two interesting webthings

Polar vortexes mean more time on the (new!) computer than is absolutely necessary, though: I did actually kick out all the shock-delayed work commitments that had backed up during January, and even found two things I’d like to share.


The first is a lovely look at the wonderful Jim Croft – and the video is captioned! Jim’s one of my favorite people on the planet; his partner Melody seems wonderful as well.  If I ever did make a bucket list, attending one of their Old Ways sessions in Idaho would be on it.


This article from Penland’s blog seems to go hand in hand, or rather to begin to make a bridge between the old ways and the new planet. And this polar vortex session is finished; we’re above zero today. Though a long-range forecast says we’re due for another in a week or so: then, maybe, I’ll make myself get back on here and get to work on all those web site updates hanging over my head.


A Good Change


I drove all day Friday, and came home for a week to ten days; unloaded yesterday. There was a small snag in my schedule that had a domino effect, but actually I’m glad for that. I had stretched a bit too far while doing P/T the beginning of the second week at Penland, which caused an ongoing a sciatica-like muscle spasm.  At home I can easily balance the personal work I planned to use the Morgan studio for with stretching sessions, to literally work out the kink before my next class.


I had two sweet restorative days with my dear touchstone friend Mary, and her daughter Sandra who is living with Mary in Black Mountain now. Sandy’s been making a wide variety of soaps and other pure skin care products (she’s not a writer, but she sure can make soap).  Though signs are still being made, half the Black Mountain Sign Studio is now devoted to MoonAcre Soaps.  Mary and I helped Sandy prepare for the town’s annual Sourwood Festival this weekend, by wrapping and labeling about 10 soap varieties. We always, always work together whenever we are together in some way, and this was most enjoyable.  The soaps are great, (and I’ve gotta say, smell much, much better than sign enamel) and it was fascinating to watch the making.  I came home with a generous, varied supply in appreciation for the help, and am really liking them, particularly a solid lotion that melts with body heat (not on the site yet), and a body butter, which is soothing and smoothing my dry papermaker’s hands.


Heading into Friday-night Chicago was almost a shock after three weeks of serene mountain life: the bright lights! But all is well on our quiet street, and though the bursting gardens need some attention, my three-being pack is very happy to be back together for a wee while.  I did not even think of my camera at Mary’s and wish I had, her garden is lush (a record number of figs). I’m off to soak flax, soap up and then spend a quiet Sunday weeding, unpacking, walking with the pack.


Penland Farewell (Already!)


The class is over and I’m lingering in the suddenly, sadly empty studio for a wee while to write.  Penland never fails to amaze me.  I consider it to be the grandmother of these lovely rich places (each with the considerable misnomer of ‘craft school’ attached) where I have been and continue to be privileged to work.  This class was absolutely stellar and each person, I am more than happy to internally realize, got something very different but equally valuable from it, whether or not that something was expected by me or the participant. I cannot ask for anything better than that; I’m honored, and that is exactly what keeps me doing this.


Heather, who agreed to be my incomparable assistant again, did make wings.

Here are the lovely women of the group, as drawn by Emily.  Excuse the smudges; I failed to see the flashing light of my alarm clock this morning and overslept mightily (three HOURS!) so I didn’t have time to do the usual morning group goodbye, nor final documentation of everyone’s amazingly varied work at the all-campus show and tell, nor to ask if it was OK for people to be fully identified on the blog.  The smudges are where I’ve clumsily removed last names and the beginnings of the personal messages each person wrote. These two pages are definitely going on my upstairs studio wall when I get home.


Our session raised $13,000 for scholarships at last night’s auction; I was truly pleased that this book was one of the highest-ticket items (second only to an absolutely gorgeous ceramic piece).  Two smaller auction pieces brought my personal total to a nice tidy amount, and will provide opportunities for more people to benefit from this fantastic place.  Now the entire campus is getting ready for this year’s BIG auction this coming weekend, and I’m happy to have also contributed to that.


A Book of August

In addition to just the wonderful experience of being here on the mountain working hard and learning and laughing and being surrounded by a village of people doing the same in wood, clay, print, weaving, glass, neon, photography and iron, we also had an unusual treat, thanks to bad weather on the fourth of July: we got the fireworks show on August 3rd! That was sweet and exciting and oddly intimate: maybe a hundred of us as opposed to Chicago’s thousands.

