Hundreds seize chance to explore artistic side at Penland open house
PENLAND – For a day, everyone was an artist.
The Penland School of Crafts annual Community Open House this past Saturday drew more than 500 adults and children from Mitchell County and beyond to the school’s clay, metals, photo, iron, print, textiles, wood, glass and other studios.
More than 100 volunteers from the community helped visitors engage in free, hands-on studio experiences such as making a clay pot on a potter’s wheel and forging steel into a hook on an anvil.
Laney Wax and Diane Dennis made their first trip to Penland from the Asheville area to attend the open house. Wax is a painter who said she heard about Penland while searching for a place to take a class. Dennis does needlework and found out about Penland from a rather unlikely source for a North Carolina resident.
“I was visiting my son in Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives,” she said. “I was talking to a knit shop owner there who said she was taking a class at Penland. After that I knew I had to make it up here.”
Will Canu was part of a group of seven people who made the trip to Penland from Boone. Canu was putting the finishing touches on his wooden letter opener under the supervision of Marta Cigalla in Penland’s wood studio.
“This is fun,” he said. “This is my first time here and I really didn’t know what to expect, but it’s more than I ever thought it would be.”
Doug Nicolas and his 8-year-old son, Theo, of Pittsboro, were among the many first-timers at the open house.
“My wife has taken classes here before and she loved it,” he said. “We came today to see what it’s all about and we are absolutely having a ball.”
The open house is part of Penland’s Community Education Program, which makes the school’s resources available to the local community. Emily Wheat began an internship at Penland in 2012 and now works as the middle school coordinator for Rural Education Partners of Mitchell County. She took a group of nearly 20 Harris and Bowman middle school students to the open house.
“It went great fro my group,” she said. “They had a really good time and seemed to like the clay studio the best – they were amazed by throwing on the wheel – that’s why I like bringing kids to the open house, it allows them to see and experience things they never have.”
The glass studio is one of the more popular at the event. Visitors to the glass studio got to make either a decorative paperweight or juice glass. Terri Sigler, glassblower at Chaotic Joy Glassworks in Asheville, was assisting in the glass studio.
“This was my first time attending the community open house,” she said. “I’ve wanted to attend for years. I never knew I could simply volunteer. Nick Fruin, Glass Studio Coordinator, accepted my offer when I volunteered to help upon hearing a friend was doing the same. I had a wonderful time.”
Sigler said the open house is an opportunity for her to give back to the Penland community.
“Penland, of course, provides classes,” she said. The part that is often overlooked, however, is Penland and its artist community is an ongoing, giving resource guiding newer artist like myself – with 10 years of glass experience – as one example.”
Visit www.penland.org or call 828-765-2359 for more information about the school and its programs.