During our first summer session, sculptor and paper wizard Imin Yeh taught a beautiful workshop on designing and building forms from sheets of paper, with an emphasis on representing familiar objects. During her stay at Penland, Imin quietly placed several of her astonishing trompe l’oeil pieces in places where only a few people were likely to notice them.
This phone jack, outlet, and charger were on a wall in the paper studio, and were hard to spot even when looking for them. Yes, these are made entirely from cut and folded paper. The little balls above and below each piece are the heads of the push pins that are holding them in place. These pieces are part of an ongoing series called “Paper Power.”
We don’t know if anyone tried to plug anything into them.
If you are beginning to emerge from the past fourteen months looking for an extended time of creative engagement, we are happy to suggest Penland’s fall Concentration, which is a six-week session running October 3 – November 12 with workshops in clay, glass, steel sculpture, paper making, jewelry, shoe making, and wood. Along with learning and community, you will be treated to the transformation of the deciduous trees often referred to, prosaically, as “fall colors.” Here in the mountains, this annual exhibition stretches up the inclines to give you an exceptional view of its quilt-like patterns. Which is to say, it’s nice here in the fall.
Participation in Penland fall workshops will require proof of vaccination, and in exchange for this, you will enjoy pre-pandemic operating procedures. Shared housing will be available, we’ll gather inside for meals and slideshows, no masks required.
Clay: Low-Fire is Cooler with Ben Carter
Explore the rich history of low-fire ceramics with the goal of integrating surface design with handbuilt and wheelthrown pottery.
Glass: Illumination Projects in Glass with Jeremy Bert and Jen Elek
While practicing the foundations of glassblowing, create glass sculpture and then incorporate neon, LED, incandescent, and candle light.
Iron: Steel Sculpture: Set in Motion with Shawn HibmaCronan
Make sculptures that move, evolve, and interact with the environment while learning numerous steel fabrication and assembly techniques.
Papermaking: Paper Through Time with Radha Pandey
Trace the history and geographical spread of papermaking by learning techniques from Nepal, Polynesia, Korea, Japan, India and Europe.
Metals: Foundations in Form and Color with Laura Wood
Learn techniques that will help you develop a wide range of sculptural jewelry components, and then bring them together as brooches, earrings, pendants, or other forms.
Textiles: Blue Suede and Beyond: Introduction to Lasted Footwear with Amara Hark-Weber
Design and build your own handmade shoes using four different construction techniques and many kinds of leather.
Stay tuned: one-week fall workshops in books, clay, drawing, collage, stained glass, blacksmithing, jewelry, photography, printmaking, and musical instruments will be posted on July 9.
Penland staff recently had a nice collaboration with Youth OutRight—an Asheville-based organization that supports LGBTQIA+ youth ages 11-20. The group has been having weekly video hangouts throughout the pandemic, and Penland studio operations manager Amanda N. Simons, and facilities maintenance technician Lindsay PB Jones attended one of these meetings to get to know the group a bit and find out if there were activities they were interested in that Penland could support.
The result was packages containing colored pencils, watercolor paints, art paper, Sculpey, embroidery and cross-stitch kits, pamphlet-making kits, and mug cake ingredients. Warren Wilson College donated tea grown on their campus for inclusion. And, best of all, a zinecreated by Amanda and Lindsay. The zine included tips for watercolor painting and sewing, ideas for self-care activities, and, of course, cool illustrations.
Penland provided the materials, Penland housekeepers Derek Freeman and Susie Pendley did the assembly, and Youth OutRight delivered the packages to twenty folks in their group. A good time was had by all.
We normally kick off spring at Penlandwith an open house that brings 500-600 visitors to campus for hands-on activities in our studios. We couldn’t do that this year, but we hated to let the spring go by without offering some creative fun to the community.
So we arranged for five local makers to demonstrate activities that can be done at home with easily available materials, and we turned those demonstrations into step-by-step videos. We posted these during the month of March, and they will be available indefinitely, not just for our local community, but for anyone with an internet connection. All of these activities are suitable for children–with varying degrees of supervision needed.
Penland’s resident artists are full-time artists who spend three years living and exploring their studio work as part of our school’s community. Many use this time to explore new ideas and directions, undertake ambitious projects, or develop new bodies of work.
We are thrilled to welcome Daniel, Sean, and Sarah, and we look forward to watching their progress over the next three years!
Daniel Garver “I approach my casting process with the notion that each piece is unique and stands as a canvas into which I can apply casting slip with a variety of methods from incising, painting, or inlaying colors and designs. In addition to ceramics, I maintain a dedicated drawing practice that stands alone in finished pieces, but also plays a vital role when designing my ceramics.”
Sean O’Connell “One of my most sincere beliefs is that ‘Making is Thinking’, in other words, the act of learning is not strictly a function of the mind acting independently, but instead responding to what our body is experiencing. I have an immense appreciation and feeling of gratitude for the skills I’ve learned and can express through my hands.”
Sarah Vaughn “I have devoted myself to learning techniques to manipulate the remarkable material of glass—but I truly found my voice through casting and cold forming processes…I [create] sculptures that balance technique and concept, subtly pausing to reveal unexpected moments and visualizing the precarious balance of life.”
