Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Penland

Wow, it has been a long time since we have visited with eachother! I am very excited to be able to be typing this right now as it means that this incredibly busy summer is coming to a close! One reason it has been so hectic is that I have been planning and then executing my wedding. Turns out getting married kind of takes it out of you. We are finally settling back into regular life here in Asheville, and yesterday I headed back up to Rugby to get back to work on some new and exciting projects!

The second reason is that my dad has been traveling all over the country this summer to teach his fingerpicking style at music camps, attend festivals, play concerts, and demonstrate guitar building to a lucky few students. Because of my dad's busy schedule I have been finishing guitars and ukuleles for him, and trying my hand at making instruments without any supervision, but that journey is just beginning and I figured writing about finishing instruments (sanding, spraying, repeat) would not be the most interesting thing for you to read. And I want you to get your money's worth you know.

Beginning to look like my dad's shop...
Last week I visited my dad at the Penland School of Crafts where he was in his second, and final, week of teaching guitar building to six very eager and excited students. The school is a nationally known center for craft education. They have classes ranging from glass blowing to paper and printmaking to guitar building. I visited the wood shop where my dad was teaching his guitar building techniques.

I thought it quite ambitious for anyone to be able to make a guitar in two weeks, but I saw it with my very own eyes! When I arrived everyone had just begun spraying finish on their constructed guitars. I was impressed that there was an actual guitar sitting on each work station, rather than a pile of glue and wood that could easily have happened had I been in such a class when I was first learning.

As I meandered through the vast, very clean, and well stocked shop I noticed that my dad had brought some stuff to make himself feel more at home. Along with the necessities such as planks of mahogany, the side bender, squares of sandpaper, copious bottles of Titebond, and a jug that looked suspiciously like a whiskey bottle labeled "Guitar Stain" in big sharpie letters, lay a hooey stick, various magic trick paraphernalia, and of course the fart machine. My heart went out to a poor student who, while  waiting for his guitar's coat of finish to dry, he hopelessly attempted to fit six blocks of wood together into the correct crisscross shape. (See picture below. It is a difficult puzzle.)

And of course the shop wouldn't be complete without the hooey stick and wood puzzle...
Corey working on his bowl.


It was great to see everyone having such a good time learning from my dad. One of his students, Corey, is a talented wood worker already, making beautiful lathe-turned bowls. He tried to teach me, but it didn't work out too well. I guess I should stick to what I know...sort of.





Learning to turn a bowl!
After lunch I visited several of the other studios nestled between the hills on the lovely Penland property. We walked through the metals shop, jewelry, printmaking, glassblowing. Everyone was happy to display what they were working on and explain the processes they used. The talent surging those workshops was almost tangible.

Wayne Henderson poses with his students at Penland 2012

On Thursday Nick and I drove back up to the school (as it is only about an hour from Asheville) with a couple of friends to attend the session-end auction. It was incredible to peruse the gallery, seeing the goods that were put up for auction, all proceeds going to Penland's scholarship program. Even though I lost out on some amazing whiskey glasses made by a very talented glass blower (Ben Dombey - look him up) I still enjoyed my first auction experience. I wanted to bid on everything! There are some truly gifted people making some amazing things in this world. I so appreciate a place that respects and nurtures such creativity. Next year I plan to enroll and learn to make some sweet glasses of my own!

Epilogue:

If you were wondering what happened after I lost out on the amazing glasses once the bid exceeded $200, I will tell you. One of my dad's students was the winner and the next day she brought them up to the guitar shop and offered to give them to me after she heard how badly I had wanted them.  As generous and thoughtful as that gesture was, I had made a contingency plan. Following the auction, I ran around like a crazy person until I found someone who would introduce me to Ben, the glass blower who had made the glasses. He happened to have two more glasses cooling in the kiln at that moment that he offered to sell me. He dropped them off with my dad the next morning and they were waiting for me on the coffee table when I arrived here yesterday! That is what we call a win win win situation. :-)

Hand blown whiskey glasses made by Ben Dombey.