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Elizabeth Aralia: Artist, Penland Student, Penland Supporter

Although Elizabeth Aralia has been an artist most of her life, she didn’t start coming to Penland until she was fifty: the year her son turned ten. “I came in 1998 for a class with Nick Cave and it was transformative,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to come back here every year.’ And so far I have.” Elizabeth and her husband, photographer Nick Graetz, had moved to North Carolina about ten years before that, and Elizabeth says that she heard about Penland “in the air.”


Image of Elizabeth Aralia wearing a handmade purple top
Elizabeth Aralia interacting with an art installation based on a ping-pong table. The garment she is wearing is of her own design. Photo by Nick Graetz.


Born in Detroit, she got an English degree at Indiana University and then went on to study art at the College of Creative Studies at the University of Santa Barbara in California. “It was a fascinating place,” she said. “The teachers there were all artists, and they just taught whatever they wanted. There was no set curriculum.” After finishing that program, she headed for New York. “I ran out of money near my mother’s house in Indiana, so I stayed there. I got this grant from the NEA where they paid you to do your art and to work with kids in the schools. During that time, I met and married my husband, and eventually we settled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.”

Elizabeth works in textiles, painting, assemblage, and collage. One of her best-known projects is a tarot deck created through carefully-constructed collage. “I’ve been doing collage since 1978,” she said. “I don’t do it using a computer. I like to use things that there’s only one of; it’s more of a commitment.” Recent Penland workshops have reignited her interest in painting and introduced her to encaustic, which she has been integrating into her work.


Collaged image of a tarot card using a variety of found imagery
“Wheel of Fortune,” one of Elizabeth’s series of tarot card collages. Photo by Elizabeth Aralia.


In addition to her years of taking Penland workshops, Elizabeth and Nick have been generous annual supporters of the school, and they have recently created a scholarship in honor of Elizabeth’s late sister, Lynn Kerr Azzam. “She’s my half sister and we wouldn’t have known her except for the Internet. We only met her two years ago. We were together a few times and then she suddenly died. I didn’t know her well, but I felt very close to her. I wanted to do something for Penland in her name.”

“My husband and I give to a lot of things,” she continued. “We pick things that are close to our hearts, and Penland is at the top of my list. I want to give people the help I didn’t get when I was struggling financially and needed support as an artist. I imagine what it would have been like if someone had given me time at Penland back then.”

“Penland is magnetic and people who have the right metal get stuck.” Elizabeth said. “It draws me back every year. When the catalog comes, I get excited, and when I first drive in, I just think, ‘There it is.’”  –Robin Dreyer


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An Encaustic Adventure with Jane Wells Harrison


Sometimes my work is very thoughtful, but just as often, it is an overt expression that results from whimsical manipulations of materials I’ve selected.

Jane Wells Harrison



Jane Wells Harrison, It Can Be A Rock, encaustic, 2014


Jane Wells Harrison will teach mixed media, collage, and encaustic painting on surfaces both conventional and unconventional (including old slate roofing tiles) at Penland this fall.

Wells writes in her artist statement that her work “takes me to the easel, the workbench, the heated palette, and the enameling kiln.” In the mixed-media spirit of the class, Jane has invited esteemed metalsmith Robert Ebendorf, who will be a visiting artist and conduct a demonstration for students.

More about Harrison’s work and process can be found on her blog.

Space is available, including a limited number of work-study spots. Class begins September 21 and runs eight weeks.



Jane Wells Harrison
Mixed Media with Encaustic
September 21- November 14, 2014
This workshop will cover all aspects of working with encaustic paint, with a special emphasis on combining encaustic with mixed media. Working in series, students will find several solutions to each assigned project. We’ll work on wood, paper, and other surfaces, and we may use watercolor, gouache, and oil paint with encaustic, as well as graphite, charcoal, and found objects. Although this class is centered on the combination of encaustic and mixed media, encaustic is not a requirement for all projects. All levels. Code F00D


 Jane Wells Harrison, image of work
 from her Instagram feed


Jane Wells Harrison is a studio artist who has taught at Pocosin Arts (NC), Rocky Mount Arts Center (NC), Turchin Center (NC), East Carolina University (NC). She has exhibited at Quirk Gallery (VA), Turchin Center (NC), Velvet da Vinci (San Francisco), and Studio Fusion (London) among others. Her metal work has appeared in Metalsmith: Exhibition in Print and Enameling Techniques by Linda Darty. She lives near Lenoir, NC.



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2D or Not 2D with Jim Adams | April 6-12, 2014


Being present is the key. All of the best tools, materials and ideas are just artifacts and ether without a maker who is present. A fully present maker is truly something to behold.–Jim Adams


Jim Adams, Looking Back, acrylic, graphite, canvas, 60 x 48 inches
Jim Adams, Looking Back, acrylic, graphite, canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Jim Adams
2D or Not 2D
In the drawing and painting studio

In this intensive one-week drawing and painting workshop, we’ll explore graphite and paper along with transparent acrylic colors. The workshop will help artists working in 3d media develop drawing and painting skills and it will help 2d artists explore new approaches to the blank page. Along with demonstrations and plenty of work time, we’ll spend one day making collaborative temporary installations using found materials and traditional painting and sculpting media to stretch our thinking about 2d and 3d work. We’ll consider the blur in our discussions and possibly frustrate each other toward greatness! Students of all levels and media interests welcome. Code S02D 




We’ll also discuss the value and practice of a keeping a sketchbook and consider ways to develop a studio practice–no matter where we are and which tools we have at hand. Studio assistant Libby Lynn will demonstrate encaustic painting.


Register here for this workshop




Jim Adams in a studio artist working in painting, drawing, blacksmithing, and sculpture. (In Februrary of 2014, he’ll be making work in Penland’s iron studio.) Jim has taught at Jordan High School (NC), Grace School of Art (NC), Burren College of Art (Ireland) residency, and has demonstrated at the Interational Stone Sculpture Symposium (IN). His work is represented by Broadhurst Gallery (NC).