Stuart Kestenbaum: Tinker Poet
Stuart Kestenbaum spent two weeks at Penland in July as this year’s Andrew Glasgow Writing Resident. Stuart is the author of four books of poetry and a book of essays on craft and creativity. His work has been published in a number of magazines including Tikkun and The Sun and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He sent us this account from his time at Penland. Scroll to the bottom to see a video of Stuart reading a couple of poems.
During my last week of the job I had held for 27 years, I received a call from Penland’s program director Leslie Noell asking me to be the Andrew Glasgow Visiting Writer at Penland for a two-week summer session. Sometimes before picking up a ringing phone I reflect for a moment that it could be either a wonderful opportunity or really bad news. Most times the call is far more mundane than that– a reminder of a dental appointment or a robo-call from a nonexistent bank. The call from Penland, though, was of the rare wonderful opportunity variety, particularly since the job I was leaving was as director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a program in Maine so similar in concept to Penland that we think of ourselves as sister schools. Penland inspired the founding of Haystack in 1950, and Bill Brown, who was assistant director at Haystack, became director of Penland in 1962. We’ve been sharing faculty and educational strategies for a long time
At Penland I would be able to experience the powerful creative energy of a community of makers—much like what I’d lived with at Haystack—but without any of the responsibility. Someone else would be thinking about plumbing, food, kilns, and fundraising. And, while I always loved the group energy of each session at Haystack, there was rarely time for my own work; these two weeks at Penland would give me time to focus on my writing.
- Read the rest of Stu's experience at Penland here and check out the video below!
The latest in our partnership with the blog Louise & Maurice is a conversation first with Stu Kestenbaum, former director of Haystack, and then with artist Chris Staley.
Read Kestenbaum's thoughts on craft, and then you can check out the interview with Staley atLouise & Maurice.
Part 5 | Artist Chris Staley and The Family of Things
Elizabeth Busch wrote about the Haystack version of the Craft School Experience for our friends at Fiber Art Now!
Have you heard of “The Haystack Experience?”
Well, it’s real, it’s big, and it will make you want more! Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is for everyone who is interested in expanding, discovering, experimenting, playing, working in your craft medium and meeting new friends and old in an environment too beautiful for words. You’ll just have to come and witness those distant islands appearing out of the fog, feel the magic of a workshop session, hear the giant bell that means phenomenal food again and again. I’m not saying that a session at Haystack will change your life exactly as it has changed mine, but make no mistake, it WILL change your life and you’ll want more and more of it, come back again and again to have that ‘Haystack Experience.”
Click here to read the whole article or visitElizabethbusch.com for more about this great Craft artist.
The latest in our partnership with the blog Louise & Maurice is a conversation first with Jim Baker, director of Pilchuck, and then artist Charlotte Potter.
Here's Baker's thoughts on craft, and you can read the interview with Staley atLouise & Maurice.
Part 4 | Pursuing Self & Finding the Other: The Gestures, Incarnations, and Secrets of Artist Charlotte Potter
A one artist embodiment of the Craft School Experience, Jennfier Fleming has studied at Arrrowmont, Haystack, and Penland. Here's a write-up of her work in the Pensacola News Journal.
Written by Stuart Kestenbaum
A friend recently shared an article with me by Katherine Brooks in the Huffington Post, 14 Women Artists Who've Changed the Way We Think About Design. It’s a profile of Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. The exhibit, which runs through September 30, looks at the contributions of women artists and designers to modernism. It includes women who were working in the 50s and 60s and also considers their successors in the craft and design fields working today.
As I scanned the lists of names, from that earlier generation—including Anni Albers, Karen Karnes, Toshiko Takaezu, and Lenore Tawney – to contemporary makers such as Anne Wilson and Vivian Beers, I was struck by something that so many had in common. It’s their relationship with intensive summer workshop programs.
Karen Karnes taught pottery at Haystack and Penland, as did Toshiko Takaezu. Lenore Tawney studied weaving at Penland and taught at Haystack. Anne Wilson has taught textiles at Haystack and been a visiting artist at Pilchuck. Vivian Beers was a resident artist for three years at Penland, studied and taught at Peters Valley, and, when she was a teenager, attended an intensive program at Haystack for Maine high school students.
While I know that these women have had many influences on their creative lives, I’m sure that the time at summer workshop programs played an important part. Karen Karnes first encountered salt firing when she was at Penland. I imagine Vivian Beer coming to Haystack as a teenager and seeing a world of possibility in working with materials. Each of these women got to spend time in studios away from the distractions of the everyday and focus their creative lives. They all had the uninterrupted time to work and equally important, to be in a community dedicated to craft.
The power of this combination of time, materials, and community goes beyond the impact on leading designers and makers. It influences so many who participate in our programs—amateurs and professionals of all ages and backgrounds—rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
Written by Erinn M. Cox
Jean McLaughlin is one of most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. When you hear her speak, you are immediately drawn in by her intoxicating and contemplative passion to propel not only the vision and mission of Penland School of Crafts forward but also larger conversations about art, artists, craft, and craft education. Recently, I asked her What is Craft? She replied, “It is invention – it is the intelligence of the hand and body joined with knowledge of materials and skillful use of tools to realize an idea – it is an endeavor that has intrigued humankind for centuries and challenged us to be continually learning from the past to make something for the benefit of our species.”
Read more here.
Written by Monica Moses
Craft-school training is unique because of the opportunity to be utterly absorbed in a chosen medium for days at a time. At a craft school, “there is little else for you to do besides immerse yourself in what it is you’ve gone to study,” glass artist Dante Marioni testifies on the new website. “You live and breathe what you’ve chosen to go there and do.” With that sort of laser focus, artists can make huge strides, gaining skills as well as a renewed sense of community and purpose. It’s an experience described on the site as “thought-provoking, inspiring, and sometimes life-changing.”
Read more here.
Written by Erinn M. Cox
The second edition in this series begins after a recent exchange with Bill May, Executive Director of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, when I asked for some of his thoughts about craft. I launched with the big question to see where it would land, I asked, “What is craft?” May responded with “Craft is creativity made tangible, usually something that can be seen, sometimes something that can be used – and at its best, something that reflects respect and thoughtfulness in conception and construction. When successful, craft communicates in ways that engage the viewer or user on multiple levels, leading toward a respect for materials and for the individual maker’s skill and vision; and an appreciation of the courage and effort required to create an object and a meaningful life.” Continue reading here.
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