Penland has also sprouted its own species of ear-fungi; I do plan to get that project’s web page up soon, hopefully even before I get home. But here’s a preview: this tree had so many ‘eyes’ that it definitely needed an ear to complement them. With a little luck, the project will continue as I travel on to my next destinations; some recent events have made me even more committed  than I already was.


This afternoon and tonight are a rest for my ears; in the morning, after breakfast, I’m off down (way down) a twisty spectacular mountain road, climbing out of the Blue Ridge and then right back up to Black Mountain, and a long-anticipated visit with my dear old friend Mary.  Wireless might be a rare commodity for the next several days, but I’ll catch up as I head north to another wonderful place: the Morgan. Right now the mountain breeze beckons, backed by the delicious smell of baking bread wafting up from the Pines. It’s time to say my own quiet goodbye to Penland, to the land itself.

Penland, first week…

a view

Ahhh…Penland Saturday. I’m sitting in a rocking chair up on the Northlight building porch, enjoying a gentle, soft, water-scented breeze, watching the interplay of rain-loaded grey and empty white clouds slowly drifting over the mountains, with an occasional brief  appearance of wan sunlight.  I’m thinking lazily about a walk later if it doesn’t rain, or maybe a nap, or, ideally, both.


The demo-heavy, fast-paced first week, with its evening slideshows, gatherings and other events, is over. I have been blessed with (another!) enthusiastically creative group of ten women, who now have the luxury of a little over 12 days to devote to developing work (with three demos by request thrown in next week: making a plaster press mold, some sewings useful for both book and sculpture, and Ideas For Using The Penland Bamboo Patch), and lots of individual consultations. Oh, and we’ll make corn husk paper, too.PPie

We finished up the week with a carpooled field trip into Spruce Pine yesterday afternoon to visit some of the local thrift stores, which ended up being hilariously funny, and included some wonderfully awful wardrobe and apartment enhancement for some folks, and a lot of trying on of (and spontaneous performing in) some, um, very unique what-were-they-thinking styled garments, not to mention the acquisition of our own studio deity (below).


There are a lot of Very Good Things happening in the studio: we are all learning and having a great deal of fun while we do it.  This is, indeed, the epitome of the only type of education I want to be involved in, forever. The hands in equal fusion with the mind, laced with laughter and free exchange.

One night, a young woman in the class wept from sheer joy; she’s found the way to make what she’s envisioned for years.  Can teaching get any better than that? I was moved, entirely.

a garden

Deadlines for you and me

I took an extra day in the studio to deliberately use up all prepared pulp, in order to force myself to focus on the writing I’m doing now, and had to clear the studio to transform it into a painting station for the next house projects.  I felt sad and a little anxious, and had to keep reminding myself that I was only clearing up for a week or so, not a semester.


Here’s what emptying the paper studio did for the bindery.

But today’s quick blog is to let you know about two important dates: February 11th is the deadline for the Penland summer class lottery, and February 15th is the deadline for Penland summer scholarships. I am so looking forward to being there this summer: just to be in the wonderful Penland environment again and in the mountains, but also because 2 1/2 weeks is just the optimum amount of time for this class. Ample time to try techniques, experiment, develop projects and collaborations!

So apply, apply, apply, please!  I’ll go do pretty much the same thing.

Harbingers, local and global

Harry Potluck and The Source O’ The Scones by Melissa Jay Craig 2005
Currant scones, Vermont cookie house dough (w/currant jam, lemon curd, butter).

I still think of this blog as a device to keep (vaguely) in touch with a few friends, so I was stunned when I looked at a new-to-me WordPress statistics feature which lists views by country. The number and range of international visits was amazing (and rather mind-boggling.) To put it accurately if less than articulately: Wow…Thank You!

While I’m processing that information, I’m absolutely pleased to share the news that the lovely ladies of Evanston Print & Paper are hosting their very first Edible Books event!  It’s an essential rite of spring for me (as evidenced at Penland last year). Definitely, I’ll be cooking some books, to eat locally and to become part of the eye-feast globally.

