The Etsy Blog

Summer School: It’s Not Too Late handmade and vintage goods

Summer is the perfect time to craft. If June passed by without you making a single stitch, and you’ve spent July sequestered in front of your A/C, too lonely to be productive, don’t lose hope. You can still take advantage of the celebrated summer offerings at three internationally renowned craft schools.

These schools offer a chance to reassess your work, delve deeper, try out new techniques, and craft within supportive communities located on gorgeous rural properties.

The northernmost and most remote school, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts is housed on forty stunning, wooded acres in the small island community of Deer Isle, Maine (about two hours from Bangor). Built on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Haystack boasts a campus designed in 1960 by noted architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and included in the National Register of Historic Places.


The Haystack main deck; photo by Charlie Gailis

The school offers intensive classes in a wide range of craft media including clay, glass, metals, paper, blacksmithing, textiles, and woodworking, among others, inside professionally-equipped, cedar-shingled studios. Programs range from short workshops to two-week sessions, and are open to anyone, from beginners to advanced professionals.

In the evenings Haystack students can choose to work in the studios or attend presentations by faculty and visiting artists. The Visiting Artist Program has brought incredible talent to the school, including former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser and Obie Award-winning performance artist Dan Hurlin. Visiting Artists for 2010 include Neil Gershenfeld, Director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT, Dr. Michael White, clarinetist and historian, and writer Bill Harris.

Farther south, in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the seventy-five year old Penland School of Crafts promotes what its founder Lucy Morgan summarized as “the joy of creative occupation and a certain togetherness-working with one another in creating the good and the beautiful.” Penland’s curriculum includes almost a hundred one, two, and eight-week workshops in books & paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles, and wood, with periodic special workshops in subjects such as kiln and furnace building. Students at Penland take only one class at a time so that they can absorb an abundance amount of material and form close relationships with other students in a short timeframe.


Penland instructor Karen Wales (left) and her students unmolding a rowboat during a class in wooden boat building. Photo by Robin Dreyer

Seller kelSAY, who did a two-week textiles workshop at Penland in 2008, says, “One thing I found interesting was the instant feeling of community you get not only being on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by so many other artists who are all there because they want to be and are eager to learn and share.”

Penland also hosts a truly unique movement program. Based on the belief that ease of movement is an aid to the creative process, free movement classes in the mornings and afternoons diminish tension, allowing physical freedom and flexibility. 

Southwest of Penland, in the heart of East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts offers workshops in ceramics, fiber, metals/jewelry, glass, painting, drawing, photography, mixed media, book and paper arts, and woodworking. Lasting a weekend or one or two weeks, Arrowmont’s workshops are small, open to anyone over eighteen, and mostly mixed-level. Mixed-level classes foster a sense of collaboration, with advanced students assisting beginners. Those studying at Arrowmont also have access to the school’s artists-in-residence, who are provided studios at the school for eleven months, during which time they develop a new body of work and exhibit their work in Arrowmont’s main gallery.


Ceramics at Arrowmont; photo by Jill Greene

While Arrowmont’s professionally equipped studios are state-of-the-art, the campus exudes the kind of rustic charm that one would expect to find in a southern mountain town. Housing options range from a renovated barn, to an old-fashioned cottage, to a modern lodge with amenities like cable television and private rooms.

All three schools give scholarships, work-study positions, and studio assistantships to defray tuition costs. Residents of certain counties in North Carolina who take unfilled spaces in Penland summer classes two weeks before the first day of the class will receive half-price tuition. This standby discount is also available to all K-12 teachers, regardless of where they live. Arrowmont offers similar discounts to local residents and K-12 teachers.

Are you taking any classes this summer? Share in the comments below!

How-Tuesday Projects | Craft Night | Supplies Category

  • junkyardglitter

    junkyardglitter says:

    I would love to be in Maine right now! Great article!

    4 years ago

  • poplovedesigns

    poplovedesigns says:

    What an incredible way to spend the summer, learning how to throw pottery or make a canoe, I think it's time I looked up a few classes myself! <3 Andrea

    4 years ago

  • 2TrickPony

    2TrickPony says:

    On the west coast in my neighborhood, we have the awesome and wonderful Mendocino art center. It is a fine place too!

    4 years ago

  • AntoinettesWhims

    AntoinettesWhims says:

    I so want to be there!

    4 years ago

  • VeronicaRStudio

    VeronicaRStudio says:

    I would love to go to summer classes! I do have a local university with a great workshop where I take my jewelry making classes. Taking a class is great and the group spirit makes it all worthwile!

    4 years ago

  • StudioZen

    StudioZen says:

    This sounds awesome. Geeze, I wish Washington state wasn't so far from Maine!

    4 years ago

  • econica

    econica says:

    this is very cool!

    4 years ago

  • kissadesign

    kissadesign says:

    This article does tempt me to go back to school... neat!

    4 years ago

  • Ayca

    Ayca says:

    Great article!

    4 years ago

  • NoMoreTwistHandmade

    NoMoreTwistHandmade says:

    Thanks for the info! I have just started hearing about these and want to plan to attend one next summer. This time around my summer school is the school of moi! I am using this slow period (sales-wise) to work on skills that need improving and teach myself some techniques that I want to incorporate into my craft!

    4 years ago

  • jcisco112

    jcisco112 says:

    This sounds great! I would love to take a pottery class!

    4 years ago

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    SimpleJoysPaperie says:

    Being in Tennessee, I've entertained the notion of taking classes at Arrowmont. Maybe I'll take the plunge sometime soon!

    4 years ago

  • tigersanddragons

    tigersanddragons says:

    I've heard great things of Penland and Arrowmount, but Haystack is new to me. In Canada there are some great summer classes at Red Deer College.

    4 years ago

  • honeyblossomstudio

    honeyblossomstudio says:

    Oh, wow...I want to enroll in some of these classes right now! I wished I didn't have so many responsibilities here. :(

    4 years ago

  • elizabethwrenvintage

    elizabethwrenvintage says:

    Wow- awesome!

    4 years ago

  • needleyou

    needleyou says:

    Ahhh. This would be break away & take a class at either.

    4 years ago

  • KristyLynnJewelry

    KristyLynnJewelry says:

    Sounds great!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    4 years ago

  • OneClayBead

    OneClayBead says:

    Penland is truly amazing. The environment is perfect for creative growth and exploration.

    4 years ago

  • lovedot

    lovedot says:

    i wish...

    4 years ago

  • candacejean

    candacejean says:

    Wow those schools sound amazing! I had some design classes over a summer once, but was let down by the curriculum. The teachers didn't teach me much. I would love to take a summer painting class with someone who is REALLY talented!!

    4 years ago

  • Xiefashionstudio

    Xiefashionstudio says:

    Sounds great!!Enjoy your summer everyone!

    4 years ago

  • Hammermann

    Hammermann says:

    Thank you so much for this info!

    4 years ago

  • TeenahTime

    TeenahTime says:

    never stop learning!

    4 years ago

  • CassiopiasCreations

    CassiopiasCreations says:

    My daughter & I want to take a class here too! They have one set up right before school starts..

    4 years ago

  • catsweater

    catsweater says:

    i got a work-study scholarship to haystack in 2008, and it was great! Especially eating lobster on the beach on summer solstice!

    4 years ago

  • TheTrendySparrow

    TheTrendySparrow says:

    Summer is the best time to craft!

    4 years ago

  • marybethhale

    marybethhale says:

    Penland is a great place. Having gone three times, I met many other people that were going back again and again also. Check out Young's Mountain Music for the Bluegrass music and home baked pies...just to immerse yourself in local culture.

    4 years ago

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts says:

    Great idea, I'm there.

    4 years ago

  • WhiteEarthStudio

    WhiteEarthStudio says:

    I took a summer ceramics class at Penland School of Crafts. I would highly recommend it to anyone debating signing up! Plus the food was fabulous

    4 years ago

  • SilverFirsFarm

    SilverFirsFarm says:

    ooooh... wonder if they need a soap making class, and a teacher, of course ;) *eghem*

    4 years ago

  • BeadedTreasurebySue

    BeadedTreasurebySue says:

    Thanks for the great article, I would love to take a summer class.

    4 years ago

  • lorenabr

    lorenabr says:

    I had ceramics class. It was always great fun. Lovely article.

    4 years ago

  • jensdreamdecor

    jensdreamdecor says:

    wow, that looks like fun...I just finished 3 years of decorating night school and the best part is the people you meet. I could go to crafting classes til the end of time...

    4 years ago

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu says:

    Wonderful ideas! I went to a summer pottery class with my boyfriend(now my husband) years ago. I love it and wish that I can attend another workshop again.

    4 years ago

  • ShopOlio

    ShopOlio says:

    It's like summer camp for grown ups :) Love the idea and love the article!

    4 years ago

  • PaperClipJunkie

    PaperClipJunkie says:

    can people under 18 attend one of these schools or workshops?

    4 years ago

  • PaperClipJunkie

    PaperClipJunkie says:

    Can people under 18 attend a class/workshop?

    4 years ago

  • akcArt

    akcArt says:

    How beautiful, how cool!

    4 years ago

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry says:

    I would love to learn about pottery! Great article-thank you!

    4 years ago

  • LuRuUniques

    LuRuUniques says:


    4 years ago

  • blackbirdclaystudio

    blackbirdclaystudio says:

    going to arrowmont in august! anyone in john britt's glaze chem class? :)

    4 years ago

  • mediumgrey

    mediumgrey says:

    I had the good fortune to get a grant a few years back to go to Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen for a photography class. It was an amazing experience that I hope to repeat someday.

    4 years ago

  • GreenRoomStudios

    GreenRoomStudios says:

    Wow! I wish I could check out one of these wonderful schools this summer! I'm going to look into it for next year... Maine isn't sooooo far, and it looks so beautiful!

    4 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    Wow, so cool! Making a row boat sounds like a great time!

    4 years ago

  • saintesmariesjewelry

    saintesmariesjewelry says:

    Great article,... its a good idea to use the free summer time, in learning new techniques... instead of just waiting for things to pick up... very inspiring

    4 years ago

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds says:

    What a great way to spend a summer.

    4 years ago

  • 2007musarra

    2007musarra says:

    Fantastic! Cleveland has a great artist community~ Lakewood has this great shop called Local Girl Gallery and she holds classes run by artistest. Linda Goik really supports the community and artist and craftists alike! (

    4 years ago

  • GottaHaveThatPurse

    GottaHaveThatPurse says:

    Thanks for this information - who can resist a place dedicated to crafting.

    4 years ago

  • hodgepodgefarm

    hodgepodgefarm says:

    another one i'd highly recommend is Squam Art Workshops ( in june they have a fiber/textile session and in september it's visual and creative arts. i taught there in june and it was MAGICAL!

    4 years ago

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns says:

    This is so neat. I took some pottery classes years ago at the Dallas Craft Guild and I loved it I went once a week at night the only thing I would be late getting home at night and I stayed kind of far way across town but I truly did enjoy it. This is a great article thank you for this article.

    4 years ago

  • sherbetwithsprinkles

    sherbetwithsprinkles says:

    They sound like so much fun! Would love to be there! Thank you for the info!

    4 years ago

  • ARTbySabina

    ARTbySabina says:

    Great article.

    4 years ago

  • AntiGenre

    AntiGenre says:

    I spent a week at Penland last fall and LOVED it! The instructors were terrific, and the studios were amazing (sooooo many tools to play with!). I can't wait to go back.

    4 years ago

  • beadweaver

    beadweaver says:

    Thanks for sharing these great links! It's inspiring just looking over their websites.

    4 years ago

  • bunnywithatoolbelt

    bunnywithatoolbelt says:

    Haystack and Penland are magical and were very formative for me--make sure it's on your life list to experience one of these places.

    4 years ago

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar says:

    Penland and Haystack have grants for artists too that one might look into if interested : )

    4 years ago

  • J2Jewelry

    J2Jewelry says:

    Haystack rules.

    4 years ago

  • JoannasPhotography

    JoannasPhotography says:

    These programs look really nice! Maybe one day, right? :)

    4 years ago

  • dorkorama99

    dorkorama99 says:

    Haystack does rule, Go Maine!

    4 years ago

  • SewBelles

    SewBelles says:

    We need to keep reminding ourselves that it's never too late!

    4 years ago

  • TheDizzyPixie

    TheDizzyPixie says:

    I actually just found a Book Arts class that is 2 months long at Penland that I really want to spring. Gotta start saving up!

    4 years ago

  • salvageshop

    salvageshop says:

    i want to go!!!

    4 years ago

  • craftpile

    craftpile says:

    i wish I could go...Penland would be near me.

    4 years ago

  • LadyLuLus

    LadyLuLus says:

    How cool is that!

    4 years ago

  • tiemee

    tiemee says:

    Thank you for the info--I just picked up a crochet hook and want to do more...

    4 years ago

  • frenchtoastfriday

    frenchtoastfriday says:

    perhaps one day...

    4 years ago

  • eastbaycalifornia

    eastbaycalifornia says:

    I soooooooooo wish I could be anywhere near that school so I could attend!

    4 years ago

  • jubilee82

    jubilee82 says:

    Lovely!!! :)

    4 years ago

  • BlessedBeeApothecary

    BlessedBeeApothecary says:

    amazing, some gorgeous items

    4 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    fabulous I wish I could go, looks so exciting.

    4 years ago

  • Womensgirl

    Womensgirl says:

    Great article !

    4 years ago

  • Claytastic

    Claytastic says:

    Ah one of these days. I get their catalog every year. Sigh.

    4 years ago

  • sevenoakfarm

    sevenoakfarm says:

    A really great read.

    4 years ago

  • pamwares

    pamwares says:

    we have a great art and craft school in St. pete I have wanted to try. I always thought blowing glass would a fun one. Maybe I should go back to school!

    4 years ago

  • breadandroses

    breadandroses says:

    Thanks so much for this feature! These are the elite in intensive, hands-on artisan/craftsman education but not inexpensive either. My first thought was 'are scholarships still available' but see that Haystack's deadline was last March 1. Perhaps post a follow-up feature just after Christmas to give a reminder. Planning ahead is key.

    4 years ago

  • designMatter

    designMatter says:

    Wow adorable article and items too!

    4 years ago

  • beautifulanodyne

    beautifulanodyne says:

    I wish there was a school like those in Ft. Myers, FL!

    4 years ago

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers says:

    I wish I had the money for summer school! One should learn something brand new each and every day!!

    4 years ago

  • LuBluDesigns

    LuBluDesigns says:

    I love the photo of wooden boat building! That would be an amazing class! Thanks for the article. Also, Jodieflowers talked about wanting money for summer school. I heard of a elderly lady who asked for money for her birthday so she could take classes. This might be an idea. Good luck!

    4 years ago

  • JordanRou

    JordanRou says:

    Great post! I was surprised to hear of a school in my state of NC!! Thanks for the info!

    4 years ago

  • beachglassshop

    beachglassshop says:

    WOW - something to wish for!!!!

    4 years ago

  • makingthishome

    makingthishome says:

    Awesome! These types of experiences are so inspiring and perfect for joining a creative community well beyond the classes together. Thanks for the new-to-me places.

    4 years ago

  • mysweetstitch

    mysweetstitch says:

    Fab!! You've got me all fired up, I'm going to check out local class in the T. Yippe

    4 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    sounds like great fun...wish i were closer to the area.

    4 years ago

  • bunsonburner

    bunsonburner says:

    Absolutely love Haystack! Thank you for giving them some props! I am taking summer school at Alfred University in ceramics this summer...looking to fall back in love with clay!

    4 years ago

  • VelvetBitchOriginals

    VelvetBitchOriginals says:

    Ahhhhh a summer of being creative...

    4 years ago

  • nonchalantpeach

    nonchalantpeach says:

    Thanks for the props!

    4 years ago

  • nonchalantpeach

    nonchalantpeach says:

    By the way, we're currently studying at the best printmaking workshop in the U.S. of A.: Frogman's Print & Paper workshop at the University of South Dakota. Most fun ever!

    4 years ago

  • goingplaces2

    goingplaces2 says:

    What a fun way to spend vacation time. It would be wonderful if more of these schools would pop up all over the US - like the West Coast!

    4 years ago

  • brooklynbelinda

    brooklynbelinda says:

    So inspirational! I want to go to summer school...

    4 years ago

  • smeja

    smeja says:

    These are magical places with life-changing experiences. Another good midwest school is Shake Rag Alley in Wisconsin,

    4 years ago

  • salamantha

    salamantha says:

    yay penland! i was just there for 8 weeks for a jewelry/metalwork class in the spring. a life-changing and awe-inspiring 8 weeks, for sure!!

    4 years ago