Unfortunately, it’s time for the update we didn’t want to make: We are closing Penland School until further notice. Based on our governor’s latest orders and recommendations from our local health department, we concluded that we were no longer able to assure the health and safety of our students while delivering them the Penland experience they deserve.
We are now busy working with students and instructors to shut down the studios and get everyone home safely. It’s a strange time—our gallery is closed completely, the coffeehouse and The Pines are only serving food on a takeout basis, and our entire campus is winding down just at the time of year when the energy usually ramps up. It’s been painful and difficult, to say the least.
What is the status of summer workshops and the Annual Benefit Auction? The honest answer is that we do not know. We are proceeding with equal parts optimism and caution. It is our sincere hope that we’ll be back up and running within a couple months, but this crisis is evolving so quickly that we can’t say for sure. For now, please keep your plans to join us and know that we’ll give you as much notice as possible if anything has to change.
And now for a few bright spots:
– Our students and instructors have been amazing. This is a tough situation for all of us, but they’ve shown us again and again the power and strength of this community and what we all do here.
– The support we have received from all of you out there in our wider circles has been so uplifting. Know that your reassuring words matter as we navigate the unknown. And, to those of you who have reached out with a donation in the past few days—thank you. Your support in this time of immense financial upheaval reaches right to the beating heart of our school.
– We have an incredible staff, and we intend to keep them. Our team is scrappy and resourceful, and you can bet we’ll be putting all our creative juices to the test over the coming weeks as we come up with ways to keep Penland, well, Penland. Expect to hear a lot more from us as we find ways to stay connected to this invaluable community!
We are thrilled to welcome four new artists into the Penland resident artist community! Adam Atkinson, Everett Hoffman, Ellie Richards, and Adam Whitney will arrive on campus in September 2020 to begin their residencies at The Barns. They will join current residents Nate Cotterman, Jason Hartsoe, and Kit Paulson.
Penland’s resident artists are full-time artists who spend three years living and working as part of our school’s community. The primary expectation of them is that they engage intently with their work. Many use this time to explore new ideas and directions, undertake ambitious projects, or develop new bodies of work.
Please give a big welcome to Adam, Everett, Ellie, and Adam and get to know them a bit below. We can’t wait to see what they create during their time here!
Adam Atkinson and Everett Hoffman
“We are a queer artist couple whose studio practice has been defined by the deep bond we have to each other. We work side by side in multidisciplinary practices rooted in craft, striving to grow and give more to craft communities to sustain our field and individual studios.”
Adam Atkinson and Everett Hoffman are cross-disciplinary artists and collaborative partners, whose studio practices intersect in their shared connection to craft, adornment, and identity. Having both grown up in the Pacific Northwest, their individual artistic paths question the hyper masculine tropes associated with the wild west. From the perspective of a queer male experience, they make work through mixed-media installations, wood carvings, photography, and body adornment. Atkinson and Hoffman both graduated with a BFA from Boise State University in 2013, and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018 (Hoffman) and East Carolina University in 2019 (Atkinson).
Atkinson and Hoffman have participated in a number of exhibitions nationally and internationally including the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, SOIL Gallery in Seattle, Wayne Center for Contemporary Craft in Pennsylvania, the Benaki Museum in Greece, and Nogoya Zokei University in Japan. They are co-curators of Spectral Matter Projects, an annual exhibition platform for LGBTQIA+ artists navigating queer perspectives in craft. Slippery and Subversive marked the first exhibition in this series, highlighting artists whose work takes a position of slippage and ambiguity as a way to redefine body-object relationships.
“As an artist, I recognize freedom of expression as both a privilege and a responsibility; making objects in wood is one way I’ve found to communicate effectively and optimistically with this belief in mind.”
