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Decoy 1, by Adam Atkinson


Adam Atkinson, Decoy 1, carved cedar, 20 x 10 x 8 inches

Decoy 1 is the first finished piece in a new series by Penland Resident Artist Adam Atkinson. Adam plans to create a number of carved, game bird “decoys” that may be interpreted in different ways by different communities. Introduced to hunting culture as a boy in Idaho, Adam’s work both embraces and subverts the visual language of this “masculine” pursuit. When it comes to the decoys, he is still unpacking their meaning as the series develops. “Who am I fooling, and for what reason… that is something I am still exploring,” he told us.

The figure of the goose has a special significance for Adam. As a child, his dad once encouraged him to harvest one by wringing its neck. “I couldn’t do it,” he said, “because I was scared and the goose was really angry.” Looking back, Adam sees this moment as a crossroads. “At that moment I sort of failed, maybe for the first time in a significant way, to prove my masculinity.”

Made from gorgeous cedar and representing over 40 hours of skilled carving, the two-headed goose will be featured this summer in the Penland Benefit Auction.

Currently halfway through a three-year residency at Penland, Adam is using the time to grow and explore. “I’m extending my knowledge of different processes,” he told us. “I’m studying enameling, doing more wood carving, and making larger sculptures.” Adam has also been able to build out his studio, investing in equipment that is kinder on the body. Decoy 1 is one of the first pieces created on Adam’s new wood bench, which keeps his work steady for carving. The wood bench is literally a big step up from working on the hard concrete floor and was purchased through a grant awarded by the North Carolina Arts Council.

Woodcarving has been an integral part of Adam’s art practice since he first explored sculpture at Boise State University as an undergraduate. “After I made my first wood carved sculpture (a carved face in wormy maple) I was hooked, and began using it in my jewelry and sculptural works,” he said. Learning through “a lot of trial and error,” over the past decade Adam has become a skilled carver. In addition to the “Decoy” series, Adam is also working on several larger-scale works that will make use of his growing skill and tools.

We invite you to support Adam’s work. Follow his journey on Instagram @adamatkinson, visit his website to explore more of his work, and find works for purchase in the Penland Gallery.

This fall, the Penland Gallery will host Tender Presence, a group exhibition co-curated by Adam and fellow Penland Resident Artist Everett Hoffman in the John and Robyn Horn Gallery.

Adam Atkinson is a metalsmith, curator, and educator. He received an MFA in metal design at East Carolina University and a BFA in interdisciplinary studio practices at Boise State University. Atkinson’s work documents relationships between gender and the body using adornment and small-scale sculpture as formats for exploration. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including the Wayne Art Center, Boone Art and History Museum, and Nagoya Zokei University, Nagoya, Japan, among others. He was awarded numerous residencies including the Emerging Artist Residency at the Baltimore Jewelry Center and is currently in a three-year residency at Penland School of Craft. He was faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, Boise State University, and has taught workshops across the country.

Check out this short video about Decoy 1!

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Nick Joerling Demos Stretched Pots



Watching skilled hands is a thing of beauty. The clay studio enjoyed a special visit from Penland neighbor Nick Joerling who demonstrated his method for creating stretched and altered pots that begin on the wheel. Nick has been a working studio potter near Penland since the mid-1980’s.

Here are three of the most interesting things that Nick said during the demo:

  • “I like to make the work, and then catch up to it.”
  • “Buried inside the skin of good altered pot, there is a good thrown pot.”
  • “Cynthia Bringle told me to go to grad school.”

Kudos to clay spring concentration instructors Jenny Mendes Ceramics and Caroline Douglas Art for inviting Nick to do this awesome demo!

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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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Jane Peiser: Ceramics Pioneer and Beloved Neighbor

Portrait of Jane PeiserWe are saddened to note the passing of ceramic artist Jane Peiser: former Penland resident artist, frequent Penland instructor, strong supporter of the school, and beloved neighbor for more than 50 years. She died at home on February 23 after a short illness. She was 89.

Jane had a Masters of Science in education from Illinois Institute of Technology and began her career as a teacher of art history in Chicago. She was also a painter for a time, but eventually turned her attention to ceramics. Her former husband and lifelong friend, glass artist Mark Peiser, explained that her interest was always in people and faces. “She had some issues with backgrounds,” he said, “and this caused her to start making compositions by putting ceramic tiles onto things.”

Mark said that she became frustrated with buying tiles, so she got a kiln and some clay and started to make her own. This allowed her to make different shapes. “They became leaves, and then they became figures, and she started glazing and painting them to create imagery dealing with faces and people.”

