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.
Across the country, there is a plethora of organizations doing incredible work to support underrepresented young people in the arts. In New Orleans, YAYA offers free after-school training to local teens in painting, glass, ceramics, mixed media art, and entrepreneurship. In Los Angeles, HOLA’s extensive visual arts programming connects hundreds of students in grades 1-12 with 115 free classes in twenty different art forms. In Newark, NJ, Glassroots provides glass and entrepreneurship programs to underserved youth and young adults in the area.
Similarly, there are incredible craft schools around the USA like Penland, Haystack, Arrowmont, and others that provide emerging and established artists with new skills, inspiration, and an engaged network of peers and mentors. Often times, workshops or residencies at these schools can be pivotal experiences for artists as they explore and establish their careers.
But between these influential youth programs and adult craft schools, a group of artists saw a gap: the many talented, inspired young people who never pursue careers in the arts. How can we continue to support promising young artists once they have aged out of youth art programs? they wondered. How can we better connect them to the incredible opportunities that craft schools offer? How can we enable more of them to thrive as professional artists?
To tackle these questions, they started Crafting the Future this spring, a fledgling collective of artists interested in addressing the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the craft world:
The fields of craft, art, and design in the United States do not reflect the full spectrum of people in our country. When groups of artists go unrepresented, an inaccurate and incomplete story is being told, sold, and preserved—and everyone loses.
At Crafting the Future, our goal is to increase representation in these disciplines so that we all can benefit from a richer, more diverse story… Working together and combining our resources, we support the careers of young, underrepresented artists by connecting them to opportunities that will help them thrive.
As a first step, Crafting the Future started a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to send one alum from YAYA in New Orleans to a summer session at Penland. The campaign quickly drew enough support that they doubled the goal to $8,000, which would cover the costs for two YAYA artists to travel to Penland for a workshop. Thanks to the help of 141 backers, they reached that goal within two weeks.
A few short months later, Tyrik Conaler and Shanti Broom, both young alums of the YAYA program, arrived at Penland for session 2. Tyrik enrolled in Michael Dixon’s oil painting workshop, where he fine tuned both the technical and conceptual aspects of painting through the lens of self-portraiture. At the end of the session, a collaboration between Tyrik and the instructor sparked a bidding war at Thursday night’s scholarship auction. Meanwhile, Shanti was learning to work at the forge and anvil in Shawn Lovell’s iron workshop. “I’ve never done any forging before,” Shanti told me, “But I chose this workshop because it’s something that you don’t see a lot of women doing.” Two weeks later, she had gained enough skill to translate her drawings for an art-deco-inspired gate into metal, and she was eager to keep going.
So is Crafting the Future. The organization plans to raise money to send more students to craft school workshops in summer 2020 based on the success of their 2019 pilot. “I can’t emphasize enough the changes we’ve seen in Tyrik since he’s been back from Penland. Shanti, too,” says Meg, YAYA’s executive director. “It’s particularly cool to provide opportunities like Crafting the Future to older artists because the younger kids really look up to them. We’re now offering special Saturday night studio hours for a select group of artists, building on Tyrik and Shanti’s enthusiasm about being able to work any time of day or night at Penland—it’s quickly becoming something that the younger artists are aspiring to be a part of. The ripple effect is incredible!”
As Crafting the Future explained in their first campaign, “One scholarship won’t change the face of the art world, but it just might change the course of a life. It’s the best way we know to kickstart the change we want to see in our community.” Eventually, as the organization becomes more established, they’d like to work with additional craft schools and provide opportunities like internships, mentorships, and college prep to young artists.
Here at Penland, we’ll be cheering them on the whole way. We’re incredibly proud to build our relationship with Crafting the Future and to welcome the energy and perspective that students like Tyrik and Shanti bring to our studios and our community. We hope that many of you take some time to learn more about the Crafting the Future mission and get involved. You can read about the Crafting the Future vision here and follow them on Instagram here.
In a recent conversation with a student, she talked about her first time at Penland. “I was in a workshop in upper textiles. It was my introduction to screenprinting, and I was blown away,” she said. “Every time I walked up the stairs to the studio, I passed a poster that said ‘Penland changes lives.’ And every time I saw it, I smiled to myself like ‘Yeah, sure does.'”
It’s something we hear quite a lot, in fact: a workshop at Penland is a transformative experience that opens up new questions, new connections, and new paths.
Why not see for yourself? This March 8 – May 1, 2020 we’ll be offering seven different 8-week concentrations, each one an immersive dive into materials and techniques and ideas.
Clay:Parts Unknown with Jenny Mendes Glass:Intentions & Inventions with Dan Mirer Iron:Attention to Detail with Andy Dohner Metals:Wunderkammer with Suzanne Pugh Photo:Processing Process with Mercedes Jelinek Letterpress:Print/Process/Production with Jamie Karolich Textiles:Inside Out: Garment as Identity with Erika Diamond
These are the participants in our Sixth Session iron workshop. Led by instructors Claudio Bottero and Massimiliano Bottero, they spent two weeks working together to create this sculpture, which was designed by Claudio. This picture was taken just after they installed it in between the glass studio and the Northlight building.
Here’s a view of the installation.
Claudio’s concept was that the piece could be filled with wood, lit on fire, and become a torch — functional sculpture!
This steel feather was designed by sculptor Roberto Giordano and created by Roberto and the members of his fourth session workshop in the iron studio. It’s currently sitting on the lawn near The Pines. In a few weeks it will be installed behind the new Northlight building. It will live there until the 2019 auction when some lucky buyer will take it home.
Here’s one of the students working on it during the workshop.
Will Maguire, from Elderslie, Australia, and Sven Bauer, from Womrath, Germany, spent the last two weeks of January in the Penland iron shop as part of this year’s winter residency. They met a decade ago when they worked for a time in the same blacksmith’s shop in England. After returning to their respective countries and being out of touch for a few years, they reconnected through their mutual friend Rick Smith, who is a Penland instructor and a former resident artist. Rick had told both of them about Penland, and they decided to use the winter residency as a chance to work together again.
“We work in small shops by ourselves, and this was a good chance to do some work around other people,” Will said. Their plan was to make collaborative work, but the projects they set up for themselves didn’t really gel. The attempt did result, however, in great conversations and useful critiques. And everyone who passed through the studio could attest to the fact that they each made some beautiful work.
Asked why they wanted to have this reunion at Penland, Sven answered, “I don’t know of any place in Europe where we could do this—to be able to do an artist residency of a few weeks in a shop with this kind of equipment. This does not exist for blacksmithing. There are programs like this for musicians, writers, and painters, but not for what we do. It’s also been great to visit the other shops, see what everyone else is doing, and talk to people working on other mediums with a similar intent.”
They expect to meet up at Penland again, and we hope they will.
Iron student Josh Toller, being interviewed for a Penland video back in November. Josh attended the fall iron concentration with a Glassroots-Penland Fellowship, a grant-funded program that provides scholarships for students recruited through Glassroots in Newark, New Jersey. “At this monastery for the hands,” said Josh, “I have acquired a new found and deeper respect for artists and art itself, I have obtained an aesthetic that I am proud to call my own, and most importantly I have gained knowledge from those around me that I have lived with for two months.” Josh and his fellow travelers from Newark made a big impact on the fall session, and we hope to see them all here again in the future.
Support for the Penland-Glassroots Fellowship is provided by a grant from The Nicholson Foundation.