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Handmade Parade and Fireworks 2023

Each year in July, Penland hosts its “Handmade Parade and Fireworks,” inviting the community to participate and to enjoy the show. The day included snacks and beverages from the Ledger Fire Department, a jovial crowd, a whimsical parade, butterfly-winged kids running around everywhere, and a spectacular fireworks display by the Penland facilities and grounds team. We just love this joyful expression of making lives meaningful through making. 

Here’s a slideshow of all the fun!

This year’s parade included the following entries:

Penland facilities and grounds – Bottle Rocket Truck
Pants class – Pants Party!
Penland staff – Tree of Heavenly Raiment
Portrait class – All Hands on Deck
Team Captain
Local families – Circus!
Tom – Bubble Mess
Cody Geci – Pug Bike
Two Potters – Potheads!
The Hive – Butterflies and Moths
Local family – Lettuce Bee truck
Fire and Rescue – ATV7
Fire and Rescue – Ledger Fire Department
Susie Pendley’s family – Golf Cart!

And here’s the awards! (All the trophies were handmade, of course.)

Most Razzle Dazzle – Bottle Rocket Truck (trophy made by the drawing and painting class)
Scrappiest – Pants Party! (trophy made by the pants class)
Most Studio Spirit – All Hands on Deck (S’mores bucket by Penland)
Best Choreography – Circus! (Leg platter by Penland)
Craftiest – Potheads! (trophy by the metals classes)
Fly High – The Hive Butterflies and Moths (trophy by Reagan in the Books class)

A very special thanks to Stacey Lane, Penland’s manager of community collaboration, for working to make the parade a fantastic success!


The spectacular fireworks are produced by Penland’s facilities and grounds team, with many hours of training and hard work, as well as frequent checks of the forecast (Sunny this year!). We think they did a spectacular job!

Couldn’t make it? We captured the entire display for you HERE! Special thanks to grounds manager Casara Logan for her stellar leadership and to the facilities and grounds crew for pulling off this exciting display to our joy and delight.

Thank you to everyone who made this day so very special. We look forward to next year!


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Inspired by Elizabeth Brim, Part 1

Twenty Artists

Elizabeth Brim is the 2023 Penland School of Craft Outstanding Artist Educator. She will be celebrated this August at the 38th annual Penland Benefit Auction. In honor of the occasion, 20 blacksmiths who are near and dear to Elizabeth have created special works of art, inspired by her. These accomplished craftspeople have worked with her, learned from her, and are her friends. Today, we are highlighting 10 of those artists. Stay tuned for part two!

Custom Centerpieces for the Penland Benefit Auction

When guests sit down under the tent at the Penland Benefit Auction, tables will be graced with a specially created work of art, inspired by the Outstanding Artist Educator. At Penland, we refer to these works as “cynosures;” objects that are the center of attraction, strongly drawing attention by their brilliance, interest, etc. These pieces are sold during the weekend so they can become a special treasure in the home of one of our auction guests. This year a remarkable group of friends, colleagues, and students of Elizabeth Brim have created a spectacular group of pieces in steel.

Cynosures will be available for purchase at the Penland Benefit Auction, beginning at noon on Saturday.  To bid remotely you may contact Cindy Gibson, absentee bid coordinator, at 828.765.2359 x 1308 or email Cynosures are $395 each.

The Penland Benefit Auction gala weekend will take place on August 26th and 27th. Penland’s team is working hard to pull off our biggest fundraising event of the year, when we will welcome dear friends to our mountain campus. Haven’t purchased your tickets yet? You can find them HERE.

Stunning Works in Steel

Today we are highlighting works by Autumn Brown, Vivian Beer, James D. W. Cooper, Megan E. Crowley, Andy Dohner, Seth Gould, Warren Holzman, Marvin Jensen, Rachel Kedinger, and Dave MacDonald, created in honor of Elizabeth Brim.

Stay tuned for part two!


Autumn Brown
Peony Pillar
Forged and fabricated steel
17 x 7-1/2 x 7 inches

I was introduced to Elizabeth’s work while I was a student at the University of Georgia in 2003 and was instantly fascinated by her and captivated by the delicate fortitude that emanated from her work.  Elizabeth and her work have had a tremendous impact on my confidence to proceed as a female metalsmith.

Vivian Beer
For Brim
Steel, patina, black candle
8 x 10 x 10 inches

When asked to celebrate Elizabeth Brim, I immediately thought of the pillow. She has taught metal inflation to countless students, and the combination of play and danger in this process is the perfect metaphor for Elizabeth’s work. They are flowers, but dangerous flowers. It’s feminine fashion, but it’s made of iron. Some of teaching and of being part of our making community is about what you make, but it’s also about how you treat people. Elizabeth gives us a trailblazing example through her work, but I think, perhaps in equal measure, her legacy will be the friendships she fosters and the connections she creates for us all. 

