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.
Every winter, we begin the new year with a month of short, intense residencies at Penland. Winter Residency is a time when we invite artists to arrive with their own ideas and projects and bring them to life in our studios. There is no instruction and we don’t give assignments—we just ask that each resident dive in, explore, and connect with the energy and creativity of this community. It’s the best start to the year we could hope for.
Below, we highlight a few photographs and themes from this year’s residency. Find out more (and learn how to apply to join us next year!) on the Winter Residency page.
Winter residency is a time to create. It’s a time to actually work on those ideas that just won’t keep quite and see what’s really there when you give them a chance. Here, metals resident Mary Raivel is continuing a series of pieces that incorporate old lenses and watch crystals. She says, “I would never have managed to devote the necessary time to this new work on age and ageism using new (to me) materials, were it not for my time here.”
No meal schedules, no work-study schedules, no class projects, no daily slide talks. There is less structure to Penland’s Winter Residencies than there is to our workshop sessions, which means you can work how and when it works for you. It’s amazing how much our residents accomplish in just a couple weeks of deep concentration! Here, potter Ronen Yamin focuses while trimming a series of vessels.
With half as many people but just as much space, winters at Penland provide a quieter, more expansive atmosphere than the all-in exuberance of our summer workshops. Here, painting and drawing resident Katie St. Clair spreads out during the first two weeks of residency to put the finishing touches on a collection of paintings for an upcoming exhibition. Winter residency is the perfect time to take a step back from individual pieces and think about your work as a whole.
Mostly, it’s personal challenges that our winter residents set for themselves, but there are always a few fun group challenges, too. The annual Table in a Day competition is one we’ve written about repeatedly on the Penland blog (2020, 2018, 2017). This year, residents introduced a new one: Spoon Before Noon. Above are just some of the results from the morning in a variety of materials and even more styles!
When you get 80+ artists together in an open studio environment, there’s bound to be a lot of discussion, sharing, and building on each other’s ideas. Often, these interactions lead to new collaborations, such as this one between textiles residents Sasha Baskin and Alyssa Salomon. Together, they used Alyssa’s screenprinting knowledge to turn Sasha’s lace designs into prints on fabric.
To end it all, we ask everyone to participate in one of our oldest, most cherished traditions: Show and Tell. It’s a time to explore what everyone else has been up to while you’ve been head down in the studio, to catch up with old friends and say hi to new ones, and mostly to marvel at the sheer creative force that is the Penland community. Winter residents, you amaze us! Thank you for giving this month your all and sharing it so generously with us.