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Matt Repsher / Thomas Campbell Collaboration

Collaboration

What a collaboration! When fall concentration instructors Thomas Campbell and Matt Repsher combine their powers, we would not expect the results to be anything but spectacular. Their first and only collaboration, the piece features elegant geometry, flawless execution, and harmony of styles.

Thomas Campbell working on the piece in the iron studio.

The pair found time to create the work for the fall concentration scholarship auction, despite their teaching responsibilities and Thomas’s status as a brand-new dad. “Matt is a dear friend whose work I’ve always admired, so it was exciting to work on this auction piece together,” said Thomas.

The ceramic center of the piece, incised and inlaid with colored slips in Matt’s signature style, was created first. “I was happy to hand something off to Thomas and feel completely comfortable and confident that he would finish it beautifully,” said Matt, adding, “He’s got skills.” It then fell to Thomas to respond to Matt’s piece, working outward to create an elegant cobweb of angles out of iron that catch the light just so. This part of the process involved a great deal of math and a dedicated bending break machine, with truly stunning results. 

Matt in the clay studio this fall

The Artists

The pair first met when Thomas, then a Penland Core Fellow, was a student in Matt’s first Penland concentration as an instructor. They became good friends when they both lived at Penland from 2017 to 2020. As a Penland Resident Artist, Matt even used his class benefit to take Thomas’s two-week workshop in the iron studio.

The two had had their sights on teaching a Penland concentration together. Scheduled to teach in 2020 before the session was canceled due to the pandemic, Matt and Thomas were happy to return this fall. They share a mutual respect and a similar approach to making. Both are meticulous planners whose work invokes “truth to materials.”

 “Matt and I both rely heavily on technique, precision, and line in our work,” said Thomas. Matt explained, “It’s using repetition to create structures and form. He does it through his processes of cutting and bending and I do it through whatever it is I do with clay.” 

Supporting Penland Scholarships

That magic moment when the piece was won at the scholarship auction! Special thanks to our friend Susan Sanders for capturing this scene.

This piece was generously donated to the fall scholarship auction. It was purchased by phone by an enthusiastic collector in a dramatic bidding war, to the delight of all. “I enjoy making things people want,” said Matt, “and the scholarship program supports a lot of people coming to Penland.”

Thank you to Thomas and Matt for your time, knowledge, and generosity!

Core fellow Maria Fernanda Nuñez shows off the piece during the auction

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HBCU students get hands-on at Penland!

Penland’s campus recently hosted a lively, engaged group of students and faculty from Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, and Morehouse College, historically black colleges and universities located in Atlanta, Georgia, for two days of talks, studio visits, mentorship, and hands-on activities. Driving up from Atlanta through beautiful fall foliage, the group arrived at Penland on the evening of Thursday, October October 27th, and stayed with us on campus through Saturday.

Clay demonstration with Matt Repsher

An essential part of Penland’s equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts, the tour was created to:

  • Share the benefits of craft schools’ programs with students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
  • Create a more diverse and competitive application pool for workshops, residencies, and scholarships.
  • Address anxieties or preconceived notions students of color might have about the receptiveness of mountain communities and craft schools toward cultural and racial diversity.
  • Increase and diversify the pool of African-American artists for future instructional and exhibition programming.
Touring campus with Shae Bishop
Mentors

This year’s group was joined by two specially invited mentors, Tanya Crane and Ben Blount, accomplished craftspeople who have each taught at Penland. Tanya specializes in small metals and Ben is a letterpress printer. The welcoming orientation included presentations from each mentor on their individual art practices, which elicited insightful questions from the visiting students during the presentation and throughout the weekend. Tanya and Ben stayed with the group throughout the tour, connecting with the visiting students and faculty, answering their questions, sharing their experiences and perspectives, and giving hands-on demonstrations.

Mentor Ben Blount demonstrates on a Vandercook press

Said Ben Blount, “I think it’s important to have the mentors be a part of the program, not just Penland staff. We have come to Penland on our own.  We don’t work for Penland and we can share what our experience was like, being a teacher or a student.”

Mentors Tanya Crane and Ben Blount
Visiting the Studios
Students enter the metals studio for their hands-on demo with Tanya Crane

“It was fun to experience Penland from a different perspective,” Ben continued. “Much of the visit was spent visiting the studios in the same way the students were, seeing all the things being made, being inspired by what I saw.”

There was a lot of ground to cover! Guided by local artist and many-time Penland student Shea Bishop, the group visited the seven Penland studios that are currently hosting a fall concentration workshop; iron, glass, drawing and painting, books, clay, metals, and textiles.

