A Short Story About a Knob

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A couple of weeks ago, staff member Elaine Bleakney posted this picture on our Instagram feed. It was captioned with an interchange she had with metals coordinator Ian Henderson, which mentioned the missing knob. (If you can’t read it, click on the picture to make it bigger.) Our friend Joe Lee (a.k.a. @clockfeathers on Instagram) suggested that someone could 3D print a new knob.

 

ian hendrson and daniel beck with printrbot

Joe follows Penland pretty closely, so he probably knew, from this blog or Facebook, that Ian (left) was half owner, with iron coordinator Daniel T. Beck (right), of an assemble-it-yourself 3D printer called a Printrbot.

 

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Here’s the printer, fully assembled.

 

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So Ian, who is quite the tinkerer, designed this knob in the 3D modeling software, which he had learned quite a bit about while working on this excellent project.

 

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He sent the file to the printer, and here is the ultrasonic cleaner, made whole again.

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Smash Party

 

Smash party. Definition: a gathering where breakable objects are hurled at the concrete.

Inside a certain coffee house at a certain craft school located in the (usually) tranquil Blue Ridge Mountains, a smash party occurs when a certain Crystal Thomas declares to a certain Loring Taoka: smash party. Then they wait. They wait, their caffeinated hearts pounding, until the aforementioned coffee house is clear of those with more delicate sensibilities.

At this point, a sacred box of chipped or broken mugs and glasses– set tenderly aside for the purpose of the smash party–is brought to the counter.

 

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The first rule of smash party: smash.

Second rule: enlist a certain Y-Sam Ktul to sweep up the pieces.

The third rule of smash party: destruction enables creation. Or something like that.

 

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Video: Moving Parts

In the summer of 2013, Penland School had an unusual number of workshops that involved motors, switches, gears, Arduino controllers, levers, sensors, mechanical arms, cranks, and other moving parts. Here is a sample of the results.

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Lydia and Megan

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I didn’t ask if they had coordinated their outfits. I did ask if they’d met before they came to Penland (they had, at Pilchuck).

Johnny Cash came on and we were about to be enveloped in his sound. “What are you both working on?” I asked Lydia (above, on the right).

“Oh, a piece I’m making–but I need these little pieces for it. So I asked Megan to do them. She’s really good at them.”

 

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Studio Visit: Rachel Meginnes

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In December, Rachel Meginnes’ sewing machine broke. She asked her friend, fellow resident artist Robin Johnston, if she could borrow hers. Nervous about roughing up Robin’s machine by sewing on paint (which is how Rachel broke her own machine), she stopped herself. “I thought about building up texture with more paint instead of by sewing,” she said. “I’m interested in pulling color from the cloth in ways I haven’t before.” From a busted sewing machine, Rachel’s process busted too.

Correction: processes–there are many. Rachel is a relentless pursuer of textures–”texture” having arrived to us from texere in Latin: to weave. Weaving is where Rachel started, and her creation of textures extends from a consideration of fibers, patterns, and their possibilities. How might an artist trained as a weaver accommodate painting methods and material foreign to the loom? Where would that take her? Rachel has gone far, far out with these questions–not unlike the child in the outfield who forgets, the second she looks up and sees all kinds of blue roping through the clouds, about being in a baseball game. Behold the wall of current Rachel Meginnes experiments:

 

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“If they fail, they fail,” says Rachel, about these ideas: gessoed paint build-ups, magazine transfers on cardboard, abraded surfaces, color behaving and misbehaving, thread and weave, articulate paper folds, that ominous X. Looking at each moment of texture, one begins to see the depths of Rachel’s experiments. “What happens when I can’t sand away?” she says, noting one of her techniques. Rachel’s studio time this past winter has involved voicing her  internalized methods and then veering away–toward discomfort, change, and not knowing what will happen. As a testament to her endurance in this process, check out her bowl of paint-shocked pins:

 

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Enduring a winter of self-imposed counter-intuitive experimentation might sound, well, painful. Perhaps the pain, for Rachel, is eased by an adherence to the grid–that endless, giving pattern she uses repeatedly. As I entered her studio, Rachel was applying white strokes of gesso to a fabric made from handwoven scarves that she had bought in bulk, cut up, and then re-pieced. She began to talk about the observational part of her work: watching, day to day, how paint affects not only the surface but the stretch of the fabric. I was immediately reminded of Agnes Martin: how the grid is a constant chance for alteration, for something else to happen. Rachel readily cites Martin, Robert Ryman, and Mark Bradford as influences.

The studio isn’t all action. Set away from a table populated with tubes of paint, there’s a small desk next to a well-tended bookshelf. On the desk, quiet arrangements: a draft for a dragonfly, an old issue of American Craft featuring the image of Ruth Asawa, who said once: “An artist is not special. An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special.”

 

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Photographs by Robin Dreyer and Elaine Bleakney; writing by Elaine Bleakney

Read Kathryn Gremley’s 2014 essay on Rachel Meginnes’s work from Surface Design Journal here

 

 

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Thaumatrope

This video (by studio assistant Kyle Durrie) shows a thaumatrope, which a technique presented by instructor Rory Sparks as the first project in her spring workshop combining letterpress and animation.

 

Or maybe you prefer this GIF version (by Robin Dreyer) featuring Rory herself:

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Studio Visit: Molly Kite Spadone

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Core fellow Molly Kite Spadone was in Penland’s cool lower clay studio this winter, making, among many other things, large porcelain fermentation crocks. (Part of the crock’s mold is pictured with Molly at right.) The crocks have a long, tissue-thin wall that feels impossibly solid.

Molly pulls out a bucket of slip to show us how she starts–and what her winter process has been.

We stick our fingers in the tense and smooth liquid. The chatter in my mind immediately dims. Molly explains “deflocculating” from the slip caster’s lexicon: breaking down and dispersing clumping particles.

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“Deflocculating” is the most beautiful word in the English language when you have your hand in a bucket of slip. Slip is the color of milky tea, air, maybe a gray rain cloud mixed in. I rinse my fingers off in the sink.

“You are making a membrane,” says Molly, explaining how she fills the mold with slip, hoping for a set form with no cracks.

All winter, Molly dealt with the rigors of membrane-making and the effects that duration can have in the process of slip casting. Under a light, she has spread the shards of broken membrane that she’ll reuse.

“I’ve been looking at the failures,” she says with a strange mix of affection and frustration as we tour the slip cemetery.

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How does the hairline fracture start? Molly’s at home with this question–winter has given her time for it. It’s her last winter as a core fellow at Penland, and she’s getting ready to move back to her native Maine with just enough time to unpack before she makes her way back to Penland to assist in David Eichelberger’s spring clay workshop. [Ed. note: she's back now, and David's spring workshop has begun.]

“I have such a sweet taste in my mouth for this place,” she says, looking around her as we take a last look at one of the finished crocks. No cracks.
View more of Molly’s work in clay this winter–including the crocks, featuring newsprint transfers of drawings by Molly’s friend and collaborator, Kay Kelley–on Molly’s blog.

 

Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney

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