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A Quiet Influence

Donna Jean Dreyer at Penland
Donna Jean Dreyer at Penland in 1995. (Photo by Ann Hawthorne)

In early March, the Penland community lost a person who quietly made a deep impact on the school. Donna Jean Dreyer, who died at age 88, worked at Penland from 1986 through 1995 in publications, marketing, and fundraising. She kept the wider community informed through Penland’s newsletter, The Penland Line; she worked with designer Alicia Keshishian to define a basic format and tone for Penland’s workshop catalogs that persist to this day; she helped create Penland’s development office; and she was a trusted advisor to staff throughout the organization.

Donna Jean’s most significant contribution to the school, however, came several years after she retired, when the board asked her to step in as interim director in 1997. Earlier in her life, she had been the personnel director for the American Friends Service Committee, and, following that, she accepted a series of interim director positions in the Committee’s regional offices. This experience, combined with her strong Penland connection, made her uniquely qualified to guide the school through a moment of uncertainty and turmoil.

She gathered the staff together and clearly articulated some basic principles that would guide the next year. She carefully divided decisions and tasks between the ones she needed to deal with and the ones best left for the permanent director who would follow her. It was not a time for grand visions of the future. It was a time when wounds were healed, structural problems were addressed, and stability was restored.

After she turned the director’s office over to Jean McLaughlin, the staff commissioned resident artist Hoss Haley to make a beautiful concrete bench in her honor. It sits just above the volleyball court and includes a plaque that says, “She used her mind and her heart to nurture the work of our hands.” She lived the rest of her life in nearby Yancey County and maintained friendships with many in the school community. Various staff members continued to turn to her for advice and institutional history.

In 1996, after Donna Jean’s first Penland retirement, Dana Moore, who was program director for many years, wrote a tribute for The Penland Line. She distilled much of what was special about Donna Jean, and it seems appropriate to post part of that tribute here.

In trying to say something about Donna Jean, splashy anecdotes and knee slappers don’t come to mind. What I can tell about is this:

A person with uncommon wisdom who has an easy relationship with truth that the rest of us don’t always have.

A disarming honesty motivated by a deep compassion; if she has something difficult to say, she sticks with you until long after the shock has worn off.

An ability to distill and refine a complex situation into a well-posed problem.

A person who brings the same fairness and humanity to small choices that she brings to big issues.

A person who holds the center during times of flux and transition.

Donna Jean is simply the best thinker I know, with a way of taking a poetic route to the heart of a matter.

Though Penland shapes us all, some of us also shape Penland. In Donna Jean, Penland has been shaped by a force of goodwill that has warmed our future, and we thank her.

 

Donna Jean with Tim Veness and Alicia Keshishian at The Pines in 2016. They worked closely together at Penland in the early 1990s. (Photo by Robin Dreyer)

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Bobby Kadis: A Great Friend

Bobby Kadis at Penland
Bobby Kadis in the Penland clay studio.

At the end of March, we posted a video of the ceremony to name the Penland clay studio in honor of Bobby Kadis. On April 6, we were notified that Bobby had died from the cancer he had been wrestling with for seven years. He was 83. Back in 2015 Penland archivist Carey Hedlund and Jasmin McFayden, the director’s assistant, spent an afternoon talking to Bobby and prepared a tribute for that year’s auction catalog. We have adapted that tribute here to honor Bobby.

“I was sort of all business and this Penland experience shook me up.”
Bobby discovered clay more than forty years ago at a Sunday in the Park festival in Goldsboro, North Carolina. “There was a guy out there on a kick wheel, throwing pots,” he remembered. “I stood there and watched for a long time and within a week my wife Claudia had signed me up for his class at the arts center.” In 1978 Bobby came to Penland as a beginner—he’d just graduated from pinch pots to the kick wheel. His first workshop here was taught by the great ceramist Robert Turner, and Bobby found himself in a position he recognized as “far away from anything that I had ever experienced.”

“Bob Turner was a philosopher. All he wanted to do was get into your head, to make sure you understood what you were making and what you should be thinking about when you do it.”
Bobby was baffled by this new experience and Turner’s teaching style, but he came to recognize and value what Turner was doing: challenging his students to see, perceive, and to care in new ways. The two men forged a friendship and shared an ongoing conversation about life and clay. Bobby said that this first Penland workshop changed his life. Over the years he studied with many of the important artists of late 20th century ceramics. He reached beyond the boundaries of his career as a commercial real estate developer and became a maker in his own right.