Fall concentration textile students show the visiting students how to operate a loom

The HBCU folks observed demonstrations, talked with students and checked out their work, learned about different processes, and asked a lot of questions. They watched a collaborative glass project, tried out a few looms, learned about ikat and indigo, and watched a clay demonstration.

Getting Hands-On
Mentor Tanya Crane demonstrates enameling techniques in the metals studio

No Penland visit would be complete without a hands-on experience, and this year’s tour did not disappoint.  Students learned the basics of enameling metal with Tanya and letterpress printing with Ben. Not only did they walk away with finished work, they gained an understanding of new tools and techniques. 

Using a torch to enamel a medallion

In the metals studio, students enameled two-sided medallions using the drill press, enameling kiln, and stencils of their own design. “Me, finding out I’m a jewelry maker!” exclaimed one student as she pulled a finished medallion from the kiln. Intrigued by the process, many of the students elected to use their free time to make a second piece. 

Students get hands-on with colorful enamels

In the letterpress studio, the group created their own commemorative poster, learning to set wood type and pull prints. There were three presses running with different colors. The students jumped right in, with the last person pulling their print five minutes before the shuttle arrived to take Ben to the airport!

Tanya Crane participating in Ben Blount’s hands-on letterpress demo
Going Deeper

The students also visited the Penland Gallery, strolled on The Knoll, ate their meals at The Pines, attended a slide talk, and stayed in Penland housing. They spent time getting to know each other and asking interesting questions. What had they seen that was interesting? How could they incorporate new techniques into their work? What does it mean to be a black artist? How do black artists stand to benefit from the efforts of craft schools to increase diversity? Though some of these questions were not exactly resolved, the conversations were thought-provoking.

First Craft School Experience

A sophomore at Spelman College, Morgan Newson attended the HBCU tour with the encouragement of her professor, Robert Hamilton, who has attended Penland. She was intrigued by the opportunity to check out different media like ceramics and glassblowing. Morgan’s first visit to a craft school yielded a number of surprises. She was stuck by the 24-hour studio access, the interdisciplinary collaboration, and the diversity of ages in Penland’s workshops. “I went into it with the expectation that it was just like college, but it was the complete opposite,” she said.

Visiting the weaving studio, Morgan had the opportunity to connect with Edwina Bringle, a Penland neighbor who has been weaving for over fifty years and has been both student and instructor in countless Penland workshops. “It’s amazing to know that I could be in a class with someone who can give me the knowledge and history of their art form,” said Morgan. The diversity of ages also assured her that, even if she isn’t able to fit Penland into her schedule in the immediate future, “I can always come back.” Morgan hopes that one day she can take a weaving class with her grandmother, who had an important role in introducing her to art.

What Does Penland Have to Offer?

We asked Morgan, Tanya, and Ben, why they took time out of their busy schedules for this tour. What can Penland offer to young artists of color?

Said Morgan, 

“It was a great use of my time. I like that Penland gives me the opportunity to try new things and to know find out what you like and don’t like. We get stuck in our comfort zones. It’s always nice to try something new, and it’s good to know that these opportunities are available to me”

Said Tanya,

“I think providing concrete, lived experience with craft schools is essential. Craft schools are more akin to real life because the learning is more self-directed, and not necessarily tied to an assignment. You’re there for yourself to explore what’s in you with some skill-building guidance. Developmentally, it’s important.”

Said Ben,

“I would like to hear that some of these kids have come back to Penland. I think it’s a great opportunity for them or for any artist. It’s a gorgeous place to be making things, with outstanding facilities. It’s also about meeting people and being exposed, not only to different processes but ideas and people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s the culture of being around artists and people working in so many different mediums, conversations over meals, meeting different studios, making things… thinking about making things. It’s a place to get immersed in art-making.”

Oya Oki and her students demonstrate glass-blowing techniques
Following Up

The follow-up to the tour will include four full scholarships for 2023 summer workshops with travel and materials stipends that are specifically for students who have participated in one of the HBCU tours. The students are also encouraged to apply for all categories of Penland scholarships (including 30+ other full scholarships that specifically target people of color).

Each student created a commemorative poster with Ben Blount

Yolanda Sommer, Penland’s manager of diversity recruitment and partnerships, walked the students through the process of applying for scholarships. She has also made herself available to the students for any assistance they might need with their applications. In 2022, five former HBCU participants attended Penland workshops with scholarships.

