Posted on

A Closer Look at the Book

Cathy Adelman working on a series of leather binding samples in the Penland books studio earlier this month.

The book is an unassuming object. So ubiquitous that one—if not hundreds—can be found in just about any home, business, or school across the country. Checkbooks, magazines, instruction manuals, notebooks, thrift store paperbacks, coffee table books, planners—they’re so universal that it’s easy to overlook their basic nature as books. But, more than watering down the specialness of the book format, this ubiquity points to the incredibly adaptable, relatable, accessible, protean nature of the book. What it might not make clear is how seductive a book can be. Books hold potential; books connect community; books share wisdom and keep secrets.

Cathy Adelman, like many Penland book artists we know, came at bookbinding obliquely. In the late 1990s, when the Penland workshop that had originally sparked her interest was full, she enrolled in a books workshop as a second choice. The bookbinding process surprised and intrigued her. She returned for a second books workshop, and then a third, quickly falling for the care, the personalization, and the elegance of the process. Cathy went on to earn a degree from the American Academy of Bookbinding and to study and show her work in Switzerland, Estonia, France, the UK, Italy, Greece, and across the United States.

This spring, Cathy will return to Penland’s books studio as an instructor for the workshop Flexible Leather Binding. She and her students will spend a week answering the question “Why make a book?” through process, material, and presence. Whether seasoned bookbinders or absolute beginners, all students can expect to end the week with a selection of handmade, flexibly bound leather books, new insights into the binding process, and inspiration for future projects.

Join us in the studio March 24-30 and learn to make a physical home for your ideas, dreams, questions, memories, and inspirations—in other words, learn to make a book. Like Cathy, you might just get hooked.


Two books bound by Cathy Adelman. Left: “‘The Raven,’ by Edgar Allen Poe,” reliure articuléis style binding, 9.75 x 6.75 x 0.5 inches. Right: “Lonely the seabird lies at her rest,” flexible leather design binding, 11.5 x 8.5 x 0.5 inches.


Flexible Leather Binding

Cathy Adelman, March 24-30, 2019
This workshop will explore variations on a flexible leather binding. We’ll start with text block preparation and choice of materials. From buffalo, goat or boxcalf, and suede, we’ll design and execute an elegant binding. We’ll cover endpapers, sewing, adhesive selection, leather paring, and decoration, and finish with a cloth- or paper-covered clamshell box, custom sized for your binding. All techniques will be thoroughly covered for the beginner with many advanced techniques demonstrated for the more experienced. All levels. Code S01B

Studio artist; teaching: Guild of Book Workers, Penland; exhibitions: Bodleian Libraries (UK), Bibliotheca Wittockiana (Belgium), Gutenberg Museum (Switzerland), University of Canberra (Australia).

Posted on

Print Collaboration

two women examining prints that have just come off a Vandercook press

Penland instructor and former resident Eileen Wallace and Penland programs director Leslie Noell spent the second week of winter residencies hard at work in the letterpress studio. The two were continuing a collaborative series of prints that explore transparency, composition, and the graphic potential of wood type. There was a lot of play involved, too.

Posted on

A Note from the Director

2019 summer catalog cover
Front cover for the summer 2019 Penland workshop catalog

If you are familiar with Penland, you probably noticed that the graphics on the catalog covers have a new look. For this we thank graphic designer and current Penland resident artist Ele Annand; we asked her to shake things up a bit. You may also have noticed a small, but important, alteration to the name of our school.

In 1969, Penland’s second director, Bill Brown, changed the name of the Penland School of Handicrafts to Penland School of Crafts. He did this to more accurately reflect the vision he had for Penland and to position the school as an institution at the forefront of the emerging studio craft movement. This fall we made a smaller change for similar reasons when we became Penland School of Craft.

The word craft suggests process, skill, commitment, and, as the poet Robert Kelly said, perfected attention. In other words, it describes some of the basic values this school promotes in the world. It suggests an ideal rather than something specific. It points to skilled making that is not tied to particular materials and is inclusive of creative processes outside of those traditionally labeled as craft. It accurately reflects the mission and vision of Penland today.

Please enjoy perusing our exciting workshop offerings for the summer of 2019. I hope to see you at Penland School of Craft next summer!

—Mia Hall, director

Posted on

Penland University

group photo standing in front of Hannah's paintings
Rachel Meginnes with Earlham College/Penland students Thomas Hill, Hannah Roman, and Johanna Marie at their final exhibition.

What would it look like if the Penland experience were a full college semester? For the three students who were part of the first-ever Earlham College Penland Program this fall, it looked like two different Penland workshops and countless hours in the studios, plus a giant stack of readings, a deep look at the history of craft in this area, and an opportunity to focus on the professional and entrepreneurial skills of being an artist—all under the guidance and mentorship of Rachel Meginnes, former Penland resident artist and director of the Earlham/Penland program.

Thomas Hill, Johanna Marie Monson Geerts, and Hannah Roman joined us from Earlham College just in time for the start of Penland’s 7th summer session. They kicked off their semester with one-week workshops in brushmaking, daguerreotype photography, and weaving, getting a feel for the studios and the pace of life at Penland.

Next, during the three weeks between Penland’s summer and fall sessions, the students embarked on an ambitious course called Craft in Context taught by Rachel Meginnes and Penland archivist Carey Hedlund. Through over 700 pages of reading, local field trips to places like Cherokee, NC, and a road trip up the East Coast to take in sites such as the National Museum of the American Indian, the students gained an appreciation for the history of craft in Appalachia.

Left: Thomas Hill working on a teapot form. Right: Johanna Marie cutting a linoleum block for the press.

Back on campus in mid-September, they started in on eight weeks of Penland concentrations. Thomas studied pottery and surface decoration with Maggie and Tom Jasczcak, Johanna learned letterpress and bookbinding techniques with Beth Schaible, and Hannah immersed herself in shape and color in Tonya D. Lee’s abstract painting workshop.

The final three weeks of the semester were reserved for a course taught by Rachel called Art & Entrepreneurship. It focused on essentials like writing artist statements, building a website, learning photo editing skills, designing business cards, and crafting slide presentations. (Speaking of websites, take a look at their shiny new ones—,, and!)

Hannah at work in the painting studio.

On December 13, Thomas, Johanna, and Hannah got the opportunity to show off all their hard work over the past sixteen weeks with the opening reception for their exhibition On the Road to Heavens Above. They curated and installed the show themselves in the new Gallery North space at Northlight and invited the entire Penland community to come. From Hannah’s bold and surprising color compositions to Johanna’s delicate words printed on her photographs to Thomas’s layered ceramic surfaces, it was a beautiful presentation of an extraordinary artistic effort.

“I couldn’t even have imagined how much growing and discovering I would do here,” Hannah remarked at the close of her Penland semester. For her part, Rachel said, “I could not be more proud of the students’ hard work and dedication to their work and studies.” We couldn’t agree more—congrats Thomas, Johanna, and Hannah! We can’t wait to see where your ideas take you.

Two views of the exhibition “On the Road to Heavens Above” featuring pottery by Thomas Hill, letterpress prints and photographs by Johanna Marie, and paintings by Hannah Roman.