Opening the freezing door to the upper metals studio last week, we were met by Penland core fellow Sarah Brown and her meticulous landscape of metals, molds, notes, and materials. She was playing Radiohead, which matched the mood exactly; entering Sarah’s work space is to enter an unpredictable and mysterious world of particulars.
During her solo studio time this winter, Sarah is experimenting with the viscosity of rhinestones. In one ring, a set opaque rhinestone with droplets of sterling silver and white rhinestone protrudes like a small undiscovered planet from a band. (The line between setting and stone wonderfully eroded.) The rhinestone is frozen in a semi-molten state, the facets overwhelmed by encroaching droplets. The whole thing seems doomed to devour itself (Sarah is calling it the “exploded rhinestone ring.”) Many of Sarah Brown’s pieces instantly project the dramas of matter.
And there’s an intense method to her magic. Sarah’s using her winter to focus on the grounding elements of jewelry production—perfecting prototypes for her pieces and her own molds—and giving time to this process before moving on to replication. She gives credit and thanks to Penlander and metalsmith Adam Whitney for helping her create a strategy for the winter. One need only to take a look at the whiteboard above her work space to know: Sarah Brown is an artist who means business.
Photographs by Robin Dreyer, writing by Elaine Bleakney
Metalsmith, jeweler, and former Penland core fellow Sarah Loertscher will return to Penland this spring to teach a workshop in the metals studio. Elaine Bleakney corresponded with her about the workshop, her work, and its deep ties to landscape.
I think a lot about the way poems build through repetition, and how when a poet repeats a phrase, the phrase invokes the possibility of a form emerging for the poem at large. Do you have similar feelings about the creation of visual forms in your work?
Yes. Since being a core fellow at Penland, the idea of a starting place (in my case, usually a repeating shape) has been at the heart of my making experience.
It started as a coping mechanism while I was a student Penland–we were exposed to so many new instructors and techniques in such a short time, and I wanted to jump into making, not figuring out what to make. At the time, I would use the triangle and the hexagon–so no matter what class I was in, I would just start making one of those shapes out of metal, clay, paper, glass. It got me working.
It’s still the same experience today–I love the repetition of forms, and some days I just want to build the same building blocks over and over again, and other times I want to build with them. The building part is really organic–the pieces dictate how they want to grow. The hardest part is knowing when I’m done building and when I need to finish it. It’s somehow collaborative–like I help bring a piece into the world, not that I create it.
Using a shape–and getting people working, and building, through repetition–will be the focus of the workshop. We are working on getting out from obsessing over one precious piece. This really stunts learning, because after a point you begin to be scared of taking chances and “ruining” what you started.
I want the workshop to be a really active one, where people are moving through processes and learning through experience. We’ll dive into deeper projects later in the workshop, but the core of the class is going to be experiencing different processes and understanding what you love (or dislike) about each technique.
Sarah Loertscher Multiples: Fabrication Through Repetition In the metals studio
This workshop will focus on fabrication using repetition to build familiarity with materials and techniques. We’ll cover the basics—piercing, filing, riveting, cold connections, soldering—and advanced techniques like hollow construction (sheet and wire), inlay (solder, resin, wood, and soft stone), enameling, and steel fabrication. This workshop is perfect for beginners as well as experienced students interested in creating a production line or new body of work. The emphasis will be on honing skills and creating meaningful, well-designed jewelry and objects. All levels.
To find out more and register for this workshop click here. Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.
Please note: applications need to be at Penland by this date to be considered for scholarship. Overnight service may not deliver to Penland’s campus on time, please plan accordingly.
In your artist statement you talk about the expansive Midwestern landscape you grew up in as providing a backdrop for forms to impress you. Do you miss this, living and working in an urban environment, and do you find forms in the urban landscape that inspire you now?
You know, I do miss it. The urban environment feeds me in different ways, mainly through interaction and opportunity. The density of Seattle brings together the opportunity of collaboration and exposure, among other things. For example, this last weekend we pulled off a photo shoot where we had professional make up artists, stylists, models, and a photographer, and mostly from our circle of friends and acquaintances. That would be hard to pull off last minute in a rural setting. Seattle has also helped me expand my studio through interested students and apprentices, and given me teaching opportunities and press. The social landscape is beautiful, and rich in designers, makers, and people who appreciate those things. The surrounding physical landscape is also breathtakingly beautiful, but is usually just seen from afar–a beautiful backdrop of mountains and water.
Sarah Loertscher teaches and works out of her West Seattle studio. She has taught at Pratt Fine Art Center in Washington. A former Penland core fellow and American Craft Council AltCraft artist, her exhibitions include Velvet daVinci (CA) and Sienna Gallery (MA). Her runway collaboration with Angel Sanchez appeared at New York Fashion Week 2013 and a collaboration with Mila Hermanovski at Los Angeles Fashion Week 2012. She might be watching this right now:
Once upon a time there was an artist named Rachel. She grew up going to camp during the summers, where she learned to sail, kayak and canoe. No boat was unknown to her. Young Rachel carried the image of boats with her into adult life.
Last summer, Adult Rachel found herself in a one-week pewtersmithing class as part of her core fellowship at Penland. Pewter? she thought. The instructors were two of the most well-known pewtersmiths in the land. Rachel had no experience with pewter–or much metal experience at all, for that matter. She was uncertain. Her uncertainty reminds this writer of a line from another story: “It was dark in the woods and she had to be brave.”
Others in the class were metalsmiths. They were well on their way toward making pewter cups. Candlestick holders. Salt shakers. Rachel closed her eyes. It was then that she saw it: a pewter rowboat floating in a book. She worked all week on the boat, its two tiny oars.
Later, back in the familiar kingdom of paper, Rachel made a book for the boat. The boat in the book: what Rachel made reminds this writer of magical books, childhood, the great big endless sea.
The moral of this story is a quotation from the artist herself: “Our ideas are not limited by the materials we know.”
It’s going to be one busy Penland weekend with two show openings. On Friday, October 11, Penland resident artists will be at the Asheville Area Arts Council Gallery at 346 Depot Street from 6:00-9:00 pm to celebrate the opening of The Barns Studios 2013. Curated by Kathryn Gremley, director of the Penland Gallery, the show opens on October 10 and runs through November 1. The resident artists include David Eichelberger (clay), Micah Evans (glass), Dustin Farnsworth (sculpture), Robin Johnston (textiles), Rachel Meginnes (textiles) and Tom Shields (sculpture).
Meanwhile, Penland’s core fellows Audrey Bell, Zee Boudreaux, Sarah Brown, Angela Eastman, Liz Koerner, Mike Krupiarz, Will Lentz, Rachel Mauser and Molly Spadone (pictured below) will present their work as part of Core Show 2013, Eighteen Hands. The opening reception is on Saturday, October 12, 8:00-11:00 pm in the Northlight Building at Penland. The show will run October 12-15.