Here’s Jack Mauch going over the basics of the the CNC router with print and letterpress coordinator Adam Leestma and metals coordinator Nadia Massoud. This 5-by-5-foot ShopBot router was recently purchased with support from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. It is located in the wood studio, but our hope is it will be used by students working in other studios as well.
Jack is a former core fellow, a designer, and a woodworker who is helping Penland to integrate digital fabrication tools into our studios. He is currently collaborating with glass coordinator Nick Fruin to make wooden glassblowing molds using the router. We’ll share more on that in a future blog post!
The weather is warm, the mountain views are dense with green, and the food is great—but the biggest joy of summer at Penland is welcoming students and instructors to our studios. We’ve really missed getting to foster the creative discoveries and connections that happen regularly in our workshops this summer. Even so, finding new ways to stay inspired and connected with you all has been a highlight of 2020.
We are reaching out to each of our summer 2020 instructors with an invitation to share a bit of their recent creative endeavors with the Penland community. Our hope is that these windows into their studios and explorations will spark something exciting in you, too. Enjoy, stay safe, and keep making! #PenlandEverywhere
Session 2 Metals—Fabrication for Sculptural Jewelry
With shelter-in-place orders in effect in North Carolina, April and May were somewhat challenging months because my jewelry studio is not in my home. I was only able to bring some of my equipment home to continue working. After a bit of discombobulation, I started focusing on work I could make in a reduced capacity studio. I’ve been revisiting old pieces, exploring new ideas and new materials, and (finally!) fixing up my website, things that I don’t normally get to do when I’m busy preparing for craft shows. The sterling silver and paint pieces in the first image are from about 8 or 9 years ago—work I’d forgotten about until recently. The second image contains elements made from brass tube with gold vermeil and some test pieces in enamel. I miss the camaraderie and excitement of craft shows and classrooms, and I find myself thinking a lot about what the future holds for artists and makers, but I also think that the challenges of these bizarre times can be seen as opportunities to consider new ways forward.
It’s been surprisingly hard to concentrate over the last few months. What might have seemed like an ideal opportunity to get work done was in fact a haze of anxiety, attempts at online teaching and dealing with the sadness and turmoil of the students whose last two months of the semester had been torn away from them, heavy-duty parenting and attempting to homeschool my 8-year-old daughter, and latterly, facing up to what has always been here: the pandemic of racism and white supremacy. Having said that, I found working in my shop, when I could get there, to be therapeutic and calming. A chance to be out of myself. I don’t mean to suggest that craft is not connected to the world in all its wonderfulness and awfulness, but that sometimes, its role for an individual can be to allow focus on material and physical being.
1. A wall hung cabinet nearing completion, just a couple of doors to go on. Inspired by the paintings of Nathalie Du Pasquier. Exploring 2 and 3 dimensional conventions of representation, and part of an intermittent ongoing series. Title: Interrupted. The painting is Formagramma by Nathalie Du Pasquier.
2. A small sketch model of a chair. I’m thinking about two coopered shells, one for the back and one side, the other for the seat and the other side.
3. Poignantly, some boxes I had started to prepare for my class at Penland, partially made. I was going to bring them along to various stages of completion when the pandemic restrictions hit and cancelled classes. The finished box is titled Fool’s Gold.
When I was doing my master’s degree at the Corcoran School in DC around 2012, I constantly heard about Penland in the studios and in the hallways, a new word that became stronger as the summer approached. As a Latin American student at that time and today as a Brooklyn-based immigrant artist, my practice has constantly been focused on the search for new learning and experimentation processes through printmaking, a medium that appears not just as a technique but rather an aesthetic; a conceptual medium to study history, memory and trauma through a variety of representation strategies. When I was invited to teach at Penland, I couldn’t believe I was going to try those studios with my own hands to teach, and share some Book Arts concepts, and surrounded by that extensive nature!
During quarantine, far from the shared studios I work in in the city, I was more connected to printmaking than I have ever been before. With the aim of making visible the injustices produced by the pandemic and especially in the most vulnerable sectors of the population, I started to use printmaking as a critical tool to think about the social and political order and its effects throughout the crisis. These relations resonate with printmaking processes as metaphors of resistance between oil and water, the action of carving a surface of wood, and drawing in an etching plate. With the lack of a professional studio/equipment, I explored alternative techniques and materials using what was “in place”: I used a bottle of vodka instead of alcohol, a window instead of a plate, and kitchen food and stuff as solvents.”
Session 2 Glass—Form, Color & Professional Practice
In the past few months we have been working together in our home studio in Seattle. Being in the shop has helped us maintain a positive outlook while allowing us to escape through the creative process; focusing on a bright and cheerful color pallet has been healing. In light of our course cancellation at Penland this summer, we plan to meet with our class virtually this month to get to know each other, talk shop and share the beauty of Penland with them!
