Penland, Nature, Food, and Friends
Week one of the Penland portion of my summer is drawing to a close. I’m teaching “The Power of Limits” and I am finding mine. I forget how tiring it is to teach. My students are great and each one has their own path. This session is 2 1/2 weeks long and I think that having that extra weekend in there will really help them make some breakthroughs. In a class like this I just have to see where each one wants to go and then help them map it out. My assistant is Jessica Benzaquen, and she rocks. She has most of the skills that I don’t, so together we are a good team. She’s also young and energetic and that helps a lot. At Penland there are two metal studios and Marlene True is teaching in the other studio. She’s really fun and does fabulous work.
There is more to workshops than just learning a technique. The opportunity to work in a studio with other jewelers is quite valuable. Naturally you will learn from the instructor but the interaction with artists who are more advanced will also help you. For those who are more skilled, helping less advanced students will help you hone your own skills, there’s no better way to learn something than to have to teach it. We each come to the studio with different backgrounds, different skills, and different ideas. Coming together allows us to share all of that in a way that you can only get when you are in school. Sometimes you take a class and learn something you had no idea you even wanted to learn…yesterday I taught a student how to make French knots. From the look on her face you would have thought that I had taught her to spin gold from straw. The other part of the workshop experience is just fun. Gathering around the picnic table at night to share a bottle of wine with old friends and new is one of best parts of coming to Penland. I see students who come back every year and make lasting friendships with other students. I’ve met artists in every medium from all over the world in workshops. Even if our connection is brief, it’s still meaningful.
At Penland we are encouraged to share ideas with all of the studios. I passed on a texturing technique to a friend in clay and my class got some help from the wood shop. Marlene has taught me some fun tricks and I hope to show her a few things as well. You just never know where help and inspiration might come from, next.
If you ever have the chance, you should come to Penland. Everyone is welcome here, beginners to professionals. It’s a great way to learn something new or re-energize your own studio practice. The food is great, the people are fascinating, and the landscape is beautiful. Every need is taken care of so you can focus on your studio work. Try it, you’ll like it……