Raivo Vihman was teaching a workshop in timber-frame building in the wood studio last week. For a warmup project, each student built a pair of these spanky sawhorses. At the end of the session, they turned them loose to frolic on the knoll.
What can you do in a two-week timber-framing workshop, you ask?
If you work hard enough, you can build a beautiful frame for a small building.
(Did we bury the lede there? We might have buried the lede.)
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.
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.
Courtney’s demo takes participants through her steps for creating a handbuilt tray form, complete with her signature cut handles and decorative carving details. Here’s a look at the process in three screenshots taken directly from her hour-long lesson.
15:04—Join the two ends of the coil that will form the walls of the tray.
41:32—Mark out the handle openings on the refined tray form.
59:03—Give the foot of the tray some personality with decorative carving!
We launched the videos for our second online demonstration this week! Participants have been following along as expert metalsmith David Clemons forms, welds, solders, and finishes an elegant pewter salt shaker. And this Saturday, 2/13, they’ll get to join David for a live Q&A to learn more about his process and get answers to their metalsmithing questions.
Penland’s teaching artist, Meg Peterson, walks into her studio at the Ridgeway Building on a walkway flanked by a steel railing made by artist Paige Davis. The the top part of the railing includes a series of hand silhouettes. A couple of days ago, on a sunny morning after a light snow, she arrived just in time to see this remarkable combination of the shadow of the railing and the selective melting of the snow.
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