“Why in the world would I want to be on this board? I go up to Penland and it’s Magic Mountain and everything runs gorgeously and I have a fabulous time.”
In addition to being a student, Bobby served for sixteen years on Penland’s board of trustees, including two years as chair. He was a voice for the student experience, a friend to the staff, and deeply involved as an advisor for the school’s operations. He also co-chaired, with Cynthia Bringle, the 2001-2004 Preserve Penland Campaign, which raised $11.5 million for the school’s infrastructure, endowment, and operations.

Bobby Kadis and Cynthia Bringle at Penland in 1985
Bobby with potter Cynthia Bringle in 1985.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of history with this school. I feel like I’m—amazingly—always around when something interesting happens.”
Bobby forged an extraordinary relationship with Penland and maintained a unique vantage point. He knew every director except founder Lucy Morgan, and was a friend and advisor to most of them. He was a voice of reason in difficult times. And he had fun: attending dance parties in Bill Brown’s living room, Poly Proms at Northlight, and an impromptu modern dance performance on the porch of Dora’s Place. He experienced the many charms of Penland’s housing–over the years, he slept in almost every building–and, before the whole clay studio was named for him, he was honored with the Bobby Kadis Slop Bucket.

“Right away, I feel like if I can delve into it, I can be helpful.”
In addition to his work with Penland, Bobby was a tireless advocate for the arts across North Carolina, serving on the North Carolina Arts Council board for twenty years and creating the North Carolina Arts Council Foundation. From 2008 to 2013, he was a member of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, which honored him with their 2014 Distinguished Public Service Award. And we always knew which car was Bobby’s after he was given the Arts North Carolina license plate number 0001.

Bobby Kadis had a generosity of spirit accompanied by enthusiasm, clarity, modesty, and ambitious determination. His generosity, expertise, and advocacy touched scores of people–locally, regionally, and nationally. He made countless friends and colleagues while championing the arts with an energy and passion few individuals could muster.

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Naming the Clay Studio

For decades, Bobby Kadis has been one of Penland’s greatest friends: a donor, an advisor, a board member (four terms!), and, above all, a student. Bobby has taken clay workshops at Penland every year for the past 43 years. After he made a substantial gift to the studio during the Preserve Penland Campaign in 2001, a decision was made to name the clay studio in his honor. However, he didn’t want his name on the studio while he was still taking workshops.

Following a number of years of treatment for gradually advancing cancer, Bobby recently decided that he no longer had the energy for clay workshops. Everyone at Penland was saddened by this news, and it also meant the time had come to formally name the Bobby Kadis Clay Studio. The naming was held on March 14, just before we all stopped traveling or gathering. It was attended by Bobby and his wife Claudia and their immediate family, plus a small group of Penland staff and neighbors.

After brief remarks, director Mia Hall removed a clay-stained towel to reveal a beautiful mosaic sign made by Penland’s clay studio coordinator Susan Feagin. The sign incorporates pieces from some of Bobby’s pots, including one with his signature. Many of Bobby’s friends were not able to be there, so we made this video to share the special afternoon with everyone who missed it.

To the Kadis family, thank you for your unending support for Penland. And to Bobby, a giant hug and a giant thank you for your wise counsel, for the time and energy you have invested in Penland and the whole North Carolina arts community, and for giving us all an example of how to live a creative life. We’re proud and delighted that our clay studio now wears your name.

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Four New Resident Artists in 2020!

We are thrilled to welcome four new artists into the Penland resident artist community! Adam Atkinson, Everett Hoffman, Ellie Richards, and Adam Whitney will arrive on campus in September 2020 to begin their residencies at The Barns. They will join current residents Nate Cotterman, Jason Hartsoe, and Kit Paulson.

Penland’s resident artists are full-time artists who spend three years living and working as part of our school’s community. The primary expectation of them is that they engage intently with their work. Many use this time to explore new ideas and directions, undertake ambitious projects, or develop new bodies of work.

Please give a big welcome to Adam, Everett, Ellie, and Adam and get to know them a bit below. We can’t wait to see what they create during their time here!

