy in the air
The empty glass bottles of Coke lined up on my bench.

Doug will live on in every piece I make.
His kindness will live with me forever.
His spirit will never be forgotten.

Doug Sigler
Doing a demo in his shop at home

Woodworker and former core fellow Kyle Kulchar
Generosity in its purest form, from the very beginning and every moment thereafter. Three years ago Doug appeared in my life. A glowing, wise, and quick-witted giant who so easily captivated an entire room with his character. Looking back I can’t seem to recall a beginning to any of it, it simply existed. Doug appeared to me as if he had been there through every step that led me up Snake Hollow to his spotless and meticulously organized studio.

It seems impossible to explain how a relationship that began such a short time ago could have such an profound impact on me in its absence. I am one of many who feels I have a debt unpaid to Doug and Kathie for everything they have given to this community and beyond. But Doug would laugh at the notion that I, or anyone else, felt that we owed him anything. I suppose it is really all of us who get the last laugh, because we now get to be the gift givers. We have the wonderful privilege of sharing to the world our dear friend Doug. Through endless stories, mini Coronas and Cokes, teaching, learning, and making. We all get to relive those moments spent with Doug, sharing them with others for years and years to come. And, as I can still hear Doug saying, followed by his spectacular chuckle, “That’s pretty damn cool.”

Thank you, Doug. Thank you times a million.

(Thanks to Ellie Richards for pictures of Doug’s home and studio.)

Doug Siglar