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At-Home Making

Penland community open house
Needless to say, we decided not to do this in 2021.

We normally kick off spring at Penland with an open house that brings 500-600 visitors to campus for hands-on activities in our studios. We couldn’t do that this year, but we hated to let the spring go by without offering some creative fun to the community. 

So we arranged for five local makers to demonstrate activities that can be done at home with easily available materials, and we turned those demonstrations into step-by-step videos. We posted these during the month of March, and they will be available indefinitely, not just for our local community, but for anyone with an internet connection. All of these activities are suitable for children–with varying degrees of supervision needed.

You can find them all at penland.org/openhouse or click on any of the links below. 

Rickie Barnett and Lynn Hobaica with masks

Papier mâché masks with Rickie Barnett and Lynne Hobaica.

 

Ellie Richards with kite

Make a kite from sticks, string, and a plastic bag with Ellie Richards.

 

Meg Peterson with paste paper

Paste-paper painting with Meg Peterson.

 

Sarita Westrup with pattern stamps

Repeat pattern stamping, a.k.a. simplified block printing, with Sarita Westrup.

 

Alena Applerose in the Penland kitchen

And two bonus kitchen episodes: Penland Coffee House gingerade and gluten-free peanut butter cookies with Alena Applerose. 

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Photo(s) of the Week: A Most Distinctive Wall

 

Ian Henderson and Daniel Beck with tile installation
Ian Henderson and Daniel T. Beck with the nearly-completed tile installation in Penland’s new core house.

Way back in 2012, Penland School was planning a new house for its core fellows: those energetic and committed artists who live and work at Penland–taking classes and doing work for the school–for two years. They amaze us, we fall in love with them, and they move on to other things. Fortunately, as illustrated in this picture, some of them move on to things that keep them at Penland.

The design for the new house, by architect Louis Cherry, includes a feature called a trombe wall, which is a dark-colored masonry wall that collects and radiates solar heat in the winter. Jean McLaughlin, who was Penland director at that time, along with the design committee for the project proposed that this wall should also be an artist-generated design feature.

The artist selected was Ian Henderson, who had completed the core fellowship earlier that year. Ian is a bit obsessive about pattern, and he had done quite a bit of slip casting while he was in the core program. Out of those interests grew a proposal for a relief tile installation with an underlying design based on a set of shapes known a girih tiles, which are the basis for a centuries-old system of ornamentation used throughout the Middle East. Ian readily points out that it is a derivative design. “Plenty of people before me have been exploring these same shapes and patterns. If the design for this installation is innovative, it is in the creation of a topography for each tile that is made up of triangular facets.”

Ian Henderson and Daniel Beck working on tile installation
Ian and Daniel at work; no masks because they decided to “pod up” for the duration of the project.

With able assistance from fellow core alumni Daniel T. Beck, Andrew Hayes, and Mark Warren, Ian made about 1,000 ceramic tiles during a 2013 residency at the Kohler factory in Wisconsin. He documented that residency in a fascinating blog that covers both the design process and the making of the tiles. At the end of three months, the tiles were packed up and shipped to Penland where they were put into storage to wait for the house to become a reality.

Tile wall installation
How do you keep something like this aligned? Laser levels are especially helpful.

This took a little while. Construction at Penland always waits for fundraising, and then it takes as long as construction takes. Fast forward to February of this year, and the house had finally reached a stage where the tiles could be installed. Ian Henderson is now Penland’s director of operations, and Daniel Beck has been iron studio coordinator for almost a decade. Their plan had always been to install the tiles together when the time came, and when the time came, they were both working at Penland.

The wall sits just inside the front entrance where future generations of core fellows will walk past it as they retreat to their lovely house for some much-deserved rest or head up to campus to work on some equally ingenious project.

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In the time since the Kohler residency, Ian has also created a concrete-tile installation with students in Guanajuato, Mexico and another for the Center for Craft in Asheville, North Carolina.

If you would like to learn more about girih tiles, they are beautifully explained in this lecture by Peter Lu, whose work has greatly increased contemporary understanding of the system.

tile wall installation
The installation looks especially fabulous at night with some raking light on it.

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A Quiet Hum of Activity

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.

Jennifer Schmidt in the letterpress studio

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).

 

Erica Stanwytch Bailey in the Penland metals studio.

This is Erica Stanwytch Bailey, a jeweler from Asheville, working in the upper metals studio. Right now on her Instagram page, you can see a video of Erica talking shop with jeweler Anna Johnson, who will be teaching at Penland in May.