Jane and Mark moved from Chicago to Penland in the late 1960s to join the resident artist program, and it was at Penland that she saw glass artists using the Italian techniques of murrine and millefiori. This method involves making a bar or slab of glass that has colored imagery embedded in it. The images are only revealed when the glass is cut into slices.


ceramic work by Jane Peiser
Untitled, salt-glazed porcelain, 8 inches tall

Jane was already working with colored clays and saw that she could adapt this glass technique to her material. “I don’t know when, exactly, the light bulb went on for her,” Mark said, “but she started doing a lot of work with colored clays and what glass people call ‘compatibility.’ She got that figured out and the colored clays really became part of the imagery. Then she started adding painted details. The final thing, what really made it all work, was that she started salt glazing the colored clays to create texture and brighten the color. It gives them so much life. The pieces are truly astounding.”

Mark added that, although Jane was not aware of this when she was developing this work, there is an Asian ceramic tradition (known today as nerikomi) that is similar to her method.


Ceramic work by Jane Peiser
Left: Figure, salt-fired porcelain with overglaze details, 22 inches tall
Right: Woman with Bird, salt-fired porcelain with overglaze details, 20 inches tall

Her handbuilt forms are functional or figurative (sometimes both) and always incorporate fantastic, brightly colored patterns. Sometimes the patterns themselves contain narrative imagery. In her studio, she kept an inventory of carefully built, patterned clay slabs that were available to her as she created new forms and scenes.

Once she started working in clay, Jane left teaching and was able to support herself from studio work. “I think it’s probably true,” said Mark, “that she was the first ceramist in the city of Chicago ever to make a living from her work alone. Her work was pretty much always supported and cherished.”

Portrait of Jane Peiser
Jane at home, 2021

She was a generous teacher who led workshops at Penland, Oregon College of Art and Craft, the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, Hawaii Arts and Craft, and other venues. She received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and her work is in collections including the Smithsonian Institution in DC and the Mint Museum of Art in North Carolina. She also contributed a chapter to The Penland School of Crafts Book of Pottery (1975).

A great supporter of Penland, she held an open house at her studio each session for many years, she frequently donated work to scholarship and annual benefit auctions, and she was simply kind and welcoming to everyone.

A lovely obituary written by her daughter Martha, ends by saying this: “Jane’s constant action and attention to detail also grew lush, jewel-toned gardens. She made clothes, weavings, and hooked rugs all with her unique colors and imagery. She joined political, social, and professional projects of all sorts and was notoriously practical, energetic, and generous. She treated every person she met with dignity. She leaves behind a host of friends who appreciated her gentle, generous spirit, her unpretentious ways, and her highly original art.”

Mark added that when she lived in Chicago, she helped start a community arts center on the North Side. “Because of her zeal for the project,” he said, “she was known as ‘Jane of Arts.’”

Jane will be remembered with an informal event on the afternoon of April 2 at her house near Penland School.


Jane Peiser in her ceramics studio in 2008
Jane (right) in her studio near Penland School, 2008.


Note: several years ago, Jane’s friends and family established a tuition-free, work-study scholarship in her name with a goal of continuing to increase the endowment so that the work requirement can be eliminated from the scholarship. If you are interested in helping with that effort, please contact Joan Glynn at 828-765-2359, ext. 1206.

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Wearable Black History

A young, African American woman working at a jewelry bench
Nancy Sanderson working in the Penland metals studio during the 2022 winter residency.

Nancy Sanderson did not have the typical reaction to the souvenir shop at Mount Vernon. Nancy is African American, and she was visiting the home of President George Washington with her husband’s family. She had been thinking about souvenirs because the metals class she was taking at Virginia Commonwealth University had given her an assignment to create a souvenir. (That class was taught by Adam Atkinson, who is currently a Penland resident artist.)

She had been thinking about the people who were enslaved at Mount Vernon and how some of them were the laborers who built the place. “And then I just thought, it’s crazy that there is a souvenir shop here,” she remembers. “To me, and I know this is a big jump, it was like if there was a souvenir shop at Auschwitz or Guantanamo Bay or some other place where people have suffered, and people are like, hey, let’s grab a shot glass or a needlepoint. I do understand that the institutions have to have income if they are going to preserve these places, but I would like to see it done in a more respectful way.”


Two hands hold a metal brooch that depicts a brick wall with a barred window. A chain hangs from the window. Behind the window is the profile of a white house with a red roof.
Souvenir for the Enslaved by George Washington at Mount Vernon

A previous metals assignment already had her thinking about architectural elements as jewelry components, and so she responded to the souvenir assignment with her brooch called “Souvenir for the Enslaved by George Washington at Mount Vernon.” The piece includes a small profile of George Washington’s house made from painted wood. This is seen through a barred window in a brick wall made of copper. Chains, ending in a shackle, hang from the wall. The shackle, she explains, is silver, because that’s the part that would have touched the body. 

Making this piece caused Nancy to imagine a series of jewelry works inspired by the estates of other slaveholding American presidents. Her studio access is limited currently as she is on hiatus from VCU, caring for her newborn daughter and navigating the pandemic with her family. But she was able to participate in Penland’s winter residency, giving her the opportunity to start work on the second piece. 


