Penland, Mecca of the Craft World by Emily Eve Weinstein

Full moon, Penland, Oil on canvas, 9" x 12"

Full moon, Penland, Oil on canvas, 9″ x 12″

Several friends of mine have experienced the Mecca of the Craft World, Penland, describing the classes they’ve taken there as “full emersion”. This reputation of being an intensive working experience had given me ample cause to avoid the place. Could I become any more of a workaholic within my own art? Following a friend’s insistence, I applied for a grant to attend Penland’s least craft-like class offered: InDesign and book content. I was selected for a full work-study grant.

Doing twenty hours per week of set-up in the dining room while working on assignments proved to be a challenge, but it provided me with a great excuse to do fairly superficial projects while there. Normally I work in a solitary studio, and being in a large sterile classroom at Penland, with huge computers and serious intellectuals in attendance, I’d landed myself in a very foreign world.

Up the Hill, Oil on Canvas, 9" x 12"

Up the Hill, Oil on Canvas, 9″ x 12″


Feeling overwhelmed in this unfamiliar universe, I often played hooky by going out to paint the magnificent campus of rolling hills. My instructor, Tate Shaw, was very understanding. Remarkably, between cafeteria duty and working on plein air painting, I never missed any of his book making demonstrations or Power Point presentations. Like all art related classes, it is really the fellow students that enrich and round out the experience.

Great Tree, Penland, Oil on Canvas, 9" x 12"

Great Tree, Penland, Oil on Canvas, 9″ x 12″


inDesign is a complicated, frustrating program to understand. Of my classmates, it was the eldest and the youngest that generously helped me to understand the many counterintuitive rules needed to gain this skill.  Mr. Shaw had brought a library of artist-made books to inspire us. By the end of my two-weeks at Penland I was sad to leave the rolling hills, my new friends and all the fascinating crafts I witnessed in process. This is the first year that my ongoing project, The 25-year Handmade Book series, will be created using inDesign.

Volume XIII is a figure 8 book. The cover is made from re-purposed billboard material and the figure eight on the cover is in gold gilt. Eight of the 82 images in the book are my oil paintings created during my time at Penland School of Craft. The 10,000+ words take the reader further into my two-week sojourn at this Mecca of the Craft World. Copies of The 25-year Handmade Book series are available through my studio or any of the galleries that represent my work. Here is a link to my website. 

Posted by: Trudy Thomson at 12:27 pm 0 Comments

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