I can still remember the first time I heard about Penland. I was in undergrad at Old Dominion University and my printmaking professor said he received a grant to take a letterpress printing class at Penland. He raved about his experience creating a lasting impression. Seven years later I received a brochure for the summer classes at Penland and saw they were offering a papermaking class. I was in the beginning phases of adding papermaking to the curriculum and building a papermaking studio at Wells Book Arts Center. This class was perfect for me to refresh my papermaking skills. I was honored to receive a full Windgate Scholarship with a work-study position in order to take Cynthia Thompson’s Within the Sheets: Contemporary Watermark Class.
For those of you who have never heard of Penland School of Crafts it is located 30 minutes outside of Asheville, North Carolina in the middle of breathtaking mountain views. It was founded in 1920 and has a variety of studios including: clay, printmaking, bookbinding, weaving, metals, wood, glass, papermaking, jewelry, iron, and drawing.
These two weeks were unlike any other I have ever experienced. It was extremely inspiring and motivating. I felt like a kid again at summer camp with no responsibilities except to make art and wash dishes. The bells would ring and I knew it was time to eat. Because I was a work-study student I had to clean dishes after meals but had two days off a week. The second best part besides making art was working with thirty-five other work-study students from every other discipline. Things that happened with the work study students: we created bonds like no other, we learned about the different studios, we appreciated nature, we saw what each other was making, we were inspired by each other, we had bonfires, and we drank wine till wee hours chatting about art and life.
I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am honored to be able to pass on the papermaking knowledge I learned to my students at Wells College. Thanks to the Edward Foundation for the grant to be able to build a papermaking studio at Wells College. After returning from Penland I have been busy building and constructing the future Wells Paper House. A future blog will be posted about that process.
Taking this class has given me a new perspective about handmade paper. I was able to complete all the pages of a book. Now all I need to do is letterpress print the text. I was also able to create a prototype edition of handmade paper that will be a portfolio accompanied with the current book I am working on called “Mementos From The Road.” There are a variety of techniques to create a visually interesting and beautiful piece of work within the sheet of handmade paper. I am now able to look at handmade paper as an art form and not just a medium.