Posted on

Molding James

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

This is Penland resident artist Dean Allison beginning the process of creating a mold from the head and shoulders of 10-year-old James Haley. The mold will be used in the creation of one of Dean’s mesmerizing cast-glass portraits. James’s mother, Penland program director Leslie Noell, was close at hand to coach him through the 45-minute process. James got to pick the soundtrack, so Hamilton was playing throughout.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

The first step was to coat James’s hair with cold cream. Then Dean began to carefully cover his face with a silicone rubber that starts to set up in about about 10 minutes. He used his fingers to make sure all the details of James’s face would be well molded. He also took care to maintain breathing holes for James’s nose.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

With his whole head and shoulders covered, James began to acquire a Halloween-enviable, Creature from the Black Lagoon look. At this point it was important for him to sit very still as the material began to set up. “Pretend you are thinking about the hardest math problem you’ve ever had to do,” Dean instructed.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

The next step was to create a two-part plaster shell that will be used to keep the flexible mold rigid later when filling it with hot wax. Dean and his assistant Sarah Beth Post formed the shell using the same kind of cloth/plaster strips that are used to make a cast for a broken bone.

Once both halves of the shell were complete, they were left briefly to harden and then were carefully removed.

Here’s the front half of the shell coming off.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

Dean carefully slit the mold up the back while Sarah Beth separated the rubber from the shirt.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

And with Mom’s assistance, the mold was removed as gently as possible.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

There it goes.

Penland resident artist Dean Allison making a mold of James Haley's head

And James emerged intact!

“I was thinking about bagels the whole time,” he said to Leslie, “so now we need to go get a bagel.”

Hmm…well played.

This process is just Dean’s first step. Here’s the rubber mold back inside the plaster cast (upside down on the chair). The next step is to fill it with hot wax to make a wax positive.

Here is the wax model of James. Dean will clean this up quite a bit and do some additional sculpting—particularly on the hair.

He will use this wax model to create a new mold made of reinforced plaster, which will retain all the detail that’s in the wax. Finally he will melt out the wax and fill the plaster mold with molten glass to create the glass sculpture. After the glass cools Dean will put in hours of polishing and cold work to refine the piece before it will be ready for mounting.

Before joining the Penland residency, Dean Allison was Penland’s glass studio coordinator. He has a Masters of Art in Visual Art from Australian National University. His work has been exhibited recently at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, SOFA Chicago, and Blue Spiral I in Asheville, NC. You can see many examples of his portraiture on his website.

Posted on

The Ocean’s Cool Depths in Hot Glass

Raven Skyriver will teach the hot sculpting class Asymmetry this April 22-28, 2018 in the Penland hot shop. Register now.

Raven Skyriver, “Strike” (marlin), 20 x 18 x 38 inches

Raven Skyriver’s pieces start out like most other pieces in the hot shop: a blob of molten glass on the end of a pipe, a bubble, the whole thing constantly rotating to remain on center. The glass moves from the bench to the glory hole and back; it gets marvered, colored frit is added. But somewhere along the way, the piece morphs into something different and truly impressive. For one thing, Raven works large—his off-hand sculpted pieces are often a full two or three feet long, some closer to four. For another, he succeeds at an impressive realism in his sculptures. The finished pieces are not simply a whale or a shell, but rather a sperm whale or an abalone shell complete with the coloration and subtleties of shape that distinguish one species from another.

“My work is almost exclusively derived from the marine ecosystem,” Raven explains. “I attempt to place the creatures back in their environment by capturing the fluid nature in molten glass and transferring it into the perceived weightlessness of a swimming creature. I always strive to imbue the work with a hint of life.” Indeed, each of his pieces is evidence of his keen and dedicated observation—from the detailed patterns and textures of a turtle’s back or the scales of a salmon to each creature’s movements and personality.

Raven Skyriver, “Gyre” (green sea turtle), 18 x 28 x 26 inches

There’s an intensity to Raven’s hot shop process quite in contrast to the serene beauty of his finished pieces. To make Gyre, his 28-inch green sea turtle, Raven worked with a whole team of skillful glass artists, each one spinning, paddling, rotating, holding, directing, and responding in concert. No fewer than three torches heat the turtle’s fins, tail, and neck while Raven, in the middle of it all, works with expert speed and skill to incise a crease here or elongate an eyelid there. The mounting tension is palpable as he meticulously draws out the turtles’s likeness from the molten glass. It becomes plain that Raven’s work really is a team effort, and any slip or misstep could send the whole endeavor crashing to shards on the floor. (Watch Gyre come together in this awesome video!)

“The nature of glassblowing is teamwork,” Raven states. “The process in the hot shop is my biggest passion.”

We’re thrilled that Raven will be at Penland this spring to share that process and his expertise in the hot shop with Penland students. His 1-week workshop Asymmetry will run April 22-28 and will give experienced glass students new insight into sculpting out of round, working effectively with a team, and addressing technical challenges. See the complete workshop description below and then register now to up your glass game.

Raven Skyriver, “Mother” (humpback whales), 27 x 46 x 14 inches


Raven Skyriver
April 22-28, 2018
This hot glass workshop will be all about sculpting out of round. We’ll focus on team work, timing, and problem solving on the fly, giving students a foundation on which to build intricate asymmetrical forms and teaching them how to overcome technical obstacles. If you are someone who works on symmetrical forms and you want to change it up, or if you simply want to sharpen your hot sculpting skills, this workshop has a lot to offer. Advanced level: your application must be accompanied by a CV detailing your experience in glass and five images of your work. Send these to Studio fee: $40. Code S03GA

Studio artist; teaching: Pilchuck (WA), The Studio at Corning (NY), Niijima Glass Center (Tokyo), Glass Furnace (Turkey), Aya Glass (Japan); exhibitions: Glasmuseet Ebeltoft (Denmark), Island Museum of Art (WA), Maryhill Museum of Art (WA), multiple solo shows at Stonington Gallery (Seattle).

Raven Skyriver, “Awaken” (iguana), 11 x 18 x 25 inches


Posted on

Summer 2018 Workshop Catalog

Cover image; woman adjusts table saw in woodworking studio

Here it is, the summer 2018 workshop catalog! We’re thrilled to share our lineup with you in anticipation of another summer packed with creativity, energy, new friendships, and new ideas. We’re offering 102 unique workshops led by 116 talented artist/instructors, including favorites like encaustic painting and steel sculpture and special classes like brushmaking and skin-on-frame canoe building. Most workshops are open to serious students of all levels (beginners included!), and all give you access to the slide nights, dance parties, movement classes, scholarship auctions, and more that make a Penland session so special.

This year, summer registration will open to all students on January 8 at 9 AM EST on a first-come, first-served basis; we will not be using a lottery system. Applications may be submitted online, by fax, by post, or in person.

Scholarships are available for every summer workshop, including full, partial, and work-study scholarships. Spaces will be held in each workshop for scholarship students. Scholarship applications are due by 11:59 PM EST on February 17.

We hope you find a few minutes over the holidays to pour over the Penland catalog and find the perfect workshop for you, wherever you are in your creative journey. Look out for full course descriptions on the website by the end of December, with printed catalogs to follow in early January.