Penland School of Crafts

I’ve recently returned from Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. I was fortunate to be awarded the F & A Bradshaw Art Prize from DJCAD to fund my trip. I enrolled on a course titled “Memory Place”, run by Ismini Samanidou. I have been interested in textiles and the incorporation of them into my jewellery making and also the idea of using a memory object throughout my learning. This course proposed to offer me the opportunity to think freely and experiment with weaving as a medium for embodying ideas.

Penland School of Crafts is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It provides education who are focused on craft and making things. It’s in a rural location, (15 minutes drive from the nearest town) and its on campus facilities provides unique atmosphere and opportunity that inspires creativity and learning.


Settling In


“The Roost” accommodation

My class was held in the “Lilly Loom Studio”. (and by the end of the week I realised that this studio had the nicest views of the whole school).

Lilly Loom Studios

I was in the Lilly Loom Studio. By the end of the week I realised that this studio had the nicest views of the whole school. All the studios were open 24/7 and the delicious meals were served in the dining room.


There was plenty of space in the studio and we each had a large desk to work at. there was also a huge selection of loom and cupboards full of yarns. The week started with Ismini giving a talk about herself and her work.


bangladesh warp

Her website shows more beautiful images of her work and collaborations.


To start to get to know each other we each talked about the object we had brought along with us. I had brought some pieces of antique lace and hand crocheted lace that had been made my gran and were probably around 100 years old. When I look and feel the lace I can imagine my gran taking time to make them and then give them to my mum to decorate her home. We all had stories to tell about our objects and it was amazing to see how these object influenced our work during the week.

Beginning the Creative Process

We moved on to mark making and experimenting with “Till Roll” paper. The till roll paper is heat sensitive so using folding techniques a small oven and an iron we created really interesting samples.


Developing Ideas

Out and about on the campus I took some photos, gathered some flowers and discovered mica – a shiny mineral now used in paint, plastics and cosmetic production.

The flower commonly known as Queen Ann’s Lace reminded me of the lace pieces I had brought with me. I wanted to capture the beauty and delicate nature of these flowers  and the other wild flowers that surrounded them.



We were introduced to weaving because I was a total beginner I had to start from basics. I made up yarn wraps and learned basic weave structures. I wanted to weave the flowers into my piece and also learned how to create a double weave and insert the flowers into the pocket. I also incorporated some of my photographs by printing them onto acetate and cutting them into strips. I feel the way this allows the light to shine through but still shows the image is effective.



I had looked around most of the studios during the week and spoke to several of the tutors. I almost wanted to switch classes and join the jewellery class when I saw the interesting work but I couldn’t as it was full. I enjoyed speaking to jewellery designer Amy Tavern and having the chance to see her work and samples of her jewellery she had brought with her. Amy uses the concept of memory and how she can conect to others through her work in metal and textiles.

I also visited the blacksmith workshop and was intrigued with a silver inlay process called Koftgari that one of the students was working on. Click on the link to see a short clip of the process.

Koftfari, a silver inlay technique

Koftfari, a silver inlay technique

The show and tell at the end of the week was held for all the classes to see what others had been doing.



My final pieces at the Show and Tell



My final pieces from the Memory Place Workshop

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Penland, it was a chance to really expereince a new setting, begin to learn something new in a relaxed pressure free environment. I have so many things to consider now I am back home and back to reality. I want to continue to develop my use of textiles in my work, consider and experiment incorporating weave into my jewellery pieces.

I met so many great people from all over America, from different professions and different craft interests.  I have made several new friends and I would recommend Penland to anyone interested in crafts, art and making. Thanks to F & A Bradshaw Award and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design for making this possible.


One thought on “Penland School of Crafts

  1. Great to spread your wings some more Sheila – great creatively and in your own personal development too… Sounds like you had a lovely time. Liked the photo of the reflection/shadow of the flowers creating a delicate lace like pattern 🙂 Ax

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