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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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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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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!

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Announcing New Resident Artists for 2021

It’s hard to believe that we’re here again already, but it’s time to announce the wonderful artists who will be joining the Penland Resident Artist Program this fall. Daniel Garver, Sean O’Connell, and Sarah Vaughan will arrive in October to begin their residencies at The Barns studios. They will join current residents Adam Atkinson, Julia Harrison, Everett Hoffman, Ellie Richards, and Adam Whitney, all of whom began in 2020.

Penland’s resident artists are full-time artists who spend three years living and exploring their studio work as part of our school’s community. Many use this time to explore new ideas and directions, undertake ambitious projects, or develop new bodies of work.

We are thrilled to welcome Daniel, Sean, and Sarah, and we look forward to watching their progress over the next three years!

 

Ceramic artist Daniel Garver

Daniel Garver
“I approach my casting process with the notion that each piece is unique and stands as a canvas into which I can apply casting slip with a variety of methods from incising, painting, or inlaying colors and designs. In addition to ceramics, I maintain a dedicated drawing practice that stands alone in finished pieces, but also plays a vital role when designing my ceramics.”

 

Ceramic artist Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell
“One of my most sincere beliefs is that ‘Making is Thinking’, in other words, the act of learning is not strictly a function of the mind acting independently, but instead responding to what our body is experiencing. I have an immense appreciation and feeling of gratitude for the skills I’ve learned and can express through my hands.”

 

Glass artist Sarah Vaughn

Sarah Vaughn
“I have devoted myself to learning techniques to manipulate the remarkable material of glass—but I truly found my voice through casting and cold forming processes…I [create] sculptures that balance technique and concept, subtly pausing to reveal unexpected moments and visualizing the precarious balance of life.”

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A huge thank you to our 2021 review panelists who generously offered their collective expertise and insight to rich discussions and difficult decisions.

Artist Susie GanchSusie Ganch, head of metals in the Department of Craft and Material Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond); metalsmith/sculptor; former Penland resident artist.

Artist Che RhodesChé Rhodes, head of studio glass at University of Louisville, (KY); glass artist; Penland trustee

Curator Abraham ThomasAbraham Thomas, Daniel Brodsky Curator of Modern Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); Penland trustee.

Artist Sarah TurnerSarah Turner, president of North Bennet Street School (Boston); educator/craft artist/designer.

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Ellie’s Studio

 

Resident artist Ellie Richards in her Penland studio

Right at the moment, Ellie Richards’s Penland studio is a riot of color, texture, and a bit of chaos. Her large shop tools are tidy and in order, but the tables are strewn with garden tools, toys, games, hoses, and other materials not usually found in a wood studio. On the wall behind her bench are a group of hybrid objects including a shovel that is completely covered with magnetic plastic letters.

Ellie is making work for a two-person show at the Vision Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona titled Play Hard. Each piece, she explains, combines a tool (of the DIY suburban garage variety) with materials of play (the kind that might be part of summer games: bubbles, blocks, balloons etc.), in an effort to create something new, maybe something absurd, certainly something imaginative. “Ten years ago,” she says, “I started exploring how the opposing worlds of work and play could be interrelated.  Since then, my work has gone in many directions, but each series seems to maintain a connection to each and their effect on the other. This exhibition is an opportunity to explore this exchange more directly, working in the format of ready-mades and altered found objects.”

Mixed media sculpture by Ellie Richards
Works in progress in Ellie’s studio.

“Life’s responsibilities and too many other barriers stand in the way of simply allowing oneself to have ‘free’ time,” she continued. “In other words, play doesn’t always come easy and usually there is a cost. However, it is my belief that free time, free from expectations and free from obligations or even an agenda, makes way for an increased sense of curiosity and connection with the tangible world.”

Ellie joined the resident artist program in September, 2020, and she was Penland’s wood studio coordinator from 2014 to 2019. Needless to say, she’s a highly skilled woodworker, so this current work might be surprising to some. “For a time all I wanted to do was learn how to build well made structural objects, and in that pursuit I picked up some valuable technical skills. It has always been my intent and one of my biggest challenges to have those skills supplement and support my ideas but not overstate themselves or hinder a more raw form of expression. This balance of seriousness and spontaneity is at the core of my practice.

Mixed media sculpture by Ellie Richards
Works in progress in Ellie’s studio.

“In this work, the place where two objects merge is the site where I’m focusing on the specifics of craft. Whether that happens with a traditional joint, JB Weld, or a special knot, these tactics of making connections are done with an equal amount of care and sensitivity toward the intent and outcome. This language used to transition one object into another serves as a conversation starter between the materials and new forms created.

“My identity as an artist has always been rooted in using wood as a raw material and woodworking as a field for its historical and technical context.  At this juncture, I’m keen to use these experiences in woodworking as a framework for translation into other materials and modes of expression.”

With Ellie at at the beginning of her three-year residency, we can’t wait to see where this takes her.

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Ellie also just concluded an imaginative multimedia sculpture/furniture installation in Charlotte, which is featured on her website.

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Adam’s Studio


Adam Whitney in his Penland School studio

Metalsmith Adam Whitney’s resident artist studio is a small building just behind the old dairy barn that houses five other resident studios. You can tell when he’s working by the ever-present sound of a hammer tapping on a metal sheet. “I think they put me back here so I wouldn’t drive everyone else crazy,” he laughed. 

Although Adam joined the resident artist program last fall, he is no stranger to Penland. He has taught in the metals studio several times, he’s participated in every winter residency, and he was the school’s metals studio coordinator from 2007 to 2011. 

He has experience in many kinds of metalsmithing, but his true love is raising: the craft of making hollow, three-dimensional forms from sheets of metal. His current projects are inspired by drinking vessels and the space program. He has made a series of cups that resemble a spacesuit helmet, and he is methodically developing a complex form based on the rhyton of the ancient Mediterranean. This is a horn-shaped vessel with a drinking hole at the bottom. The hole was often part of an animal head or torso fitted onto the end of the horn. Adam remembers seeing these forms in museums when he was first getting interested in metal work. “They were the metal shapes I was in awe of,” he said. 

 

Adam Whitney's raised metal forms
Adam’s current work. On the left are two prototype rhyton horns. On the top shelf are his series of space helmet cups. Below them are a clay model and several copper tests of the space suit form that will fit onto the end of the horn.

Adam’s rhyton will end with the torso of a spacesuit. While he is currently working on prototypes of the vessel and the suit in copper, the final piece will be silver. Raising the intricate form of the spacesuit is an admirable technical challenge, but that’s not the only thing that drew Adam to this image. 

“I think the spacesuit is a phenomenal piece of technology,” he said. “It’s actually a vehicle. It’s the tiniest possible vehicle for a person, and it’s used in the harshest environment. 

“Nobody really knows why the drinking horn with an animal on it exists, but it probably had to do with some kind of embodiment of the animal’s power through drinking. I wanted to put something on mine that would represent the culture I’m in now. For me, space exploration is the most fascinating thing that has happened in a long time. It’s a new frontier where we have just barely scratched the surface, and the space suit encapsulates that and puts it in human form.”

 

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Penland’s Five New Resident Artists Arrive this Month!

Back in March, we announced the newest additions to our resident artist lineup: Adam Atkinson, Everett Hoffman, Ellie Richards, and Adam Whitney. And today we’re excited to share the final name in that all-star artist crew: Julia Harrison!

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 Harrison

portrait of Julia Harrison (left) and an image of her work (right), a sculpted human mouth

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.

juliaharrison.net
@byjuliaharrison

Adam Atkinson and Everett Hoffman

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

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

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.