James Henkel first came to Penland in 1971 with a scholarship that, he says, made him “a photography student and a proud dishwasher.” Since then he has served as studio assistant, core student, resident artist, faculty, and neighbor. At Penland he met Debra Frasier, his wife of 37 years. In 1991 they bought a small cabin near the school where they began spending summers. And their daughter, Calla, now an artist working in Berlin, was a founding member of Penland Kid’s Camp. “That one act of generosity— a Penland scholarship in 1971—has nourished me artistically for fifty years,” Jim said.
“My work begins with finding and collecting objects. These curiosities are then used to generate pictures that touch on the relationship between our ideas about beauty, function, and the meaning of objects in our lives. With the choice of an object for a photograph, I am leaning into a sense of shared familiarity with the viewer, but changing the perspective by introducing the unexpected within the frame.”
Jim is professor emeritus at University of Minnesota and a long-time Penland instructor. He now lives between Asheville and his Penland house/studio.
Learn more about Jim and his work in the short video above.
As part of the 2021 Penland Benefit Auction, we will honor Clarence Morgan as this year’s Penland School of Craft Outstanding Artist Educator. Clarence’s fifty-year career as an artist has encompassed drawing, painting, printmaking, writing, and curatorial projects. His many works are rigorous explorations of line, color, pattern, and form that he describes as, “situated somewhere between figuration and abstraction.”
His work has appeared in over 200 one-person and group exhibitions nationally and internationally and can be found in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art among others. He has received grants and fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Bush Foundation, Art Matters, Inc., the Minnesota State Arts Board, and a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Artist Fellowship.
Along with his extensive activity as an artist, he has been a teacher of art continuously since 1978, first at East Carolina University and then at the University of Minnesota where he chaired the art department for six years and is currently head of drawing and painting. He taught his first Penland workshop in 1989, and he has taught here a total of nine times, most recently in 2014. At Penland, he was invariably accompanied by his wife of 40 years, the artist Arlene Burke-Morgan (1950–2017), who seemed capable of making friends with everyone on campus.
“The best definition of a teacher” he said in a recent interview, “is not someone who puts information into an individual, but someone that has the capacity to draw the best out of someone. What is really good about them is already in them. A good teacher just brings that out. . . . If there’s a little spark, my job is to fan the spark, to turn it into a big flame, so they can get excited on their own.”
Please watch the video above to learn more about Clarence’s art work and teaching.
Yoonmi Nam is a printmaker and a sculptor who was born in Seoul, Korea and is a featured artist in this year’s Penland Benefit Auction. Her first connection to Penland was being invited to contribute work to a Penland Gallery exhibition in 2009. She taught a drawing/painting workshop the following year. “I remember driving from Kansas and making my way up the final bit of a very narrow road,” she said. “It opened up to a meadow with a cluster of studio buildings in the distance. I remember chatting with people while waiting in line to get food. I remember that my workshop had both the youngest and the oldest participants that week. I remember going back into the studio at night to see several students chatting, laughing, and working together. I remember our class covering the entire wall with their works on the last day when all the workshops came together to display what everyone made.”
She returned in 2016 as a student in a glass casting workshop taught by Jason Chakravarty. “At that time, I had just started to do some basic mold-making and casting using plaster, wax, and clay in my own studio. My background is in printmaking and painting, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with three-dimensional processes, but my studio practice had evolved. I began making sculptural forms that depicted disposable objects such as styrofoam containers made with porcelain and plastic grocery bags made with Gampi papers. I had an idea that I should make clear deli containers using glass. But how? It was May of that year, and I started to research glass casting workshops. There was a workshop that I was looking for at Penland scheduled for July! And there was one spot left! So that was the second time that I made it back to Penland. The two-week workshop was incredible, and it was such a treat to be a student again.”
Yoonmi teaches at the University of Kansas. Her recently scheduled Penland printmaking workshop was cancelled because of the pandemic; we hope she will be back to teach in the near future. Check out the video above to learn more about Yoonmi and her work.
