Ian Henderson

Penland Core Studio

What years were you a core student?

2010 and 2011.


Who were you a core student with?

My group was myself, Daniel Beck, Amanda Thatch, Ele Annand, and Rosie Saquib. The second-years when I arrived were Jason Burnett, Mark Warren, Leah Frost, and Jessica Heikes. The people who I left behind are Jack Mauch, Seth Gould, Bob Biddlestone, and Rachel Garceau.


Are you still in touch with any of your fellow core students?

There aren't any of my fellow core students I'm not in touch with at least once every couple of weeks.


What was your best moment as a core student?

Probably both core shows. You never come up for air and there's never a time to reflect, to take stock of what you're doing. With the rapid fire classes, you don't get a chance to register how much of what you're learning might translate into objects that might be important to you or lead the way to something else. I was really proud of the way both of my core shows were real culminations and real reflections of what I'd gotten. They were also the most celebratory times; at the one in the gallery, we all huddled up in a little circle together. And it's almost embarrassing how much praise and spotlight you get at that moment, but it's pretty satisfying, too.


What was your worst?

I feel like I never really lost sight of how lucky I was, so it's hard to say... I can remember a moment in the summer when I was allergic to something in one of the studios, so I was itching so terribly (scratches his arms), and working yellowbox all the time. I remember putting away dishes and being itchy and sweaty, and freaking out, and the work study students were having breakdowns. All of the balls that you have to keep in the air as a core student were all looking so tenuous, and I didn't know if I could keep it up. That was the second session of my first summer. It wasn't a total nadir but, looking back, that feeling of discomfort, of being underslept and overworked, is representative of the underbelly of being a core student.


What is your favorite spot on campus?

At the ping pong table, in the dye shed.


What was your favorite meal at the Pines?

I looked forward to Vietnamese sandwich day more than any other.


What was your least favorite?

I'm a vegetarian, and there were some times when the tofu was cut thickly, and steamed or poached or something, and that is just not an acceptable way to prepare tofu.


Do you still have anything that you made as a core student? Or anything that you traded for?

One of my big projects last winter was making fermentation crocks, and I don't need 15 fermentation crocks for myself. So, I sold a bunch of them, but I was still stuck with some, and I traded them for all sorts of things right before I left. I have a hammer that Seth Gould made that's engraved with a little crock, with my name and the date. I got a weaving from Amanda Thatch, and a painting from Ele Annand. I traded with other core students a fair amount, and those are things that will be very precious to me.


What class you took had the most impact on you? Did you realize it at the time?

There are two classes that seem, so far, to have been the most formative. The first was with Tom Spleth - that was the magic of being at Penland for the first time, and being immersed, falling in love with the process of slip casting, and also getting to take a class with this instructor who everyone holds in high esteem, and he's kind of strange and magical in his own way. He was the first person I'd ever really seen who was a working artist, and watching how he does it, watching how he teaches, how he lives as an artist really got me thinking about this life in a different way. The class I took with David Clemons was very early, and it was my first metals class, and the only one I took that year, and looking back, that was very formative. Things that started then continued throughout the rest of my time in the program, but I didn't realize it for a while.


Is there something that you learned in the core program that you never expected to learn?

I didn't expect to be seduced by ceramics, because I grew up with it around me and I wasn't all that interested in it. My experience in the clay studio, which was a fairly large portion of my time here, was very unexpected. I have really enjoyed that part of my time here, and I think it's something that I will continue to do.


Tell us about someone you met through the core program who you'll never forget?

The first person who comes to mind is Amanda Thatch, another student in my core year. There's something about Amanda that makes me certain that in the outside world we probably would never have been friends. We're pretty different people, we had very different lives growing up, and I just know that we wouldn't have been friends at any stage until now. I consider her one of my dearest friends, and because we're not super similar, her strengths glow in neon to me, because they are so different from my strengths. I love that I get to know her and be friends with her.


What are you doing today?

[Ian is the studio assistant in Amy Tavern's spring concentration metals class.] I have family visiting today; my brother and his family are coming, so I'm actually going to take a rare day off and we're going to go hike Roan Mountain. I'm also working on a very secret gift for Richard Pleasants [Penland's Food Service Manager]. I'm making him a spatula that's inlaid with silver, and it says "The Snow Leopard," because that's our nickname for him.


Fill in the blank: If I had never been a core student I would still be watching movies alone in my basement apartment.


You can visit Ian's website at