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Adam Whitney Raises a Silver Cup (quickly)

“This was the fastest raising I have ever done!” -Adam Whitney

When it comes to raising, few have accomplished the skill and complexity of Penland Resident Artist Adam Whitney. Raising is the craft of making hollow, three-dimensional forms from flat sheets of metal. Creating a cup like this would normally take Adam at least 5 hours. During last weekend’s Fire on the Mountain Blacksmithing Festival demonstration, he worked aggressively to complete the piece for a rapt audience in one hour and fifteen minutes. This, he tells us, was risky because the material could have cracked. Luckily, Adam’s skill was equal to the task, and the result of the demo was a silver cup with gorgeous texture!

During his ongoing Penland residency, Adam has created intricate forms using raising, chasing, and repoussé. His most complex piece, based on the ancient Mediterranean rhyton form, took him over a year and a half and countless hours to complete.

Fire on the Mountain is an annual celebration of blacksmithing in downtown Spruce Pine, NC. Penland is one of the festival’s co-sponsors. This year, guests enjoyed demonstrations by Jim Cooper, David Burnette, David Harper Clemons, Suzanne Pugh, and Hiroko Yamada. The festival also included an astonishing array of vendors, forge-off competitions, and Penland’s popular Hands-On Tent where guests of all ages learned how to create their own barbecue skewer.


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Introducing the 2022 Featured Artists for the 37th Annual Penland Benefit Auction!

To choose only three artists to honor at the Penland Benefit Auction from hundreds of talented current and former guest instructors, resident artists, and core fellows is the hardest of tasks, taken on with great care.

Our Featured Artists embody the spirit of Penland’s craft education programming. They represent a range of media and a balance of tradition and innovation, skill and imagination.

This year, we are very proud to honor Nancy Blum. Paul Briggs, and David Chatt. We look forward to celebrating these wonderful individuals and sharing more about their work with you!

The Benefit Auction is Penland School of Craft’s major annual fundraiser. A joyous and festive celebration of craft, community, and all things Penland, we will welcome collectors, curators, artists, and friends from far and wide.





Nancy Blum is known for her large-scale botanical drawings and public artworks. At Penland, she has empowered others to develop their own public art practices. Nancy’s ongoing “Black Drawings” series explores the interconnectivity of all living beings, playfully rendered depictions of scientific imaginings, abstractions of the natural world, and riffs on the brilliance found in pattern. She has created large-scale public art projects around the country, including a suite of botanically themed mosaics, located at the New York MTA’s historic 28th St. Station. Her drawings and sculptures have been represented in numerous exhibitions at galleries and other venues such as the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro and the International Print Center and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, both in New York City. She has had recent solo exhibitions at Reynolds Gallery in Virginia and Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York City. Blum’s work is held by the World Ceramic Exposition Foundation in Icheon, South Korea, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, and the Boise Art Museum in Idaho, among many others. Her work can be found in New York City at McKenezie Fine Art and Ricco Maresca Gallery.




Paul Briggs is known for his pinch-formed vessels and slab-built sculptural forms. His unique pinching process is neither additive nor subtractive but expansive, growing the form from one chunk of clay. Paul’s slab-built forms are generally more planned, measured, and intentional. Combining these two ways of working and thinking becomes a means of expressing ideas neither can accomplish on their own. Paul is an artist-teacher with training in ceramics, sculpture, and education. At Penland, he has shared his innovative techniques in the clay studio. His work has been featured in many exhibitions including Lucy Lacoste Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Friedman Benda Gallery in New York City, The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas, Design Miami, and Eutectic Gallery in Portland, Oregon. His work can be found in the collections of the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas, the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum in New York.





David Chatt is a sculptural glass bead artist whose work has created space for beadwork in the world of contemporary craft. He creates vessels, objects, and sculptures by hand, sewing glass beads using a right angle weave stitch that he adapted. A Penland resident artist from 2008-2011, Chatt has been a Penland student and instructor many times over. His career has been chronicled in books and periodicals and was recognized by a retrospective at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington. In 2014, David received a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, and in 2019 his work received the Grand Prize at the Irish Glass Biennale. In 2021, “Love Dad,” a piece created while he was living in North Carolina, was purchased by the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery and is included in its current 50th anniversary show. His work can be found in the collection of the Bead Museum in Arizona, the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, and the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington.

Registration for the 37th Annual Penland Benefit Auction opens and invitations will be mailed in May. An illustrated online catalog will be available in July. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PENLAND BENEFIT AUCTION.

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Penland School on the Artsville Podcast

Artsville is a new podcast series that highlights contemporary art and craft from Asheville (a.k.a. Artsville) and the surrounding area. We’re honored that the first episode is all about Penland School of Craft. Podcast host Scott Power hosts a lively conversation with Penland’s director Mia Hall and communications manager Robin Dreyer. 