Before the lockdown, I was working on the possibility of inserting willow branches in my creations. I was dedicating myself to the realization of some prototypes. Glass and willow jewels, an initial idea, a hint of something that could be interesting and poetic. There was barely time to take some photos and then the project stopped, but not in my mind.
Photo credits: Chiara Nicolosi e Francesca Nicolosi, @pretaphoto
Ben sent us a touching, thought-provoking story about a recent print project he completed and distributed in his community. It was such a lovely example of the power of craft and the written word that we made a whole blog post about it! Read the whole thing here.
Daniel wrote to us about his 20-year history with Penland and his co-intructor Stephen Yusko and the traveling school he started to bring blacksmithing to rural areas of his native Venezuela. His story is craft at its most powerful, and we decided to feature it in its own blog post. Please read about Daniel and LaCaravanaEscuela here.
For those who are new to it, glass is one of the most mysterious and mesmerizing materials we work with at Penland. It’s always thrilling to introduce students to our glass studios and help them transform glass from something rigid and fragile into a material that’s flexible and open to a world of possibilities. And the good news is that the learning just keeps going—there’s always something new to pick up and explore, even for experienced glass artists!
This spring, students in our studios will have the opportunity to approach glass from two different vantages. In the hot shop, glass is fluid and fast, a full-body team effort. Next door in the flame studio, glass is layered, additive, zoomed in. Whichever angle you take, and whether it’s for one week or eight, a Penland glass workshop is a chance to dive in head first and push yourself with new ideas and techniques alongside a studio full of like-minded peers.
Registration for both of the following workshops is open now for students of all levels, including beginners. Sign up today!
Ebb & Flow with Ben Elliott One week – March 22-28, 2020
Join glass artist and instructor Ben Elliott in the flame studio for a week of building stories with borosilicate glass. Students will spend time at the torch learning and refining techniques like creating solid and hollow forms, applying color, using blow molds, and assembling pieces. Together with a class emphasis on narrative and imagery, these techniques will become the building blocks for creating pieces that speak with your own artistic voice. Come see just how much inspiration a single week can spark!
Intentions & Inventions with Dan Mirer Eight weeks – March 8 – May 1, 2020
Go deep with thoughtful design during eight weeks of intensive glass work in the hot shop. Instructor Dan Mirer will use his expertise to guide students in creating considered, refined objects. The workshop will encourage a curious, problem-solving mindset as students blow glass and create a variety of molds to bring their designs to life. Students will also be encouraged to bring cold working, kiln forming, and flame working into their processes. Both beginners and experienced glass artists will discover challenges and possibilities that stretch their work in new directions.
We’re thrilled to announce our complete lineup of summer 2020 workshops! We’ve got 104 different offerings for you to choose from, each one an opportunity to learn from experienced makers and explore new materials and dream up new ideas and connect with other folks doing the same. Browse them all by studio, by session, or in our online catalog PDF (paper catalogs are at the printer at this very moment!).
Want a little taste of what you might find?
Books & Paper: large-scale sheet forming, cast paper sculpture, cut paper and pop-up books Clay: ceramic tile, animated ceramic sculptures, building with paperclay, kurinuki Drawing & Painting: abstract painting, observational oil painting, sketchbooks Glass: glass painting, borosilicate sculpture, mold making, hot glass sculpting Iron: metal furniture, forged utensils and vessels, sculptural steel Metals: electroforming, Japanese engraving, sand casting, gold fusing Photo:view cameras, poetic photographs, cameraless photography, hand coloring prints Print & Letterpress: mokuhanga, screenprinting, typography on the press, lithography Textiles: block printing with natural dyes, sculptural basketry, boro and indigo, intermediate weaving Wood:curved forms in wood, timber framing, cork, sculptural spoon carving
…and dozens and dozens of other things, too.
Registration will open for all summer workshops on January 13 at noon Eastern time on a first-come, first-served basis.Scholarships are available for all summer workshops! Scholarship applications open January 1 and are due by February 17. Starting this year, scholarships have a reduced application fee of $10.
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
Eight weeks of Penland fall concentrations have come and gone. We’ve shared lots of studio photos and show-and-tell photos and photos of the goofy moments in between. But there’s a lot that’s constantly happening during concentrations that is harder to pin down—the messy, beautiful, confusing, triumphant work of learning and connecting and growing.
As we’ve heard again and again from students, time at Penland is not just about a handmade mug; it’s about the transformational power of learning to make a mug with your hands. Below, we illustrate some of the less tangible aspects of creative immersion with a photo from each of our recent concentrations.
