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!