Adam Atkinson and Everett Hoffman

“We are a queer artist couple whose studio practice has been defined by the deep bond we have to each other. We work side by side in multidisciplinary practices rooted in craft, striving to grow and give more to craft communities to sustain our field and individual studios.”

Adam and Everett in black and white
Adam (left) and Everett (right)

Adam Atkinson and Everett Hoffman are cross-disciplinary artists and collaborative partners, whose studio practices intersect in their shared connection to craft, adornment, and identity. Having both grown up in the Pacific Northwest, their individual artistic paths question the hyper masculine tropes associated with the wild west. From the perspective of a queer male experience, they make work through mixed-media installations, wood carvings, photography, and body adornment. Atkinson and Hoffman both graduated with a BFA from Boise State University in 2013, and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018 (Hoffman) and East Carolina University in 2019 (Atkinson).

Atkinson and Hoffman have participated in a number of exhibitions nationally and internationally including the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, SOIL Gallery in Seattle, Wayne Center for Contemporary Craft in Pennsylvania, the Benaki Museum in Greece, and Nogoya Zokei University in Japan. They are co-curators of Spectral Matter Projects, an annual exhibition platform for LGBTQIA+ artists navigating queer perspectives in craft. Slippery and Subversive marked the first exhibition in this series, highlighting artists whose work takes a position of slippage and ambiguity as a way to redefine body-object relationships.

adornments by Everett Hoffman and Adam Atkinson
Work by Everett (left) and Adam (right)

adamatkinsonart.com  |  @adamatkinson_art
everetthoffman.net  |  @everetthoffman

Ellie Richards

“As an artist, I recognize freedom of expression as both a privilege and a responsibility; making objects in wood is one way I’ve found to communicate effectively and optimistically with this belief in mind.”

Ellie Richards portrait and installation of broom sculptures

Ellie Richards looks to the tradition of both woodworking and the readymade to create eclectic assemblage, installation, and objects exploring intersections of labor and leisure. In addition to mining the histories of furniture and forestry as cornerstones in her research, she has traveled extensively to investigate the roles that play and improvisation have on the artistic process. Her work, both furniture and sculpture, has been included in exhibitions at the Mint Museum, Center for Craft, SOFA Chicago, and the Society of Contemporary Craft. After receiving an MFA at Arizona State University, Richards participated in residencies, fellowships, and teaching appointments, respectively, at Anderson Ranch, Peters Valley, the Vermont Studio Center, and Appalachian Center for Craft. From there she was Penland’s wood studio coordinator from 2015-2019. This year Richards was awarded Windgate residencies at the Center for Art in Wood and in the wood/furniture design programs at San Diego State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

ellie-richards.com
@ellieinthewoods

Adam Whitney

“The greatest inspiration in my work is the process and love of hammering.”

Adam Whitney portrait and raised copper box with embellished lid

Adam Whitney is a metalsmith who focuses his work on forming and shaping sheet metal into volumetric forms by means of raising, chasing, and repoussé. He is constantly exploring and pushing his understanding and knowledge of the craft. When not in his studio, Adam travels for various projects and to teach workshops, bringing his passion for metalsmithing wherever he goes.

Adam received his BFA in Crafts / Materials Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he concentrated in metalsmithing. He has worked as a bench jeweler and metals studio coordinator, taught jewelry design at Raffles College in Kuala Lumpur, and now runs his own studio, AW Metalsmith.

aw-metalsmith.com
@awmetalsmith

 

For more information about Penland’s Resident Artist Program, please visit our residency page.

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Photo of the Week: Since the Invention of Mud

Chalkboard drawing at Penland school

Among the many fine students who were part of our fall session was Hunter Bell, who was in the iron workshop. In addition to working with steel, Hunter can draw like mad, and he did several great chalkboards during the session, including this one outside the clay studio.

 

At the end of the session, he left this on the whiteboard outside the dining hall — a little tribute to the six fall workshops (clay, metals, iron, paper/printmaking, glass, textiles).

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Artist Spotlight: Wendy Maruyama

The Penland community is like the galaxy: ever expanding and made up of stars.