Clay student Brian Chen adds surface decoration to a run of tumblers using a masking technique he learned from instructor Tom Jaszczak. Freedom from distractions is one thing that leads to such leaps in student work in just eight weeks.
Studio assistant Eric Meeker uses a drop or two of water to break his piece from the punty while core fellow Joshua Fredock stands ready to grab it. The nature of glassblowing is a team effort, but students in all studios benefit from the feedback, energy, and expertise of their peers.
Textiles student Emily Parkinson builds up pattern on a length of printed yardage through the careful spacing and layering of screens. The sketches, calculations, and in-betweens aren’t always readily apparent in a finished piece, but that step-by-step process is integral to the outcome.
Henry Rogers heats a length of steel in the iron studio. Over the course of eight weeks, students move between the forge and the anvil and back again hundreds of times. Each heat builds intuition and muscle memory, and every swing of the hammer builds accuracy and control and confidence. It’s the hours of practice that transform a beginner into an experienced maker.
Hannah Roman works on a painting in her Color & Abstraction workshop surrounded by sketches, previous work, and a giant collaborative still life for reference. Ideas can crop up in the most unexpected places, be it something a fellow student is trying, a process in another studio, the landscape of the Penland campus outside, or maybe just the shadow your water bottle casts across your desk.
First-time woodworker Ann Ritter glues tenons into the aprons of her table with instructor Wyatt Severs. Even students who have never touched wood or metal or clay can become proficient over eight weeks of immersive studio time, and this growth sometimes opens up entire new futures and dreams.
Core fellow Stormie Burns pulls a run of prints on the Vandercook press. Like a lot of making, it’s a repetitive process that benefits from quiet attention and an ability to be present in the moment. There’s a joy that comes from being immersed in the details.
And a few things not pictured above:
The Penland friendships each student will carry with them. The newfound confidence and sense of belonging. The deeper appreciation for hands and material and time. The ideas that started here as mere sparks and are now burning brightly across the web of our community.
To all our fall concentration students and instructors, thank you for reminding us about the importance and beauty of what we do here. And to all those who would like to be students, we hope you will be! Registration is currently open for Spring 2019 concentrations and 1-week workshops.
The Penland glass studio has seen decades of impressive work coming off its benches, but we’re pretty sure it had never seen a sculpture quite like the one instructor Raven Skyriver demoed this Wednesday. The piece, described by Raven as “bat on a branch munching mango,” was a breathtaking example of what glass is capable of in highly skilled hands.
The sculpture came together piece by piece over the course of the morning. Raven crafted each element separately—the leaves on the tree, the mango, the bat’s body, the two wings—and each of those pieces were built up from even smaller ones. To make the wings, for example, Raven added a small blob of hot glass onto a curved and colored spine, stretched and flattened it into the thin membrane of the wings, and then added a darker rib with a carefully controlled piece of cane. He repeated this process across the spine of the wing—membrane, rib, membrane, rib—until he had created a ruffling and expressive thing that had all the veining and texture you might find on a real bat.
The final piece of the sculpture was the branch itself. It started out much like a large blown vase or bowl might, a big egg of glass with a bubble inside. But over the course of the next few heats, it quickly morphed into something else entirely. Raven first added color with a generous sprinkling of frit, then rolled it over a textured plate to create the ridges of the bark, and then wrestled it into an elongated and twisting thing that might have blown down from any tree in a winter storm.
The real excitement began next as Raven started assembling the many separate pieces together. Or, more specifically, Raven and his team started assembling them, as this stage required many hands—someone at the bench to rotate the piece, someone to keep it hot with the torch, someone to retrieve each leaf and wing from the garage, someone else to operate the doors of the glory hole. It was a sophisticated choreography of movement and timing and communication which remained, somehow, untouched by the mounting tension in the assembled crowd of onlookers.
The bat’s body came first, followed by one wing and then another and then the mango with its little bite mark, which seemed almost miraculously to line up right at the level of the bat’s mouth. It was clear as Raven worked that he had an image in his mind, but it was loose enough that he was also composing as he went—a leaf here, a leaf there, an extra little twist to this branch, and a leaf or two left in the garage at the end.
The final crescendo came after hours of focused work when the piece was ready to come off the pipe. While all of us watched without breathing, Raven and his assistants Emily Lamb and Jack Gramann heated the base of the sculpture, flipped the entire thing vertically, and cut it off the pipe into Emily’s waiting (and well insulated) hands. She carried the whole beautiful piece over to the annealer, gently set it inside, and closed the lid before the room erupted with applause.