Decoy 1 is the first finished piece in a new series by Penland Resident Artist Adam Atkinson. Adam plans to create a number of carved, game bird “decoys” that may be interpreted in different ways by different communities. Introduced to hunting culture as a boy in Idaho, Adam’s work both embraces and subverts the visual language of this “masculine” pursuit. When it comes to the decoys, he is still unpacking their meaning as the series develops. “Who am I fooling, and for what reason… that is something I am still exploring,” he told us.
The figure of the goose has a special significance for Adam. As a child, his dad once encouraged him to harvest one by wringing its neck. “I couldn’t do it,” he said, “because I was scared and the goose was really angry.” Looking back, Adam sees this moment as a crossroads. “At that moment I sort of failed, maybe for the first time in a significant way, to prove my masculinity.”
Made from gorgeous cedar and representing over 40 hours of skilled carving, the two-headed goose will be featured this summer in the Penland Benefit Auction.
Currently halfway through a three-year residency at Penland, Adam is using the time to grow and explore. “I’m extending my knowledge of different processes,” he told us. “I’m studying enameling, doing more wood carving, and making larger sculptures.” Adam has also been able to build out his studio, investing in equipment that is kinder on the body. Decoy 1 is one of the first pieces created on Adam’s new wood bench, which keeps his work steady for carving. The wood bench is literally a big step up from working on the hard concrete floor and was purchased through a grant awarded by the North Carolina Arts Council.
Woodcarving has been an integral part of Adam’s art practice since he first explored sculpture at Boise State University as an undergraduate. “After I made my first wood carved sculpture (a carved face in wormy maple) I was hooked, and began using it in my jewelry and sculptural works,” he said. Learning through “a lot of trial and error,” over the past decade Adam has become a skilled carver. In addition to the “Decoy” series, Adam is also working on several larger-scale works that will make use of his growing skill and tools.
We invite you to support Adam’s work. Follow his journey on Instagram @adamatkinson, visit his website to explore more of his work, and find works for purchase in the Penland Gallery.
This fall, the Penland Gallery will host Tender Presence, a group exhibition co-curated by Adam and fellow Penland Resident Artist Everett Hoffman in the John and Robyn Horn Gallery.
Adam Atkinson is a metalsmith, curator, and educator. He received an MFA in metal design at East Carolina University and a BFA in interdisciplinary studio practices at Boise State University. Atkinson’s work documents relationships between gender and the body using adornment and small-scale sculpture as formats for exploration. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including the Wayne Art Center, Boone Art and History Museum, and Nagoya Zokei University, Nagoya, Japan, among others. He was awarded numerous residencies including the Emerging Artist Residency at the Baltimore Jewelry Center and is currently in a three-year residency at Penland School of Craft. He was faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, Boise State University, and has taught workshops across the country.
“This was the fastest raising I have ever done!” -Adam Whitney
When it comes to raising, few have accomplished the skill and complexity of Penland Resident Artist Adam Whitney. Raising is the craft of making hollow, three-dimensional forms from flat sheets of metal. Creating a cup like this would normally take Adam at least 5 hours. During last weekend’s Fire on the Mountain Blacksmithing Festival demonstration, he worked aggressively to complete the piece for a rapt audience in one hour and fifteen minutes. This, he tells us, was risky because the material could have cracked. Luckily, Adam’s skill was equal to the task, and the result of the demo was a silver cup with gorgeous texture!
During his ongoing Penland residency, Adam has created intricate forms using raising, chasing, and repoussé. His most complex piece, based on the ancient Mediterranean rhyton form, took him over a year and a half and countless hours to complete.
Fire on the Mountain is an annual celebration of blacksmithing in downtown Spruce Pine, NC. Penland is one of the festival’s co-sponsors. This year, guests enjoyed demonstrations by Jim Cooper, David Burnette, David Harper Clemons, Suzanne Pugh, and Hiroko Yamada. The festival also included an astonishing array of vendors, forge-off competitions, and Penland’s popular Hands-On Tent where guests of all ages learned how to create their own barbecue skewer.
Watching skilled hands is a thing of beauty. The clay studio enjoyed a special visit from Penland neighbor Nick Joerling who demonstrated his method for creating stretched and altered pots that begin on the wheel. Nick has been a working studio potter near Penland since the mid-1980’s.
Here are three of the most interesting things that Nick said during the demo:
“I like to make the work, and then catch up to it.”
“Buried inside the skin of good altered pot, there is a good thrown pot.”
“Cynthia Bringle told me to go to grad school.”
Kudos to clay spring concentration instructors Jenny Mendes Ceramics and Caroline Douglas Art for inviting Nick to do this awesome demo!
To choose only three artists to honor at the Penland Benefit Auction from hundreds of talented current and former guest instructors, resident artists, and core fellows is the hardest of tasks, taken on with great care.
Our Featured Artists embody the spirit of Penland’s craft education programming. They represent a range of media and a balance of tradition and innovation, skill and imagination.
This year, we are very proud to honor Nancy Blum. Paul Briggs, and David Chatt. We look forward to celebrating these wonderful individuals and sharing more about their work with you!
The Benefit Auction is Penland School of Craft’s major annual fundraiser. A joyous and festive celebration of craft, community, and all things Penland, we will welcome collectors, curators, artists, and friends from far and wide.
Nancy Blum is known for her large-scale botanical drawings and public artworks. At Penland, she has empowered others to develop their own public art practices. Nancy’s ongoing “Black Drawings” series explores the interconnectivity of all living beings, playfully rendered depictions of scientific imaginings, abstractions of the natural world, and riffs on the brilliance found in pattern. She has created large-scale public art projects around the country, including a suite of botanically themed mosaics, located at the New York MTA’s historic 28th St. Station. Her drawings and sculptures have been represented in numerous exhibitions at galleries and other venues such as the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro and the International Print Center and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, both in New York City. She has had recent solo exhibitions at Reynolds Gallery in Virginia and Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York City. Blum’s work is held by the World Ceramic Exposition Foundation in Icheon, South Korea, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, and the Boise Art Museum in Idaho, among many others. Her work can be found in New York City at McKenezie Fine Art and Ricco Maresca Gallery.
