Penland 08 - Part 3

One of the pleasures of my two weeks at Penland was getting to spend a little time with my friend, Margaret, one of Penland's resident artists. Part of the fun was visiting her studio and taking a look at some of her new work. Margaret is one of ten-or-so resident artists at the school, which has a highly-competitive resident artist program, providing artists with studio space, housing, and most importantly, a community of like-minded folk, opportunities for artistic collaboration, and an intensely creative atmosphere.

I met Margaret Couch Cogswell in an artists' books class we took at BookWorks. My first introduction to her work was by way of her project for the class. The shape of a canned-ham can had caught her eye at the grocery store. She didn't want to waste the ham, so she took it to the local homeless shelter and kept the can. She painted it, attached wheels to it -- reminding me a bit of a vintage Airstream travel trailer standing on one end -- and made a book that hung inside the can. The result was both weighty and whimsical and so...., well, so Margaret.

Next, her cloth books captured my attention. It wasn't just the way that she combined colors and fabrics -- although that made me look twice; it was the elements she worked into them -- geometric and organic shapes that turned into characters, whether or not they were definable as such. These characters, which find their way into many of her mixed media pieces, seem to be related, residents of a community that exists in a parallel universe in a corner of Margaret's brain.

Then there's the eclecticism of Margaret's work. She makes crowns that no self-respecting, self-anointed, prince or princess should be without (see image above right), fanciful figures that beg to sit on your desk (see the pencil, clip, and paper creation below), cool stuff on wheels, lovely calendars, and cheerful metal and wire repositories for unique books (see one such piece from an exhibition at Penland's Gallery last year).

Visiting her studio at Penland made me salivate. It's spacious, with large double doors at one end to let in light, breezes and views (they're huge windows, really, since it's a second-story studio, and stepping out the doors would make for a long drop). Margaret's dog, Tessie, no fool she, has claimed the spot in front of the doors as her lounging area.

Margaret teaches both at BookWorks and at Cloth Fiber Workshop.

Looking in from the large double doors

An accordion book

Prints. -- These two sold while I was in the studio.

I love the pairing of these utiliarian objects with a book-page tutu.

A wall piece with layers and stitching (and great colors!)

A book with its own means of transportation -- a movable feast, so to speak.


Penland 08 - Part 2

The instructor exhibits at the Penland Gallery are always favorites of mine. You get the see the work of teachers that you're working with or with whom you've studied before, or whose work inspires you to consider learning from them in the future. Of course, I'm always drawn first to the work of the book arts instructors, and I took some photos of new work by Dan Essig and Julie Leonard.

The pieces on display were examples of their more sculptural work. As to some of Dan's pieces in particular, I can already hear some viewers asking "so, what makes this a book"? It's a topic that book artists and their audiences have been talking about for many years -- although admittedly, it's the academics who seem the most excited about the dialogue. For me, the more artists' books I experience, the less interesting the question becomes. So I guess we'll have to ask Dan.

Kelly O'Brien at Designing a Life was lucky enough to take Julie's class at Penland in the session before mine (check out some of the work she produced via the prior link). She tells me that Julie invited Dan to the class as a guest artist. Now if I'd only been able to take two classes at Penland this summer instead of one...(sigh).

Check out both Julie's and Dan's work in The Penland Book of Handmade Books.

I like the shadows that these books of Julie Leonard's cast on the walls.

Book of Nails III: Of Thunder, by Dan Essig

Horn Book: Wren, by Dan Essig


N'Kisi Bricolage, by Dan Essig

another view
In each of the three works shown here, Dan's included a perfect, tiny, coptic-bound book (or two). Here it's on the top side of the piece.

Notice the tiny "signatures" and the use of mica to hold the treasures in the compartments/windows.


Penland 08 -- Part 1

Another two terrific weeks at Penland this summer. I feel very fortunate to have this national center for art and craft virtually in my back yard. I'd been searching for training in using digital technology for surface design for a while, so when I saw this listing in Penland's catalog, I signed up in a flash. The class focused on inkjet printing on fabric, but I knew that I could adapt the techniques to paper, and I've also been interested in incorporating cloth into my book work.

Having taken a class at Penland last summer -- which, by the way, added a new dimension to the way I think about bookmaking -- I was less nervous this time about what to expect. The stars seemed to be particularly aligned: my room was in one of the more recently renovated buildings (some of the accommodations at Penland are a bit too rustic, particularly after spending a 17-hour-day working in the studio) and my dorm was across from Upper Textiles, the third-floor studio where I worked; and instead of the miserably hot mid-August weather that I'd been expecting, highs ranged from the high 70s to the low 80s, and I never used the small desktop fan that students were encouraged to bring.

Our instructor was Patricia Mink, an assistant professor in fiber at Eastern Tennessee State University, and an innovator in inkjet printing on fabric (here's an article from Fiber Arts magazine on digital quilts, which includes some of Patricia's work) . She uses her own photographs and inket printing as the base for the large-scale art quilts that she makes, working back into the fabric with sewing, embroidery, and other ways of creating layers and building texture. She's particularly interested in walls, and has been working on a series of quilts inspired by photos she's taken during her travels.

Here are a few photos to set the mood. The one to the right is of what I've come to think of as the Penland llamas, although, in fact, they don't belong to Penland, and only lodge there.

the dye shed

the printmaking wing of the new, light-filled letterpress/print studio

Upper Textiles, our third-floor studio. Lots of windows and large tables. That's my table-mate, Catherine, setting up.