Thursday, July 2, 2009

Penland School

Just as I wasn't sure what Raku firing involved before my trip to Wildacres, I didn't know what Penland School was all about. Everybody seemed excited to be going, so my curiosity was piqued. After our visit to Terry's studio, our field trip continued to Penland.

Properly called Penland School of Crafts, often abbreviated to Penland School, or even just "The School" by the locals, it is a national center for craft education in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It's roots go back to 1920 and Miss Lucy - Miss Lucy Morgan, that is - who came to this part of Appalachia as a teacher. Three years later, she took a short course in weaving at Berea College, then returned to begin the Penland Weavers, dedicated to providing local women with looms, raw materials, and an outlet to market their textiles to the outside world. Penland School was officially esatablished in 1929, and Miss Lucy continued to run it until she retired in 1962, adding pottery and other crafts.

The school's enrollment was decreasing steadily, but the free-spirited 60's coincided with the arrival of the new director, Bill Brown, and the school burst into new life. He added new instructors and new media, like glass and metal working, and expanded both the physical facility and the programs. Penland School now offers one, two, or eight week courses in weaving, pottery, printing/books, metals from iron to gold, glass, photography and more.

Here are some of the sights on our walking tour around Penland School:

the front
and back
of the Lilly Loom House.
The Pines, the dining hall

Of course, we were most interested in the pottery studio. Artists and crafters were rushing to finish their projects at the end of this session, so we couldn't go into the individual work areas, but we got a look around the outside.

the sign by the director's office
wood-fired kilnsPotters resting behind their building.
Note the towels hanging over the railing on the deck above.

My favorite part was the retaining wall decorated with kooky ceramic art just outside the entrance to the potters' hall.
click on any photo to enlarge

For more about Penland School, click here to see an 8 minute YouTube video.

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