Friday, June 29, 2012

A Penland Afternoon


VA potter Catherine White's hands on some clay


One of the great hopes and dreams I have as a member of the Penland community is to take a class at the school every summer. A summer break kind of thing. This dream doesn't lean in particular to any medium,  it's just to be there, to see how people make stuff and to get jazzed up about my own work. But that dream is being deferred for now.

But another one of the great things about being in the neighborhood of the Penland School is dropping in the clay studio to see what's going on, even if it's just for a peek or a glimpse. Of course, nothing much gets done in my studio when I visit Penland, so I try to stay clear when I have approaching deadlines, etc.  But since I am just now getting back into the clay this week,  I rationalized that it was a perfect day to nose around the studio and see what they were "building in there."

Sitting at the picnic tables out by the Coffee House, that is adjacent to the Pines Dining Hall, you can see the whole world go by. It may take a few sessions, maybe a couple of summers, but eventually everyone I know walks by. It's the center of the universe. The other day I ran into Warren Frederick and his wife, Catherine White. Catherine is leading the workshop in the upstairs clay studio. Her workshop would have been the class I would have taken this summer, no doubt.  So I was more than willing and very happy to let myself get swept away for that beautiful clear afternoon (and was glad I had flipped over and covered all the plates I threw the day before).

Walking in that studio that I have been walking into for over twenty years is always familiar and always new. The room is the same. The doorway, the floor, the windows, the view, are the same , but what is happening in the room is always unique. I was excited to get a look at everyone working, but the electricity in there was the real elixir!

Catherine showed me what she was making and with a little drool forming at the corner of my mouth I scanned the tables to see the clay and the slip on the forms that were already everywhere on that second day of class. It really is the reason I live here, so close to that school. The chance, even though it is rare given my obligations with family and work, to step in there and nose around.

I was completely excited by what I saw and then was lucky enough that Catherine took the time to show me how she makes her beautiful bisque molded dishes. I could go on about the luxury of such a situation, maybe I will tomorrow, but for now I will end this post with some pictures I snapped.  Here is Catherine cutting out a little round dish that she has previously coated in white slip and wiped through a pattern with her fingers.  Tomorrow I will post a short video of her very clever way of attaching a little foot ring to this little dish. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!