I grew up on sandy beaches, warm air and palm trees. In 1987 I saw my first mountain and little did I know it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with the Penland School of Crafts nestled amidst the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. After a two week session in clay, I was ready to trade in the tropics for mountain living. So I did.
By March of 1989 I had moved to Penland, NC where I would live and work for the school in exchange for tuition, housing and meals. I was a Penland Core Fellowship Student- a two year, life building journey. This was a period of growth and self-discovery that set the groundwork for my future as an artist.
Growing up in a predominately latino Miami, so many things were new to me at Penland. I saw my first snowfall, learned to make baskets and weave on a loom, I made hand-made artist books, I fell in love with photography (thanks Bob May, r.i.p.) collected brilliant luna moths, tried tofu for the first time, encountered folks from all walks of life and even met my first vegans. All impressionable firsts for a young and naive 22 year old.
Two decades later I found myself back at Penland School. This time as an instructor.
I noticed that some things had changed at Penland. There are lighted paths to walk safely from studio to studio at night and the main campus is now wireless. All good stuff.
I discovered, much to my heart's content, that the most important and meaningful things hadn't changed.
That the very essence that is Penland was still there and beating strong. Penland is very special on an emotional, intellectual and spiritual plane. People come to learn, grow, be inspired and connect with their artistic self and with others. Familial bonds are established quickly. Penland is a magical place.
In my studio, I set to inspire and motivate my students, who ranged in ages 20-60+, to create a garment that represented their personal style and aesthetics. Some designed runway looks, while others took a more conceptual or experimental approach.
Our second day at Penland took us on a fun fabric run to Asheville - about an hour away- and thrift shopping in neighboring Spruce Pine. After breakfast every morning, we would meet in the studio and work up to lunch, then back to the studio, dinner, studio, view instructor slides and then back to the studio... We worked and played 'til 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6am many nights. We studied the genius of Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Viktor & Rolf. We jammed to Lady Gaga. We were inspired. I would be with my students until 2am or so and then I'd walk around campus visiting (socializing with) the folks in the metals, iron and puppetry.
I encourage you to take a class at Penland School. Workshops are open to all skill levels, unless specified. There may be space in some of this summer's sessions. There are also longer concentrations in the Fall and Spring. OR come by for a day visit. Tour the Penland Gallery and campus, stay for lunch. Call to schedule a visit: 828.765.2359 Gallery: 828-765-6211
This is my Penland Experience.