30th Annual PENLAND SCHOOL Benefit Auction Recap

In 1988 I attended my first Penland Auction. I was a core student and lived at Penland for two incredible, life-shaping years. Twenty-seven years, later I am still blown away with this spectacular event. I just attended the 30th Annual Penland School Benefit Auction which has become a craft collector's dream "gala weekend" in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. But of course, it's much more than that. Beyond the parties, cocktails, dinners and music, the monies raised support Penland's educational programs. The auction weekend is a special time where patrons, sponsors, students, residents and instructors unite to celebrate all that is Penland. Over 500 guests, passionate about Penland School and art education, gathered at the sold out event to support Penland's future. Over $733,000 was raised.

More than 250 works in books, clay, drawing, glass, iron, letterpress, metals, painting, printmaking, photography, textiles, wood, and other media were featured (and auctioned) during the two-day fête. 

Congratulations to Penland School, its devoted Director, Jean McLaughlin, the Penland Staff and most of all, to the large number of truly amazing volunteers who give so much to create a seamless and successful event.


Save-the-Date AUG 8 Penland, NC


This photo is spectacular! The scene: Penland's Annual Benefit Auction. Last night I attended a cocktail party to celebrate (and introduce) this event to art lovers, supporters and collectors in Atlanta. Penland Director Jean McLaughlin, artist Julia Woodman and I spoke passionately about the magic of this incredible place. The short film about the annual auction and the making of the signature piece - a stunning, sterling martini shaker & tray- played throughout the evening. Watch it here. What's the Penland Auction all about? In their words: 

The Penland School of Crafts Annual Benefit Auction is a gala weekend in the North Carolina Mountains featuring the sale of more than 240 works in books, clay, drawing, glass, iron, letterpress, metals, painting, photography, printmaking, textiles, and wood. The Penland auction is one of the most important craft collecting events in the Southeast and a perfect opportunity to support Penland's educational programs, which have helped thousands of people live creative lives.

This is truly an event like no other. Trust me. Been there. AMAZING! For more information, visit the Penland website, here.


the Glory Hole


Its hard [for me] to believe I've never tried glass blowing after being around it for more than two decades. Well that all change a few weeks ago when I visited a friend in Western North Carolina who is, you guessed it, a glass blower. I've been friends with hot glass artist

Judson Guerard

and his wife Sally since 1988 and I have never had the inclination to give glass blowing a try until last month.

For starters, let me say, it's hard. Not that I ever thought glass blowing was easy, but every aspect of it has a multi-task challenge. Also, its incredibly HOT in the studio as the furnace(s) reach 2000+ degree temps.

That aside... I loved it!


It helped having the tutelage of a great craftsmen with you every step of the way. The actual process itself, was fascinating. With a long, somewhat heavy pipe, you gather molten glass around the tip as you nearly singe off your eyebrows from being so close to the furnace. Walking back to the work bench you need to turn the pipe nonstop so that the hot glass won't slope down. You then proceed to blow air to enlarge the bulb of hot glass on the tip. Not at all an easy feat. It does not blow up like a balloon as I thought. To reheat the glass, you stick the you pipe in the glory hole, yep sounds dirty. [The glory hole is a second furnace specifically designed for reheating.]  Pull out of the glory hole [still sounds dirty] and return to the work bench to blow through the pipe again. And repeat!

After numerous trips to the glory hole, I produced the most hideous looking, pinched-pot vessel. Truly ugly. Too ugly to even show you. Trust me.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed myself and discovered an even greater respect and appreciation for the art form. I understand now why so many fall in love with the art of glass blowing.

If you ever have the opportunity to try it, do so.