James D. W. Cooper
Iron Orchids
Iron, paint
24 x 9 × 9 × inches

I love plants and flowers, and the work of my friend Elizabeth has served as an inspiration for incorporating floral forms into some of my work. So it seems appropriate to celebrate her great contribution to artistic blacksmithing through the presentation of flowers. Elizabeth and I have been friends and colleagues for more years than I care to count. Her work and vibrant personality have inspired me frequently throughout my career.

Maegan E. Crowley
For a Friend
Forged and fabricated steel
14 x 6 x 6 inches

Elizabeth was one of my first blacksmithing teachers, she taught me how to forge-weld. I still have my first forge welded piece, a piece of quarter-inch round steel. One end is my first attempt, which I burned and ruined. Elizabeth said, “That’s alright, try it again.” So the other end has the successful attempt at the same technique. I keep it on my workbench to remind me to try again. This flower is made with that same technique.

Andy Dohner
Colored Pencils
Forged and fabricated steel, paint
9 x 5 x 5 inches

Beginning in 2002, Elizabeth and I spent time together over eight years setting up forging exhibitions all over the country. She encouraged me to develop an eye and to forge with finesse. We became friends, we became peers, we became part of a family!!! This piece could function as a sculpture or a flower vase.

Seth Gould
The Blacksmith’s Candle Holder
141/2 x 31/2 x 31/2 inches

My first class at Penland was the 2011 Spring Concentration in iron with Elizabeth Brim, and I can’t imagine a better way to have been introduced to Penland and its values. It was a fun, meaningful, and memorable experience, and Elizabeth opened my eyes to the richness of the Penland community and the field of blacksmithing. She continues to be an inspiration as someone who defines the value of relationships and the connection through all crafts. 

Warren Holzman
Calicem, Purificatorium, and Lumina
Steel, candles
131/2 x 9 x 9 inches 

The piece is reminiscent of a ritual chalice on which lit candles stand. Stamped repoussé portraits of Elizabeth Brim ornament the base. Twenty-eight years ago, Elizabeth was the only smith I know who was using steel to represent the soft character of cloth and upholstery, so I have included an element representing cloth. I also wanted to capture something of Elizabeth’s maximalist design impulse in my piece. Elizabeth has had a huge influence on me as an artist and blacksmith. Her unwavering support for me and my work, like her  commitment to blacksmithing and Penland School, have been remarkable. I am honored to call her my friend.

Marvin Jensen
Flower Vase
Anodized aluminum
8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 x inches
fabricated and anodized aluminum

It’s an honor to be able to say that I was Elizabeth’s first metals instructor.

Rachel Kedinger
Pitcher and Cup Set
Steel, enamel
Pitcher: 5 x 6 x 4 inches; cups: 2-1/2 x 2-1/2 x  2-1/2 inches

This pitcher and these cups are mild steel that has been welded, inflated, and enameled. I learned the inflation technique from Elizabeth Brim in a Penland workshop. I first met her in the summer of 2014, and over the years she has taught me so much about metalwork and life. I am forever grateful to call her a friend and mentor. She is generous and kind and a truly wonderful human who represents what I love about Penland.  

Dave MacDonald
Power of The Pearls
Mild steel, rivets, enamel paint, wax finish
14 x 12 x 4 inches

When I signed up for an eight-week Concentration workshop with Elizabeth brim, she contacted me to make sure I understood that it was a beginning-level class. She noted that on my application I said that I had been blacksmithing since 1990, which was true. I said, “I want to be a beginner again with you and learn it all over.” Elizabeth did not disappoint me. I remember watching with a sort of awe at perhaps our first demon, when she taught the class how to build a fire at the forge. She made it a graceful, patient, and almost magical process. It was like I was seeing the craft from a totally new vantage point, and I was in love with it all over again. Elizabeth and Penland helped me forever reshape how I approach my craft, and I am deeply grateful to her and for my times at Penland. 

Stay tuned for part two, featuring ten more artists!


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Elizabeth Brim, Outstanding Artist Educator

Elizabeth Brim will be honored at this summer’s Penland Benefit Auction.

If anyone can be said to be one of “Penland’s own,” it would be blacksmith and sculptor Elizabeth Brim. Although she started out working in ceramics, a Penland jewelry workshop in the 1980s sparked a lifelong interest in metals that quickly turned into a passion for working with hot steel.

Elizabeth was Penland’s iron studio coordinator from 1995–2000 and then settled permanently into a house and studio just a mile from the school. Over three decades, she has taught many workshops at Penland and other craft schools including Peters Valley in New Jersey and Haystack in Maine. She has demonstrated at numerous blacksmithing conferences, organized two symposia at Penland, and been a role model and inspiration for countless aspiring blacksmiths.

Elizabeth Brim is known throughout the craft world for her life-sized, steel replicas of traditionally feminine objects such as hats, dresses, pillows, and flowers; for her expressive and fluid use of the material; and for her facility at inflating steel forms with compressed air.

Her work has been exhibited at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, the North Carolina Museum of Art, The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, which named her as their 2009 Master Metalsmith.

