I just returned from spending a week at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. I had the opportunity to be a visiting artist during Kathy King’s Spring Concentration. While I was only there for a week, Kathy’s students were lucky enough to be staying for eight weeks in this inspirational place. During their concentration, the students will be hearing lectures, seeing slides and watching demos that focus on the history of ceramics. They will also be touring artists’ studios and visiting area galleries which feature ceramic art.
The opportunity to be immersed in this studio environment up on a mountain while having all your meals prepared for you is pretty incredible and I was feeling a bit envious that I was not a student in this class. I have taken a workshop at Penland before and had such a great time that I literally cried when I pulled into my driveway at the end of the two-week workshop. It was a fantastic experience.
While I enjoyed my time last week demonstrating and participating in discussions about professional practices, after it was over, I felt a big sad. I thought how different my experience as a student and my experience as an instructor had been. Yes, it was a great opportunity. Yes, all my meals were prepared for me too. Yes, the students were fun and I had a great time working with them. But I wanted inspiration too. I wanted an opportunity for my studio practice to grow.
And so on the last night I returned to my room a little sorry to pack up my stuff. I put in a David Sedaris book on tape. I got out my journal and a funny thing happened. Ideas just started flowing and I started sketching. I stopped listening to David and filled up five pages with ideas for new work. Where had this inspiration come from? I had been teaching all week. How did this happen?
There is just something about being in a place where everyone “gets” what you do. How often do I get a chance to take a break from my life, from the news, from my meetings, my dog, my house and studio and just “be”? Student or teacher, I was still immersed in art and craft. I was surrounded by makers and people who support makers. I ate, I danced, I walked up some serious hills, I saw some amazing ceramic art, I talked with great people and I drank a lot of Gingeraid. I connected. In short, I was inspired. Teacher or student, it really makes no difference. We are the same.