Penland is building relationships with the schools that have been part of this program, and to foster that process, Penland has also designated two 2023 scholarships (with stipends) for faculty members from HBCUs. These scholarships are funded by a grant from the Maxwell Hanrahan Foundation.

Penland is grateful to the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust for their support of the HBCU tour. Yolanda is planning next year’s tour with Bowie State University and Howard University.

Many thanks to the students, faculty, and mentors who visited as well as everyone on campus who gave our visitors a warm welcome, from Penland staff to fall concentration students and instructors. And thank you to our visitors for making the most of your visit to Penland!

Letterpress magic

 

Thanks to everyone who made this tour possible!

To read more about Penland’s HBCU tour and its origins, click here.

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The Core Show 2022

 

Lars, Molly, Lisa, Celia, Mo, Lilly, Tony, and Sarina.

A highlight of every year at Penland is the annual exhibition of work by our wonderful core fellows. The core fellows are students who spend two years at Penland taking workshops throughout the year while also doing part-time jobs for the school. Every October they curate and install an exhibition of their recent work. This year’s show is title STONEFRUIT, and it opened at Penland’s Gallery North on October 7. It will be up until November 11, so if you are nearby, you still have a week to see this excellent show.

Opening night of the core show always begins with a special supper for the artists. This year the meal was prepared by metals studio coordinator Nadia Massoud, studio operations manager Daniel T. Beck, and glass studio coordinator Nick Fruin. This is followed by an opening reception at the gallery (with desserts supplied by staff and community) and a salute to the core fellows by programs manager Courtney Dodd.

Programs manager Courtney Dodd salutes the core fellows.

Thanks to Sarina Angell, Molly Bernstein, Lisa Nguyen, Maria Fernanda Nuñez, Tony Santoyo, Celia Shaheen, Lars Shimabukuro, and Lily Wilkins for their tireless contributions to life of the school, for their marvelous spirit, and for their inspiring art work. Here are some pictures of the show and a sample of each person’s work.

Tony Santoyo, Interlude, acrylic and pastel on unstretched canvas, 56-1/2 x 64-1/2 inches
Lisa Nguyen, Cat Nap Tunnel, ash, baltic birch, glass, 20 x 28 x 15 inches
Sarina Angell, 100 Nuts, hickory nuts, mixed media, found materials, 44 x 4 inches
Sarina Angell, 100 Nuts (detail)
Maria Fernanda Nuñez, “Not all is not enough”, wood, denim pulp, 60 x 60 x 48 inches
Lars Shimabukuru, fish trap, ceramic, lashed reed, 31 x 20 x 19 inches
Lily Wilkins, Traffic Island, wool, cotton, silk, canvas, 24 x 24 inches
Celia Shaheen, This old ceremony carries me home, handwoven and blockprinted cotton, earthenware, 15 x 67 inches
Celia Shaheen, This old ceremony carries me home (detail)
Molly Bernstein, Benni Goes to Work!, papier mâché, flocking, acrylic, steel wire, phone cord, grommets, 72 x 42 x 24 inches

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The Penland Auction Was a Great Success!

We did it! The 37th Annual Penland Benefit Auction is a wrap!

We are proud to say that our biggest fundraiser of the year was a great success! Keep scrolling to see a slideshow of the fun!

We celebrated craft.

The 37th Annual Penland Benefit Auction was a wealth of riches. It is an honor to connect the superb work of contemporary makers with thoughtful, enthusiastic collectors and supporters of craft.

We raised important funds.

The Penland Auction is our most important fundraiser of the year, supporting our mission of making lives meaningful through making.

Here are some preliminary numbers we are excited to share:

  • $394,959.65 has been raised for Penland!
  • We exceeded our Fund-A-Need goal, raising $105,500.

In honor of the United Nations International Year of Glass, this year’s “Fund-A-Need” will fund an upgrade of Penland’s ventilation systems in its glass hot shop and flameworking studios. Thank you so much to everyone who donated!

We honored special folks.

Nancy Blum, David Chatt, Paul S. Briggs, and Mark Peiser were honored at this year’s auction. We are so proud to have had the opportunity to highlight their work! We will be sharing some of the kind words spoken about Mark Peiser with you soon.

We had so much fun!

What a pleasure it was to host our friends on campus last weekend, reconnecting with you in person! Thank you for sharing with us! Please enjoy the slideshow below:

 


Thank You!