Ellie Richards looks to the tradition of both woodworking and the readymade to create eclectic assemblage, installation, and objects exploring intersections of labor and leisure. In addition to mining the histories of furniture and forestry as cornerstones in her research, she has traveled extensively to investigate the roles that play and improvisation have on the artistic process. Her work, both furniture and sculpture, has been included in exhibitions at the Mint Museum, Center for Craft, SOFA Chicago, and the Society of Contemporary Craft. After receiving an MFA at Arizona State University, Richards participated in residencies, fellowships, and teaching appointments, respectively, at Anderson Ranch, Peters Valley, the Vermont Studio Center, and Appalachian Center for Craft. From there she was Penland’s wood studio coordinator from 2015-2019. This year Richards was awarded Windgate residencies at the Center for Art in Wood and in the wood/furniture design programs at San Diego State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The greatest inspiration in my work is the process and love of hammering.”
Adam Whitney is a metalsmith who focuses his work on forming and shaping sheet metal into volumetric forms by means of raising, chasing, and repoussé. He is constantly exploring and pushing his understanding and knowledge of the craft. When not in his studio, Adam travels for various projects and to teach workshops, bringing his passion for metalsmithing wherever he goes.
Adam received his BFA in Crafts / Materials Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he concentrated in metalsmithing. He has worked as a bench jeweler and metals studio coordinator, taught jewelry design at Raffles College in Kuala Lumpur, and now runs his own studio, AW Metalsmith.
Among the many fine students who were part of our fall session was Hunter Bell, who was in the iron workshop. In addition to working with steel, Hunter can draw like mad, and he did several great chalkboards during the session, including this one outside the clay studio.
At the end of the session, he left this on the whiteboard outside the dining hall — a little tribute to the six fall workshops (clay, metals, iron, paper/printmaking, glass, textiles).
Penland’s studio coordinators are an incredible concentration of knowledge about the different media and processes we teach here. Between them they know, well, just about everything—and they’re learning more all the time!
Last week, the coordinators got together in the letterpress studio for a demo and hands-on workshop led by printmaking and letterpress coordinator Adam Leestma. The goal was for each coordinator to create new safety posters for their studios. And when you have all the tools and artistic skills to make them fancy, then why not? Below, coordinators Daniel Beck, Susan Feagin, Sarita Westrup, and Nick Fruin are carving linoleum blocks to add images to their posters.
The Penland community is like the galaxy: ever expanding and made up of stars.
Recently, when the latest episode of Craft in America was released, we were thrilled to see Penland artists Wendy Maruyama and Cristina Córdova both featured. And more recently, when the prestigious 2020 United States Artists Fellowships were announced, we were excited to see Wendy’s name on the list again, this time with fellow Penland instructors Aaron McIntosh, Del Harrow, and Linda Sikora.
Wendy Maruyama has been creating innovative furniture, sculpture, and installations for over forty years, and she’s taught generations of woodworkers as a professor and mentor. Her work is technically masterful and deeply personal. For any of you who aren’t familiar with it, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce you to Wendy and her craft.
Wendy first learned furniture making as an undergraduate at San Diego State. She says she was drawn to the program because of the free thinking and the organic forms—“the furniture didn’t look like furniture,” she remembers. At that time, the woodworking field was almost entirely male dominated. “I felt like we women had to be three times more amazing to even be counted,” Wendy recalls. Nevertheless, she went on to Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated with a Masters degree in furniture making, one of the first two women to ever complete the program. And from there, she just kept pushing herself. While her earlier work was built around traditional craft objects, she has since moved beyond the boundaries of studio craft and into the realm of installation and social practice. “Wendy reached a level of mastery, saw the boundaries of technique, and kept pushing beyond them,” says curator Diedre Vissar.
Wendy’s more recent collections include Executive Order 9066, an installation of mixed-media wall cabinets and sculptures that explores the World War II-era persecution and internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans, and The wildLIFE Project, which addresses issues of poaching and wildlife protection. This later installation (pictured in the first photo above) was one of the first exhibitions to show at the Penland Gallery after it reopened in 2016. Wendy filled the space with exquisitely-crafted wooden shrines and a series of imposing and majestic elephant masks, each between eight and twelve feet tall and stitched together from dozens and dozens of wooden panels. For visitors, the experience of the show engaged the senses and the emotions, masterfully bringing together artwork and advocacy.
