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Taking on the student as the client: Phil Sanders at Penland


Artist, master printer, publisher, creative services consultant, and non-profit arts administrator Phil Sanders was at Penland in January to teach Business Time*, a week-long class he designed to “help artists fully understand and explore the business of making and selling their work through setting realistic short, mid, and long-term goals.” We stopped by to listen in–just as the class was beginning to talk about accounting. They began by generating a list of the expenses that artists have. (“What else do you spend money on?” asked Phil. “Tacos!” answered one artist. Probably the most lively accounting class of all time.)

The workshop covered topics from products and production to marketing and contracts–and included individual meetings; a discussion with Kathryn Gremley, director of the Penland Gallery; a visit to Hoss Haley’s studio in Asheville; and another visit to Melanie Finlayson’s Green Plum Gallery in Spruce Pine.

We caught up with Phil Sanders over email to ask him a couple of questions about the course and beyond:


What was your inspiration for developing this course–and where and when did you start teaching it?


The course came out of a conversation I had with Dana Moore several years ago. She knew that I own and operate a consulting company, PS Marlowe, that focuses on creative professionals and creative capital companies (galleries, non-profits, foundations, creative capital industries: advertising, publishing, auction houses, art fairs, and entertainment as well as individual artists).


The long, short of it is: I developed this class for artists at Penland. I wrote the course book based on my strategic planning process for any business. It does not matter if it is a sole proprietorship or a 1,000 employee company, every business needs the same things.


As far as inspiration for developing the class, it’s the same reason I began PS Marlowe: artists need help understanding why they do what they do and how to share it with others. It can be difficult for an artist to separate their business goals from their personal goals. It can be even harder to see the way forward when you care so much for what you make and do.


Writers get editors, big companies get CFOs, and artists get each other (great for living a creative life, not so good for business). I treat each student like a client. This course provides artists with an editor and CFO.

A couple of months ago we read Jerry Saltz’s take on the trouble with MFA programs for artists. In the piece he writes: ‘Call me conservative, but it’s also time for grad programs to stress courses in craft and various skills — from blacksmithing to animal tracking, if these are things students need to learn for the visions they want to pursue.’ The little jest about animal tracking aside, how do you see what’s happening at Penland as part (or to the side?) of art education? Or do you look at the art-education landscape in different terms, different ways?


Can’t believe it, but I do agree with Jerry Saltz. (I even think tracking is an interesting skill to learn, especially applied to the art business world.  Another topic for another time.) I personally believe that the vast majority of academic institutions have evolved their primary mission away from providing the service of professional education in terms of the arts. I believe they are creating professional academics not professionals in their field of study.


Penland is a rare institution that teaches the how to do with as much weight as the what to do. I do not think that Penland operates within the academic landscape of arts education, and to me that is a great thing.


The difference at Penland is that practicing professionals in the field teach. This real world experience is extremely valuable if the arts are to have any chance at being an employment option for future generations. At the current rate of change in academia they will not be.


I personally believe in supporting sustainable careers in the arts. If Penland existed inside the academic system, artists would lose one of the last places where this access to real world, practical experience exists. The apprenticeship system worked for centuries.  It is a rare thing now within the arts and it is showing with the general lack of quality in construction and production in contemporary art. (To all artists out there, collectors are fed up with paying to fix your shoddy craftsmanship.) We have lost our hands-on education and with it are losing three-dimensional problem solving skills, generally learned through arts education. This is a larger problem for the entire American economy. There is a reason investment banking firms hire MFAs not just MBAs.


I started teaching this class at Penland because I believe that Penland was founded on helping people live their lives through their craft traditions. That means making a living–or at the very least–supplementing a living through one’s art. But it also means enriching artists’ lives by helping them bring their visions into the world and share with others.


The most common comment in the Business Time classes has been “why didn’t I get this information in school?” My response: That’s not what academia is for anymore. That is why you are at Penland.