Ceramic artist Shoko Teruyama, whose work is featured in the 2021 Penland Benefit Auction, was introduced to Penland when she and her husband, Matt Kelleher, were selected as resident artists in 2005. “The hardest I ever worked on my practice,” she remembers, “was during the three years of the residency. When I left Penland, I was confident to step into the real world.”
Shoko grew up in Mishima, Japan. She taught elementary school before coming to the U.S. to study art at University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997. She received an MFA in ceramics from Wichita State University in 2005. Shoko and Matt shared a studio at The Barns during their three-year residency, which they completed in 2008, and they have taught several Penland workshops together. These days, they live and work in Alfred, NY. Matt teaches at Alfred University and Shoko continues her studio practice making densely patterned functional ware along with charming narrative work.
“The pottery I make begins with bisque molds, slab construction, and coil building to make thick, heavy forms,” she explains. “White slip is brushed over the red earthenware to create depth and motion. I carve back through the slip exposing the red clay, and I apply multiple layers of translucent glazes. Ornamentation is important to my ideas. I have created motifs called vine patterns to lead your eye around the work. Patterns run continuously to create narrow borders or to fill large amounts of space. They can flow into tight curves just as easily as they can bend around the belly of a form. The patterns create visual movement representing water, wind, and clouds.”
Shoko says that she is 100% a Japanese potter and 100% an American potter. In the video above, by Tyler Bopp, she makes a large platter (similar to the one in the Penland auction) as she talks about how her cultural heritage has influenced her work in ceramics.
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.
In a normal year (yeah, we’re saying that again), we’d spend the first week of March getting ready for our annual community open house. We can’t do that this year, but we’d still like to offer up some creative family fun. Every Saturday in March, we’ll post a video of a Penland artist teaching an activity that can be done at home, by young and old, using easily available materials.
We want you to get in the mood with some Penland snacks so we’ve already posted videos featuring Penland’s baker, Alena Applerose, showing how to make two coffee house favorites: gingerade and gluten-free peanut butter cookies.
Our first craft activity is a perennial open house offering: paste-paper painting with Meg Peterson. This is a little like finger painting and uses colored paste to make durable, decorative papers that can be made into book covers, envelopes, wrapping paper, or just displayed on the wall. So put on your aprons, roll up your sleeves, and join us at the kitchen table. That video will be posted on Saturday, March 6.
Barry Lopez, who died in late December, was a writer and thinker of great depth and clarity. He was known for writing about the relationship between the natural world and human culture and for his explorations of intimacy, ethics, and identity. His books include Arctic Dreams, which won a National Book Award, Of Wolves and Men, eight works of fiction, and his final collection of essays titled Horizon.
In the fall of 2011, Barry and his wife, writer/editor Debra Gwartney, spent two weeks at Penland as part of the Andrew Glasgow Writers Residency. He explored a number of studios, engaging with materials and tools, listening, and asking questions.
Barry gave a brilliant presentation—to a pin-drop-quiet, packed hall—about what he described as the “thorny problem” of how artists might choose to respond to social or political concerns. By way of examples, he read a short piece of fiction he wrote at the request of the climate change organization 350.org (available here) and a short essay on the subject of species diversity commissioned by the Kyoto Journal (available here). And he told a remarkable story about his involvement (along with potter Richard Rowland) in a project of reconciliation between the Comanche Nation and Texas Tech University.* It was an inspiring evening that will be long remembered by everyone who was there.
Near the end of the visit, Barry was interviewed by Penland’s communications manager Robin Dreyer about his time at Penland, his love of tools, and his writing process. We published a short excerpt from that conversation at the time. In honor of Barry’s passing, we’re sharing a longer version with you now.
Could you briefly describe what you did here?
