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Behind Fall Photos

Eight weeks of Penland fall concentrations have come and gone. We’ve shared lots of studio photos and show-and-tell photos and photos of the goofy moments in between. But there’s a lot that’s constantly happening during concentrations that is harder to pin down—the messy, beautiful, confusing, triumphant work of learning and connecting and growing.

As we’ve heard again and again from students, time at Penland is not just about a handmade mug; it’s about the transformational power of learning to make a mug with your hands. Below, we illustrate some of the less tangible aspects of creative immersion with a photo from each of our recent concentrations.

Focus
Clay student Brian Chen adds surface decoration to a run of tumblers using a masking technique he learned from instructor Tom Jaszczak. Freedom from distractions is one thing that leads to such leaps in student work in just eight weeks.

adding surface decoration to a run of bisqued pots

Teamwork
Studio assistant Eric Meeker uses a drop or two of water to break his piece from the punty while core fellow Joshua Fredock stands ready to grab it. The nature of glassblowing is a team effort, but students in all studios benefit from the feedback, energy, and expertise of their peers.

working with a partner to remove a glass disc from the punty

Process
Textiles student Emily Parkinson builds up pattern on a length of printed yardage through the careful spacing and layering of screens. The sketches, calculations, and in-betweens aren’t always readily apparent in a finished piece, but that step-by-step process is integral to the outcome.

pulling a screen in the textiles studio

Repetition
Henry Rogers heats a length of steel in the iron studio. Over the course of eight weeks, students move between the forge and the anvil and back again hundreds of times. Each heat builds intuition and muscle memory, and every swing of the hammer builds accuracy and control and confidence. It’s the hours of practice that transform a beginner into an experienced maker.

heating at the forge in the iron studio

Inspiration
Hannah Roman works on a painting in her Color & Abstraction workshop surrounded by sketches, previous work, and a giant collaborative still life for reference. Ideas can crop up in the most unexpected places, be it something a fellow student is trying, a process in another studio, the landscape of the Penland campus outside, or maybe just the shadow your water bottle casts across your desk.

concentrating on a painting at the easel

Growth
First-time woodworker Ann Ritter glues tenons into the aprons of her table with instructor Wyatt Severs. Even students who have never touched wood or metal or clay can become proficient over eight weeks of immersive studio time, and this growth sometimes opens up entire new futures and dreams.

working together to glue up tenon joints in the wood studio

Attention
Core fellow Stormie Burns pulls a run of prints on the Vandercook press. Like a lot of making, it’s a repetitive process that benefits from quiet attention and an ability to be present in the moment. There’s a joy that comes from being immersed in the details.

pulling prints on the vandercook press

And a few things not pictured above:
The Penland friendships each student will carry with them. The newfound confidence and sense of belonging. The deeper appreciation for hands and material and time. The ideas that started here as mere sparks and are now burning brightly across the web of our community.

To all our fall concentration students and instructors, thank you for reminding us about the importance and beauty of what we do here. And to all those who would like to be students, we hope you will be! Registration is currently open for Spring 2019 concentrations and 1-week workshops.

 

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Photo of the Week: They Made These Jeans!

Ana Toth's textiles students pose in their new, handmade jeans

Round of applause for Anna Toth’s textiles students—they’re posing in the custom jeans they made this session! Each pair is the result of extensive measuring, calculating, fitting, adjusting, and readjusting to get the shape just right for each student’s own body and style. These folks had the best looking denim at show and tell, hands down.

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Thread, Color, Attention

Two embroidered tapestries by Ruth Miller. Left: “The Evocation and Capture of Aphrodite,” 36 x 30 inches. Right: “Blue Peace,” 38 x 25 inches. The piece on the left was on display this spring at the Penland Gallery.

This spring, visitors to the Penland Gallery got the chance to see a piece by Ruth Miller as part of the exhibition I dwell in Possibility. The work’s vivid colors and rich texture were the first things that drew the eye upon stepping through the doorway, and many visitors were overheard exclaiming something along the lines of, “I need to get a closer look at that painting!” It wasn’t until they were within a few feet that they realized the work they were admiring was embroidery.

