The Penland Experience

Its been quiet on the blog because life has been pretty full this summer. One of the most exciting things that happened is that I got the opportunity to FINALLY attend a workshop at Penland.

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If you’ve never heard of it, The Penland School of Crafts is a is a national center for craft education located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a loooooong history, and was founded in the 1920s as a way to teach local women skills which would provide a source of income that they could earn from their home. It may have started with pottery and weaving, but the school now has the resources to focus in all areas of craft, from metal working (large forges and small jewelry), to blowing glass, all aspects of fiber arts, clay, wood working, drawing and painting, book making, letter press, photography, and goodness knows what else.

What I found most special about Penland was that it wasn’t just a workshop or class, it was a full experience. The campus is tucked away in the mountains. The school directly owns some insane acreage of land, but due to the nature of artists, the influence has expanded to the entire surrounding community. The school itself offers everything from short summer workshops (1-2 weeks) for hobbyists and people who just want to learn a new skill, to intensive programs for long term students determined to be career artists, to funded residencies for artists who are solidly into a career and need resources and a community, to permanent members of the community who are renowned in their field. You never know who you’re sitting down next to in the dining hall.

The campus is beautiful of course. It is covered in hiking trails, and random works of art. Every session they open up the resident studios for walk throughs so you can see and be inspired by others. Also, most workshops have an open-door policy and you can wander through other people’s classes and ask them questions about what they’re making.

At the end of each session Penland hosts a student work auction, and the proceeds to to support next year’s work study students. (Yes, Penland is expensive. Worth it, but expensive. But they also have a super neat scholarship and work study program to help offset that cost, so don’t let the money stop you. There are options!) Anyone can donate items to the auction, and anyone can bid on and buy items. It is a really fun way to end the experience, and see what works people are most proud of, and if you feel so inclined, pick up some works of art to take home yourself! I bid on an got a lovely wood-fired bowl for myself, and this super cool box of mini-books, one by each of the students in the book making class.

 

I also donated a scarf which I made during my own class. You’ll recognize my usual reflective strips ;-). I had fun showing off that material and its effects to my class mates.

As a class, we collaborated with the letter press students and together donated a set of greeting cards, featuring a woven sample by each of us.

Our teacher, Amy Putansu, was truly fantastic. She also scheduled a field trip for us to drive over to Asheville and check out some gallery shows that might be particularly interesting to us. One was about the concept of weaving taken outside of normal materials. The other was a show devoted to the history of art and craft local to the area, and featured some of our teacher’s own work. I found it really inspiring to see kinds of art that I identify with more.

But wait, I haven’t told you what my class was about or showed you any other photos of what I was doing! It was a really busy and intense two and a half weeks, and there’s just too much for one blog post to tell. Keep an eye out for part 2 of my Penland story, coming soon!

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