Hundreds of people and organizations come together to create the Penland Benefit Auction. It is a huge undertaking and a labor of love. Thank you so much to everyone who gave of themselves to make it a great success! Thank you…

 

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Nancy Blum: Exploring Interconnectivity

Drawings by Nancy Blum
Nancy Blum, Black Drawings 31, 72, 28, and 158, colored pencil and graphite, 12 x 9 inches each

Nancy Blum–one of the featured artists in this year’s Penland Benefit Auction–is known primarily for large-scale botanical drawings and her public artworks. These include a remarkable suite of floral tile mosaics at the 28th Street subway station in Manhattan and an installation of monumental, botanically-themed windows at the San Francisco General Hospital. Nancy was first trained in ceramics, and she loves collaborating with the skilled craftspeople who execute these projects.

Her contributions to this year’s auction, however, are entirely the work of her own hands. She describes these “Black Drawings” as “playfully rendered depictions of scientific imaginings and abstractions of the natural world.” This series, she says, explores the interconnectivity of all living beings. Nancy’s drawings and sculptures have been shown in venues across the U.S. and in recent solo exhibitions at Reynolds Gallery in Richmond, VA and Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York City. Her work is found in many private and public collections including the World Ceramic Exposition Foundation in South Korea and the Boise Art Museum in Idaho.

To learn more about Nancy and see more of her work, please watch the video below (videographer: Nikki Appino), or visit her website (but watch the video first).

Penland’s Annual Benefit Auction takes place on August 26-27, 2002 with online bidding on many pieces continuing through September 2. Nancy’s drawings will be sold in the live auction on August 27 and in the online silent auction that runs from August 28 – September 2. Complete auction information here.

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Paul S. Briggs: Expansive Ceramics

A ceramic vessel by Paul Briggs
Paul S. Briggs, Whorl, Windflower (Geode Series), glazed stoneware, 10 x 8 x 8 inches

Paul S. Briggs, who is one of the featured artists at the 2022 Penland Benefit Auction, has built his ceramic practice around two processes: pinch-formed vessels and slab-built sculptures. “Pinch-forming is what I do to meditate,” he says, “slab building is what I do to think through ideas.” The work featured in this year’s auction is one of his distinctive pinched vessels. “My pinching process,” he explains, “is neither additive nor subtractive but expansive. I grow the form from one chunk of clay using the pinching method to open the chunk and expand it outward and upward.”

Paul’s work has been in numerous exhibitions including Lucy Lacoste Gallery in Concord, Massachusetts, Friedman Benda Gallery in New York City, and The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, and is found in museum collections including the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, the Columbus Art Museum in Ohio, the Legacy Museum in Alabama, the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas, the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

He has studied educational theory and policy, art education, theology, sculpture, and ceramics. “After a circuitous and fortuitous journey,” he says,“I am an artist-teacher at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.” He has also taught ceramics at Penland, Anderson Ranch, St. Olaf University, and Harvard University.

To learn more about Paul and see more of his work, please watch the video below (videographer: Darren Cole), or visit his website (but watch the video first).

Penland’s Annual Benefit Auction takes place on August 26-27, 2002 with online bidding on some pieces continuing through September 2. Paul’s work will be sold in the live auction on August 27; absentee bidding is available. Complete auction information here.

 

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David K. Chatt: Objects of Wonder from Tiny Beads

 

David K. Chatt, Red Stinger, glass beads, thread, time, 33 inches long

For nearly forty years, I have sewn tiny glass beads, one to the next,” says artist David K. Chatt. During this time David has painstakingly developed methods for creating sculpture and jewelry from sewn beads–beads alone and beads encasing objects–and he is one of a small group of artists who have made a place for beadwork in the world of contemporary art and craft. He is one of three featured artists at Penland’s annual benefit auction where he will be represented by an intriguing wearable piece titled Red Stinger (pictured here).

His work has taken him all over the country as a lecturer and teacher, and it has been chronicled in books and periodicals and recognized with a retrospective exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington. At Penland he has been an instructor, a resident artist, a student, an employee, and a neighbor.

In 2019, David won the Grand Prize at the Irish Glass Biennale. In 2021, one of his pieces was purchased by the Renwick Gallery of the American Art Museum (DC) and is included in its current 50th anniversary show.

“I make art,” David says, “because I want to contribute, discover, understand, inspire, reach for the very edge of my potential, and say something true.”

To learn more about David and see more of his work, please watch the video below, or visit his website (but watch the video first).

Penland’s Annual Benefit Auction takes place on August 26-27, 2002 with online bidding on some pieces continuing through September 2. David’s piece will be sold in the live auction on August 27; absentee bidding is available. Complete auction information here.