Through a lifetime of needlework, careful observation, and inquisitive self-reflection, Ruth Miller has mastered the art of embroidery as portraiture. She works large and with impressive realism, combining the precision and color sense of a pointillist painter with the narrative skill of a novelist. Her work, above all, is thoughtful and thought provoking, and it’s been a thrill to gain a deeper sense of her process this session as she’s been teaching in our textiles studio.

Ruth (in the red shirt) talking through her process during a demonstration in Upper Textiles.

In her workshop Embroidered Portraiture, Ruth and her students are approaching needle, fabric, and yarn as tools to transmit what they see, not merely what they think they see. In the process, Ruth has presented them with a crash course in observational drawing, color theory, stitching patterns, and more. To see the tables strewn with reference photos and pencil sketches and yarn samples doesn’t fully illustrate the time and care that go into these works—a full portrait generally takes Ruth about a year to complete!—but it does help to deepen our appreciation for the craft and mastery behind each one.

Stitching samples, color theory explanations, and colored pencil drawings from Ruth's Penland workshop

If you’re intrigued, we’d highly recommend taking a few minutes to read Ruth’s own description of her process and motivations on her website.

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Photo of the Week: Eight Shots of Spring

Penland runs well over 100 workshops every year, and this fast pace means it can be hard to fully appreciate the creative leaps and transformations that happen—quietly but powerfully—in each one. Before we move on to the exciting flurry of summer workshops starting this Sunday, we want to spend another moment or two taking in all the great things that came to life during our spring sessions, from new shoes to new furniture designs to new friendships. Below, we present a mini slideshow of eight photos, one from each of our eight-week concentrations and an extra one of the sweet moments in between. For more spring photos, including shots from our spring one-week workshops, head over here to view our longer album.

"Experimental Editions" with Marianne Dages
"Meta-Furniture" with Tom Shields
"Persuading Metal" with Adam Whitney
"The Perfect Union: Paint, Collage & Transfer" with Holly Roberts
"Wheelthrowing and Handbuilding Techniques" with Sunshine Cobb
"Sculpture with Fierce Intention" with Christina Shmigel
"From Shoes to Boots: Footwear 101" with Amara Hark-Weber
...and a moment of friends and spring green outside The Pines

 

Registration just opened for our next round of fall and spring workshops—take a look at all the great instructors we have lined up! There are also spaces open in many of our summer workshops starting as soon as May 27th.

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Kalamkari

Kalamkari cloth by Lavanya Mani
Lavanya Mani, “The Emperor’s New Machine,” natural dye on cotton fabric, 6 x 9 feet

Some things just never get old, like the power of a good story or the draw of color and pattern. This helps to explain the enduring appeal of kalamkari, an intricate process of decorating and dying cloth that has been practiced in India and Iran for over 2,000 years.

This summer, we are thrilled to bring kalamkari to the Penland studios in a session 1 textiles workshop taught by Indian artist Lavanya Mani. What’s most exciting, perhaps, is the wide-ranging appeal of a process that seems quite specific at the outset. For weavers and natural dyers, there will be deep exploration of mordants, tannins, and natural dyes like madder and indigo and new insights into how to layer and combine them to create a vivid and expansive palette. For painters and storytellers, there will be the opportunity to use cloth as canvas and bring narrative to life through brush, block, and color. And for process nerds and material enthusiasts, there will certainly be new techniques to master and refine as Lavanya reveals the important sequence of steps used to build up a kalamkari cloth.

If kalamkari doesn’t sound familiar, then perhaps chintz does. The refined floral prints of chintz fabric that rose to such popularity in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries started as kalamkari imported from India. But the process itself can be used to achieve a much wider array of results. Take Lavanya’s own work as an example: her pieces are much closer to paintings, saturated with color and thoughtful details rendered in an expressive hand. Many draw on themes from literature or Indian history to build insightful narratives that speak to power dynamics, the experience of womanhood, and more.

Kalamkari piece by Lavanya Mani
Lavanya Mani, “Signs Taken for Wonders,” natural dye and appliqué on cotton fabric, 9 x 11 feet

In her piece “The Emperor’s New Machine,” Lavanya sets up a Vaudeville-esque theater of saturated curtains and trimmings and places the sewing machine at center stage. The work includes entertaining circus-like details, but it also speaks to India’s independence movement and the role the sewing machine played in enabling India’s people to produce their own garments without relying on British imports. Another piece, “Signs Taken for Wonders,” mixes colonial and Indian imagery amid the lush flora and fauna of the Indian landscape.

