Schools join in promoting studio-based retreats

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Five craft schools are collaborating to launch the National Craft School Initiative, which made its debut in a special exhibit at the Nov. 5-8 Sculptural Object and Functional Art expo in Chicago.

Stuart Kestenbaum and Wendy Maruyama.

The exhibit, called the Craft School Experience, started a two-year educational campaign that will feature a promotional tour by school representatives. The schools include Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn.; Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine; Penland School of Crafts in Penland, N.C.; Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, N.J., and Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle.

“They are immersive retreat schools where students go to intensive workshops from one to eight weeks,” says campaign coordinator Ennis Carter of Social Impact Studios in Philadelphia. “They stay there as residents and only focus on their craft. There is no specific curriculum or grades that come out. The end result is people get the skills and utilize the tools for their craft. They also have access to master teachers at university levels. But the biggest difference is emersion concept. So, for example, if you took wood turning with David Ellsworth at Arrowmont, that’s all you’re going to be doing.”

Haystack’s director Stuart Kestenbaum adds that an intensive studio-based retreat environment allow makers of all levels to make tremendous strides in their work.

“There are many creative people who don’t know about our institutions but who would benefit greatly by participating in our programs. We thought SOFA would be an ideal place to launch this new campaign to highlight and promote the craft school experience,” Kestenbaum says.

Wendy Maruyama, a studio furniture maker and professor of woodworking and furniture design at San Diego State University, is a proud alum of the craft school experience.

“I first attended Haystack Mountain School of Crafts as a student in 1977 and Penland School of Crafts in 1976. It was a real eye-opening experience for me, one that really helped to cement the idea that community within the craft field is vital to anyone’s growth,” she says. “I always come away from that experience with a sense of awe in terms of how students and faculty can learn from each other in such a short period. As a professor, I am adamant that my students have the same experience and send students every year to one of the summer programs.”

For information, visit www.craftschools.us.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue.

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