2017 Collective Voices – Introducing: Leslie Noell


Leslie Noell is an artist, designer, and educator who currently works at Penland School of Crafts as director of programs. She earned a degree in graphic design from NC State University College of Design and an MFA in artisanry from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Leslie studied at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague and spent two years as a core fellowship student at Penland School of Crafts. She has been a resident artist at Caversham Press (Kwazulu Natal, South Africa), Jentel Artist Residency Program (Banner, WY), and the Winter Print Residency at Penland. Her work has been shown throughout the country in a number of exhibitions including the Hickory Museum of Art, Holter Museum of Art, Asheville Art Museum, and Mobile Museum of Art.

Leslie’s studio work has explored a range of media and process from drawings and prints to installations and objects. Themes trace the fine line between permanence and impermanence, clarity and opacity, real and imagined space. Her work is minimalist in feel and direct in means. She strives for a balance of refinement and touch. Though days in the studio are rare, creative concerns are a constant.

Lecture topic: Art After Art School: Myths, Opportunities, Words to the Wise

Words from Leslie:

I will give a quick overview of my own path as an artist/designer and talk about how an odd mix of skills and experiences led me to my current job as director of programs at Penland School of Crafts. This position requires me to assume many roles—mentor, critic, curator, art director, diplomat, and administrator—often switching from one to another several times throughout each day. From this perspective I will share observations and offer practical advice on everything from studio practice and writing to applying for residencies and building community. Myths will be named and discredited. Opportunities will be presented. In the end, I will pose some questions to you and hopefully answer some of yours.

This talk might be especially relevant to you if you are defining or redefining creative and professional goals—asking yourself the hard questions like why? and what’s next? It is also intended to be helpful to anyone—educator, mentor, administrator, or fan—who is working in support of artists and the creative process.


2017 Collective Voices – Introducing: Melanie Bilenker


Melanie Bilenker is an American artist based in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania, who translates the historic art of Victorian hairwork into pieces that reflect upon the contemporary era, depicting ordinary moments of everyday life through self portrait photographs “drawn” in the artist’s own hair and set in gold or wood.  She received a BFA from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2000 and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2010.  Bilenker’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of Scotland, among others.  mb_kitchen-window

Melanie will discuss her modern approach to hair work, while providing historic context.  She will then demonstrate some traditional Victorian processes used in the remembrance jewelry that first inspired her. Demos will include several forms of palette-work in which hair is glued down to a flat surface to create basket plaits, flowers, swoops or feathers.

2017 Collective Voices – Introducing: Dustin Farnsworth


Dustin Farnsworth has gained national recognition for his intricate sculptures, captivating audiences through a mastery of craft, material, and storytelling. His work engages the viewer in an inner dialogue on the drama of life and death, suffering and redemption. Since completion of an undergraduate degree from Kendall College of Art and Design in 2010, his work has appeared in over 50 exhibitions nationally, including solo exhibitions at the Cameron Art Museum and the Huntsville Museum of Art. With the support of grants and fellowships, Farnsworth has continued his studio practice at a number of residencies including the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, the University of Wisconsin Madison, Penland School of Crafts, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. For the first 5 months of 2017, Farnsworth will call the McColl Center for Art and Innovation in Charlotte, NC both studio and home while working on a new project supported by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.


Lecture: The Devils Work

 Beginning in the golden age of jazz, this lecture will weave the meteoric rise and tumultuous fall of the automotive empire with the evolution of my own studio practice as it shifted from a craft focus to societal commentary. A range of personal influences from product design to auteur filmmakers will provide insight to my work while details of process will demystify the construction of complex forms, commonly misidentified as ceramics or metals. I will speak about how the perception of my role as an artist continues to evolve, detailing exciting new projects that push beyond comfort zones. As an outlier in a symposium of metalsmiths, this lecture will also examine the importance of a jewelers’ attention to detail, both within technique and studio practice.

2017 Collective Voices – Introducing: Jessica Calderwood

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Jessica Calderwood’s enamel work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally in curated and juried exhibitions. She has participated in artist residencies with the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Program and the Mesa Arts Center. Her work has also been published in Metalsmith Magazine, American Craft, NICHE, Ornament, the Lark 500 series, and the Art of Enameling. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Ball State University.

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Break-out Session

This detailed demonstration will focus on different ways to make marks and render in vitreous enamel. Starting with copper sheet metal, demonstrations will be given on underglaze pencils, ceramic oxides, overglazes/china paint, and ceramic decals.

2107 Collective Voices – Introducing: Gabriel Craig of Smith Shop

Gabriel Craig - Photo by David Lewinski

Gabriel Craig is a metalsmith, writer and craft activist living and working in Detroit, Michigan. Craig’s interdisciplinary practice seeks to identify the cultural potential of craft by engaging diverse audiences in explorations of self-sufficiency, labor, consumption and tradition through performance, social practice projects, video, text, and craft-based media. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including exhibitions at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., The National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, TN, and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. His critical writing has appeared in prominent craft publications including Metalsmith, American Craft and Surface Design Journal. He has lectured throughout the country on his own artistic work, decorative arts history and contemporary craft. He has held residencies at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and Warren Wilson College. In 2012 Craig co-founded Smith Shop, a dynamic metalworking studio in Detroit, with his wife and fellow metalsmith, Amy Weiks. Currently, Craig is working to further craft production in Detroit as the founder of the Center for Craft & Applied Arts, a center for craft manufacturing, education and advocacy. Craig received his BFA in Metals/ Jewelry from Western Michigan University and his MFA in Jewelry and Metalworking from Virginia Commonwealth University.





Break-out Session-  The Basics of Forging

This demonstration will comprehensively introduce attendees to the basics of forging metal. Through tapering, flaring, shouldering, and fullering this 2 hour session will focus on the isolation and redistribution of mass within a single bar. With just these four basic operations, bars of material can be transformed into nearly any shape. The workshop will proceed to cover functional forms using the spoon as a vehicle for exploring the use of these techniques in concert.

Lecture-   Smith Shop: Metalsmithing in the Heart of Post-Industrial America

In 2012, Amy Weiks and Gabriel Craig set out to find a broad, dynamic, collaborative, and solvent practice as metalsmiths that embraced function and the full range of outcomes that are possible in highly crafted metalwork. Five years on, Smith Shop has created a sustained practice that has won numerous design awards, been published widely, and has enjoyed commercial success–all while weaving together the contributions of nearly 20 metalsmiths. In this lecture Smith Shop co-founder, Gabriel Craig, will give an overview of Smith Shop, its collaborative practice, diverse projects, and growing legacy.