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Featured Auction Artist: James Henkel

James Henkel first came to Penland in 1971 with a scholarship that, he says, made him “a photography student and a proud dishwasher.” Since then he has served as studio assistant, core student, resident artist, faculty, and neighbor. At Penland he met Debra Frasier, his wife of 37 years. In 1991 they bought a small cabin near the school where they began spending summers. And their daughter, Calla, now an artist working in Berlin, was a founding member of Penland Kid’s Camp. “That one act of generosity— a Penland scholarship in 1971—has nourished me artistically for fifty years,” Jim said.

“My work begins with finding and collecting objects. These curiosities are then used to generate pictures that touch on the relationship between our ideas about beauty, function, and the meaning of objects in our lives. With the choice of an object for a photograph, I am leaning into a sense of shared familiarity with the viewer, but changing the perspective by introducing the unexpected within the frame.”

Jim is professor emeritus at University of Minnesota and a long-time Penland instructor. He now lives between Asheville and his Penland house/studio.

Learn more about Jim and his work in the short video above.

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Clarence Morgan: Outstanding Artist Educator

As part of the 2021 Penland Benefit Auction, we will honor Clarence Morgan as this year’s Penland School of Craft Outstanding Artist Educator. Clarence’s fifty-year career as an artist has encompassed drawing, painting, printmaking, writing, and curatorial projects. His many works are rigorous explorations of line, color, pattern, and form that he describes as, “situated somewhere between figuration and abstraction.”

His work has appeared in over 200 one-person and group exhibitions nationally and internationally and can be found in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art among others. He has received grants and fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Bush Foundation, Art Matters, Inc., the Minnesota State Arts Board, and a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Artist Fellowship.

Along with his extensive activity as an artist, he has been a teacher of art continuously since 1978, first at East Carolina University and then at the University of Minnesota where he chaired the art department for six years and is currently head of drawing and painting. He taught his first Penland workshop in 1989, and he has taught here a total of nine times, most recently in 2014. At Penland, he was invariably accompanied by his wife of 40 years, the artist Arlene Burke-Morgan (1950–2017), who seemed capable of making friends with everyone on campus.

“The best definition of a teacher” he said in a recent interview, “is not someone who puts information into an individual, but someone that has the capacity to draw the best out of someone. What is really good about them is already in them. A good teacher just brings that out. . . . If there’s a little spark, my job is to fan the spark, to turn it into a big flame, so they can get excited on their own.”

Please watch the video above to learn more about Clarence’s art work and teaching.

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Photo of the Week: Screenprinters

Student screenprinting in the Penland print studio

On the busy last day of Session Six, core fellow SaraBeth Post (left), instructor Asuka Ohsawa (assisting SaraBeth), student Victoria Cable (right), and their fellow workshop participants were all working like mad before their afternoon studio cleanup. We approve of running out the clock!

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Bonded by a Bronco

Students Anna Burke and Krisin Grandy with Kristin's Ford Bronco
Anna Burke (left) and Kristin Grandy (right) with Kristin’s Ford Bronco.

Kristin Grandy, who was a student in the third session clay workshop taught by Linda Christianson, is a high school ceramics teacher in Neptune Beach, Florida. In addition to the usual pottery and sculpture, she likes to familiarize her students about other careers that use clay skills. One of these is industrial modeling, including automotive clay sculpting.

Kristin is also the owner of a beautiful, blue-gray, 2020 Ford Bronco.

Anna Burke was a student in David Wolske’s third session letterpress workshop. She has a BFA in ceramics and graphic design from Alfred University in New York. Since graduating in 2017, she has worked as an automotive clay sculptor at Ford in Detroit. The two women met during the session and discovered they had this shared interest in industrial modeling. It also turned out that on Anna’s first day as an intern at Ford she was put to work shaping the full-size clay model of the exact Bronco that Kristin drives.

That should be a good story for the kids.

If you are not familiar with automotive clay sculpting, here’s a nice video introduction. They work with an oil-based plasticine and move from scale to full-size models, which are then laser scanned.

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Care Packages (with zine!)

amanda simons and lindsay jones with zine
Lindsay PB Jones and Amanda N. Simons with zine

Penland staff recently had a nice collaboration with Youth OutRight—an Asheville-based organization that supports LGBTQIA+ youth ages 11-20. The group has been having weekly video hangouts throughout the pandemic, and Penland studio operations manager Amanda N. Simons, and facilities maintenance technician Lindsay PB Jones attended one of these meetings to get to know the group a bit and find out if there were activities they were interested in that Penland could support. 

