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Happy Birthday, Miss Lucy!

It’s September 20th once again, and time to celebrate the birth of Lucy Morgan!



Lucy Calista Morgan (1889-1981)


Lucy Morgan came to Penland in 1920 to work at the Appalachian Industrial School, an Episcopal school for children. In 1923 “Miss Lucy” traveled from Penland to Berea College in Kentucky to learn to weave. She returned with three looms and the intention of helping local Penland women supplement their family incomes through the cottage industry of weaving. In 1929 Morgan founded the Penland School of Handicrafts, which became today’s Penland School of Crafts.

When Morgan first came to Penland there were very few roads and most of the traffic was on foot. In Gift From the Hills, her memoir, she describes searching out one of the remaining old-time weavers in the area, a trip she expected to be two and a half miles long:

“We walked down hill and up, and down again, over rocky, furrowed roads, through short cuts, along bypaths, around big rocks, over fallen tree trunks. After miles of walking we met a man and asked him how far it was to Aunt Susan Phillips’ house… ‘Nigh on to two miles and a half.’ [he said].

…We trudged on, relieved when we came to a downhill stretch but discouraged when we began another uphill climb. We crossed small streams, pushed brambles and vines out of our way to keep to the twisting path, and plodded across hollows. Then we met another man. We told him we were on our way to the home of Aunt Susan Phillips…

‘Right from here, best I can figure it, ‘twould be about two miles and a half.’ [he said].

…When we were certain we had walked the third two miles and a half, we came to an open place and saw in the field down below us two sunbonneted women planting corn. We called down to them: ‘Could you ladies please give us directions how to get to Aunt Susan Phillips’ house?’ One of them pointed to the other. ‘Here she is.’”

We invite you to join us in celebration of this woman of indomitable spirit, honoring her birth and her vision for a crafts school in these mountains.


—Carey Hedlund, Penland archivist












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Penland’s Favorite Waffles

making waffles at a round table
Lucy Morgan prepares waffles at a table in the Pines, 1957 (unidentified photographer).


Lucy Calista Morgan, Penland’s founder, had a penchant for craft, international outreach, and waffles. In 1957 a group of international students stayed at Penland over the holiday season. They studied in the studios, enriched the season with dance and music performances from their own cultures, sang Christmas carols, and had snow ball fights. They were also introduced to the waffle.

Laurel Radley, Lucy Morgan’s great niece, shared some of Lucy’s favorite recipes with the archives. As she wrote, “Aunt Lucy loved waffles and had about a half-dozen recipes. I’m happy to have her waffle-iron and her recipes.” She also notes that the following recipe wasn’t credited to a source and explains, “Aunt Lucy of course had no occasion to cook really until she retired [from Penland]… I wonder if it wasn’t Henry. Who better to ask than the one who cultivated her favorite food tastes during her adult years?”

Henry Neal was Penland’s chef for over 20 years (c.1933-1955). Each summer he traveled by train from Chapel Hill, where he cooked for one of the University of North Carolina fraternities, to Marion, NC where Lucy would pick him up and drive him up to school.


a man baking
Henry Neal preparing a meal in the old Pines kitchen, 1949. Fadyk collection, Penland Archives.


So next time you fire up your waffle iron, try this recipe out with a nod to Lucy Morgan and Henry Neal!


Waffles for 6

1 ¾ cups white flour
¼ cup corn meal
½ tsp. soda
Pinch salt
4 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, whites beaten stiff
¾ cup oil
1 cup buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients, then add all other ingredients but the egg whites and combine thoroughly. Fold batter into stiff egg whites and spoon into hot, oiled waffle-iron. Cook until steam rises and appears crisp and brown.


Carey Hedlund, Penland Archivist



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Personal Cartography: Weaving with Robin Johnston

Robin Johnston, 143 Walnuts, handwoven cotton, 2013
Robin Johnston, 143 Walnuts, handwoven cotton, 2013

“Above all else show the data,” wrote Edward Tufte, the trailblazing philosopher of quantitative information and how humans present it. Weaver Robin Johnston takes Tufte to heart in her practice. One of Johnston’s recent woven works, above, involves hand-dyeing yarn by wrapping it around individual walnuts. If you look closely at the image above, you’ll see walnuts meticulously placed below the finished work.

Considering her taste for slow, mysterious processes, it might be no surprise that Johnston’s favorite music to listen to in the studio is “sort of melancholy Americana: slow, sad music. Gillian Welch, M. Ward, Iron & Wine, Billie Holiday.”

Johnston will teach an eight-week weaving workshop for all levels in spring 2014 with an exploration of processes in mind, inviting her students to come to the studio with their own ideas about personal patterns and the documentation of these patterns as sources for art making.




Robin Johnston, Full Worm Moon, handwoven and embroidered cotton
Robin Johnston, Full Worm Moon, handwoven and embroidered cotton

Robin Johnston – Personal Cartography
March 9-May 2, 2014
In the textiles studio

This workshop will use weaving to delve into students’ individual interpretations of mapmaking. We’ll explore basic weaving and dyeing techniques that lend themselves to charting, plotting, and coding information—including pattern weaves, inlay, tapestry, painted warps, and ikat dyeing. Through daily sketchbook exercises we’ll envision woven surfaces that emphasize color, pattern, image, and texture to create maps of all kinds. Whether we are describing geographic or conceptual spaces, we’ll apply personal cartography to the art of weaving. All levels. 




For more information about this workshop and registration information please click here.
Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.




Photograph of Robin Johnston by gwendolyn yoppolo

Robin Johnston is currently a resident artist at Penland School of Crafts. Her work deals with measuring time, capturing moments as they pass, and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing. Information such as light, temperature and heart rate is collected and tracked during the making, creating real-time maps of her physical experience weaving.  The levels of translation involved in the charting and integration of various data into the woven structure add to the slowness of the process, illustrating a personal reaction to fast-paced society.  Since moving to the mountains of North Carolina, Robin has been researching colonial weave drafts commonly used in the early days of Lucy Morgan’s Penland Weavers.  She is combining these traditional woven patterns with data, such as sleep patterns and moon cycles, gathered from her daily life.