“that same ol’ place”

Well, here it is again: I hit sweet home Chicago, spend a few days decompressing and then I get swallowed. Currently I’m busy with more  unexpected-deadline research work, fortunately interspersed with a spate of pleasant events involving family and friends. Other than unpacking, packing and more shipping there’s been no studio, no gardening…and no time to write about Penland yet.  But wait! You can read about the class and get some insight into the whole Penland experience, written as it happened, thanks to lovely Linnie Trettin. (I wasn’t planning to use her full name, but she’s already been outed). Lots of photos, too!

These are just a few of my favourite handmade things that came home from Penland: on top, a lovely little felted lichen by Ingrid, who is from Sweden.  I had to have it!  Had to.  I wore it for the first time to a party last night, pinned to my sweater.  Above, what I’m calling my new whisky tot by Cynthia Bringle, who told me I had to pick out something I would use.  I’ve always wanted a special glass for special drams, and this is not only gorgeous, it felt just perfect in my hand, fitted beautifully.  Be sure to read about Cynthia at her site. And below, Char astounded me by giving me this incredible heavy glass bottle she’d glazed with real silver…


This excellent book is by Amanda Thatch, Penland Core student: I absolutely loved how she took the long / link stitch structure and ran with it. (More to come).

It is also where I am, in the midst of all that flat land in Dayton, Ohio…I’ll be driving through the flattest of all in a day or two on the rest of my way home.  Below is where I am not, anymore (sigh). I will miss Penland; and I will return, definitely, if they’ll have me.

This is part of what I drove through yesterday, portions of Tennessee that were flooded to make recreation lands.  An overlook shortly before the Cumberland Gap tunnel and the bland interstate highways…

I am now visiting the Bro, who wore clown makeup when I painted his portrait about 30 years ago; I didn’t wear any for my wee self-portrait (painted with my left hand) shortly afterward.  Yes, my hair looked like that; yes, Bro was wearing one of those shirts with the three-inch collars.  We have much to catch up on for the next few days. There’s SO, so much left to write about Penland, and Delaware as well, but that will happen after I get home and settled.  Or as settled as I get.  See you then.


The penultimate Penland week is over and it was good; mostly I was here in my role as advisor, and most everyone is working away on several projects.  I’m very pleased that said projects are quite wildly varied and that some also extend on out of the class.  Something that’s been brought back to my attention while I’ve been here (which is in no way exclusive to this place) is that all too often when I see books or other projects, I know exactly who the person showing them has studied with.  Sometimes it’s a signature technique or structure that’s barely been changed, if at all; other times, particularly in the academic world, it’s concept or subject matter, taken on to achieve approval and/or decent grades. That’s sad to me, especially when I am jurying a show and see such cloned works. Copying to learn can be a good thing initially, perhaps the very first time, but it is a copy, a model. I want my students, whatever the learning context may be, to learn to make their own work.

I’ve been asked if I would teach here again in the future.  Yes, I definitely would, but I would want to teach a class I designed and proposed.  I would want to cover a little less territory, and go into each area more in depth.  I have always had certain difficulties teaching courses other people have designed, no matter how much respect I have for the other teacher or how similar our outlooks might be. In this case, we did manage to touch on everything in the class description, and added a few other things besides. I have one more talk left to do on Monday: how you can do this (to some extent) at home, essentially a mini Portable Papermaking session, so I’m wrapping up with something of my own.

Friday, everyone’s needs were taken care of by mid-afternoon, and I decided to head out for a bit…then suddenly, on the spur of the moment I contacted Mary, and she was free for the evening!  I threw a change of clothes in a bag, went down to Black Mountain and we went to dinner and had a fine evening.  I was happy about that; she was busy all day Saturday (in fact, she got up and left at 6 am) and then was flying out of town till well after Penland is over for me…we’d resigned ourselves to missing each other, but didn’t have to, hooray! (Though the not very much wine we drank gave me an incredible bout of insomnia and made me too bleary for the next night’s wood studio party).

The week was not good at all for good folks in Tuscaloosa; you probably also already know what happened as a result of the tornado. Warm and wonderful Steve Miller, who (among many other great things) puts out the Book Artists and Poets podcast series, lost his beautiful house. Here’s how you can help in general, and Steve in particular…I will be doing so next week, as soon as I get to a branch of my bank (there are none in this state).

Other things out in the world: the Hand Papermaking auction, which is only on for a week, and a nice blogmention.