I came with just a handful of ideas that I knew I would shape once I began to meet people and see what their interests were, and how I could participate here, how I could become a colleague of craftspeople and artists here. Those people with whom I developed some rapport were welcoming about me coming into their studios, and then at meals, having conversations with people, and having them say, “Well, why don’t you come by and see what we’re doing?” I know a little bit about some of these crafts and was eager to learn more, especially about iron work.
I had a terrific conversation one morning with [iron instructor] Vivian Beer and saw that a lot that was going through her mind was also going through my mind, but my thoughts had to do with writing. And that was a point of orientation for me; I realized that one thing I might be able to offer would be to talk about writing as a craft, and see how that might reverberate with what people were doing so it would be a mutually informing conversation. It seemed that a way I might make myself useful in this environment would be to provide another perspective about making. I know that in conversations people have here about printmaking, or metalsmithing, or woodworking, there are certain things that are shared, and one thing that we all share is we have an internal psychology or psyche and personal history, and we try to bring that to the work that we’re doing.
I think the last thing you want to do as a guest resident is stay locked up somewhere and have nothing at all to do with other people. If you’re going to come to Penland, part of the experience is geographical, part of the experience is aesthetic, and a third part of the experience is conversation with fellow makers.
In your book About This Life, you make a reference to the culture of hand tools. Could you talk a little bit about what you meant by that, and why you think it’s of value? Human beings, of course, have a very long involvement historically with tools and implements, and part of our sense of self-worth and sense of dignity as people comes from the skill with which we make and use tools. We make tools that are beautiful, we make tools that are useful, and often we make a useful tool that’s beautiful. That is a kind of calling to me, and certain tools suggest an intimacy with material that is the antithesis of an electronic involvement with material.
Part of what Penland seems to be about is people trying to stay in touch. By that I mean, through their tools, to stay in touch with the raw materials of the earth, with plants from which ink comes, with iron, with metals of other sorts, with stones, with the lead that’s in pencils, with all of these things that come up out of the earth and are used to keep going the idea that it is a good thing and probably fundamentally necessary for civilization to stay in intimate touch with the earth. That, for me, is a lot of what’s going on in craft.
When you see somebody in conversation with a piece of wood, in a conversation with metal or paper, the conversation is antiphonal. I think there is a way to imagine imposing your will on the material, but there is another way, and that is to have a conversation with the material. To, if you’ll permit the figure of speech, be asking the material what it wants; you know what you want. The part that’s very attractive to me about the crafts is the negotiation around a proposal, rather than a negotiation around an imposition. The difference would be instead of hammering on something to force it to be what you want, to work with something to find out what is within it.
What’s happening at Penland is people are maintaining a long history of using tools to stay in touch: with each other through the sharing of art, and with the materials that are used to make art and crafted things. I would say that Penland is a place that’s feeding the fire. There’s everything to feel good about at Penland because in addition to making all this beautiful work, it maintains a tradition of honest and good relationships with the earth.
Could you talk a little bit about your process as a writer?
It’s all intuitive. I don’t have a rigid schedule that I follow. The process is different in fiction than it is in nonfiction. When I’m trying to frame a piece of nonfiction, I’m always using my notebooks and, looking back, I seem to spend a certain amount of time collecting material—maybe years—and then there will be an intense period of reviewing all those notes, followed by a period of nonstop writing. In fiction, I’ll have a line in my head, maybe the first line of a story, and it’ll be there for an hour, or 25 years, and then I’ll pull on it, and I’ll start going, but I don’t have a process of preparation for writing fiction.
The keynote of the process for me is paying attention. I often say that the first rule of everything is to pay attention— the first rule of your marriage, the first rule of your work, the first rule of your spiritual practice is to pay attention.
Do you have a sense of what you might take away from being here?
Camaraderie. And another renewal of my commitment to a task that I see as fundamental to the preservation of a civilization. I think what goes on here, if we didn’t have this, the loss would be incalculable. I’m glad to have been a visitor, somebody just passing through, glad to be here.
*An account of the efforts at reconciliation between the Comanche Nation and Texas Tech University, written by Henry Chappell, can be found here.