In just under an hour, they cover a lot of ground, including information about Penland’s workshops, the importance of the setting, how Mia sees the school progressing over the next few years, the gallery and visitors center, and even a few thoughts on the difference between art and craft (and whether there really is one). 

Artsville released its first six episodes at the same time. The other five episodes cover some of Asheville’s greatest hits: The Center for Craft, Momentum Gallery, The Village Potters, Blue Spiral I Gallery, Black Mountain College, and Grovewood Village and Gallery. 

The podcast is a co-production of Sand Hill Artists Collective (Asheville) and Crewest Studio (Los Angeles). 

You can download all of the episodes wherever you get podcasts, or you can listen on the Artsville website. 

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Penland Trustee Sharif Bey Named 2022 USA Fellow

Portrait of Sharif Bey with a large sculpture
Sharif Bey with his piece Louie Bones-Omega, which is in the collection of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Penland is excited to report that ceramic sculptor and educator Dr. Sharif Bey, who is a Penland trustee and friend, has been selected for a 2022 USA Fellowship from United States Artists. The US Artists website describes this prestigious, $50,000 award as celebrating “artists and cultural practitioners who have significantly contributed to the creative landscape and arts ecosystem of the country.”

Sharif, who is an associate professor of art at Syracuse University, grew up in a large African American family in Pittsburgh. He says that, while many of the men in his family left school for jobs in industry, he had a pivotal experience at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild while he was in high school. That organization gave him a foundation of skills and connections in the ceramics world that helped chart his life’s path.

Among those connections was ceramic artist Norman Schulman, a long-time Penland neighbor and instructor. It was from Norm that he first heard of Penland. “We stayed in touch on and off,” Sharif remembers. “He screened his calls, and it always made me feel special that aging Norm remembered me. I could hear him in the background saying, ‘Gloria, I’ll take Sharif’s call.’”

He also met Penland instructor Winnie Owens-Hart during a studio visit in 1989, and in 2000, he took a workshop with her at Penland. “She was surprised that this kid from 11 years prior was still working in clay,” he remembers. A few years later, he was teaching at Winston-Salem State and arranged several times to bring groups of students to Penland for a visit. In 2007, he taught his own workshop at Penland. 


Raptor Quilt series #2, 2021, Earthenware and mixed media, dimensions 24 × 23 × 4 inches. Photo courtesy of Albertz Benda, New York.

Fast forward to 2108 when Sharif, now in his current position at Syracuse University, was one of four artists featured in an exhibition titled “Disrupting Craft” at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. At that show’s opening, he met Penland staff member Yolanda Sommer (she is currently manager of diversity, recruitment, and partnerships). They were talking about Penland’s efforts to attract students of color, and he pitched the idea of the school partnering with several historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to bring groups of students and instructors for multi-day visits to Penland. 

This conversation was the genesis of Penland’s HBCU tour (read about it here and here), which had its third iteration in 2021. Sharif was one of the artist/mentors for the first tour in 2018. Around that same time, he was invited to join Penland’s board of trustees. 

Sharif describes his ceramic sculpture as inspired by functional pottery, Oceanic and African art, and art of the African diaspora, and investigating the cultural and political significance of adornment and the symbolic and formal properties of archetypal motifs while questioning how the meaning of icons and function transform across cultures and time. 

He holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, an MFA from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and a Ph.D. in art education from Pennsylvania State University. He’s had residencies at the McColl Center in Charlotte, NC, the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, and the Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin. In addition to the USA Fellowship, he has received a Pollock-Krasner grant and a Fulbright scholarship. His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum among others. 

Congratulations, Sharif, on this well-deserved honor!

Participants in the 2019 Penland HBCU tour, an idea originally suggested by Sharif Bey, who is seen at the far right.

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HBCU Tour, 2021 Edition

This post includes slideshows. If you receive it as email, please click here for best viewing.

Quentin Evans with glass leaf
Quentin Evans with a glass leaf he made during the Saturday-morning hands-on activity.

Penland was excited to host—in mid-October—its third annual HBCU Tour, which brought nine students and three faculty members from North Carolina A&T University to campus for two days of tours, talks, mentorship, and hands-on activities. 

The event was organized by Yolanda Sommer, who is Penland’s manager of diversity recruitment and partnerships. In the three years the program has been offered, the school has partnered with four different historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to create awareness of Penland’s craft workshops among the students and faculty of these institutions. The idea began with a conversation between Yolanda and artist Sharif Bey, who has taught at Penland and is now on the board of trustees. Sharif noted that the HBCUs offered campus tours to high school students, and it would be great if the craft schools could, in turn, offer some kind of orientation to HBCU students. 

