Lars Shimabukuro is leaving Penland after three wonderful years as a Penland Core Fellow . Anyone who has had the pleasure of sharing space with them can tell you how capable, curious, and intentional they are in everything they do.
At Penland, Lars spent time in nearly every studio, learning techniques to work in paper, wood, clay, and textiles, just to name a few. Here are images of some of the stunning work that Lars created at Penland.
This year, Lars will teach weaving at both John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina and Arrowmont in Tennessee! Learning from Lars is sure to be a wonderful experience and we encourage you to sign up. You can also follow them on social media and check out their website for more of their thoughtful work.
LARS IS TEACHING the following weaving workshops:
A Survey in Blocks John C Campbell Folk School, May 14-20, all levels
This workshop will cover twill blocks, doubleweave blocks, and more
Imagery with Theo Moorman Arrowmont, October 15-20, all levels Learn a unique inlay technique that allows you to draw on the loom.
(Theo Moorman is the name of inlay technique, which was developed by a weaver named Theo Moorman.)
It’s been wonderful having Molly Bernstein with us for the past three years as a Penland Core Fellow. She’s leaving Penland and heading to Philadelphia. We hope you will follow her on social media, collect her work, and please let her know if you are inspired by her unique vision.
Good luck, Molly! Come visit soon!
Here are a few of the wonderful pieces that Molly created at Penland:
Outgoing Penland Core FellowMaria Fernanda Nuñez is leaving Penland this week with a sweet beater she made herself! (A beater is a cool machine that breaks down fiber into pulp that can be pressed into paper sheets or cast into sculpture.) Mo works in all sorts of media and is particularly interested in sculpture. Here at Penland, she fell in love with paper casting, using the process to create a number of beautiful pieces, both freestanding and wall mounted.
Beaters are pretty expensive, starting at $5,000 for a basic model and $10,000 for the Reina beaters that can be found in the Penland paper studio.
Knowing that she wanted to continue to explore paper casting after leaving Penland, Mo set out to make her own, making sure it could break down into smaller pieces to facilitate transport to her next destination, which is Philadelphia.
Most of the work was undertaken last fall when Mo was a student in Thomas Campbell‘s iron concentration. Taking measurements from the hydro beater in the Penland paper studio and researching what she could find online, Mo designed her beater in Fusion 360 design software, starting with the drum component that propels fiber around the basin and adjusting other measurements from there.
The beater includes a basin on legs and a lift mechanism that moves the drum up and down, controlling how much space is between the bed plate and drum and therefore how fine the pulp is.
During this year’s winter residency, Mo painted the beater components with automotive paint in the wood studio (which has a spray booth) and assembled the pieces in the iron studio.
The beater is a work in progress as Mo works out the kinks with all of the electrical and moveable components. She spent about $2,000 on materials and her project was supported by a grant from Toe River Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council.
Autumn Brown, Penland’s iron studio coordinator, said, “This beater is no beater!”
Mo has taken numerous iron workshops at Penland, including concentrations with Elizabeth Brim and Thomas Campbell.
We are extremely impressed and are excited to follow Mo in her journey. You can check out more of her work and sign up for her newsletter at fernandanunez.com and follow her on Instagram at @flotsam0jetsam.
Like nothing else in craft, Penland’s spring and fall “concentration” workshops offer time, instructors with deep knowledge, and community.
Time “The great value of the concentration is immersive, daily practice,” says Penland’s creative director, Leslie Noell. “Part of what makes craft processes what they are is an extended amount of time practicing the skills. When you do something over and over, you build body memory and muscle memory.”
She was discussing Penland’s long sessions, known as concentrations, that take place in the spring and fall and last for six or eight weeks. These sessions were first offered at Penland in 1970 under the leadership of the school’s second director, Bill Brown. The concentration quickly became a signature Penland program combining the intensity of the one- or two-week workshop with a duration closer to that of a college semester.
“Our shorter classes are great because you get to see something demonstrated and then immediately try it out and practice it for a few days, says Leslie. But imagine extending that practice for weeks. Instead of making 12 mugs, you can throw 200. This gives you time to make lot of mistakes and take a lot of risks.”
Instructors with deep knowledge Leslie says the ideal instructor for these sessions is someone who has a deep well of information and techniques to share and also the ability to work with students one-on-one, meeting each person where they are. An instructor with both of these qualities is able to help students take full advantage of the long duration.
“These workshops usually start with demos, skill building, short assignments, and collaborative projects,” she explains. As time goes on, it becomes more like a guided, independent study, with the instructor helping each student to set and meet their goals. As the class transitions, instructors are encouraged to make their own work as well as teach, providing insight into how they produce their own work, plan their day, and balance studio work with other obligations.”