Wendy has been involved with the Penland community for over thirty years. She taught her first workshop in the wood studio in the summer of 1982, and since then she’s returned occasionally as an instructor. More recently, she joined us here for her Penland Gallery show and to be the featured artist at the 2016 Penland Benefit Auction. Dozens of Penland artists, including our own director Mia Hall, count Wendy as a teacher, mentor, and friend. As Penland instructor Adam John Manley remembers, “The thing that she instilled in me and generations of students is—don’t ever settle on the thing that you just did as the final product. Keep pushing that.”
Wendy’s latest work has taken another turn, pivoting from emotionally-laden advocacy to the colors, history, and aesthetic of the Bauhaus. Her series of “wooden weavings” inspired by Anni Albers will be part of an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus. And from there, who knows what Wendy will create next? “I feel like I’m an emerging artist again,” she says. “You can’t go back in time age wise, but I think creatively I feel like I’m young again and I’m doing this new work.”
Congratulations, Wendy, on two very well deserved honors! We’re lucky to count you as part of this community.
Every winter, we begin the new year with a month of short, intense residencies at Penland. Winter Residency is a time when we invite artists to arrive with their own ideas and projects and bring them to life in our studios. There is no instruction and we don’t give assignments—we just ask that each resident dive in, explore, and connect with the energy and creativity of this community. It’s the best start to the year we could hope for.
Below, we highlight a few photographs and themes from this year’s residency. Find out more (and learn how to apply to join us next year!) on the Winter Residency page.
Winter residency is a time to create. It’s a time to actually work on those ideas that just won’t keep quite and see what’s really there when you give them a chance. Here, metals resident Mary Raivel is continuing a series of pieces that incorporate old lenses and watch crystals. She says, “I would never have managed to devote the necessary time to this new work on age and ageism using new (to me) materials, were it not for my time here.”
No meal schedules, no work-study schedules, no class projects, no daily slide talks. There is less structure to Penland’s Winter Residencies than there is to our workshop sessions, which means you can work how and when it works for you. It’s amazing how much our residents accomplish in just a couple weeks of deep concentration! Here, potter Ronen Yamin focuses while trimming a series of vessels.
With half as many people but just as much space, winters at Penland provide a quieter, more expansive atmosphere than the all-in exuberance of our summer workshops. Here, painting and drawing resident Katie St. Clair spreads out during the first two weeks of residency to put the finishing touches on a collection of paintings for an upcoming exhibition. Winter residency is the perfect time to take a step back from individual pieces and think about your work as a whole.
Mostly, it’s personal challenges that our winter residents set for themselves, but there are always a few fun group challenges, too. The annual Table in a Day competition is one we’ve written about repeatedly on the Penland blog (2020, 2018, 2017). This year, residents introduced a new one: Spoon Before Noon. Above are just some of the results from the morning in a variety of materials and even more styles!
When you get 80+ artists together in an open studio environment, there’s bound to be a lot of discussion, sharing, and building on each other’s ideas. Often, these interactions lead to new collaborations, such as this one between textiles residents Sasha Baskin and Alyssa Salomon. Together, they used Alyssa’s screenprinting knowledge to turn Sasha’s lace designs into prints on fabric.
To end it all, we ask everyone to participate in one of our oldest, most cherished traditions: Show and Tell. It’s a time to explore what everyone else has been up to while you’ve been head down in the studio, to catch up with old friends and say hi to new ones, and mostly to marvel at the sheer creative force that is the Penland community. Winter residents, you amaze us! Thank you for giving this month your all and sharing it so generously with us.
What do you do when you want to finish your large, hand-forged utensils with a coat of enamel but they’re too big to fit in any of the enameling kilns? Build a sifting tool, grab a friend, and apply the powder directly to red-hot steel, of course!
The spirit of ingenuity and problem-solving is one thing we cherish about January in the Penland studios. Winter residents are free to go in whatever directions they need to bring their ideas to life. Rachel Kedinger’s enameling experiments (with a little help from fellow blacksmith Meghan Martin!) are just one great example.