Although, like everyone else, we’re in a strange, in-between state at Penland right now, there is activity in our wonderful studios. Thanks to our productive core fellows and a limited program of studio rentals, things are still happening.
Here are a few of the people who have been animating our spaces the past few weeks.
Jenn Schmidt filled the letterpress studio with hundreds of multi-colored prints for an upcoming project. Jenn is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives in Brooklyn and is the chair of print, paper, and graphic arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (Boston).
Tasha McKelvey is a ceramic artist from Richmond, Virginia. She was in the upper clay studio making some production work: brightly colored, tiny houses.
Core fellow Maria Fernanda Nuñez, a.k.a. Mo, makes evocative artwork in a number of different media. On this day, she was, very practically, making wedges for splitting wood.
Here in the print studio, safely distanced from each other, are Leslie Smith and Jean McLaughlin. Leslie is the director of graphics and textiles at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, NC. Jean was Penland’s director for 20 years. Lately she’s been spending a lot of time with ink and paper.
And finally, here is some guidance for wood studio renters from our studio coordinator, Aspen Golann. Remember, you should only use the big belt sander between 7 and 11 with a buddy in the building, but you can make models and dream all night long!
The studio rental program, which is limited to people who have worked in our studios in some capacity in the past, has been extended to April 24. Complete information is here.
Tomorrow, we’re marking a milestone in our new online programming initiative—our first live event! Renowned ceramic sculptor and instructor Cristina Córdova will hold a live Q&A session over Zoom for participants in her online demo, A Simplified Way to Make a Hollow Head. Cristina’s demo is a remarkable distillation of years of her own learning and discovery in the studio, and we’re thrilled to offer participants a direct window into her practice.
Here’s a quick look at Cristina’s transformative abilities with clay in three images. Each of these shots is a frame taken directly from Cristina’s hour-long demo.
3 minutes in—forming a flat slab into a hollow cylinder for the beginnings of the head
20 minutes in—using proportions as guides to establish the facial features
55 minutes in—experimenting with gesture before attaching the head to the neck
We’ve been holding this one in for a long time, and we’re thrilled to finally be able to announce: Penland is going online!
We are planning a series of online programming for you, including online demonstrations with Q&A sessions and immersive online workshops. Our goal is to give students who have never been to Penland an opportunity to experience our unique approach to teaching and learning in community and to give past students a chance to reconnect with the familiar rhythms and spaces of time at Penland. You’ll be able to enjoy the same studios, same expert instruction, and same generous and engaged peers—now in a new format that makes the Penland experience more accessible than ever!
We are not developing these online programs as stand-ins for our on-campus workshops. Rather, they are a way to seize this moment and bring the skill, creativity, inspiration, energy, and focus of a Penland session right to you. Wherever you are in the world, and wherever you are in your artistic journey, we hope you’ll join us to go a little deeper with Penland Everywhere.
Our first demonstrations and workshops will be available in January. Subscribe to Penland newsletters and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get the details as we release them.
This project is funded in part by a grant from SouthArts with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Penland was saddened by loss of fiber artist, wood sculptor, and teacher Dorothy Gill Barnes, who died on December 2 at age 93 after a short battle with COVID-19. As an artist, Dorothy’s consistent points of reference were the methods and materials of basketry. Working with natural materials that she harvested herself, she created beautiful, soulful, innovative forms and textures. She was also a beloved and generous teacher of workshops, include many at Penland. She continued to teach well into her 80s and amazed her students with her energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. She wanted students to be intimate with their materials, and her workshops were built around harvesting trips—always being mindful of what could be taken without damaging the local ecology.
Dorothy was a fellow of the American Craft Council and a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, and the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin.
In 2013, she was honored as Penland’s Outstanding Artist Educator. In that year’s auction catalog, writer and artist Eva Tuschman, who was in Dorothy’s 2010 Penland workshop, wrote this: “Just as a bird gathers fibers to build its nest, or bees instinctually know the patterns to construct their hives, Dorothy’s relationship to natural materials, from harvesting bark to weaving it into sculptural baskets, seems entirely intuitive. Dorothy was born to be a maker. Her life’s work embodies an expression of reverence for the natural world—its forms and textures, an ongoing dialogue with its lines and structures. One could say Dorothy is the Mary Oliver of the craft world: a poet whose words take the form of bark curling off a limb, or the gentle shaping of tree skin around a stone. Each piece is a poem, an object that invites us to pause and settle our attention, with delight and gratitude for what her hands have touched.”