For artists who would like to tell their own stories in color and pattern on cloth, we invite you to join Lavanya in the studios May 27-June 8 for two weeks of intensive kalamkari exploration. Students can expect to make samples, create an extensive dye card, and produce kalamkari pieces of their own. They will leave with a complete toolbox of steps and techniques to continue their kalamkari practice at home.

See below for the complete course description for Lavanya’s Kalamkari workshop. Other open workshops during session 1 include:

  • WoodTable Talk with Jason Schneider
  • PrintSymmetry-Fold Intaglio & Kite Making with Koichi Yamamoto
  • LetterpressFreedom of the Press with David Wolfe
  • Hot GlassEssential Shape with David Naito

REGISTER HERE

kalamkari design of a cardamom pod
Lavanya Mani, “Cardamom,” natural dye on cotton fabric, 18 x 20 inches

Kalamkari

Lavanya Mani, May 27-June 8
This workshop will explore kalamkari, a traditional Indian drawing, printing, and dyeing process once known famously as chintz. Through lecture-demonstrations and hands-on application, students will learn how kalamkari was made historically, how it is practiced today in various parts of India, and how it can be adapted for the contemporary studio. We’ll create strong, vivid colors using classic dye. We’ll cover fabric selection and the procedures and techniques for preparing fabric so it is receptive to the dye, including scouring, and pre-treatment with tannins and mordants. All levels. Code 01TA

Studio artist; exhibitions: solo at Chemould Prescott Road (Mumbai), Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India), Galerie Pagoda (Paris), Pearl Lam Gallery (Shanghai).

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Now on View in the Penland Gallery

Tom Shields, “Mediation,” cast iron, 60 x 18 x 39 inches (photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center)

The year’s first exhibition at the Penland Gallery is a collection of work by artists who, in the words of gallery director Kathryn Gremley, “have erased dividing lines or untethered themselves from material and creative constraints.” Titled I dwell in Possibility after a poem by Emily Dickinson, the exhibition includes work in ceramic, glass, metal, painting, photography, printmaking, and wood with considerable mixing of media. The fifteen artists represented will be teaching workshops at Penland in 2018. The show runs through May 13.

Ruther Miller, “The Evocation and Capture of Aphrodite,” hand-embroidered wool on fabric, 36 x 30 inches

Walking into the exhibition, visitors will be greeted by a three-foot tall, precisely rendered image of a young woman—leaves and geometric shapes float by her in the foreground. The piece can easily be mistaken for a painting, but closer inspection reveals that it is made entirely from embroidery thread. The artist, Ruth Miller, spends about a year stitching one of these pieces.

Photographer Dan Estabrook is represented by a series of tintypes, which are images created on a metal plate. Although tintypes have traditionally been treated simply as a type of photograph, this artist has chosen to also approach them as metal objects. Using a jeweler’s saw, he carefully cuts up different tintypes and recombines them to create metal collages.

A cast-iron teapot by Frankie Flood, who is a faculty member at Appalachian State University, has a surface texture that looks like the inner surface of tree bark, while the surface of a wooden platter by Matthew Hebert has been carved into a 3D image of a manhole cover. And an animated video by Noah Saterstrom is accompanied by several of the paintings he used to create it. These are just some of the wonders and possibilities presented in this exhibition.

Also on view in the Focus Gallery is an exhibition titled GATHER | Eat, Drink, Enjoy, which showcases elegant, functional glassware by Courtney Dodd and Nickolaus Fruin. Together, the artists have formed “Shaker + Salt,” a line of exquisitely-executed plates, bowls, cups, and more that are meant to be shared, enjoyed, and laughed over at the table. The exhibition highlights these pieces as they might be used at a dinner party, complete with a fully set table and cocktail recipes to go with each set of glasses. Admire the entire arrangement, and then lean in close to catch the special details that set each piece apart.

Place setting from “GATHER” by Shaker + Salt

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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.