A sheet of copper with a relief image and three holes sits in front of an architectural model made from small copper bars
Components in progress for Souvenir for the Enslaved by John Tyler at Sherwood Forest Plantation

More ambitious in scale and complexity than the first, this piece will be the “Souvenir for the Enslaved by John Tyler at Sherwood Forest Plantation.” The John Tyler house is a 301-foot-long structure that is essentially seven buildings attached end-to-end and is claimed to be the longest frame house in America. Nancy’s piece will be a three-finger ring with a simple model of the whole house sitting on top of it. 

The ring itself will be a hollow form that contains a relief image of an enslaved man with arms crossed and head bowed. Two children stand in front of him. “It’s a play on Atlas,” she explains, “and the house will rest on his back. There are children in the image because it’s not just about the enslaved, it’s also about that legacy and how it goes to the next generation and the next generation.”


A sketch on graph paper
Nancy’s original sketch for the John Tyler piece

“It’s truly heartbreaking,” she continues, “to imagine that you’d probably be proud of what you contributed to that house and that plantation, but then to not be allowed to be proud and to not have any type of ownership of your contribution. To live your whole life and to know that no matter how hard you work, you will never have this. It’s not allowed. That’s what I’m thinking about in making this.”

Nancy is rendering these ideas as jewelry because, she explains, “I want them to be wearable and not just sculptures because I want people to touch them and interact, and that’s how they bring you in.” She hopes to complete five pieces in the series; she already has a vision for a piece based on James Monroe’s Highlands. “I think that enslaved people are just overlooked in their contributions to architecture and building,” she says. “So I want to highlight the architecture that enslaved people helped create and combine this with what I enjoy doing with metals.” 


A man and a woman in a grassy field in winter, pulling a sled with a baby sitting in it
Nancy with her husband, Adam, and their daughter, Mary-Sue, at Penland

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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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The Kent McLaughlin Scholarship for Working Potters

Kent McLaughlin

First: A reminder that the application deadline for summer scholarships is February 17. Details are here.

Second: Penland School is thrilled to announce the Kent McLaughlin Scholarship for Working Potters.

Kent McLaughlin was a wonderful potter, neighbor, human, and friend of the school. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2021. Kent had a vision for a Penland scholarship that would meet the needs of studio potters who make their living selling their work, and in five short months, with contributions from 117 donors, Kent’s friends and family have created a $100,000 endowment to fund this scholarship in perpetuity, The first scholarship will be awarded this summer.

The scholarship will cover the full cost of a Penland summer workshop—in any studio—and will grant a stipend of $1,000 per week to offset the artist’s time away from their studio production. The scholarship does not have a work requirement. To be eligible, applicants must have had a full-time studio practice for at least one year and will need to provide a résumé that demonstrates that they have been making their living solely by selling their work. They will also be asked to provide five images of their work.

In announcing the successful fundraising for the scholarship, Kent’s wife and studio mate, Suze Lindsay, said, “I am unable to find the words to say how much this means to me personally and to our family and community as we honor Kent’s legacy as a working potter and workshop instructor. Penland School is near and dear to our hearts. Kent and I both trained there early in our careers and found the experience an invaluable gift.”

Please share this information with anyone who might benefit from the opportunity.

General summer scholarship information and the link to the application form can be found here.  

Here’s how to apply for the Kent McLaughlin scholarship.

  • Open the scholarship application form in Slideroom.
  • Fill out the first two pages, which are required for all applications.
  • If you would also like to be considered for non-merit scholarships, fill out page three.
  • Go to page four, answer Question 1, and upload five images of your work.
  • Click the button under Question 5. This will open a number of secondary questions.
  • Check Box 5.7, which applies only to this scholarship.
  • If you would also like to be considered for other merit scholarships, check any other boxes that apply to you.
  • Submit your application by 11:59 ET on February 17.

About Kent McLaughlin

In the early 1990s, Kent (a.k.a. Chet, Chester) worked at Penland as services coordinator and then as facilities manager. In 1995, Kent and Suze bought a farmhouse in Bakersville, added a studio, and opened their doors as Fork Mountain Pottery in 1996.

Kent taught at Penland a number of times, sometimes by himself and sometimes with Suze. He also taught at Haystack, Anderson Ranch, Arrowmont, the Curaumilla Art Center in Chile, and the Jingdzhen Ceramic Institute in China. He helped start the Potters of the Roan, Spruce Pine Potters Market, and MICA Gallery.

Kent made functional pots in stoneware and porcelain. He described the look of work as “simple and quietly decorated surfaces made with a wax resist technique, layering glazes while using my own studio-made deer tail brushes.”

But most importantly, he was a funny, warm-hearted, positive person who always had time for other people and welcomed everyone into whatever he was doing. Any day that involved seeing him was a better day.


Kent McLaughlin memorial
In September 2021, many of Kent’s family and friends gathered at Penland for a beautiful celebration of his life.