Community The other important feature of the concentration is the way these sessions build community. The number of workshops and students is smaller than in the summer, and people have more time to get to know each other, to visit other studios, and to understand each other’s work. “The community really coalesces during that time,” Leslie says.
Who can benefit? So who are these long sessions for? As in any Penland session, which cater to “all levels,” you might find everyone from total beginners to folks who make a living from their studio. Said Leslie Noell.
“For beginning students,” Leslie says, “the concentration is a singular opportunity to learn the fundamentals and make a noticeable improvement. For someone already comfortable with a material, it might be a chance to apply that foundation to a different material, to expand particular skills, or maybe more importantly a chance to match skills with interest and develop their creative voice. Experienced students will often test a new direction or develop a whole new body of work.”
Whatever your interest or motivation, something all concentrations have in common is that they take place against the backdrop of a changing season in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The fall concentration is accompanied by an amazing display of autumn leaves that changes daily; students in the spring watch the green leaves emerge along with wildflowers and Penland’s many small gardens. Add that to the combination of time, inspiring instruction, and a community of fellow travelers, and your Penland concentration might just be a transformative experience.
Spring Concentration 2023 is coming right up!
We asked Leslie what we can look forward to for the 2023 spring concentration (March 5-April 28). “This is a stellar lineup of instructors,” she told us. “They have been some of our best instructors in the past. In general, it’s rare to get someone at the top of their game to spend eight weeks out of their own studio, so we plan these workshops as much as two or three years out. We are really lucky to have this group coming together.”
Here are a few words from creative director Leslie Noell about each of the spring workshops. Registration is still open, and each of these workshops has at least one open space, so it’s not too late to plan for spring at Penland.
Books: Alex McClay, Form, Content, Book “Alex has precision knowledge of book arts but is equally as interested in what she wants to say and what the content of the work is. Students will be challenged both technically and conceptually to bring ideas into that format.”
Clay: Justin Rothshank, Decals, Soda Firing, and Pottery “Justin is a wonderful instructor and loves teaching concentration. He loves getting deep into the process with his students.”
Glass: Kit Paulson, Borosilicate Fieldnotes: The Explorer’s Notebook “Kit has been a resident artist, has taught many times, and has always wanted to teach an eight-week class, where she could help students progress not only through skill practice but also thinking about where they get their inspiration and how they can bring that into their work.”
Iron: Stephen Yusko, “Forged and Finished” “Steve has taught at Penland many times. We are lucky to get him for this session, as he stays busy running his own studio. He brings a lot of design thought into working in the iron studio. This concentration is ideal for metalsmiths, sculptors, and blacksmiths.”
Metals: David Harper Clemons, “Narrative Jewelry: Well-Worn Tales” “David Clemons has taught many concentrations. He has an incredible depth of knowledge. He can answer almost any question and can work in almost any material. He is especially interested in narrative and wearable pieces.”
Textiles: Celia Pym, “Visible Mending: Damage and Repair” “Celia Pym is coming to us from the UK. Her work surrounds the process and also the concept of mending. We have been trying to get her here for the past few years, but the pandemic delayed us. We are particularly excited to have her for this amount of time. Especially for US students, this is the opportunity to study with Celia.”
Wood: Yuri Kobayashi, “Design with Curvature” “Yuri does things in wood that no one else does. She is just an exceptional craftsperson, educator, and designer. She’s a triple threat.”
Full class descriptions for Penland’s 2023 spring concentration workshops can be found HERE.
“Daniel T. Beck, with his inimitable (or, I guess highly imitable) style, has been a part of Penland’s heart and soul for over 13 years. His gifts as an artist, coworker, collaborator, and community builder have made him dear to everyone who calls this place home as well as many who pass through. Our lives have been richer for Daniel’s presence, and Penland has been made more capable and kind. We’re excited for new opportunities coming his way. But we sure will miss you, my friend!”
Daniel has left an indelible mark on this school, first as a core fellow, then as iron studio coordinator for 10 years, and most recently as studio operations manager. He’s an accomplished iron and metalsmith, and many visitors will remember his impressive, circular sculpture that lives outside the Penland Gallery.
“I’m really struggling to put into words how much the individuals here have made my life a rich and rewarding daily experience,” he said.” A piece of my heart will always live here; I wish I could thank each and every person I’ve had the pleasure of working and living with at Penland.”
Good luck, Daniel! Come and visit us soon!
