Program director (and photographer) Dana Moore and I had a thrilling experience last week riding in a helicopter over Penland so we could make some aerial photographs of the campus. We’ll be using a few of them in our upcoming fall/spring catalog and we’ll find lots of other uses for them as well–starting with this blog. The photo above shows the letterpress and print studio in the middle and the clay studio on the left.
Here’s a long view from above the meadow. The red spot in the middle of the frame is the roof of the Craft House.
Here you can see from the Craft House (lower right) all the way up the hill to the wood studio.
Now we are above the wood studio looking down the hill with the meadow in the distance. To the left of the wood studio is the iron studio. The next two buildings down the hill are glass and Northlight.
This is Horner Hall, home of the Penland Gallery. There is a larger group of aerial photos on our Facebook page if you want to see more. And the answer to your question is: helicopters are really, really fun.
Sam first came to Penland as a student in 1983, and returned just over ten years later to teach, which lucky for us, he continues to do every few years. We have been showing his work in the gallery since 2007, both in exhibits and in the sales gallery. (He will be sending work for the upcoming Weight of Black exhibit later this month.)
Sam’s work reveals itself in layers. First there is the color – he is generous with saturated reds and oranges, and a judicious use of black. Then he edits the forms, keeping them classic and elegant – all the best to carry his skill with the murrini techniques. It seems once you have mastered a traditional technique you have license to play with it – and Sam makes it look effortless. There was a bottle with white cane work that looked like controlled scribbling – soft and loose and perfectly done all at the same time. In contrast – there are pieces that are precise and orderly – wild only in his use of exuberant color. There is much more to the work than meets the eye on first glance – and it would appear that is part of the attraction.
Sam has covered allot of ground since his early days at Penland. Both he and his glass have a quality of integrity, consideration, and professionalism that makes showing his work a pleasure.
Sam Stang was born in Northfield, Minnesota in 1959. He attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri from 1980 – 84. He studied with Fritz Dreisbach at Penland School of Crafts in 1983, and with Lino Tagliapietra at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in 1991. Sam was a founding partner in Ibex Glass Studio, 1985 – 1991. In 1992, he moved to Augusta, in rural south St. Charles County, where he remodeled an old auto repair shop and turned it into Augusta Glass Studio, which he still operates as a sole proprietorship. Stang is married to Kaeko Maehata, who is also a glassblower.
About the Work
All of my pieces are made by using traditional European glassblowing techniques. With the murrini pieces, I begin by making glass rods, which are patterned in cross section. The rods are cooled and cut into thin pieces and arranged on an iron plate, which is then heated to fuse the murrini. This is then rolled into a tube on the end of a blowpipe and shaped into the final form.
Every piece I make is entirely produced hot at the furnace. The banded bowls are blown as separate sections and fused together. This technique, known as incalmo, requires a great deal of skill and cooperation. I work with at least one assistant and often with a team of three experienced glassblowers.
When instructor Tom Spleth did his slide night at the beginning of his eight-week class in making ceramics from plaster molds, he projected slides of his work on the wall, then poured plaster on a large piece of masonite, cued some lovely music, and demonstrated his method for making a sculptural form from drying plaster. Staff member Mark Boyd was on hand with a camera and made this beautiful 5-minute video titled Fluid Form.
A technical note on what Tom is doing: The plaster form he makes in the video would be the first step in the creation of a hollow, porcelain sculpture or vase. After the plaster form dries, Tom refines it with scrapers and other tools, then he makes a multipart plaster mold from the form. The next step is to pour clay slip into the mold, let it sit for a bit and then pour it out again, leaving layer of slip clinging to the inside of the mold. The mold is then opened and the clay form inside can be glazed and fired. –Robin Dreyer
We have been showing Joanna’s work for nearly 10 years in the gallery. Her relationship with the school has changed from student, to studio assistant, to extraordinary Penland instructor. She has been published quite a bit, including authoring a number of really smart metals books herself. Her work evolves and reinvents itself – pulling in some surprising materials and reinterpreting traditional techniques in ingenious ways. The body of work we have been showing this spring is from her Prong Series – cut stones – some polished and others matte and rough – mostly set in delicate but exaggerated prong settings or clustered luxuriantly. Not surprisingly, the work has a magnetic attraction.
About Joanna My grandmother spent a large part of her life as an enamelist. In 1992, she gave me all her enamels and her enameling kilns. I decided to learn how to use them by taking a class at the Penland School of Crafts. I enjoyed this basic metalsmithing and enameling class so much that I set up my own beginner’s studio in the basement of the English building at my college. I continued to make jewelry while still studying for my BA degree. After graduating from Warren Wilson College in 1995, I went back to school at the Fashion Institute of Technology where I received a 2-year degree in Jewelry Design, after studying with some of New York’s most fabulous industry jewelers and designers. I began my jewelry business in 1997, and I currently spend my time making jewelry, teaching people how to make jewelry, and just absolutely loving my job. I live in my hometown of Asheville, NC with my husband, our son, two dogs, and a cat.
