Being a studio artist can be a lonely business. Long hours alone are punctuated occasionally by contacts with suppliers, clients, exhibitors, colleagues, but basically, time is spent with the process and materials of making. If you don’t teach at an educational institution or work in a cooperative space, the opportunity for community is not readily available. You have to look for it.
For thirty years, Haystack has been my artistic community. It is the place where I have met artists, teachers and students who have become friends and colleagues. It is the place where I can find support and challenge for my work as a student, where I can share knowledge as a teacher and where I can contribute to the future as a trustee.
Having taught at Arrowmont and Peters Valley, and visited Penland (unfortunately, I have yet to get to Pilchuck), I can see that the same sense of community exists at all of these craft schools. Facilities vary. Offerings overlap to some extent but stretch the idea of craft in different directions. Some schools have winter programs, some have summer programs, some both. One week classes, two week classes, six weeks, two year residencies. These schools are in different parts of the country, all beautiful. But what they have in common is community.
It may sound dismissive, as if we were talking about going to camp or joining a book group, but community in support of individual artists is an extraordinary thing. It can be found at craft schools where there is a self-selected group of people who start the conversation at the same point, “We’re here to learn and to stretch and to discover what we love about the process of making.” And the conversations in the studios, at meals, on walks in the woods or along the shore or down a country road, uncover much of why we are artists in the first place and encourage us to continue. Those conversations, those voices, remain when we are back in our studios making our work, inspiring us and supporting us. Definitely worth looking for and easily found at a craft school.
Visit a Craft School!