We are proud to honor Elizabeth Brim as this year’s Penland School of Craft Outstanding Artist Educator. In honor of the occasion, we asked her a few questions about her long relationship with Penland.

“Gothic,” inflated steel pillow by Elizabeth Brim


Did you always like to make things?

Yes! My mother and grandmother made frilly dresses for me and my sister. We played with the scraps of fabric they had left over and made things from those. Our mother encouraged our creativity, and we took private lessons in painting. Instead of commercial paper dolls and coloring books, Mama got blank paper for us to draw on and cut up. When I majored in art in college, I thought teaching at the college level would be the ideal job for me. So I continued my studies to get an MFA in printmaking.

Young Elizabeth celebrates her birthday

How did you end up at Penland?

The head of the art department in my hometown told me that there was going to be a job available teaching ceramics and encouraged me to go to Penland to learn how to make pots. I did that in the spring of 1980 and I got the job teaching. I also fell in love with everything about Penland. I loved the mountains and being fully immersed in making things. I especially loved and became addicted to being around interesting, creative and fun people from places all around the world. So I came back as often as possible and started taking classes in metal and jewelry making.

Elizabeth Brim and her first metals instructor, Marvin Jensen

How did you discover blacksmithing… and when did you start wearing your iconic pearl necklace?

In the spring of 1985, I was taking a concentration with Marvin Jensen in metals. A core student who was in my class got an opportunity to apprentice with an artist and decided to leave the core program early. I was asked if I could stay at Penland for the summer and fill in as a core student. My job was to get dinner out on weeknights and clean up the kitchen afterwards. I could take classes during the day. Without that opportunity, I doubt if I would have ever taken a class in blacksmithing! When I told my mother, a very proper Southern woman, that I was signed up to take a blacksmithing class she got quiet for a minute and then said, “Elizabeth, I DO NOT approve of that. Blacksmithing is NOT a ladylike thing to do.” I was concerned but still wanted to take the class. I told my friend, Tom McCarthy, who was also a core student, what Mama had said. Tom immediately replied, “Elizabeth, just wear a string of pearls and you will be ladylike.” I’ve been wearing them ever since.

Elizabeth wears her iconic pearls in the Penland Iron studio in the eighties, while working on one of her sculptures.

How did you help grow the Penland iron program?

In 1987, I heard from Penland’s leadership that they were concerned about low enrollment in blacksmithing classes and that the future of the program was far from secure. Hunter Karhier was assistant director at the time and thought it would be a good idea to host an iron symposium to demonstrate national interest in the creative aspects of ironwork and get attention for the Penland  iron program. It was to be a unique opportunity for blacksmiths to get together formally to discuss art and ideas in iron. I was hired to facilitate the project and was very enthusiastic about promoting iron at Penland. The symposium, “Expressive Design in Iron,” was a huge success and received attention from ironworkers internationally.

Tell us about your time as the Penland Iron Studio Coordinator.

I became the studio coordinator of the Penland Iron Studio in 1995. That’s when I finally moved to Penland full-time. The studio was thriving with a full schedule and diverse range of courses. Jean McLaughlin, who became Penland’s Director in 1998, recognized the activity and success of Penland’s Iron program and began fundraising to provide a worthy studio. We moved into our new iron studio in the fall of 2000. The first project there was to build the iron gate out of forged scraps from the old iron studio and pieces donated by artists and instructors who had been important to the development of the program. I was building my own little studio at the same time Penland’s new studio was being built. So, with the Penland iron studio and program vigorous and successful, I left the job to concentrate on my own artwork. I still teach at craft schools occasionally, with Penland, of course, always being my favorite and my home.

Shortly after the inauguration of Penland’s current iron studio, students came together to create this beloved gate out of examples of forged scraps from the old iron studio and pieces donated by artists and instructors who were important to the development of the Penland iron program

What work are you most known for and how do you create it?

The first sculptural piece I forged was a pair of steel high-heeled shoes. I’m known for making objects out of steel that look soft, like fabric. It’s probably due to the influence of my mother and grandmother and their sewing. I have made several aprons, camisoles, and ballerina tutus. I enjoy the challenge of making ruffles, bows, tassels, fringe, and fancy trim in steel. I guess I’m most known for inflating steel forms to look like pillows. I also love to forge things that look like flowers and botanical elements. In these forms I employ forge welding. This involves heating metal parts until they get to the state I call “Slobbering Yellow “ and hitting them with a hammer to join the pieces together. I have a lot of fun making my forged sculptures!

Elizabeth painting petals for her “Serviceberry Tree” sculpture.


Elizabeth’s “Serviceberry Tree” in Spruce Pine, NC  features petals created by friends and guests (with help from Elizabeth) at one of the first Fire on the Mountain blacksmithing festivals.


“Mama’s Hat”


“Dancing Shoes”


Join us as we celebrate Outstanding Artist Educator Elizabeth Brim under the tent at the Penland Benefit Auction. LEARN MORE.