About the Work My work is based on elementary design forms. I love using repetition of simple shapes in ways that make the forms come alive. It is exciting for me to explore the relationship of my hands with tools, and the tools with the material. I am interested in movement in my jewelry, and how the jewelry will move in relationship to the body when it is worn. I strive to make jewelry that is interesting and new, that reflects my way of looking at how things should be made, and that is wearable without going out of style.
Sadly, this is not a fabulous UFO sighting. It’s a picture made by student Edwina Bringle during a session of night photography that was part of a photo class I taught at Penland last week. What you are seeing is an exposure of about 30 seconds made while visiting teacher Jeff Goodman was running up the hill making circles with a bright flashlight. Although most folks are used to thinking of cameras as stopping time, this is an example of how you can use a camera to record time (which, really, is what they always do, it’s just that we usually use them to record very, very short amounts of time). Both the floating lights and the circles on the ground were made by the whirling flashlight. Cool, huh?
The class was about black and white film photography, which is how Edwina made her picture, but for our night session we also made some digital images so we could get an idea what was happening in the cameras. This is one of the digitals of our studio assistant Rebecca Moyer making stars in the grass with a green laser. We love making pictures in the dark. –Robin Dreyer
Smart, focused and driven: these are three words that can be used to describe what it takes to be a successful artist. They are also three words that describe Penland School of Crafts glass student Elliott Todd, but with one addition: he is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
A native of Boone, North Carolina, Elliott used to visit Penland as a boy with his father and attended community open house events. As a teenager, he started making flameworked beads at home with a simple mapp gas torch and rods of glass. After high school graduation, Elliott was unsure of what direction to go until he heard that a beginning hot glass class was being taught by Ed Schmidt at Penland. The two-month class introduced Elliott to the basics of glassblowing and inspired him to continue to learn more.
Though a year would pass before Elliott could take another two-month class at Penland, you would not have known that any time had passed at all. Elliott is a true natural and has a memory for detail that serves him well. He completed the fall 2009 glass concentration taught by Dave Naito with even more skills, ideas, and inspiration, and he immediately signed up for the spring 2010 glass concentration currently being taught by Scott Benefield. “Elliott is an unstoppable force,” commented one fellow student. “He’s always so excited to work in the studio whether he is assisting someone else or working on his own project. He’s just a great person to be around.”
Because of his experiences at Penland, Elliott now plans to attend college and major in glass.
After Kathryn Van Aernum was here a couple weeks ago for a one-week book workshop she sent us some her pictures, so we asked her for a little report to go with them. You can see all of her pictures from the class on her website.
Have you ever looked at the Penland workshop catalog unable to decide on a class because they all sound so fabulous? After all, isn’t a taking a workshop similar to drinking a magic potion that will deliver super artistic abilities, enabling you to reach new heights as never before? Which is the “right” one? If you’re like me you might sometimes suffer from that delusion. So, when I finally had the funds to go and found myself staring at the catalog trying to make a decision, I realized there is no “wrong” choice here – just pick something and GO!
I don’t think I could have made a better choice. The week-long spring book arts workshop with Julie Leonard delivered in spades. In one short week we learned five distinct historical sewing structures, along with variations and countless options for cover choices – especially with a soft-bound, single needle link stitch (a phrase that was not part of my vocabulary prior to the workshop). The class as a whole made around 70+ books! It was so interesting to see how one book form would express itself so differently when sifted through the personality of each artist there.
Not only was Julie a knowledgeable, giving and fun instructor, the group dynamic worked and played so well together. Although our collective experience in book arts ranged the full gamut of beginner to advanced, each person had other artistic experience in other areas and this lent itself to a wonderful atmosphere of mutual sharing and assistance.
“It’s Tuesday so it must be Pesto Grilled Cheese”
Delivering on the whole Penland experience was the food! I’ve never been to a retreat center where the quality and creativity of the kitchen matched the experience in the studio. Penland obliterates the myth of the “starving artist” as it feeds your soul, craft and belly, not to forget the visual feast of the rural mountain setting.
So if you still can’t decide what class to take – Just pick SOMETHING! There is nothing like the satisfaction of completely immersing yourself in something you love, giving it everything you can, away from the distractions of your “real” life. Honestly, you’ll feel like you can leap tall buildings in a single bound.