Every year, the Penland Community Open House falls on a Saturday afternoon in March, one week before our spring workshops begin. With the help of over a hundred expert volunteers, we run activities in each studio that highlight the different mediums we teach at Penland, from ceramics and letterpress to hot glass and wood. All afternoon, visitors come through to watch and learn and—especially—to get their hands dirty and make something themselves. It’s the perfect way to wake up our studios after the sleepy weeks of February and to celebrate the craft and community that have been at Penland’s heart since the very beginning.
This year, we welcomed roughly 700 visitors to the Community Open House—young, old, experienced, and complete beginners alike. Some activities were returning favorites, like learning to throw a clay pot on the wheel, forging a steel hook with hammer and anvil, casting a small object in pewter, decorating a sheet of paste paper, and blowing a glass cup. But there’s always something new, too, even for those who come back to enjoy the open house year after year.
In the photo activity, for example, visitors got to decorate their very own cyanotype tote bags to take home. The process started in a “dim room” where UV light had been blocked from the windows with a red film. There, visitors laid out patterns on their coated bags from cut paper stencils—geometric shapes, their initials, mountainscapes, and more. Once complete, the patterns were held in place by sheets of clear plastic and exposed in the sun for twelve minutes. The coated areas that saw sunlight turned a deep, rich blue, while the areas under the black paper remained white.
Also new this year was a raku activity on the kiln pad of the clay studio. Visitors got to choose a bisqued pot, glaze it, and then watch as our expert volunteers loaded it into the kiln, heated it up to a glowing orange, and then quickly transferred it to a smoking barrel of wood chips and sawdust. The whole process took under an hour, and a certain aura of magic seemed to cling to the pots as they emerged with shiny coats of bright red and jewel green. Not a bad souvenir to take home with you!
We couldn’t make all this fun happen without the dedication and hard work of our wonderful volunteers. We also owe a big thank you to Dr. Taylor Townsend, DDS of Spruce Pine, who generously supports the Community Open House each year. And finally, thanks to all our visitors for joining us—we love sharing Penland with you!
See more of this year’s activities in the slideshow below.