When instructor Tom Spleth did his slide night at the beginning of his eight-week class in making ceramics from plaster molds, he projected slides of his work on the wall, then poured plaster on a large piece of masonite, cued some lovely music, and demonstrated his method for making a sculptural form from drying plaster. Staff member Mark Boyd was on hand with a camera and made this beautiful 5-minute video titled Fluid Form.
A technical note on what Tom is doing: The plaster form he makes in the video would be the first step in the creation of a hollow, porcelain sculpture or vase. After the plaster form dries, Tom refines it with scrapers and other tools, then he makes a multipart plaster mold from the form. The next step is to pour clay slip into the mold, let it sit for a bit and then pour it out again, leaving layer of slip clinging to the inside of the mold. The mold is then opened and the clay form inside can be glazed and fired. –Robin Dreyer
Sadly, this is not a fabulous UFO sighting. It’s a picture made by student Edwina Bringle during a session of night photography that was part of a photo class I taught at Penland last week. What you are seeing is an exposure of about 30 seconds made while visiting teacher Jeff Goodman was running up the hill making circles with a bright flashlight. Although most folks are used to thinking of cameras as stopping time, this is an example of how you can use a camera to record time (which, really, is what they always do, it’s just that we usually use them to record very, very short amounts of time). Both the floating lights and the circles on the ground were made by the whirling flashlight. Cool, huh?
The class was about black and white film photography, which is how Edwina made her picture, but for our night session we also made some digital images so we could get an idea what was happening in the cameras. This is one of the digitals of our studio assistant Rebecca Moyer making stars in the grass with a green laser. We love making pictures in the dark. –Robin Dreyer
Smart, focused and driven: these are three words that can be used to describe what it takes to be a successful artist. They are also three words that describe Penland School of Crafts glass student Elliott Todd, but with one addition: he is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
A native of Boone, North Carolina, Elliott used to visit Penland as a boy with his father and attended community open house events. As a teenager, he started making flameworked beads at home with a simple mapp gas torch and rods of glass. After high school graduation, Elliott was unsure of what direction to go until he heard that a beginning hot glass class was being taught by Ed Schmidt at Penland. The two-month class introduced Elliott to the basics of glassblowing and inspired him to continue to learn more.
Though a year would pass before Elliott could take another two-month class at Penland, you would not have known that any time had passed at all. Elliott is a true natural and has a memory for detail that serves him well. He completed the fall 2009 glass concentration taught by Dave Naito with even more skills, ideas, and inspiration, and he immediately signed up for the spring 2010 glass concentration currently being taught by Scott Benefield. “Elliott is an unstoppable force,” commented one fellow student. “He’s always so excited to work in the studio whether he is assisting someone else or working on his own project. He’s just a great person to be around.”
Because of his experiences at Penland, Elliott now plans to attend college and major in glass.
After Kathryn Van Aernum was here a couple weeks ago for a one-week book workshop she sent us some her pictures, so we asked her for a little report to go with them. You can see all of her pictures from the class on her website.
Have you ever looked at the Penland workshop catalog unable to decide on a class because they all sound so fabulous? After all, isn’t a taking a workshop similar to drinking a magic potion that will deliver super artistic abilities, enabling you to reach new heights as never before? Which is the “right” one? If you’re like me you might sometimes suffer from that delusion. So, when I finally had the funds to go and found myself staring at the catalog trying to make a decision, I realized there is no “wrong” choice here – just pick something and GO!
I don’t think I could have made a better choice. The week-long spring book arts workshop with Julie Leonard delivered in spades. In one short week we learned five distinct historical sewing structures, along with variations and countless options for cover choices – especially with a soft-bound, single needle link stitch (a phrase that was not part of my vocabulary prior to the workshop). The class as a whole made around 70+ books! It was so interesting to see how one book form would express itself so differently when sifted through the personality of each artist there.
Not only was Julie a knowledgeable, giving and fun instructor, the group dynamic worked and played so well together. Although our collective experience in book arts ranged the full gamut of beginner to advanced, each person had other artistic experience in other areas and this lent itself to a wonderful atmosphere of mutual sharing and assistance.
“It’s Tuesday so it must be Pesto Grilled Cheese”
Delivering on the whole Penland experience was the food! I’ve never been to a retreat center where the quality and creativity of the kitchen matched the experience in the studio. Penland obliterates the myth of the “starving artist” as it feeds your soul, craft and belly, not to forget the visual feast of the rural mountain setting.
So if you still can’t decide what class to take – Just pick SOMETHING! There is nothing like the satisfaction of completely immersing yourself in something you love, giving it everything you can, away from the distractions of your “real” life. Honestly, you’ll feel like you can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
On Easter Sunday Penland held one of its annual community celebrations. People from the surrounding area and their families descended on Penland to enjoy delicious homemade potluck dishes, show off their Easter bonnets in the Easter bonnet parade, and, of course, hunt for eggs!
Each of the classes worked on eggs in their respective media during the weeks prior to Easter, and artists from around the area also brought handmade eggs to add to the hunt. There were eggs of all sizes and materials: Glass eggs made using Italian cane techniques, hand hammered copper and enameled eggs, stainless steel eggs, whimsical ceramic eggs, and even eggs made from fiber and paper and printing techniques.
After an Easter bonnet parade, the little kids hunted for plastic eggs filled with candy. Then everyone (mostly adults) got to hunt for the handmade eggs. Competition for eggs was fierce, as usual. The adults were more competitive than the kids, each looking for the perfect egg. Folks could only take one handmade egg, so if they found one and then if found one that that they liked better, they had to hide the first egg before they could take the second one.
In the end, everyone had a great time, was well fed, and went home with a little treasure, whether it be a bounty of candy, or a handmade egg.