You can read Dorothy’s obituary here. The American Craft Council has a beautiful page about her with more pictures of her work. And there is an extensive oral history interview on the website of the Archives of American Art.
UPDATE 12/18: The New York Times just posted an article about Dorothy as part of their series on people we’ve lost to COVID-19.
This is Penland kitchen mavens Chad Mohr and Day Dotson filling to-go boxes with tasty lunches of burgers, fries, coleslaw, and fixings (vegetarian option available!). For several months, the kitchen staff has been making take-out lunch or supper available to the rest of the staff once or twice a week.
This is been a welcome development for everyone getting the meals, but what’s really going on is that the folks in the kitchen are working out methods for putting together a lot of take-out meals efficiently, which is what they will have to do when we welcome students back to campus. It’s going to be all take-out, all the time for a while.
This is just one of the ways our staff has been planning and preparing to bring back our workshop program–safely!
Last month, as we celebrated our 4th annual Penland Giving Day with all of you, there was a sentiment we repeated over and over: We Make Penland.
We chose that phrase as the foundation of our campaign for a few reasons—its sense of continual action, the nod to creativity and craft inherent in the word “make,” but mostly the reference to community in the word “we.”
Penland is about people. It’s about the people who come to teach and share their knowledge. It’s about the people who bring fresh ideas and energy to the studios. It’s about the people who work every day to make sure that Penland can continue to deliver its creative programming. It’s about the people who explore and learn and grow in the studios and inspire others to do the same. In short, it’s about all of us—all of you.
As a way to celebrate this community and all of you who make it so rich, we wanted to share some of your #WeMakePenland stories. The quotes below are just a handful of the 250+ posts that you shared during Penland’s Giving Day this year. Each one illuminates a different facet about time at Penland and what it means to share it with this creative community of likeminded folks.
In that first week there a revolution happened inside of me, liberating my vision and creative voice and showing me a life I hadn’t been sure was possible. —Susan
The people make Penland … well OK, the setting, the classes, the staff, the food, AND THE PEOPLE make Penland. —Mary
Penland changed my life—When I first moved to this area it was to learn to make pots from the amazing potters surrounding the school. What I found was finally feeling accepted as a maker and a human. These are my people!! —Courtney
My first time at Penland I was only 21 way back in 1988. It immediately changed my vision of what craft could be… Penland is imprinted on my soul. Such a powerful place to learn and share. —David
Penland gave me the confidence to pursue my passion for ceramics, taught me that true friendships can be made in minutes, and to trust myself both in the studio and out in the “real world.” —Alissa
Penland is a MAGICAL PLACE. There is so much creativity, camaraderie, and joy in a beautiful natural setting with the best-equipped studios open 24/7, delicious food, and much more. But most of all, Penland is about the PEOPLE, the special gathering of like-minded souls who come together to make art and community and leave with life-long friendships and a renewed faith in the world. Penland will always hold a special place in my heart. —Sharon
Penland reminds me what it means to be human, to connect through my heart and hands, to share, to laugh and to make. —Mary
When I think about places and experiences that have had the greatest impact on my life, Penland School of Craft is at the top of the list. During my two years as a core fellow, the trajectory of my life and career came into focus. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the skills I learned, the relationships I formed, and the encouragement and support that pours out of this magical place. —Rachel
Thank you, friends, for your love and commitment to the Penland community. We are so grateful for each and every one of you. WE MAKE PENLAND, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Want even more #WeMakePenland stories? Here’s a roundup from last year and another from 2018. Enjoy!
Together with Adam A., Everett, Ellie, and Adam W., Julia will join our Resident Artist Program to set up her studio for a three-year residency at The Barns this month. These newest residents will be joining current residents Nate Cotterman, Jason Hartsoe, and Kit Paulson. Please get to know them below, give them a follow, and say hi!
Julia is a sculptor, jeweler, and public artist. Woodcarving is her core practice, but she also enjoys experimenting with a variety of materials and techniques. Recently she has been carving amber, casting concrete, building paper lamps, and creating installations out of cookie cutters. Julia earned an MFA in Metals from the University of Washington and a degree in Metalwork Conservation from West Dean College (UK). She teaches regularly and was the Jewelry/Metals Studio Manager at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle for five years. Julia has previously participated in residencies at the Center for Art in Wood and the Bunnell Street Arts Center.
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.
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.
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.