A huge thank you to our 2021 review panelists who generously offered their collective expertise and insight to rich discussions and difficult decisions.
Susie Ganch, head of metals in the Department of Craft and Material Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond); metalsmith/sculptor; former Penland resident artist.
Ché Rhodes, head of studio glass at University of Louisville, (KY); glass artist; Penland trustee
Abraham Thomas, Daniel Brodsky Curator of Modern Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); Penland trustee.
Sarah Turner, president of North Bennet Street School (Boston); educator/craft artist/designer.
Right at the moment, Ellie Richards’s Penland studio is a riot of color, texture, and a bit of chaos. Her large shop tools are tidy and in order, but the tables are strewn with garden tools, toys, games, hoses, and other materials not usually found in a wood studio. On the wall behind her bench are a group of hybrid objects including a shovel that is completely covered with magnetic plastic letters.
Ellie is making work for a two-person show at the Vision Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona titled Play Hard. Each piece, she explains, combines a tool (of the DIY suburban garage variety) with materials of play (the kind that might be part of summer games: bubbles, blocks, balloons etc.), in an effort to create something new, maybe something absurd, certainly something imaginative. “Ten years ago,” she says, “I started exploring how the opposing worlds of work and play could be interrelated. Since then, my work has gone in many directions, but each series seems to maintain a connection to each and their effect on the other. This exhibition is an opportunity to explore this exchange more directly, working in the format of ready-mades and altered found objects.”
“Life’s responsibilities and too many other barriers stand in the way of simply allowing oneself to have ‘free’ time,” she continued. “In other words, play doesn’t always come easy and usually there is a cost. However, it is my belief that free time, free from expectations and free from obligations or even an agenda, makes way for an increased sense of curiosity and connection with the tangible world.”
Ellie joined the resident artist program in September, 2020, and she was Penland’s wood studio coordinator from 2014 to 2019. Needless to say, she’s a highly skilled woodworker, so this current work might be surprising to some. “For a time all I wanted to do was learn how to build well made structural objects, and in that pursuit I picked up some valuable technical skills. It has always been my intent and one of my biggest challenges to have those skills supplement and support my ideas but not overstate themselves or hinder a more raw form of expression. This balance of seriousness and spontaneity is at the core of my practice.
“In this work, the place where two objects merge is the site where I’m focusing on the specifics of craft. Whether that happens with a traditional joint, JB Weld, or a special knot, these tactics of making connections are done with an equal amount of care and sensitivity toward the intent and outcome. This language used to transition one object into another serves as a conversation starter between the materials and new forms created.
“My identity as an artist has always been rooted in using wood as a raw material and woodworking as a field for its historical and technical context. At this juncture, I’m keen to use these experiences in woodworking as a framework for translation into other materials and modes of expression.”
With Ellie at at the beginning of her three-year residency, we can’t wait to see where this takes her.
Ellie also just concluded an imaginative multimedia sculpture/furniture installation in Charlotte, which is featured on her website.
Way back in 2012, Penland School was planning a new house for its core fellows: those energetic and committed artists who live and work at Penland–taking classes and doing work for the school–for two years. They amaze us, we fall in love with them, and they move on to other things. Fortunately, as illustrated in this picture, some of them move on to things that keep them at Penland.
The design for the new house, by architect Louis Cherry, includes a feature called a trombe wall, which is a dark-colored masonry wall that collects and radiates solar heat in the winter. Jean McLaughlin, who was Penland director at that time, along with the design committee for the project proposed that this wall should also be an artist-generated design feature.
The artist selected was Ian Henderson, who had completed the core fellowship earlier that year. Ian is a bit obsessive about pattern, and he had done quite a bit of slip casting while he was in the core program. Out of those interests grew a proposal for a relief tile installation with an underlying design based on a set of shapes known a girih tiles, which are the basis for a centuries-old system of ornamentation used throughout the Middle East. Ian readily points out that it is a derivative design. “Plenty of people before me have been exploring these same shapes and patterns. If the design for this installation is innovative, it is in the creation of a topography for each tile that is made up of triangular facets.”
With able assistance from fellow core alumni Daniel T. Beck, Andrew Hayes, and Mark Warren, Ian made about 1,000 ceramic tiles during a 2013 residency at the Kohler factory in Wisconsin. He documented that residency in a fascinating blog that covers both the design process and the making of the tiles. At the end of three months, the tiles were packed up and shipped to Penland where they were put into storage to wait for the house to become a reality.
This took a little while. Construction at Penland always waits for fundraising, and then it takes as long as construction takes. Fast forward to February of this year, and the house had finally reached a stage where the tiles could be installed. Ian Henderson is now Penland’s director of operations, and Daniel Beck has been iron studio coordinator for almost a decade. Their plan had always been to install the tiles together when the time came, and when the time came, they were both working at Penland.
The wall sits just inside the front entrance where future generations of core fellows will walk past it as they retreat to their lovely house for some much-deserved rest or head up to campus to work on some equally ingenious project.