The result was packages containing colored pencils, watercolor paints, art paper, Sculpey, embroidery and cross-stitch kits, pamphlet-making kits, and mug cake ingredients. Warren Wilson College donated tea grown on their campus for inclusion. And, best of all, a zine  created by Amanda and Lindsay. The zine included tips for watercolor painting and sewing, ideas for self-care activities, and, of course, cool illustrations. 

Penland provided the materials, Penland housekeepers Derek Freeman and Susie Pendley did the assembly, and Youth OutRight delivered the packages to twenty folks in their group. A good time was had by all. 

 

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Adam’s Studio


Adam Whitney in his Penland School studio

Metalsmith Adam Whitney’s resident artist studio is a small building just behind the old dairy barn that houses five other resident studios. You can tell when he’s working by the ever-present sound of a hammer tapping on a metal sheet. “I think they put me back here so I wouldn’t drive everyone else crazy,” he laughed. 

Although Adam joined the resident artist program last fall, he is no stranger to Penland. He has taught in the metals studio several times, he’s participated in every winter residency, and he was the school’s metals studio coordinator from 2007 to 2011. 

He has experience in many kinds of metalsmithing, but his true love is raising: the craft of making hollow, three-dimensional forms from sheets of metal. His current projects are inspired by drinking vessels and the space program. He has made a series of cups that resemble a spacesuit helmet, and he is methodically developing a complex form based on the rhyton of the ancient Mediterranean. This is a horn-shaped vessel with a drinking hole at the bottom. The hole was often part of an animal head or torso fitted onto the end of the horn. Adam remembers seeing these forms in museums when he was first getting interested in metal work. “They were the metal shapes I was in awe of,” he said. 

 

Adam Whitney's raised metal forms
Adam’s current work. On the left are two prototype rhyton horns. On the top shelf are his series of space helmet cups. Below them are a clay model and several copper tests of the space suit form that will fit onto the end of the horn.

Adam’s rhyton will end with the torso of a spacesuit. While he is currently working on prototypes of the vessel and the suit in copper, the final piece will be silver. Raising the intricate form of the spacesuit is an admirable technical challenge, but that’s not the only thing that drew Adam to this image. 

“I think the spacesuit is a phenomenal piece of technology,” he said. “It’s actually a vehicle. It’s the tiniest possible vehicle for a person, and it’s used in the harshest environment. 

“Nobody really knows why the drinking horn with an animal on it exists, but it probably had to do with some kind of embodiment of the animal’s power through drinking. I wanted to put something on mine that would represent the culture I’m in now. For me, space exploration is the most fascinating thing that has happened in a long time. It’s a new frontier where we have just barely scratched the surface, and the space suit encapsulates that and puts it in human form.”

 

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Photo(s) of the Week: From Bag of Clay to Handled Tray

This Saturday, we’re thrilled to welcome Courtney Martin back to the Penland clay studio for our third Penland Everywhere live Q&A!

These live events are part of our very first online programs and go hand-in-hand with prerecorded video demonstrations featuring a handful of expert instructors sharing their techniques, tips, and tricks. If Courtney’s Q&A is anything like our first two with Cristina Córdova and David H. Clemons, it will be an hour packed with useful insights, detailed information, and a bit of that Penland camaraderie we’ve all been missing. Sign up now to join the conversation—the Q&A starts at 1 PM ET tomorrow, February 20.

Courtney’s demo takes participants through her steps for creating a handbuilt tray form, complete with her signature cut handles and decorative carving details. Here’s a look at the process in three screenshots taken directly from her hour-long lesson.

15:04—Join the two ends of the coil that will form the walls of the tray.

Potter Courtney Martin in the early stages of making a tray in the Penland clay studio

 

41:32—Mark out the handle openings on the refined tray form.

Courtney Martin marking her tray form with a needle tool

 

59:03—Give the foot of the tray some personality with decorative carving!

Courtney Martin uses a loop tool to carve a geometric pattern into the underside of her clay tray

 

Participants in Courtney’s demo will have 30 days of access to watch, rewatch, and try out her techniques. Register now to give it a try!

For a deeper dive into handbuilding with clay, sign up to join Courtney’s immersive online workshop March 11-13.