During our first summer session, sculptor and paper wizard Imin Yeh taught a beautiful workshop on designing and building forms from sheets of paper, with an emphasis on representing familiar objects. During her stay at Penland, Imin quietly placed several of her astonishing trompe l’oeil pieces in places where only a few people were likely to notice them.
This phone jack, outlet, and charger were on a wall in the paper studio, and were hard to spot even when looking for them. Yes, these are made entirely from cut and folded paper. The little balls above and below each piece are the heads of the push pins that are holding them in place. These pieces are part of an ongoing series called “Paper Power.”
We don’t know if anyone tried to plug anything into them.
If you are beginning to emerge from the past fourteen months looking for an extended time of creative engagement, we are happy to suggest Penland’s fall Concentration, which is a six-week session running October 3 – November 12 with workshops in clay, glass, steel sculpture, paper making, jewelry, shoe making, and wood. Along with learning and community, you will be treated to the transformation of the deciduous trees often referred to, prosaically, as “fall colors.” Here in the mountains, this annual exhibition stretches up the inclines to give you an exceptional view of its quilt-like patterns. Which is to say, it’s nice here in the fall.
Participation in Penland fall workshops will require proof of vaccination, and in exchange for this, you will enjoy pre-pandemic operating procedures. Shared housing will be available, we’ll gather inside for meals and slideshows, no masks required.
Clay: Low-Fire is Cooler with Ben Carter
Explore the rich history of low-fire ceramics with the goal of integrating surface design with handbuilt and wheelthrown pottery.
Glass: Illumination Projects in Glass with Jeremy Bert and Jen Elek
While practicing the foundations of glassblowing, create glass sculpture and then incorporate neon, LED, incandescent, and candle light.
Iron: Steel Sculpture: Set in Motion with Shawn HibmaCronan
Make sculptures that move, evolve, and interact with the environment while learning numerous steel fabrication and assembly techniques.
Papermaking: Paper Through Time with Radha Pandey
Trace the history and geographical spread of papermaking by learning techniques from Nepal, Polynesia, Korea, Japan, India and Europe.
Metals: Foundations in Form and Color with Laura Wood
Learn techniques that will help you develop a wide range of sculptural jewelry components, and then bring them together as brooches, earrings, pendants, or other forms.
Textiles: Blue Suede and Beyond: Introduction to Lasted Footwear with Amara Hark-Weber
Design and build your own handmade shoes using four different construction techniques and many kinds of leather.
Stay tuned: one-week fall workshops in books, clay, drawing, collage, stained glass, blacksmithing, jewelry, photography, printmaking, and musical instruments will be posted on July 9.
We normally kick off spring at Penlandwith 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.