This strangest of Penland summers included a milestone that has not been mentioned publicly, so we’re going to fix that now. Sallie Fero retired on June 30 after more than twenty years of working at Penland. Although she briefly worked as office secretary and later as services coordinator, almost anyone who has been here since the mid-1990s will remember Sallie as a friendly face in Penland’s supply store, always ready to help.
“My first summer in the store was a rollercoaster ride of learning about the supplies and each studio’s unique processes,” Sallie remembers. “Helping students and instructors find what they needed was very rewarding. To see the culmination of the students’ creations at Show and Tell was the icing on the cake. I almost felt like I had a hand in the ‘baking.’”
When long-time store manager Kat Conley retired in 2010, Sallie took over as manager and held that position until she retired in June. Anyone who spends a session at Penland visits the store at least once or twice, which means that Sallie has met countless members of the wider Penland community — probably more than any of the rest of us.
In addition to serving students, the store is open to the public, and many artists who live nearby depend on being able to access the thousands of tools, supplies, and other items packed into the store’s tight and tidy space. It’s the school’s UPS hub, handling a constant flow of parcels, and it’s where you get your Penland T-shirts, caps, hoodies, water bottles, and aprons — which means the store literally helps Penland get its name out into the world.
Along with all the tasks in her job description, Sallie was also determined to keep the store interesting for repeat customers. She was always looking for new items to stock and was constantly reworking the displays. Sallie especially loved to mark holidays and the seasons with special decorations and new outfits for Lloyd, the store skeleton.
She was an enthusiastic participant in Penland’s annual Community Open House — each year she found a new art project that could be done on a table in the back of the store. And we must never forget that in the fall of 2011, when Penland was finally about to tear down Homosote, a building that had long since outlived its utility, Sallie was the instigator of a plan to use it one last time — as a haunted house. She played the part of a corpse. It was a memorable scare show, and nobody had to clean up when it was over!
Reflecting on all this, Sallie said, “I spent over twenty years working in the Craft House, and I love her like an eccentric, great aunt. As I look back, I realize what I will miss most are the people — the students, instructors, core fellows, resident artists, and staff I have interacted with all these years. Because, really, that is what Penland is all about.”
The house that Sallie shares with her husband, glass artist Shane Fero, is practically on campus, and she’s a committed dog walker, so, while we do want to thank her for her many years of service to the school, we’re not saying goodbye. We’ll be seeing her on the road.