Wendy Maruyama standing next to a wooden shrine with elephant masks behind
Wendy Maruyama with her Penland Gallery exhibition “The wildLIFE Project” in 2016

Recently, when the latest episode of Craft in America was released, we were thrilled to see Penland artists Wendy Maruyama and Cristina Córdova both featured. And more recently, when the prestigious 2020 United States Artists Fellowships were announced, we were excited to see Wendy’s name on the list again, this time with fellow Penland instructors Aaron McIntosh, Del Harrow, and Linda Sikora.

Wendy Maruyama has been creating innovative furniture, sculpture, and installations for over forty years, and she’s taught generations of woodworkers as a professor and mentor. Her work is technically masterful and deeply personal. For any of you who aren’t familiar with it, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce you to Wendy and her craft.

Wendy first learned furniture making as an undergraduate at San Diego State. She says she was drawn to the program because of the free thinking and the organic forms—“the furniture didn’t look like furniture,” she remembers. At that time, the woodworking field was almost entirely male dominated. “I felt like we women had to be three times more amazing to even be counted,” Wendy recalls. Nevertheless, she went on to Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated with a Masters degree in furniture making, one of the first two women to ever complete the program. And from there, she just kept pushing herself. While her earlier work was built around traditional craft objects, she has since moved beyond the boundaries of studio craft and into the realm of installation and social practice. “Wendy reached a level of mastery, saw the boundaries of technique, and kept pushing beyond them,” says curator Diedre Vissar.

Wendy’s more recent collections include Executive Order 9066, an installation of mixed-media wall cabinets and sculptures that explores the World War II-era persecution and internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans, and The wildLIFE Project, which addresses issues of poaching and wildlife protection. This later installation (pictured in the first photo above) was one of the first exhibitions to show at the Penland Gallery after it reopened in 2016. Wendy filled the space with exquisitely-crafted wooden shrines and a series of imposing and majestic elephant masks, each between eight and twelve feet tall and stitched together from dozens and dozens of wooden panels. For visitors, the experience of the show engaged the senses and the emotions, masterfully bringing together artwork and advocacy.

Wendy has been involved with the Penland community for over thirty years. She taught her first workshop in the wood studio in the summer of 1982, and since then she’s returned occasionally as an instructor. More recently, she joined us here for her Penland Gallery show and to be the featured artist at the 2016 Penland Benefit Auction. Dozens of Penland artists, including our own director Mia Hall, count Wendy as a teacher, mentor, and friend. As Penland instructor Adam John Manley remembers, “The thing that she instilled in me and generations of students is—don’t ever settle on the thing that you just did as the final product. Keep pushing that.”

Wendy’s latest work has taken another turn, pivoting from emotionally-laden advocacy to the colors, history, and aesthetic of the Bauhaus. Her series of “wooden weavings” inspired by Anni Albers will be part of an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus. And from there, who knows what Wendy will create next? “I feel like I’m an emerging artist again,” she says. “You can’t go back in time age wise, but I think creatively I feel like I’m young again and I’m doing this new work.”

Congratulations, Wendy, on two very well deserved honors! We’re lucky to count you as part of this community.

Six new "wooden weavings" by Wendy Maruyama
Six pieces from Wendy Maruyama’s new series “The Color Field”

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Hello, New Core!

We’re excited to announce and welcome our five newest core fellows—Maria Fernanda Nuñez, Hannah Mitsu Shimabukuro, Molly Bernstein, Tony Santoyo Baptisto, and Sarina Angell —who will begin their two-year fellowships in late February, 2020. They will join returning fellows Mia Kaplan, SaraBeth Post, Erica Schuetz, and Scott Vander Veen.

Portrait of Sarina plus image of one of her garments

Sarina Angell
“I feel joy in transforming fiber into lines, lines into planes, and planes into sculptures, and would like to feel that same intimacy and depth of discovery in different media and the intersections between them.”

