belated reflections on spring concentration at Penland School of Crafts

I returned to Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina for a second time this year -- I attended Spring Concentration in order to learn metalsmithing (to read about my time there during the Winter Studio Residency in January of this year, see the earlier post below). I’m increasingly drawn to metal as a material, and as a way of potentially expanding the way I can work with photographic imagery in a three dimensional space, creating structures for experiencing images on a small scale, giving them presence and content that goes beyond their overt content. But first I need to learn a lot more about how to work with metal.  And so I spent two months doing exactly that.

I learned a lot in a hurry – boxes! hinges! more hinges! enameling! chain making! soldering! - and that rapid absorption of new skills and techniques is one of the things that Concentration makes possible in ways that few other situations do. I made things out of metal all day, every day, for eight weeks. Of course, I should have taken days off, should have taken breaks… but I didn’t… and didn’t want to, either (which, I’m sure, accounts for the overwhelming exhaustion that hit me after leaving, the very same exhaustion that's responsible for my taking this long to share images from the experience). There’s something about being immersed in a community of artists that is too wonderful to step away from, after all… especially when you know the situation is temporary, and that you need to make the most of it while it lasts. 

Here are a few examples of things I made:

"I Am Larger Than Resemblance / I Am Louder Than Your Echo"
wood, milk paint, watch crystals, antique tintypes, brass, text

Copper boxes with patina. The lids have antique anatomical diagrams on enamel.


Box making is challenging. Box making is fun. I love the way the enamel provided a way of adding imagery into my metal work. I ultimately want to use my own photographs... but I enjoyed using the vintage diagrams too. 

My very first hinges!
I love the way the shape of them echoes the shape of the piece itself. 

"I Will Know Where Home Is When I Get There" I find myself continuing to create house forms... I think this is a sign that constantly moving is growing old, that I need to be able to unpack and live somewhere again. 

"I Will Know Where Home Is When I Get There"
I find myself continuing to create house forms... I think this is a sign that constantly moving is growing old, that I need to be able to unpack and live somewhere again. 

A piece hinged piece, somewhere between a book and a box, about the idea of finding a sense of home internally, rather than in the external world.
(exterior view)

die-formed copper, enamel, silver (interior view)


die-formed copper, enamel, silver

(interior view)

I made more than this, of course, and I'm still finishing up pieces I didn't have time to complete while there. But I'm happy with how much I did and learned, and I feel like I can now see ways of combining metals and photography, ways of making my photographs into objects that extend what they can communicate as  images. That's where I'm trying to go with this, after all. There's more to learn, but I can see the way forward now and feel like I've got the skills to begin... and that's valuable... 

...As was spending two months looking out at the Penland landscape each day, watching winter change to spring, watching the fields and hills become a little greener each day. It was pretty magical, actually: spring and art and Penland, all together. If you have the time, you should go there. Stare out at those hills each day, while making things you've always wanted to make... things you didn't think you could make, but find, while there, that you actually can.