This week a group of Hickory artists including myself took a field trip to Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. If you are not familiar with it, the school is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
The school has a rich history. It was founded in 1929 by Lucy Penland, the unmarried sister of a minister. Lucy learned weaving at Berea College and used her knowledge start a cottage industry called the Penland Weavers which provided both an educational and a networking source for helping the women sell what they made.
In 1928 she brought in weaving expert Edward F. Worst to visit the school and teach the weavers. Several out-of-state students joined a group of local women for a one-week class at Penland. Several years later Morgan began to add more crafts and fundraising to the schools effort in order to expand the buildings and courses they offer.
Today the mission of Penland School of Crafts is to support individual and artistic growth through craft. The school is nationally known and many different craft venues are offered. Types of crafts focused on include glass blowing and working, metal working, weaving, knitting, print making, photography, woodworking, book making, jewelry making, pottery and more. Nationally, and internationally known artists are brought in to teach these courses.
The school’s gallery gift shop contains museum quality work of incredible scope.
Pictured above is the original building where weaving was taught.
Below, left, a student works at the metal forge.
Students take only one workshop at a time so they have time to enjoy what they learn and immerse themselves in it. One week and eight week sessions are available. Course fees vary depending on the course. For example, the 2015 fall fee for a regular eight week concentration is $4,175. For an eight week in hot glass is is $5,447.
What struck me most was the age range of those I saw in the classes as we toured. It was a mixture of young, old and in between. Lots for retired folks like to take classes there as well and I met several folk who had left careers as psychologists, or nurses, etc., to throw themselves into the art world and they were loving it.
Whether you want to take a course, or just tour Penland is well worth the trip. Set in the rolling hill of the beautiful blue ridge mountains, it harkens back to an earlier time when handmade was deeply ingrained in our way of life.
Dolphin with saddle sculpture
Below, a modern metal bull sculpture