Monday, June 10, 2013

Penland... artists' community feeding the creative spirit and nourishing the soul....

Now I know there are many places to spend the summer days and nights working in a variety of materials and processes, and for the most part, these places are all indeed fine.  Craft locations where kindred spirits gather to improve their skills and bond with others in ways that are unlike any individual studios or schools.  But Penland, well, for anyone who has been there already knows, is a special place.  Nestled serenely in the North Carolina mountains with a vast array of crafts folks located in and around the region, Penland provides unimaginable creative stimuli and kinship.

It was my first time teaching there with my good friend and colleague Richard Burkett.  Together with a large group of clay students (and a great group it was!), in two weeks we made enough work to fire three salt kilns, two soda kilns, and the new large anagama/noborigama (a fine wood kiln that fired smoothly for three days into the night and morning air of the mountains).  A lot of pots, a lot of good pots, and a lot of human energy.

But what I was left with is the sense of community, something that seems to resonate on so many levels for those of us working in the craft mediums.  Surrounded by metals, wood, printmaking, bookbinding, blacksmithing, hat making, weaving, glass making and others, the community of artists seemed to feed off one another in a zen like manner that lifted the spirits and nurtured the souls.  While I figured it would be a productive and exciting two weeks, what I had not imagined was the way so many artists might come together with a common goal of creating a creative community that overlapped and blended in ways I do not see often in college and university art departments.  Maybe its because grades were not a factor, or maybe it was the interesting blend of young and old, new and experienced craftspeople all humming along with the common goal of learning from one another in such a wonderful and creative environment.  Whatever it was, it was special.

What to take away from it all is still in-process. How it affects my own studio work, or the work I do with students in a more formal, structured collegiate environment will be seen.  But it is sure to affect me and my work, and again, the sense of community, the creative spirit, and the high energy of effort, passion and togetherness will last a long time I am sure.

And the food...well, that's a whole other posting altogether...but the scales in my home tell me to 'lighten up', and not let the goal of looking like 'big Joe' take over.  But seriously, eating good, healthy food, sharing mealtime with strangers who soon became friends, is part of the Penland experience of living a life of craft and being part of the creative spirit.


firing the wood kiln

hot pots in the kiln

Big Joe

crazy clay people

Cup of the day-37...

Eric Rempe