After a successful visit with students and faculty from Claflin University and South Carolina State in 2019, the 2020 event, with participation from Savannah State University and North Carolina A&T, was conducted virtually with prerecorded videos and live Zoom content, making it one of the few Penland programs that was not cancelled in 2020. 

This year’s group arrived on Thursday evening and stayed through midday on Saturday. They were joined by three Black artist-mentors: metalsmith David Harper Clemons, glass artist Ché Rhodes, and printmaker Althea Murphy-Price. These three stayed with the group throughout and were able to have individual conversations with students about their career paths in both making and teaching. 

The group gets to see some newly created neon art with instructor Jeremy Bert.
Artist-mentor Althea Murphy-Price explains the Vandercook press.
Artist-mentor Ché Rhodes showing some hot-glass basics.
In the Penland Gallery.
Studio operations manager Amanda N. Simons giving a presentation to the group.


The students were a lively and engaged group of art and design majors with strong areas of interest but limited experience in craft disciplines. They were treated to a deluxe tour of Penland’s studios led by work-study student Shae Bishop with lots of supplemental information from the three artist mentors and the instructors of the six Penland workshops that were in progress at the time. 

The visit also included a session explaining Penland’s scholarship programs in detail, a presentation by studio operations manager Amanda N. Simons about the novel approach she took to financing her education, a talk by Dr. Tamara Brothers, deputy director of the North Carolina Arts Council, shared meals, and freeform discussions with the whole group. 

The culmination of the visit was two hands-on activities, one in metals led by David Harper Clemons, and the other in flameworked glass led by Penland Core Fellow SaraBeth Post. It was the middle of fall leaf season, and the activities were both based on the forms of tree leaves. The result was several high-energy hours of sawing, hammering, and torch work before the group loaded into their van for the trip back to Greensboro. 

Core fellow SaraBeth Post demonstrating the flameworked glass activity.
David Harper Clemons demonstrating the metalsmithing activity.
Anya Laplanche-Dixon working on her glass leaf.
Closeup of glass forming.
Devin Beasley sawing metal.
Brandon Perry sawing metal.
Jeramiah Watson getting pointers from David Harper Clemons
David assisting Iiana Gaillard and Tionne Whitaker
Tionne Whitaker and Quentin Evans hammering their metal leaves.
Closeup of leaf hammering.


Follow-up will include two full scholarships for 2022 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 scholarship (including 25+ other full scholarships that specifically target people of color). Yolanda has also made herself available to the students for any assistance they might need with their applications. In 2021, five former HBCU participants attended Penland workshops with scholarships. 

Penland hopes to have an ongoing relationship with the schools that have been part of this program, and to foster that relationship, Penland has also designated two 2022 scholarships (with stipends) for faculty members from the HBCUs. These scholarships are funded by a grant from the Maxwell Hanrahan Foundation.

Kyesha Jennings, content director for the North Carolina Arts Council, also joined in for part of the tour, observing, taking photographs and video, and talking to the students. She recently posted an excellent article with her take on the program.

Penland School is grateful to the Windgate Charitable Foundation and the Kenan Charitable Trust for their support of the HBCU tour. Yolanda is currently planning next year’s tour with Spelman College and Morehouse College. 

Here’s the whole group. In the front on the right are Dr. Tamara Brothers of the North Carolina Arts Council and staff member Yolanda Sommer, who organized the tour.

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We Make Penland, on Giving Day and Everyday!

WOWOWOW! We did it, friends!

What a day! On Tuesday, October 19th, the Penland community came out of the woodwork to show their love and commitment to helping people live creative lives. On Penland’s fifth-annual “Giving Day,” the goal was to reach 350 gifts of any size in 24 hours and to engage with our community near and far on social media, using the hashtag #WeMakePenland. We asked our Penland family to share their stories and to tell us what the school means to them.

The day was a whirlwind of heartfelt posts and grassroots giving. Around midday, we received some exciting and surprising news: an anonymous donor would make a gift of $20,000 if we met our goal or 350 donors by midnight. And we did, with your help. By the end of the day, we had blown our goal out of the water, generating a total of 478 individual gifts for Penland! All of these gifts added up to $51,286 was raised. With the challenge grant, we reached a grand total of $71,298 for Penland! We are so honored by each and every gift. Small gifts and those from new donors carried the day and helped us reach our goal! 38% of Giving Day donors gave under $25 and 25% of Giving Day donors were first-time donors to Penland.

These funds will support scholarships, community outreach, and Penland’s mission to help people live creative lives!

Penland Stories

On Giving Day, you gave the gift of your stories! So many of you took the time to reflect on your experiences here, sharing them with us and with your personal networks. We heard from past and present students, teachers, staff members, board members, and community members. By early evening, our printers were running constantly, printing out more than 70 thoughtful posts and stories, which we hung up at the Northlight building for everyone on campus to view. By midnight, there were many more!