Sarina currently lives in Baltimore, MD where she works for Aerothreads fabricating multi-layer insulation blankets for aerospace applications while maintaining a studio practice. Recently, Sarina received a BFA in Fibers from the Maryland Institute College of Art with concentrations in Experimental Fashion and Sustainability & Social Practices. Sarina has worked as a studio assistant for Alex da Corte and has apprenticed at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. She has volunteered at the Annual Benefit Auction at Penland since she was ten, has been a work-study student for two sessions, and looks forward to returning as a core fellow. She hopes to explore narrative in her work and to explore performance through fiber and its intersection and relationship to other media.

sarinaangell.myportfolio.com
@sarina.angell

portrait of Molly plus a grouping of her ceramic sculptures

Molly Bernstein
“Before I go to grad school or anchor down and build my own studio, I would like to give myself the freedom to absorb the knowledge, wisdom, and magic of the myriad people who visit [Penland] and to be a hand that helps hold it up.”

Molly Bernstein is a potter who currently lives in Philadelphia, PA working for herself and as a studio assistant. She has a BFA in Ceramics from The University of the Arts, PA and has studied at The Kyoei-Gama Ceramics School in Tokoname, Japan. She has been a resident artist at the Chautauqua Institution, NY and Studio 550, NH. This past spring, she was a work-study student in clay at Penland and is excited to have the opportunity to return to be part of the Penland community. During her core fellowship, she is interested in exploring various materials and to see where common threads lie in her practice.

@momo.vesselgarden

portrait of Fernanda, plus one of her drawings of two hands holding braids

Maria Fernanda Nuñez
“As a Core fellow I hope to build on my making skills to produce rigorously fabricated work that is also layered with metaphor and poetic ambiguity.”

After spending her formative years in Bogotá, Colombia, Fernanda relocated to the United States in 2011 to pursue a BFA in Sculpture at the California College of the Arts, which she completed in 2015. Upon graduation, she worked as a furniture apprentice in Houston, Texas and was a Resident Intern at the Headlands Center for the Arts. She is a three-time fellowship recipient at the Vermont Studio Center and has been to Penland twice as a work-study student. Fernanda is currently based in Portland, where she has shown and performed work, and is currently completing a Graduate Certificate in Critical Theory and Creative Research at the Oregon Institute for Creative Research, where she now works as a design and research assistant.

fernandanunez.com
@flotsam0jetsam

portrait of Tony plus one of his handmade paper compositions

Tony Santoyo
“With my craft, I attempt to build self-pride, and also to share with the world my comfort as a person whose identity is defined by living between and within two cultures.”

Tony Santoyo is a painter, papermaker, and ceramicist living and working in St. Paul, MN. He serves his community as a pharmacy technician at a non-profit clinic while also dedicating time to his studio practice. He has received his BA in Studio Arts and minors in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Minnesota in 2018, and has been a studio assistant at Penland workshops since 2016. Tony is a Mexican-American who comes from immigrant parents; he draws from his experience of identity and environment, his place in the world, and his sense of belonging and acceptance. He is excited to be back as a core fellow and to expand on his craft and further his knowledge.

tonysantoyo.com
@tonz6464

portrait of Hannah, plus one of her woven textile installations

Hannah Mitsu Shimabukuro
“I believe the history of textiles supporting community can be used to help address the inequalities we face today, and I am looking to learn from established institutions like the Penland School of Craft about how craft drives a community’s sense of belonging and identity as well as economic development.”

Hannah Mitsu Shimabukuro is a recent graduate of Haywood Community College’s Professional Crafts Fiber Program in Clyde, NC. Before weaving, Mitsu earned a BA in Studio Art from Yale University, focusing on sculpture and printmaking. They have worked as a printmaking studio technician for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and as a matting and framing assistant for the Yale University Art Gallery. Mitsu has attended several summer sessions at Penland as a scholarship student and will return this January as a winter resident. They have also completed residencies at the KKV Grafik Studio in Malmö, Sweden and the Studios at MASS MoCA. As a core fellow Mitsu looks forward to exploring new media such as wood and glass, while continuing to work in textiles and installation.

hmshimabukuro.com
@hmitsu_textiles

This year we received 80 applications for the Core Fellowship from across the United States. As always, there were more exceptional candidates than openings in the program. Our selection committee thoroughly reviewed and evaluated applications over a period of six weeks and interviewed applicants at the end of November. A sincere thank you goes out to everyone involved in this year’s selection.

Last but not least, we congratulate our five outgoing core fellows who will leave the program in February: Josh Fredock, L Autumn Gnadinger, Kento Saisho, Katherine Toler, and Devyn Vasquez. We wish you the best and are excited to follow your future successes!