Penland School of Crafts is a national center for craft education located near Spruce Pine in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Penland offers one-, two-, and eight-week workshops in books and paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking, textiles and wood. The school also sponsors artists' residencies, educational outreach programs and a craft gallery. This area is home to the Toe River Studio Tour.
Photos provided by Penland
Penland was founded by Miss Lucy Morgan, a teacher at an Episcopalian school. In 1923, she organized the Penland Weavers which provided looms and materials to local women and marketed their handwoven goods. She invited guest instructors to teach weaving, and when requests for instruction began to come from other parts of the country, Penland School was born. Since that time, Penland has grown to encompass about 400 acres and 41 structures. Today, over 1,200 people come each year seeking instruction in ten craft media.
The school offers one- and two-week classes in the summer and and eight-week sessions in the spring and fall. Each class is structured by the teacher, but most are a mix of demonstrations, lectures, individual studio work,and field trips. A stay at Penland also offers daily movement classes, evening slide shows, visits to nearby studios, a library, volleyball games, dances, walks in the beautiful countryside, or a swim in the Toe River. An on-campus coffee house provides hot and cold drinks, snacks, and a place to meet or hang out. The school supply store features a variety of hand tools and craft materials along with UPS shipping, books, postcards, film, snacks, drinks, and other items. Penland School of Crafts is one hour from Asheville.
In addition to one- and two-week summer classes, Penland offers eight-week classes in up to seven studios in spring and fall--an unparalleled opportunity in craft education. The pace is very different from summer, both because there is a smaller student body and because students settle in for a month or two. The classes are taught by working professionals; visiting artists come for short periods of time, sharing their enthusiasm and expertise.The beauty of Penland is a plus at any time of the year, but it is particularly appealing at the change of the seasons, whether the mountains are painted with burnished colors of autumn or the new green of springtime.
The Penland Gallery is the information and display area of the school. Attracting over 14,000 visitors each year, the gallery displays and sells work by Penland instructors, residents artists, students, and neighbors. A knowledgeable staff provides information about craft processes, the school program, the artists, and studios in the area. It's open Tuesday-Saturday until 5 PM, March-mid December. In the interest of protecting the focused atmosphere of our classes, the Penland's teaching studios are not open to the public. The Penland Gallery sponsors tours of the campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays, mid-April through early-December. Because tour sizes are limited, we recommend calling ahead for reservations.
The studios of Penland's resident artists are open, and many of the practicing craftspeople in the immediate vicinity have hours when they are generally open. The gallery staff provides studio maps and other information about artists in the Penland area.
Directions from Asheville (about one hour): Take NC 19/23 (future I-26) North past Mars Hill. Take exit #9 towards Burnsville, staying on NC 19. This road will become NC 19E (DO NOT get on 19W). Continue past Burnsville, approximately 10 miles. Turn left at Penland School sign (large BP station on the right) onto Penland Road. Follow Penland Road for 3 miles when you will cross a bridge and railroad tracks. One mile past the railroad tracks, bear left at the big curve. Go all the way up the hill.
Read more about the Penland School of Crafts.
John C. Campbell Folk School
Another wonderful school for craft is the John C. Campbell Folk School that began in 1925. It has always been noncompetitive; with no credits and no grades. The Folk School offers a unique combination of rich history, beautiful mountain surroundings, and an atmosphere of living and learning together. Located in scenic Brasstown, about 112 miles west of Asheville, the Folk School offers more than 800 year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing. You’re welcome to explore the beautiful campus during daylight hours in a free and self-directed tour. The Folk School's Craft Shop represents more than 300 juried craftspeople and features an impressive collection of traditional and contemporary Appalachian craft, including jewelry, pottery, wood, fiber, ironwork, basketry and other disciplines. A book room houses hundreds of instructional and celebratory books on everything from Basketry to Writing. The school’s fascinating 82-year background is captured in their History Center, where you’ll find interesting examples of 20th-century Appalachia on display. The John C. Campbell Folk School is located in westernmost North Carolina, seven miles east of Murphy, NC, off U.S. Highway 64, just north of Georgia's state line.