Winter, although not my favorite season, can be a great time for reflection, and a pause from the fast pace of daily life. I find that in nature, there are more productive seasons, and then times of rest. Many plants and animals do not toil all year long as is required in modern life. I think there are advantages to slowing down, and going inward, like being underwater and slowing to surface. This January 3-8 I spent at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts as a participant in Pentaculum, which gave me glorious time in the studio to immerse myself in my creative practice before returning to normal life after the holidays.
For those not familiar, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is a craft school located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Situated at the base of the Anakeesta Mountain, the campus houses studios in ceramics, wood, fibers, metals, and more, as well as a gallery, library, food hall, and accommodations.
Pentaculum is an invitational short-term residency at Arrowmont designed to provide artists with unfettered time and space to work alongside peers, friends and colleagues. Held annually in early January and mid-May, working artists in ceramics, fibers, metals, 2D, wood & sculpture, and writing spend a week at Arrowmont to work on independent projects. Pentaculum offers an intimate atmosphere for personal artistic growth and the opportunity to strengthen and build meaningful relationships within the art and craft field. Participants experience a retreat at Arrowmont to invigorate their studio practice and deepen their connections to the craft community.
I was so pleased to be invited to attend Pentaculum to work in textiles! I was initially invited in May of 2020 but it was obviously cancelled, so the prospect of finally getting to experience Arrowmont was an exciting one. I was also pleased to receive a Project Support Grant from the Lowcountry Quarterly Art Grant Program administered by the Cities of Charleston and North Charleston to attend.
I made the trip to Gatlinburg, only about 5 hours away by car from Charleston, to get to Arrowmont. Upon arriving I was surprised at the location, right off of the main strip of town, across from Margaritaville. Tucked behind the Anakeesta Chairlift is Arrowmont's campus. I got information from Arrowmont's helpful staff about where to go, and moved into my dorm in the Teacher's cabin. I then wandered around the campus to see all the different studios. TheTextiles Studio is in the largest building on campus, which also houses the metals studio, glass studio, galleries, the main office, supply store and library.
A water feature between the Metals and Textiles Studios.
After settling in, we met up in our respective studios, and then went to orientation where we were introduced to all the coordinators and brief slide of each participant's work. That was followed by dinner. It was so great to get a taste of everyone's work and then dine together. Also to not have to cook and wash up after each meal.
The next day after breakfast we got to work in the studios! The Textiles studio is bright and spacious with so much equipment at our disposal. I was pleased to use one of their Husqvarna Viking Sewing Machines, as well as additional machine feet, cutting mats, irons, and ironing boards. This is also some research for me, as I will be teaching a garment sewing workshop at Arrowmont in October. I am happy to report that we will have everything we need for the workshop!
I began by piecing some handprinted fabrics I had brought with me with scraps from my own garment production. It was so freeing to create without thinking about the end result of a project, and merely to explore things I have been wanting to make in my studio, but I usually have to prioritize paid work instead.
The folks around me were making some inspiring things. Shae Bishop, a Core Fellow at Penland School of Crafts, was making a pair of shoes, which was an amazing process to witness. Mirrah Johnson was embroidering. Emily Stark was doing some fabric manipulation in the form of large scale smocking. Will Grimm was doing some experimental surface design by dyeing and printing yardage. Larissa Miller was creating a self-portrait in her signature swirling rope designs. Just so much good stuff happening right around me!
Top Row: Hand-dyed yardage by Will Grimm, Embroidery by Mirrah Sheree, Smocking by Emily Stark
Bottom Row: Rope sculpture by Larissa Miller, Shoemaking Tools and Workspace of Shae Bishop.
I continued to piece fabrics, quilt them, and paint fabric. Generally spread out and make a mess. I even made some fabric cording and created knots out of my e-waste, or unusable charging cords. A big hit was an iridescent silver fabric I purchased at Joann Fabrics to play around with. I used this material to cover some large cording and created what I came to call the Space Noodle. I used a Posca marker that I purchased in the Arrowmont supply store to draw some lines reminiscent of elevation maps onto the silver material.
In the evenings, there were events like Artist-In-Residence Open Studios, and Writers Readings. The residents included Anela Ming-Yue, Jada Patterson, Megan Koeppel, and Yael Braha, whose work was all amazing. There was a Final Evening Studio Crawl to see what others were working on, as well as Discotheque Karaoke the last night together. It was amazing to see what everyone worked on all week.
Top Row: Appliqué Quilt in progress by Megan Koeppel, Jewelry by Shaunia Grant, Mug by Unknown Ceramicist,
Middle Row: Basketball Bloom and Airbrush T-Shirt by Brandon Donahue, Woven Yardage by M. Lars Shimubukuro,
Bottom Row: Jewelry by Rachel Rader, Printed Sweatshirt by Will Grimm, Flattened spray cans by Bud Ries.
Pentaculum was an incredible experience all around. I met so many people and came away with a lot of inspiration and motivation to keep going. To me, craft schools are the closest thing I have experienced to utopia, where people have their needs met, and are also seeking fulfillment through making. It was an amazing start to my 2023, staying submerged in creativity before surfacing to meet obligations of work and life.
This project was funded in part by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs and the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Program through their joint administration of the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant Program and the South Carolina Arts Commission which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC.