Written by, Ennis Carter
Founder and Executive Director of Social Impact Studios
For the past three years, I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a class at Peters Valley School of Craft. It’s a weekend intensive called “Crafting Yourself…Online” and it’s all about helping artists share their experience and work with the big, bad world of the internet. Every year has been a great experience. Students have learned that digital technology is a tool just like the handheld ones mastered in their craft. And there have been a lot of “a-ha” moments about connecting to community that helped free them from the common aversion to sharing their work online.
But this year’s class was very different from the last two years. It was more pinpointed and focused on actual making with only a fraction of the time spent on theory. It was more customized so each person excelled at their own individual level. And it was surprisingly more tiring than the years when I think we covered more ground. What was different? It wasn’t the skill level or the willingness of the students. It wasn’t the tools themselves or even the way I taught them. I think the big difference this year was that I had a much deeper understanding of what “The Craft School Experience” is really all about.
For the last year and a half, I have been immersed in a national campaign to promote five craft schools from across the U.S. At Social Impact Studios, we know that the best marketing isn’t marketing at all – it’s mission-work, it’s storytelling and it comes from the true values that are at the heart of every organization and effort. So, when we lead a campaign we always start there to deeply understand what is at the core. What we often discover is that the organizations we work with need to dig deeply to uncover those core elements - especially if it’s a coalition effort – and are refreshingly reminded of the most important things that make their work meaningful. Through several in-person meetings with leaders from Arrowmont, Haystack, Penland, Peters Valley and Pilchuck, I was lucky to be part of meaningful conversation about the shared values at the heart of this unique educational experience. Values like “respect,” “growth,” “generosity,” and “process,” – among so many others – resonated with me personally and informed the creative direction for a public campaign. Through developing the campaign, visiting schools first-hand to talk with students, teachers and staff, I got to see those values in action and absorb, slowly, the unique qualities that join these schools together.
The class I teach regularly at Peters Valley is designed to be a weekend intensive survey course to help people jump into the world of online communication to share their work and connect with people who may be looking for what they do. It’s a big task because so many people who gravitate toward the world of craft are seeking something deeper, more in-touch, and less superficial than the way most of the internet is used. The approach in the past has been to expose students to a wide variety of outlets and have them dabble and test out options while learning key theory behind how these tools are best used. It’s worked to help people feel a little more comfortable and to “get started.”
But this year, I was determined to help every student MAKE something. Through “The Craft School Experience,” I’ve learned how important that aspect is to sparking interest, creativity and building skill toward mastery. This year, I wanted my students to have a deeper connection that was relevant to their story and come out on the other side with a sense of accomplishment and self-empowerment to keep at the work after the weekend ended. Yes, I did want everyone to build their websites (which they did!) and tap into social media at whatever level was comfortable for them (which they did!), but the driving force for my teaching this year was definitely more grounded in the connection those activities have to each student’s need to share their work with the world – because they had invested the time and love in making it.
It might have been easier just to teach the class the way I had in previous years. But I really couldn’t do that knowing what I know now.
The genie was out of the bottle and I had to transcend the idea that the class was an intensive opportunity to cram lots of info into the heads of people so they would logically understand how to move ahead through this medium. Sure it qualified as “immersion” – but whether it made a lasting impact, I’m not so sure. Instead, I tapped into the true spirit of The Craft School Experience – a value of direct hands-on experience that takes time, focus and tenacity to learn something new and express yourself.
It was a more exhausting weekend for sure this year. New technology of any kind is tough to teach, especially in a short period of time. But, in the end, I’m glad that I made the time for people to make something that was really meaningful to them. Next year will be even better!
From Fiber Art Now!:
Join us from the comfort of your own home this Sunday, June 12, 1pm, for another FAN Fare Webinar: an interview with Lindsay Ketterer Gates, fiber artist, instructor, and Development Director at Peters Valley School of Craft; and Stu Kestenbaum, who recently retired as the director of Haystack Mountain School of Craft. You’ll learn what all the CRAFT buzz is about.
Free - go to this link : http://bit.ly/1BQork8
By Stuart Kestenbaum
I stepped down from my position at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts at the end of May. I had been director for nearly 27 years. That’s a long time to be in one place. It’s 27 times longer than when I was in second grade and learned about the solar system and volcanoes. I could have completed college six times and included some gap years as well. In an era when more rapid job transitions are commonplace, it’s unusual to stay in one place for so long.
Why stay that long? Haystack was a perfect place to work. It’s an institution dedicated to the creative process and the central role of creativity in our lives. Nobody takes a workshop or participates in a residency because they have to. Everyone who becomes part of the intensive workshops at the school is there because they want to be. For many it’s a deep yearning. This is the time they owe to themselves. This is the workshop they’ve dreamed of taking ever since they were in college. This is the place their professor at school or teacher at an art center told them about. This is the place where daily distractions disappear and people can focus completely on their studio work. As the director, I got to witness artistic transformations that take place within a supportive community. From my first session in 1989 to the final program of 2014, Haystack provided me with an energy that propelled me through the years.
Why leave? Being surrounded by all that creative energy, I realized that I needed more time for my own creative work. I want to write more and also work collaboratively with my wife, visual artist Susan Webster, on pieces that combine text and image. While I am looking forward to those creative endeavors, I can’t leave completely. I believe wholeheartedly in the impact that institutions such as Haystack have.
That’s why I will be working as a strategist/spokesman with craftschools.us, a consortium of intensive residential craft programs—Arrowmont, Haystack, Penland, Peters Valley, and Pilchuck. Over the past few years the directors of these programs had been meeting to talk about how we could promote our schools. Last November we launched the Craft School Experience initiative to let people from outside our field and people within our fields who are unaware of our presence, know about the remarkable opportunities available through our programs.
As we met—working closely with Ennis Carter of Social Impact Studios—to articulate what distinguishes these programs, we came up with phrases that would express the essence of what we do. One phrase that resonated with all of us was Make/Time. I liked that it suggested so much about our programs. We are first and foremost places of making—using materials that honor tradition and take us beyond traditions too. We are equally about time. Time is that rare commodity we used to envision we would have more of in the future, but in fact seem to have less, except for those long stretches that we offer in our studios. When time and materials come together, a journey begins. It’s available to anyone—from makers with years of experience to those just beginning—willing to walk through our studio doors.
Erinn M. Cox, writer and creator of online blog, Louise & Maurice
Ars longa, vita brevis translates to “life is short, but art lives forever,” though its original meaning was more akin to “the life so short, the craft so long to learn.” It is here that I begin an in-depth look into the meaning of craft, creativity, and the tremendous conceptual and artistic progress possible in the transformative style of education uniquely found in five of the leading craft schools in the US, including: Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, Peters Valley School of Craft, and Pilchuck Glass School, who have recently joined together to launch a national initiative celebrating the very importance of the craft school experience.
Craft is a loaded, five-lettered word. A verb, noun, and adjective that mean much to many and is often complicated to define as it both intimates and associates with art, material, technique, the hand, and community. It is, undoubtedly, all of these things; but it is, at its crux, a rich field of objects that serve as dynamic expressions of the human experience – icons that offer unique understanding of the world that connects us more deeply with ourselves and with each other.
Read more here.
Congratulations to Wendy Maruyama for being one of 2 artists named for the San Diego Art Prize 2015! We were honored to work with Wendy through her participation in the exhibit that launched the national craft school initiative last November. As a student, teacher and artist in residence, we loved hearing about her stories about how "The Craft School Experience" made an impact on her work as an artist! Read more about the Art Prize here.
Stuart Kestenbaum, Former Director Haystack Mountain School of Craft
“Man, if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.” Louis Armstrong, speaking about jazz
This morning I was getting something to eat before boarding a flight in Detroit. Airports don’t evoke a sense of the handmade, yet there in the cooler of the franchise sandwich shop was a “chicken Caesar handcrafted wrap” for sale. I know someone made it—in fact I may have just met the maker when she handed me change after I paid for my breakfast sandwich—but it didn’t feel to me that the word craft and that chicken wrap went together. It may be we define craft by what we know it isn’t. We use craft to connote both the highest human capacity for skill and or, in crafty, some sense of cunning or deceit. We often wonder how it compares to art—the sibling that Mom always liked better—and we distance ourselves from the potholder made from a kit—like the relative we don’t want to acknowledge.
So what do we mean by craft? It’s skill. It’s tradition and innovation. It’s learning to understand and know a material—clay, fiber, glass, metal, paper, plastic, wood—and being challenged by it at the same time. It’s a verb and a noun. It’s something that intuitively speaks to humankind—in the history and skill, and in the transformation of material. We feel a connection both to our deepest roots as makers and to our potential for ingenuity too.
What’s at the heart of the programs at Arrowmont, Haystack, Penland, Peters Valley and Pilchuck? It’s the opportunity to enter into a world where the studio is central. And in this studio you will find you have as much time as you need—to make discoveries, to try out ideas, to practice techniques. You can enter into a relationship with materials—where you and your hands are having a conversation. You will also enter into relationships with your studio mates, becoming a community of makers. Whether you have experience or are starting out, the rhythm and process are the same. It’s a story that is as old as humans as makers—understanding the materials of the world, transforming them and transforming yourself along the way as well. Sometimes we can predict what will happen. Other times we are completely surprised. It is both a practice and a journey. You can call it craft.
Peters Valley promotes craft experience online
Posted: Jan 30, 2015 12:29 AM EST Updated: Jan 30, 2015 12:29 AM EST
By GREG WATRY
SANDYSTON — Listening to Bruce Dehnert, of the Peters Valley School of Craft, one can tell that his artistic pursuit is driven by passion. And after 15 years at Peters Valley, he still finds things to be in awe of.
“When I'm around the instructors here, I feel like I am back in college,” he says on an audio recording available at The Craft School Experience's website. “I feel like a neophyte.”
Dehnert, head of the school's ceramics department, is one of six artists who share their craft school experience via the website, launched to coincide with a two-year initiative meant to promote the experience and offerings from a consortium of craft schools around the nation.
“We thought that a website would be a great portal for people to go to and start thinking (about) what is the craft school experience,” said Kristin Muller, executive director of Peters Valley. “There are only a few places in our country like Peters Valley.”
Joining forces with Tennessee's Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Maine's Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, North Carolina's Penland School of Crafts and Washington's Pilchuck Glass School, Peters Valley, while maintaining its individuality, is exploring values, communities and opportunities that join it together with the other schools as a movement.
It's been a three-year journey to this point. Muller first broached the topic of forming a coalition with Penland's director. Later, she and the other craft school directors met at San Antonio's Southwest School of Art & Craft for two days of brainstorming.
Commonalities were found, including the schools' penchants for offering unique opportunities to work with new and established artists, and their immersive education models.
The group contacted Ennis Carter, the founder and director of Social Impact Studios, to help craft their message and get the initiative rolling.
“Social Impact Studios is a creative hub for promoting important social issues,” Carter said, noting that the organization specializes in outreach, marketing and movement building.
“It's not just about awareness,” Carter said. “It's about clarity and about (promoting) what's special” about each of these schools and telling their stories, she said. But “the most important stories are the stories about the artists themselves.”
The initiative was launched in November at The Sculptural Object and Functional Art expo in Chicago. Muller said more than 150 galleries from all over the world gather at the event, which provides networking opportunities for artists and galleries. At the event, The Craft School Experience highlighted seven artists from across the nation who studied and taught at two or more of the participating craft schools.
“We did a big presentation of the campaign and a panel discussion, which was met with a great deal of support,” Muller said. “It's been a really great conversation starter, and we're hoping to expose people to this way of learning and these opportunities.”
Along with artist testimonials, The Craft School Experience website offers snippets about each participating school and helpful links to get prospective students started on their artistic journey.
To check out the schools, go to: www.CraftSchools.us.
Greg Watry also can be contacted on Twitter: @GregWatryNJH or by phone: 973-383-1184.
Craft school directors celebrate launch of national initiative at Special Exhibit opening at SOFA Chicago. L to R: Kristin Muller, Peters Valley; Jim Baker, Pilchuck; Stu Kestenbaum, Haystack; Jean McLaughlin, Penland; Bill May, Arrowmont
Five of the leading craft schools in the US, including: Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, Peters Valley School of Craft, and Pilchuck Glass School have joined together to launch a national initiative at SOFA CHICAGO celebrating the importance of the craft school experience.
While maintaining the individuality and distinction of each organization, this dynamic collective is exploring the values, communities and opportunities that join them as a movement. Internationally-renowned instructors, intensive and focused studios, the time for exploration of other art forms, diverse student bodies and communities, and award-winning campuses with acclaimed exhibition spaces are just a few of their extraordinary similarities. Through their combined efforts they are working to promote and encourage education and excellence in craft by emphasizing their unique opportunities for students to be fully focused and present in a creative manner. Most importantly, though, there is an affirmation for this particular type of educational experience; which for many is thought provoking, inspiring and sometimes life-changing.
This interactive exhibit strives to capture the essence of the craft school experience by featuring the artworks of master teachers, resident artists, and students who have studied or taught at one or more of the participating schools. Surrounded by personal narratives, quotes, videos, and audio accounts, these works demonstrate the tremendous conceptual and artistic progress possible in this transformative style of education. From a variety of voices and first-hand perspectives, this unique exhibit highlights the connection between creativity and meaningful craft school experiences.
Presented artists include: Christa Assad, Raissa Bump, David Ellsworth, Arthur Gonzalez, Dante Marioni and John McQueen
Curated by Bill May, Director, Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN; Stuart Kestenbaum, Director, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME; Jean McLaughlin, Director, Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC; Kristin Muller, Director, Peters Valley School of Craft, Layton, NJ; Jim Baker, Director, Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle, WA.
Presented by Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, Peters Valley School of Craft, and Pilchuck Glass School in collaboration with Social Impact Studios
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