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The Community of Education

Penland instructors appear to dominate the world in Dan Bailey's panoramic group portrait.

Last week’s instructor retreat wrapped up with a show-and-tell in Northlight, as participants gathered to celebrate and share the things they had made together. Here are some pictures:

A self-portrait by potter Matt Kelleher.
Felted flowers by book conservator Mindell Dubansky.
A skull-covered wedding dress by painter Virginia Derryberry.
Handmade books and mixed-media weaving by Dan and Vicki Essig.
Mixed-media birds by environmental artist Bryant Holsenbeck.

You can see more pictures from show-and-tell, and other parts of the instructor retreat, on our Facebook page. Some of the participating artist/educators also shared stories about their experience of the week. Here are a few:

Alida Fish, photographer:

“Until about a year and a half ago, I made photographs, I worked in my studio, and I taught. Then I became an administrator, the dean of a very large college, and since then I’ve made no work. Not only have I not made any work, but I’ve had no visual ideas. When I came here, I thought, “If I can just find my way back to thinking about making art, I’m going to be the happiest person around.” And that’s what’s happened. I’ve been going to demos, I’ve made a little bit of work, I’ve been shooting a lot, and my head is full of things I want to do when I get back to my studio. For me, it’s been incredibly productive, not in terms of making objects or making prints while I’ve been here, but in terms of feeling positive about being an artist and continuing.”

Jay Burnham Kidwell, blacksmith:

“I’ve been making stuff in iron, I’ve been making stuff in glass. I’ve been eating too much good food, commingling with my brothers and sisters, and seeing a lot of friends. I’ve been doing good.”

Analise Jensen, textile artist:

“I’ve been taking in ideas and demos, and listening and talking. I came to the retreat because teaching has been a part of some very important experiences in my life and I came looking for things to feed that part of my life. When I heard this was happening, I jumped right up and said “I would love just to be a fly on the wall while those discussions are happening and see the kind of dialog that develops over the course of the week.” I was grateful to get to come and help out in the Pines and also attend the discussions and demonstrations. A hidden gift of the time when I was a core student was getting to be in class with so many different amazing teachers, and it’s been pretty great to reconnect with many, many teachers I had the opportunity to learn from before, and some new ones I had never met until this week. I’ve gotten a lot of good thoughts, ideas, and directions to take off in moving ahead from here, too.”

Holly Roberts, painter/photographer:

“I came into the workshop with some concerns about where I am in my life as an artist, and anyone who would meet me, I would just start talking at them. And everyone I met, everyone I talked to, gave me something for my concerns, my problems, starting the first morning at breakfast and continuing until nanoseconds ago. It’s just an amazing concern, and kindness, and care, and love. My closest friends don’t know what I’m going through, but everyone here does, whether they want to or not, and I’m going home with some solutions.”

Matthew Hebert, woodworker/multi-media sculptor:

“I usually do my stuff by myself, banging my head against this technology all on my own, and it was great to be able to move around and show people what I was doing. Today, I started working on electrifying the 4x4x4 project right after breakfast, and I was with it until 4, and all day, people would come in and say “What are you doing? Can I help you?” That was an incredible experience.”

Margaret Couch Cogswell, mixed-media artist:

“I’m an introvert, and I don’t spend a lot of time talking with people in depth. For me, that’s what this week has been – to suspend my work ethic, which is constant, and to talk and communicate. That’s been a huge shift, and I will take it as a reminder to slow down a little bit and talk more with other people.”

Tim Tate, glass sculptor/video artist:

“Normally, I work in glass, but this week I decided to do letterpress, silkscreening, and unexpectedly made my first ring, which was really cool. As artists we started in our craft and one of the things that kept us with that medium is the surprise of making something with our hands and the moment of “Oh my god! I can make that!” Over the years, we got so proficient at it that it became a different kind of pride and confidence, “I know I can make that.” Coming here this week, it’s been “Oh my god! I can make that!” again, in another medium, so I’ve relearned that joy of just starting in a craft and doing well.”

We’re so pleased to have gotten to spend the week around so many intensely, fascinatingly creative and talented people. Our deepest thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Windgate Charitable Foundation for their support, and to all of the artist/educators, studio assistants, volunteers, visitors, and Penland staff who made this such an extraordinary experience.