Paul Briggs is known for his pinch-formed vessels and slab-built sculptural forms. His unique pinching process is neither additive nor subtractive but expansive, growing the form from one chunk of clay. Paul’s slab-built forms are generally more planned, measured, and intentional. Combining these two ways of working and thinking becomes a means of expressing ideas neither can accomplish on their own. Paul is an artist-teacher with training in ceramics, sculpture, and education. At Penland, he has shared his innovative techniques in the clay studio. His work has been featured in many exhibitions including Lucy Lacoste Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Friedman Benda Gallery in New York City, The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas, Design Miami, and Eutectic Gallery in Portland, Oregon. His work can be found in the collections of the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas, the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum in New York.
David Chatt is a sculptural glass bead artist whose work has created space for beadwork in the world of contemporary craft. He creates vessels, objects, and sculptures by hand, sewing glass beads using a right angle weave stitch that he adapted. A Penland resident artist from 2008-2011, Chatt has been a Penland student and instructor many times over. His career has been chronicled in books and periodicals and was recognized by a retrospective at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington. In 2014, David received a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, and in 2019 his work received the Grand Prize at the Irish Glass Biennale. In 2021, “Love Dad,” a piece created while he was living in North Carolina, was purchased by the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery and is included in its current 50th anniversary show. His work can be found in the collection of the Bead Museum in Arizona, the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, and the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington.
We are honored to welcome these brilliant guest instructors this fall! Check out the list of workshops being offered in Penland’s Clay, Books, Paper, Drawing, Painting, Glass, Iron, Metals, Photography, Print, Letterpress, Textiles, and Wood studios. Find full descriptions HERE.
We are saddened to note the passing of ceramic artist Jane Peiser: former Penland resident artist, frequent Penland instructor, strong supporter of the school, and beloved neighbor for more than 50 years. She died at home on February 23 after a short illness. She was 89.
Jane had a Masters of Science in education from Illinois Institute of Technology and began her career as a teacher of art history in Chicago. She was also a painter for a time, but eventually turned her attention to ceramics. Her former husband and lifelong friend, glass artist Mark Peiser, explained that her interest was always in people and faces. “She had some issues with backgrounds,” he said, “and this caused her to start making compositions by putting ceramic tiles onto things.”
Mark said that she became frustrated with buying tiles, so she got a kiln and some clay and started to make her own. This allowed her to make different shapes. “They became leaves, and then they became figures, and she started glazing and painting them to create imagery dealing with faces and people.”
GLASS TO CLAY
Jane and Mark moved from Chicago to Penland in the late 1960s to join the resident artist program, and it was at Penland that she saw glass artists using the Italian techniques of murrine and millefiori. This method involves making a bar or slab of glass that has colored imagery embedded in it. The images are only revealed when the glass is cut into slices.
Jane was already working with colored clays and saw that she could adapt this glass technique to her material. “I don’t know when, exactly, the light bulb went on for her,” Mark said, “but she started doing a lot of work with colored clays and what glass people call ‘compatibility.’ She got that figured out and the colored clays really became part of the imagery. Then she started adding painted details. The final thing, what really made it all work, was that she started salt glazing the colored clays to create texture and brighten the color. It gives them so much life. The pieces are truly astounding.”
Mark added that, although Jane was not aware of this when she was developing this work, there is an Asian ceramic tradition (known today as nerikomi) that is similar to her method.
Her handbuilt forms are functional or figurative (sometimes both) and always incorporate fantastic, brightly colored patterns. Sometimes the patterns themselves contain narrative imagery. In her studio, she kept an inventory of carefully built, patterned clay slabs that were available to her as she created new forms and scenes.
Once she started working in clay, Jane left teaching and was able to support herself from studio work. “I think it’s probably true,” said Mark, “that she was the first ceramist in the city of Chicago ever to make a living from her work alone. Her work was pretty much always supported and cherished.”
JANE OF ARTS
She was a generous teacher who led workshops at Penland, Oregon College of Art and Craft, the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, Hawaii Arts and Craft, and other venues. She received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and her work is in collections including the Smithsonian Institution in DC and the Mint Museum of Art in North Carolina. She also contributed a chapter to The Penland School of Crafts Book of Pottery (1975).
A great supporter of Penland, she held an open house at her studio each session for many years, she frequently donated work to scholarship and annual benefit auctions, and she was simply kind and welcoming to everyone.
A lovely obituary written by her daughter Martha, ends by saying this: “Jane’s constant action and attention to detail also grew lush, jewel-toned gardens. She made clothes, weavings, and hooked rugs all with her unique colors and imagery. She joined political, social, and professional projects of all sorts and was notoriously practical, energetic, and generous. She treated every person she met with dignity. She leaves behind a host of friends who appreciated her gentle, generous spirit, her unpretentious ways, and her highly original art.”
Mark added that when she lived in Chicago, she helped start a community arts center on the North Side. “Because of her zeal for the project,” he said, “she was known as ‘Jane of Arts.’”
Jane will be remembered with an informal event on the afternoon of April 2 at her house near Penland School.
Note: several years ago, Jane’s friends and family established a tuition-free, work-study scholarship in her name with a goal of continuing to increase the endowment so that the work requirement can be eliminated from the scholarship. If you are interested in helping with that effort, please contact Joan Glynn at 828-765-2359, ext. 1206.