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Natural Dyes at the Penland Gallery

installation view of "Further Evidence" at the Penland Gallery

For most of human history, the colors used in art, craft, and materials of all sorts were derived from plants, minerals, and insects. Since the industrial revolution, however, synthetic dyes and colors tailored for specific materials have been the norm. In recent years, the craft world has seen a renewed interest in natural dyes, and they are now the subject of a new exhibition at the Penland Gallery titled Further Evidence: The Art of Natural Dyes. This riot of color will be on display through July 14, with an opening reception from 4:30-6:30 PM on Saturday, June 15.

Curator Catharine Ellis explains that the recent interest in natural dyes has been inspired by the local food movement, by an interest in personal and environmental safety, and by an increased scientific and technical understanding of dye processes and materials. Ellis is a weaver and textile designer based in Waynesville, NC and is the co-author, with textile engineer Joy Boutrup, of a recent book titled The Art and Science of Natural Dyes. The Penland Gallery exhibition brings this book to life with innovative, colorful work in cloth, tapestry, and paper.

Many of the pieces incorporate various approaches to shaped-resist dying or shibori, techniques that can create patterns after the cloth has been woven or patterns that are embedded in the individual threads before they are put on the loom. Two pieces in the show include words that are part of the woven design. Other works have designs and imagery created through tapestry weaving, stenciling, stitching, or piece work.

Artwork by Ana Lisa Hedstrom
Indigo-dyed paper by Ana Lisa Hedstrom

A series of remarkable wall pieces by noted shibori artist Ana Lisa Hedstrom were made by folding paper, dying it in indigo, and then unfolding and flattening to reveal geometric patterns in blue. An installation by ink maker Tim McLaughlin display materials and tools used for ink production along with glass vials of ink and journal pages written in extraordinary script with a fountain pen. The whole exhibition is a testament to the commitment this group of artists has to understanding and creating art with the colors of nature.

Running concurrently with this exhibition is a smaller Focus Gallery show of functional pottery by former Penland resident artist Shoko Teruyama, whose work is ornately shaped and patterned in vivid colors. The Visitors Center Gallery has an ongoing display of objects that illuminate the history of Penland School, and the Lucy Morgan Gallery presents a selection of work by dozens of Penland-affiliated artists. On display outside the Penland Gallery are large steel sculptures by Daniel T. Beck and Hoss Haley. There is also an interactive, outdoor installation by Jeff Goodman titled The Kindness for Imaginary Things.

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM; it is closed on Mondays. For more information visit penland.org/gallery.

Two works from "Further Evidence"
Left: dyed and quilted piece by Kim Eichler-Messmer. Right: dyed and woven piece by Amanda Thatch.

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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.