Every year, on the first Saturday in March—about a week before classes begin—Penland opens our studios to the public for an afternoon of free hands-on activities. Assisted by our fabulous studio coordinators and over 100 volunteers, visitors can try their hands at blacksmithing, glassblowing, throwing clay, paste paper painting, and many other crafts. This year the weather was a little cold; nonetheless, the event attracted over 500 enthusiastic participants.
Some Fun Numbers
9 studio coordinators, and
160 volunteers produced:
45 paperweights and drinking glasses,
250 glass beads,
Hundreds of paper hats, letterpress cards, and monoprints,
180 cloth pendants with photo imagery,
175 pounds of ceramic pottery and sculpture,
180 enameled copper brooches,
25 hand-decorated postcards,
75 sheets of painted paste paper, and
$150 in donations to the Mitchell County Animal Shelter
Special thanks to the studio coordinators and volunteers who always make it such a fantastic day!
“Close your eyes and imagine the night sky. Are you camping by a river, snug in your bed with the sheets pulled high, drinking hot cocoa by the wood burning stove? The howl of a barn owl is in the background, or is it a coyote under a full moon? Are the rhododendrons blooming, or is it snowing,” asks Meg Peterson, teaching artist for the Penland School of Crafts Community Collaboration program. This is one of many exercises Meg uses to help third grade students in Mitchell County, North Carolina, connect art and imagination with science in their community.
Penland School of Crafts’s Community Collaboration program works in close coordination with Mitchell County Public School teachers and principals to provide curriculum-integrated arts opportunities to over 500 rurally-based, under-served students in the Appalachian region each year. The experiential arts program teaches new artistic skills and means of expression and supports students and their teachers and principals by engaging multiple learning styles, helping fulfill the NC Standard Course of Study, and enriching school culture by promoting confidence and self-esteem among students of all backgrounds. “Studies are finding… using art as a teaching tool helps students learn, makes them more creative and improves their overall success in school,” writes T.S. Donahoe of Artsee magazine.
Currently, third grade students are completing their Moon Journal projects with the close of the January/February moon cycle. The Moon Journals help third graders learn astronomy by making meaningful connections through art with the world around them. Not only do students paint, fold, bind, illustrate, and write in journals handmade from scratch, but they persistently record scientific observations about the moon each night for an entire lunar period. “It was hard to learn so many facts about the moon – before this project I never really paid attention,” commented a 3rdgrade student about the Moon Journal project.
One goal of the project is to develop a supportive community of discovery. Within the classroom students help other students overcome difficult steps in the bookmaking process. They also share their ideas and observations about the moon with the class. Even the teachers get involved working side by side with students to make their own Moon Journal project. One 3rd grade teacher commented, “I was surprised by how healing doing the collage was. I started out really stressed out and calmed down while working on my collage. I was okay for the rest of the day.” Outside the classroom assignments bring the whole family together in observation and connection with the moon and the outdoors.
Penland School of Crafts is incredibly thankful for local support and involvement over the years and hopes that this and other Community Collaboration programs will serve to give back to the community.
“I imagine there will be leaves and vines, perhaps something with pipe, assorted peculiar movements with iron, and illustrating questions from the floor. In between there will be philosophy, stories, anecdotes, encouragement and laughs. It should be a great time, a convivial group dance around the anvil. We will also discuss how to handle big work in a one-man shop; drawing; surviving large commissions; design elements; and whatever else may come up.” – Nol Putnam
Nol Putnam opened his first forge in 1973. He taught himself the craft with the help of books, stubbornness and a mentor. Starting in the early 1980s he undertook large architectural commissions – gates, balconies, curved handrails. While he still does a few commissions, his work since 2001 has largely been sculptural, ranging in size from the palm of the hand to architectural scale.