Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina is one of the country’s oldest and most respected schools of craft. Opened in 1929 by Lucy Morgan who focused her initial instruction on weaving in order to help local women build cottage industries to help support their families. As noted on Wikipedia “…The school now offers Spring, Summer, and Fall workshops in craft disciplines, including weaving and dyeing, bead work, glassblowing, pottery, paper making, metalworking, and woodworking. It also offers fine arts subjects, such as printmaking, painting, and photography. Workshops are taught by visiting American and international artists and professors.”
Having known of Penland since 1970 when I first visited while attending a nearby alternative, Quaker school (the Arthur Morgan School), we went there twice during my middle school years for folk and contra dancing. It was at Penland that I learned to clog in 1971 so I was honored and thrilled when I was asked to return this spring for a 1 and a half week long residency.
My time at Penland was like an episode of Project Runway in that I had 9 days to arrive, acquaint myself with the community, photograph something or someone that represented the gestalt of the educational center, get this work printed, prepped and pasted. It didn’t help that my first 3 days there coincided with a stomach flu presenting as explosive diarrhea, fatigue and fever. I soldiered on. Arriving late Sunday night I spent the first day on the down low meeting students and staff in various studios. I started photographing on Tuesday knowing that in order to get the work printed, prepped and pasted I’d have to get the files to a printer by the following day. After deciding upon an image to paste, I drove to a printer and hour away in Asheville. Despite having been assured by the printing company that they could complete the job by Friday I was told when I arrived that the job required too much of their black ink and they wouldn’t be able to do it.
Hearing the voice of Project Runway mentor and spirit guide Tim Gunn I had to figure out a way to make it work. I called the printing company in Tucson, AZ I’ve been using for the past 2 years and told them my situation. I was assured that if I could upload the files to them by noon their time Wednesday (the day I was calling them), they’d be able to get them back to me by Friday. I sat the office of the print company in Asheville that bailed on the job to use their wifi and uploaded the files to Reproductions, Inc. (Let me take a moment to give this company a shout out. They’re a small, non-corporate, employee-owned print shop with personable service who charge me 12 cents per square foot for large format, black and white, toner based prints as compared to 80 cents per square foot at companies like FedEx Office. I love them.)
I informed the program director of my situation. Unbeknownst to me she called Reproductions, Inc and asked them to express ship the order such that I’d receive it the following day (which i did. I point this out only to express the irony that FedEx was able to get this order across country in a day when I’ve often ordered shipments from Reproductions, Inc the next day only to have it arrive 2 days later and I’m in the same state.) Regardless, I got the work and the count down was on. Because my glue doesn’t dry properly below 50 degrees and it snowed the day I placed the order, I waited until Sunday to begin pasting knowing full well I had to represent since I was in my home state.
The site I selected for the installation was a 1950s era, cottage with asbestos shingles used to store gardening equipment. It’s called Green Acres. And why did I chose Green Acres? Because Green Acres is the place to be. Farm living is the life for me. That, and it has great visibility. The images chosen was clay pieces waiting to be fired over 8 days in a wood kiln. Thus, the title for the installation is “Clay Pieces Pretending to be Contestants on The Apprentice (i.e., pots waiting to be fired.)”
Textiles student + hardcore, ready to go the distance assistant, Krysten Watson (You rule.)
Adam + Onay adding stoking the kiln to fire the pieces pretending to be contestants on “The Apprentice.”
Much love to the good people at Penland. Thanks for the opportunity and the experience. I hope we get to do it again.
Brooklyn Street Art coverage: http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2017/04/17/chip-thomas-wraps-a-house-with-pots-in-penland-north-carolina/