 

 

Tasha McKelvey in the Penland clay studio

Tasha McKelvey is a ceramic artist from Richmond, Virginia. She was in the upper clay studio making some production work: brightly colored, tiny houses.

 

maria fernanda nunez in the Penland iron studio

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.

 

Leslie Smith and Jean McLaughlin in the Penland print studio

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.

 

Chalkboard in the Penland wood studio.

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.

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Penland Everywhere: Online Programming Coming this Winter

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 South Arts with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

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Birds-Eye View

Floor plan of the Penland wood studio
Coordinator Aspen Golann’s floor plan of the Penland wood studio.

As Penland begins to make plans for workshops in 2021, we are thinking about many things in a new way. Among the questions we have to answer are basic ones like how many people can we safely accommodate in each studio?

This particular question is not simple, as each studio layout is different and so are the activities that happen in them. Solving this involves, among other things, cartography. To figure out how many people can safely work together in a given space using particular equipment, it helps to start with a carefully-drawn map of the space, the furniture, and the equipment.

Floor plan of the Penland print and letterpress studios
Coordinator Adam Leestma’s floor plan of the letterpress and print studios.

So, Amanda Simons, Penland’s studio operations manager, gave our studio coordinators a crash course in Adobe Illustrator, a widely-used graphic design program. The coordinators then carefully measured their studios and their contents and constructed these beautiful floor plans that can be manipulated to try different layouts. Each circle represents a person with a safe space around them. By arranging and rearranging the elements in these birds-eye diagrams, the coordinators can arrive at a COVID-conscious number for how many people can work safely in each space.

floor tape marking each student's work space in the Penland drawing and painting studio
Tape lines in the drawing and painting studio marking each student’s work area.

Meanwhile, other people on staff are rethinking our housing and developing plans for serving food. And the studios are retooling to facilitate socially distanced teaching—including installing video equipment so students can follow detailed demonstrations on a screen instead of huddling together.

We like to say that, along with teaching craft skills, Penland teaches creative problem-solving, and this pandemic is challenging us to practice it ourselves, in every part of our operation.

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Your Penland, Your Words

three images of Penland with the "We Make Penland" logo

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.

Three Penland staff members with "We Make Penland" postcards

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!

 

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Tomorrow, #WeMakePenland

We Make Penland October 7

Penland‘s Giving Day is Wednesday, October 7

Every year, Giving Day is a celebration—of the creativity and exploration that thrive in our studios, the skills and materials that form the basis of our craft, and the community of makers/artists/friends at the heart of it all. It’s 24 hours for us to reflect on the techniques we’ve learned, the inspirations we’ve gained, and the connections we’ve made, and it’s 24 hours for us to express our gratitude by giving back!

Tomorrow, October 7, please add your gift and add your voice to the #WeMakePenland chorus. Our goal is to reach 350 gifts in just 24 hours—and to make the internet feel like one big Penland hug while we‘re at it!

Here’s how YOU can help:

Make a gift – Every donation gets us closer to our goal and helps support Penland studios, instructors, scholarships, staff, and more. (If you want to donate early and have it count, you can do that right here!)

Share your story  Use #WeMakePenland to share your favorite Penland photos and memories to social media. We want to hear about your first Penland workshop, your best studio buddy, or that project you’re working on now thanks to a long-ago Penland idea!

Tune in on Zoom – Join us at 8:15 PM on October 7 for a special Giving Day Gathering. We’ll kick off the event in everyone’s favorite campus hub, the Penland Coffeehouse! From there we’ll share some exciting news about what’s on the horizon at Penland, introduce you to our newest studio coordinator, and take you through a few of our favorite Penland moments over the years. Come with a warm beverage and a cookie or two* and get cozy! Zoom info below.

To each of you who has contributed your creativity and energy and love to Penland, thank you. You are each a vital part of what makes this community so vibrant, supportive, and inspiring. Together, #WeMakePenland.

*Penland’s baker, Alena Applerose, shared a couple of her favorite cookie recipes with us for the occasion. If you’ve been missing the Coffeehouse peanut butter cookies, this is your chance! Get the recipes here.

We Make Penland...Welcoming & Delicious, Cozy, A Place that Values Relationships

Join the Giving Day Gathering on Zoom!

Link to tune in: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82701164398?pwd=dzh1eXFnaGd0Z1FtNUpVZUlvN0lVdz09

Zoom Meeting Details
Meeting ID: 827 0116 4398
Passcode: 820766

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