John Hodgman’s column in the Sunday New York Times is accompanied by a portrait of him done by former Penland core fellow Kreh Mellick. Too danged cool!
Penland instructor Michael Bondi was featured in the Wall Street Journal on March 28 in a nice article by Sarah Tilton. The article begins with this:
Michael Bondi didn’t set out to be a blacksmith. After starting a doctoral program in biology, the Washington, D.C., native took a year off to travel that led to an introduction to a blacksmith in Italy. Mr. Bondi then spent six months studying the craft, took a job with another blacksmith in Los Angeles and, eventually, launched his own studio in 1977 in Berkeley, Calif., with his brother, who also took up the waning art form.
More than three decades later, Mr. Bondi, 62, says he has never been without work. He is known for architectural blacksmithing using combinations of wrought iron, steel, bronze, copper, nickel alloys and aluminum. While most metalworking is now mass-produced using molds in factories, Mr. Bondi continues the tradition of working freehand, using the same tools that blacksmiths have relied on for hundreds of years. “I’m working directly on the metal,” he explains. “I’m not melting it into a liquid and pouring it into a mold.”
The story is accompanied by a beautiful slideshow of Michael in his studio (if you like tools, you’ll want to look at these pictures). You can read the rest of the story and see the photographs here.
Our first one-week class at Penland this spring was a special treat, added to the schedule only a few months ago: Slow and Savor, a workshop on mindfulness and service in the craft arts led by beloved Penland neighbor and many-time clay teacher Paulus Berensohn and meditation teacher and former core student Caverly Morgan.
The class practiced daily meditation and mindful-attention to their actions from the walk to lunch to the studio bench, created handmade journals, made bowls for the Empty Bowls Project, wrote love letters to their future selves, and became more deeply acquainted with clay – its story, properties, and behavior.
The workshop reunited Paulus with one of his first students, Jeff Carter. Jeff took a class with Paulus at Swarthmore College (Paulus’ first, he says) many years ago. He came down to Penland in summer 1966 with Toshiko Takaezu and Byron Temple, staying on at the invitation of Bill and Jane Brown to manage the clay studio, in effect becoming one of the school’s first studio coordinators. He’s since had a long career as a physical therapist in Charlotte and Boone, and recently retired to Deep Gap, North Carolina.
Last Friday in the Pines, Penland’s own supply store clerk Stephanie Ott hosted an Open Mic event organized by Community Collaborations Manager Stacey Lane and spoken-word artist Pierce Freelon (you’ve met Pierce on our blog before) to celebrate the success of Pierce’s week-long artist residency in a local high school. Pierce and his students performed spoken-word pieces individually, and shared a collaborative work as a group. Penland staff members, neighbors, and students rounded out the evening’s lineup, filling a few fabulous hours with wonderful exhibitions of local talent, live-cast worldwide by IT guru Mark Boyd. Thanks to Mark for the video.
Flameworker Janis Miltenberger making a vessel on the mighty glass lathe. Janis was part of a group of flameworkers who rented the Penland studio for the last week of February. The group also included fellow Penland instructors Sally Prasch, Elizabeth Mears, and Joe Peters. They had a heckuva good time together.
“For the work, now, what’ll you go?” Anyone who has attended an end-of-session scholarship auction at Penland has heard this phrase as auctioneer David Little called for an opening bid on a glass vase or a handwoven scarf. It is with great sadness that we report that David died of a heart attack on Thursday, February 21.
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to an auction before?” he’d say before he started. “OK, now raise your hand if you’ve never been to an auction before. Good. Now everyone here has demonstrated the only skill needed to participate in this auction.”
David’s involvement with Penland began years ago as an assistant to the auctioneer at Penland’s annual benefit auctions. He continued to help with the benefit auction right up to this past summer, and sometime in the mid-1990s, he started volunteering for the scholarship auctions at the end of each session. Since then, David rarely missed an auction, even though we have nine of them each year and he had to drive 2-1/2 hours each way to be here.
He usually passed the microphone back and forth with potter Cynthia Bringle, selling thousands of pots, goblets, vases, weavings, prints, paintings, jewelry, furniture, sculpture of all kinds, and items that were more-or-less indescribable. Along the way, he also cheerfully auctioned off a haircut, a farewell kiss, a date with a core student, a platter of cookies, a pair of galoshes, and many bags of bacon from the Penland kitchen.
David was an excellent and, one might say, classically trained auctioneer–something many Penland students had never experienced before. And while he sometimes struggled to read oddly pronounced names hastily scribbled onto pieces of paper, he never lost track of the bid. His patter, his pacing, his great sense of humor, his playful interaction with the audience, and his unflagging energy have made our auctions a high point of every session.
David lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked as a chemist at Meridian Labs. He played a lot of golf, was active in his church, and put great energy into parenting his 17-year-0ld daughter Annika, who, at his funeral, described him as, “the best dad in the world.” His years of auctioneering at Penland helped raise more than a million dollars for needy scholarship students. He was simply part of the family, and he will be greatly missed.
Winter is a relatively quiet time at Penland, but the work of art goes on in our studios all through the months between fall and spring classes. The flame of creativity is kept burning in the cold days by a small community of winter renters, print and letterpress residents, studio coordinators, and of course Penland’s core fellowship students.
Two ambitious projects, each engaging the time and talents of multiple core fellows across multiple studios, had their results publicly debuted at Winter Works, an end-of-season exhibition in Northlight hall on Wednesday evening, February 20th – an outdoor multi-media umbrella installation and a dining table commissioned for the future core house.
January Swim: With assistance from Molly Spadone, Jack Mauch, and Bob Biddlestone, and advice from the Penland community at large, core fellow Rachel Garceau spent the last few weeks in the clay, iron, and wood studios, creating a series of slip-cast porcelain and forged steel umbrellas, which she hung on the Northlight porch and used as a complex surface on which to project video.
Core House Dining Table: Liz Koerner and Jack Mauch spent the winter executing a commission from the school - a dining room table for the future core house. Beautifully made in wood, it also has a hidden signature; under the lip, Jack inlaid notes on the table’s construction in silver wire.
The event was well attended, and also served as a sort of farewell party for the four core fellows leaving Penland this week: Bob Biddlestone, Rachel Garceau, Seth Gould, and Jack Mauch. We’ll miss them dearly, but given what they’ve shown us, we’re not the least bit worried about them.
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