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Photo of the Week: From a Slab to a Head

Tomorrow, we’re marking a milestone in our new online programming initiative—our first live event! Renowned ceramic sculptor and instructor Cristina Córdova will hold a live Q&A session over Zoom for participants in her online demo, A Simplified Way to Make a Hollow Head. Cristina’s demo is a remarkable distillation of years of her own learning and discovery in the studio, and we’re thrilled to offer participants a direct window into her practice.

Here’s a quick look at Cristina’s transformative abilities with clay in three images. Each of these shots is a frame taken directly from Cristina’s hour-long demo.

3 minutes in—forming a flat slab into a hollow cylinder for the beginnings of the head

Cristina forming a clay slab into the beginnings of a head

 

20 minutes in—using proportions as guides to establish the facial features

Cristina refining the features of her sculpted head

 

55 minutes in—experimenting with gesture before attaching the head to the neck

Cristina playing with gesture with her nearly completed head and neck

 

Intrigued? Register to take part in the demo! But hurry, you’ll need to sign up before 1 PM tomorrow, January 23 to join the Q&A.

For more about Cristina’s process and the way teaching and making blend in her practice, watch this short video visit with her!

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Penland Everywhere: Online Programming Coming this Winter

We’ve been holding this one in for a long time, and we’re thrilled to finally be able to announce: Penland is going online!

We are planning a series of online programming for you, including online demonstrations with Q&A sessions and immersive online workshops. Our goal is to give students who have never been to Penland an opportunity to experience our unique approach to teaching and learning in community and to give past students a chance to reconnect with the familiar rhythms and spaces of time at Penland. You’ll be able to enjoy the same studios, same expert instruction, and same generous and engaged peers—now in a new format that makes the Penland experience more accessible than ever!

We are not developing these online programs as stand-ins for our on-campus workshops. Rather, they are a way to seize this moment and bring the skill, creativity, inspiration, energy, and focus of a Penland session right to you. Wherever you are in the world, and wherever you are in your artistic journey, we hope you’ll join us to go a little deeper with Penland Everywhere.

Our first demonstrations and workshops will be available in January. Subscribe to Penland newsletters and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get the details as we release them.

 

This project is funded in part by a grant from South Arts with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

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Photo of the Week: Filming for Craft in America

Cristina Cordova starting on a new head sculpture with a videographer filming her process

Last week, while we had visiting artists Cristina Córdova and Jaime Suárez working here on campus, we also had some other special guests: a film crew from the PBS documentary series Craft in America! The team was here to get footage of Cristina and Jaime for an upcoming episode themed around identity. This week, they all traveled to Puerto Rico to do more filming in the place that Cristina and Jaime call home.

We’ll share the episode when it premieres, because you may recognize a place or two in it! In the meantime, you can watch the “Community” episode of Craft in America, which also features scenes shot here at Penland.

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Jaime and Cristina in the Clay Studio

Puerto Rican artist Jaime Suarez paints on a large piece of paper with watery red clay while students watch

Visiting artists are part of every spring and fall concentration at Penland. They help enrich our sessions by bringing new perspectives, skills, and approaches to our studios and sharing their experience with our students. This spring, we’ve been doubly lucky to have two visiting artists, Jaime Suárez and Cristina Córdova. They spent this week working side by side in the studio, pushing clay in very different directions.

In addition to their public lectures at Northlight, both Jaime and Cristina opened up their processes to the community through an afternoon of demonstrations. Jaime walked us through two of his recent experiments with making marks in clay. In one, shown above, he applied a watery clay slip to a crumpled sheet of paper. As the slip pooled and dried, it captured the topography of the paper surface in layers of clay, creating the possibility for a two-dimensional print of a three-dimensional surface. In another process, shown below, Jaime demonstrated how he creates monoprints with just a clay slab and water, altering the image by varying the moisture levels and the impressions on the clay. Like the clay paintings, these prints captured the data of the surface using the inherent colors and qualities of his material.

Artist Jaime Suarez giving a demonstration to a group of students on how to monoprint with clay and water

Cristina, for her part, focused on clay’s incredible sculptural potential. She gave a demonstration of her process for sculpting the human head, starting with a flat slab of paper clay that she formed into a cylinder and then refined. Over the course of half an hour, we watched with awe as the cylinder first took on the rough shape of a human head through pushing and paddling, then developed a ridge at the brow, cavities at the eyes, and protrusions for the nose and lips. To build up the features further and add unique expressions, Cristina built onto them with smaller additions of clay. All the while, she explained the shapes she keeps in mind to guide her sculpting—the egg shape of the head, the teardrop shape formed by the side of the nostril, the three different planes of the lips.

Cristina Cordova sculpting a head from red paper clay while a ring of students looks on

Even though none of our current workshops deal directly with figurative sculpting or painting or making prints, there is a lot of inspiration to be drawn from these demonstrations. We hope all the students who attended will return to their benches, their wheels, and their torches with ideas about how to take advantage of the inherent qualities of their materials to move them in new directions. Thank you, Jaime and Cristina, for being here and sharing so generously!

Cristina Cordova refines the features on the side of the clay head she is sculpting