Want to imitate Daniel’s imitable style? Here’s how:
We’re excited to announce and welcome our five newest Penland Core Fellows—Kimberly Jo, Brandon Lopez, Nicholas McDonald, Grace Anne Odom, and Amal Tamari. They will join returning fellows Lisa Nguyen, Celia Shaheen, and Lily Wilkins. For one or two years, they will share a house, take classes, expand their practices, and help run the school. We are so excited to welcome them to our community. Meet the new core!
Kimberly Jo is a cross-disciplinary artist working primarily in printmaking, ceramics, and textiles. They received a BFA in printmaking and enjoyed a post-baccalaureate position in ceramics at the Hartford Art School. In addition to pursuing arts education, Kimberly has worked on small-scale farms across northwestern Connecticut. Their dual passions are at the heart of their practice, which draws parallels between different materials and honors the ways in which they diverge.
Brandon Lopez is a Mexican-American artist creating functional and sculptural work with glass. He first began working with glass at Penland in 2013. He then attended Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia where he received a BFA in glass. Brandon has assisted for individual artists as well as for workshops at Penland, Ox-Bow, and Pilchuck. His work combines traditional glassblowing techniques with the aesthetics of objects made by ancient civilizations to create sculpture and design objects. Brandon is currently living in Asheville, focusing on his studio practice and assisting area artists.
Nicholas McDonald received their BA in political science and art from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. Nicholas’s practice focuses on the power of process and the exploration of their complex identity as a black person, “with one foot in inescapable history and the other in the drive of [their] contemporary environment.” At Penland, they plan to continue to investigate ties between blackness, culture, and craft.
Grace Anne Odom is a metalsmith and photographer in Fayetteville, Arkansas where she works as a bench jeweler and maintains a studio practice. Before focusing on craft, she served her community through social work and earned a BA in psychology at Hendrix College. With the goal of making craft more accessible in her community, she is eager to strengthen and diversify her skills as a core fellow.
Amal Tamari is a recent graduate from Earlham College where she received a BA in studio arts with a focus on ceramics. Since completing her degree, she has been studying at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a post-baccalaureate student. Amal apprenticed for ceramicists Kelsie Rudolph and Sunshine Cobb in Helena, Montana. Amal is excited to explore different mediums that will help to develop her artistic voice.
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to apply. Penland received 130+ applications to the core fellowship this year. The selection process was thoughtfully overseen by the following panel, in conjunction with Penland staff.
What a collaboration! When fall concentration instructors Thomas Campbell and Matt Repsher combine their powers, we would not expect the results to be anything but spectacular. Their first and only collaboration, the piece features elegant geometry, flawless execution, and harmony of styles.
Thomas Campbell working on the piece in the iron studio.
The pair found time to create the work for the fall concentration scholarship auction, despite their teaching responsibilities and Thomas’s status as a brand-new dad. “Matt is a dear friend whose work I’ve always admired, so it was exciting to work on this auction piece together,” said Thomas.
The ceramic center of the piece, incised and inlaid with colored slips in Matt’s signature style, was created first. “I was happy to hand something off to Thomas and feel completely comfortable and confident that he would finish it beautifully,” said Matt, adding, “He’s got skills.” It then fell to Thomas to respond to Matt’s piece, working outward to create an elegant cobweb of angles out of iron that catch the light just so. This part of the process involved a great deal of math and a dedicated bending break machine, with truly stunning results.
Matt in the clay studio this fall
The pair first met when Thomas, then a Penland Core Fellow, was a student in Matt’s first Penland concentration as an instructor. They became good friends when they both lived at Penland from 2017 to 2020. As a Penland Resident Artist, Matt even used his class benefit to take Thomas’s two-week workshop in the iron studio.
The two had had their sights on teaching a Penland concentration together. Scheduled to teach in 2020 before the session was canceled due to the pandemic, Matt and Thomas were happy to return this fall. They share a mutual respect and a similar approach to making. Both are meticulous planners whose work invokes “truth to materials.”
“Matt and I both rely heavily on technique, precision, and line in our work,” said Thomas. Matt explained, “It’s using repetition to create structures and form. He does it through his processes of cutting and bending and I do it through whatever it is I do with clay.”
Supporting Penland Scholarships
That magic moment when the piece was won at the scholarship auction! Special thanks to our friend Susan Sanders for capturing this scene.
This piece was generously donated to the fall scholarship auction. It was purchased by phone by an enthusiastic collector in a dramatic bidding war, to the delight of all. “I enjoy making things people want,” said Matt, “and the scholarship program supports a lot of people coming to Penland.”
Thank you to Thomas and Matt for your time, knowledge, and generosity!
Core fellow Maria Fernanda Nuñez shows off the piece during the auction