*Phil Sanders’s course is generously funded by a Penland supporter who believes in providing Penland artists with business tools for the marketplace.


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Core Show + Resident Artists Show = Big Penland Weekend

Resident artist Tom Shields working in the barn studio, 2013. Photograph by Robin Dreyer
Resident artist Tom Shields working in the barn studios. Photograph by Robin Dreyer.


It’s going to be one busy Penland weekend with two show openings. On Friday, October 11, Penland resident artists will be at the Asheville Area Arts Council Gallery at 346 Depot Street from 6:00-9:00 pm to celebrate the opening of The Barns Studios 2013. Curated by Kathryn Gremley, director of the Penland Gallery, the show opens on October 10 and runs through November 1. The resident artists include David Eichelberger (clay), Micah Evans (glass), Dustin Farnsworth (sculpture), Robin Johnston (textiles), Rachel Meginnes (textiles) and Tom Shields (sculpture).


Meanwhile, Penland’s core fellows Audrey Bell, Zee Boudreaux, Sarah Brown, Angela Eastman, Liz Koerner, Mike Krupiarz, Will Lentz, Rachel Mauser and Molly Spadone (pictured below) will present their work as part of Core Show 2013, Eighteen Hands. The opening reception is on Saturday, October 12, 8:00-11:00 pm in the Northlight Building at Penland. The show will run October 12-15.


Penland Core Fellows, 2013. Back row (L-R): Will Lentz, Angela Eastman, Audrey Bell, Molly Spadone. Front row: Liz Koerner, Sarah Brown, Rachel Mauser, Zee Boudreaux, Mike Krupiarz.
Penland Core Fellows, 2013. Back row (L-R): Will Lentz, Angela Eastman, Audrey Bell, Molly Spadone. Front row: Liz Koerner, Sarah Brown, Rachel Mauser, Zee Boudreaux, Mike Krupiarz.

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Focus on: Martina Lantin


Fall brings a new exhibition of earthenware by Martina Lantin to the Penland Gallery and Visitors Center. The show runs until October 27.


Mug (L) – Thrown and altered earthenware, slip line and blush, 4.5 x 3 x 3.25, ” Mug (R) – Thrown and altered earthenware, blue and chrome bow line, 4.25 x 3.5 x 3.5″

Lantin creates ceramic tableware from earthenware clay, which she likes to call “chocolate porcelain.” Her unique forms are made by wheelthrowing combined with off-the-wheel alterations. Her pieces, she says, are meant for everyday use. Most of Lantin’s work is made in multiple parts and pieced together leaving some of the seams visible. A thin layer of white slip serves to accentuate the construction methods and to invite an exploration of the making process. “I seek to evoke nostalgia in the future by making pots that are reverberations of the past,” she says. “I draw inspiration from early English porcelain and cream ware. I provoke a tension between the elegant handling of the material and the rugged connotations of the clay body.”


Martina Lantin, Focus Gallery installation of plates, 2013
Martina Lantin, Focus Gallery installation of plates, 2013


Born in Montreal, Canada, Martina Lantin received her Bachelor of Art from Earlham College and her Master of Fine Art from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. She has been an artist in residence at Baltimore Clayworks and Arrowmont School of Art and Craft in Gatlinburg, TN. She has taught workshops at Penland School of Crafts and Arrowmont. Currently, she is a professor at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vermont. Her work has been featured in Ceramics Monthly and shown in numerous juried and invitational exhibitions. She has also published articles in Studio Potter and Pottery Making Illustrated.


Martina Lantin at Penland.

Along with this special exhibition of works by Martina Lantin, the Penland Gallery has a sales area featuring work in all media by artists affiliated with Penland School of Crafts. Located on the Penland School campus, just off Penland Road in Mitchell County, the gallery is open 10 – 5, Tuesday through Saturday; 12 – 5 on Sunday; closed on Mondays. The gallery also offers tours of the Penland campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information call 828-765-6211 or visit