The outpouring of support shown by the Penland community reminds us that we are doing important work here. Here are a few of the wonderful posts from the day:

Creating Families

Many of you met your spouse at Penland! We love love love catching up with you, seeing how your love and your families have grown over the years, or hearing about the start of your journey together. Highlights from this year included two beloved staff members who took the occasion to make their pregnancy announcement and a former instructor who met her spouse in 1989 while teaching in the Penland Textiles Studio! 

Courtney Dodd annd Nick Fruin are pregat!
Courtney Dodd and Nick Fruin are pregat!


Families start at Penland!
David and Michelle met at Penland in 1989!
Creating Community

Many of you shared how being immersed in the Penland community has touched your lives and art practices. We heard from those who are on campus right now as students, staff, and resident artists, as well as those who have experienced the magic of Penland in years past. Folks on campus expressed themselves in a photo booth at The Pines during lunchtime!

Creating the Future

It is an honor that artists, teachers, and friends will lend their voices to advocate for our school, and we are truly touched by your messages. What we heard, again and again, is this: You support Penland because you believe others should have access to the transformative experiences you have enjoyed here. This year, there is no one who captured this sentiment better than our friend and neighbor, Joe Lee:

“One cannot ever truly answer “what if” questions about how one’s life would be different if events had played out differently. However, we can recognize events that significantly influenced our lives. For me, my experiences at Penland were life changing in the most literal sense. The school is one of only a handful of places where the traditions and frontiers of craft media are actively explored and expanded, and being immersed in an environment where one is surrounded by others with similar pursuits primes them to make unique breakthroughs in their creative practice.

My hope is for as many people to be able to access the same life changing experiences that I had, and continue to have. In these times where we are increasingly outsourcing much of our lives, making something with one’s hands for one’s self is increasingly rare; but the experience of doing so is like nothing else I have encountered. It is so affirming that I wish for everyone to be able to experience it, especially those who, like me, have felt or been told that these fields and these experiences are not for them.

We need more people of all backgrounds to weave, mold, shape, and forge, the chain of craftsmanship. We need to repair the links that have been broken and to continue to build upon the foundations that have been laid by every generation that came before us. Humans are makers, and to deny it to any of us is to deprive us all of something that is at the very core of our beings. So go check ‘em out. See if there are any classes you might be interested in taking and if you can, help them keep the place going.”

With those inspiring words, we thank you humbly for being a part of Penland’s past, present, and future. Together, and with the support of each and every one of us, we are Penland, working to make immersive craft workshops more enriching and accessible. THANK YOU, FRIENDS!

Your posts, hung at Northlight!

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The Core Show 2021

This post starts with a slide show. If you are seeing it as in e-mail, please click here for best viewing.

The core show is a highlight of each Penland year.
The evening begins with a beautiful dinner cooked by friends of the core fellows.
Program coordinator Courtney Dodd paying tribute to each of the core fellows.
Sarina Angell; Collector's Jacket; toned cyanotype on cotton canvas
Molly Bernstein; A Map of the World; ceramic material
Mia Kaplan; Bullseye Ring; brass, copper, silver, magnets
Maria Fernanda Nuñez Alzata; What if we kissed in the crack of a kernel; cast denim, abaca, and corn husk fiber, 18k gold leaf, graphite
SaraBeth Post; Symbol to Play II; cast glass
Tony Santoyo; Roadmap; acrylic, handmade abaca and cotton on canvas
Erika Schuetz; Corkybara 1 &2; cork, leather
H. Mitsu Shimabukuro; Hypotaxis; hand-pulled sheet of paper with blowout stencil, cotton, abaca, and denim fibers
The core fellows in the gallery.
Core Show Card
Core Show Card

A highlight of every year at Penland (except 2020, because…) is the core show: an exhibition of carefully selected work made during the year by our wonderful core fellows. The evening starts with a beautiful, quiet dinner made by their friends. This is followed by a reception and moment for honoring each of these hardworking artists. This year’s exhibition was in Gallery North, which is part of the Northlight complex.

The Penland Core Fellowship is a two-year work-study residency that has brought generations of hard-working, dedicated artists into the Penland family–taking workshops, covering important work assignments, and inspiring everyone around them. We are also delighted to say that many core fellows continue to have a long-term relationship with the school after their fellowship comes to an end. We are always delighted to welcome them back as instructors, staff members, and in other roles.

Thank you, Erica, Mia, Mitsu, Mo, Molly, SaraBeth, Sarina, Tony, and Scott (who left for grad school before this event) for everything you have brought to Penland. Because everything was canceled in 2020, we got to keep this group for an extra year, and it’s getting hard to imagine the place without them!