Helen Stolyarenko & Sasha Strekopytova travelled from Russia to the USA this past summer to work a two-month, 3 city internship. This is part 2 of a 3-part series about their experiences here in the USA.
Stop 2: Penland School of Crafts
Penland School of Crafts (http://www.penland.org) is an over than 80 years old center for craft education, well-known all over the USA. It’s located in the mountains of North Carolina and looks like a craft village with workshops in clay, glass, iron, metals, drawing, photography, letterpress and printmaking, textiles, and wood. When we contacted the school in spring, they were so friendly, as well as so much surprised to receive a request from as far as Russia, that kindly agreed to arrange a 2-weeks guest visit for us.
Penland is a wonderland where you immediately feel like home, no matter how long you stay there. It was our home for 2 weeks, which we’ll never forget. As well as kindness of the school’s stuff, a special thanks to Jerry Jackson (the school deputy director) and Dean Allison (the glass studio coordinator), – people who made our trip possible.
The study program is divided into student sessions (2 weeks in summer and 8 weeks in fall and spring). Each session provides its own unique program and teachers in all the workshops.
We arrived on the last day of one of the sessions, and the school gave us a chance to use a few days before the next session to work in the glass hotshop. They let us work in the studio while it was free from students. What a luck again!
Our work in the glass studio started with preparing it for the next student session – charching the furnace! An experience totally new to us, but probably the funniest we’ve ever had! Funny, because unusual (glass-blowing is probably the only glass technique in Russia which glass artists don’t execute themselves), believe us, no one from the studio staff laughed, except us, – it’s an ordinary job for them.
Then we had a chance to execute some of our designs in glass, with the help of some kind students and glass-blowers. These unforgettable 3 days in the studio gave each of us and art object to take home to Russia.
The next great experience was participating in the Annual Benefit Auction— the main school event of the year, which makes the biggest part of the school’s income. Hundreds of patrons, donors and collectors come as guests to support the school. As for us, we were part of the big team of volunteers, who organized the event. Our duty was serving the tables under the huge tent, where the auction was held. The funniest game ever! It was great to feel ourselves as a part of the hot gambling atmosphere, shared by the guests under the auction tent.
Right after the Auction, a new student session started. It was a great joy to observe it, as the study process always goes in a kind friendly atmosphere, where students and teachers feel like one family. We were happy to be a part of the glass family for a while, sharing the info and exchanging experience. We also made a demonstration on Russian glass and ceramics for all the participants of the new session.
One of the greatest opportunities that we had in Penland was visiting local artists’ studios, meeting the true professionals. Richard Ritter impressed us by the brilliance of his personal interpretation of Murano technique. His art objects are small multicolored universes you dream to get in.
We met Shane Fero in his nice sunny studio, where he showed us the process of making a lamp-worked glass bird. There we also saw his stylization of human figures, made with great skill in a unique authentic manner, which we found great!
Mark Peiser‘s studio not even impressed, it shocked us with his inventiveness in making one-of-a-kind equipment for his art objects. He told us about his endless experiments with colors for casting and mould-making and showed his unique 2-stories glass furnace with a door on the bottom (it gives an opportunity to get very-very long glass threads). The result of all these experiments— incredibly beautiful, magic art objects!
Meanwhile, it’s time to go to the next place of our investigation… Seattle, Washington.
Come back tomorrow to read Part 3 of Helen and Sasha’s adventure!