I flew to Cleveland on July 1st where I met up with Charlotte, my travel buddy, and we took off on a road trip to North Carolina to attend workshops at Penland School of Crafts where Charlotte had signed up to learn how to laminate wood using a vacuum system and I had registered for an artist book making class. We took two days to get there stopping in Charleston, WV on the way to visit the Clay Art Center where we visited an exhibit of innovated quilts.
The drive took us from Ohio through West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee before crossing into North Carolina. Since Charlotte preferred to do the driving, I had the luxury of enjoying the beautiful, mountain scenery and noticing the variety of roadside vegetation along the way. And what I did notice from state to state, is that the appearance of the highway borders in OH, WV, and VA are left quite natural. By that I mean that the in these states the sides of the road are mowed, but then comes weeds, bushes, and trees up to the private property lines.
By comparison, TN and NC roadsides have an incredibly manicured appearance. For the two weeks we spent in NC driving between our B&B and Penland, we enjoyed gorgeous views of densely wooded areas and acres of closely mowed, extensive lawns and fields – no brush or bushes. Huge lawns and fields were mowed right up to the edge of the road. And, in the two weeks of traveling back and forth every day, not once did I see any mowing taking place! NC must have the slowest growing grass ever!
Adding to the manicured appearance of the landscape were large swarths of a particular weed, feathery in nature and low growing that densely covering of the roadside fields. The effect was that of a plush carpet.
Adding to the beauty of backroads were bountiful patches of graceful, wild ornamental grasses.
Penland is located near the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway in the Black Mountains. The scenic views were wonderful! The well maintained, curvy, 4 lane highways wound through the mountains up and down. The equally well maintained side roads that we traveled, however, not only went up and down but twisted tightly with no more than 500 feet of straight roadway between turns.
And our B&B was located down a twisty, half mile, graveled, single lane running though dense forest. Luckily we never encountered any on-coming cars. Charlotte got a work out!
The weather was very changeable during the day – a combination of fog, mist, bright sunshine, quick showers, and an occasional deluge, but mostly sunshine. Since we were in our workshops from 8 am to 5pm, we only experienced weather in the morning and evenings when we sat on our private, covered-deck at the B&B enjoying our breakfasts and suppers. The house was on a hilltop flanked by forest. The view from our deck was an 180 degree panorama of the Black Mountains.
Four views from the deck with changing weather.
Our apartment had two spacious rooms, a huge bathroom with Jacuzzi, but a small, galley kitchen with a 2-burner hotplate, microwave, and a mini frig. In this setting, we met the challenge of preparing some delicious meals creatively produced with limited ingredients!
On the weekend, Charlotte and I took off for Asheville, which was about an hour away. There we visited a number of art and fine craft galleries and were excited to see such excellent work. Known as a center of crafts, we were also delighted to see some galleries in the city showing paintings and prints as well. Here are some that caught my attention.
The Asheville area has a lot of ceramic studios producing both traditional, functional wares as well as contemporary sculptural forms.
Also, woodworking is popular. I especially enjoyed the whimsy of these two pencil pieces.
This knitted sculpture is made out of glass! The artist knitted the piece with wax formed into a cord, then caste it using the lost wax technique. A fascinating video depicted the technique.
These pieces are manipulated handwoven, hand-dyed cloth transformed into wall hangings.
I loved the concept of combining the weighty hammer with the delicacy of the fragile glass! Clever!
Many artists used found objects in their work, but none took it to this extreme. A ceramic cat made out of ceramic cats!
And then I recognized these steel sculptures! They are the signature style of sculptor, Rob Lorensen, a former colleague at Bridgewater State University in MA.
I was very impressed by the work of Seth Clark who created these works by collaging drawings and bits of painted papers into incredibly complex images. The subject reminds me of the devastation caused by tornados and earthquakes, not pleasant subjects, but a reference to the extreme weather resulting from climate change.
Here is a detail:
These two pieces reminded me of the many old barns and sheds I’d seen along the NC highways.
In my next post I will focus on my wonderful two weeks at Penland School of Crafts.