Mountain Artist: Jean McLaughlin

Jean McLaughlin
Director of Penland School

Jean McLaughlinJean says Penland is a place for people to step out of their daily lives and retreat to study different craft forms. She is quite proud of Penland's tradition, where artists from all over the world can come and share their experience. Not only does Penland attract both beginners and experienced artists, but people from other states and countries also come to study and teach. About 6% of their students come from other countries.

"We usually have someone teaching from another country each summer, sometimes more than that," she said. "Someone's coming in this summer from Sweden, and I know we've had people like glass artists who've come from Italy."

Jean McLaughlin's Penland SchoolPenland SchoolJean also thinks it's important to preserve the handmade tradition of America. Materials that are handmade, she says, tell the story of the artist who made it and of the material behind it. Besides trying to preserve traditions that are centuries old, Penland also seeks to evolve the traditions and find new ways of crafting. She wants students at Penland to feel that they have been able to express a part of themselves that they may never have been able to express before. She also hopes that they find a confidence in their ability to make decisions and to work in community.

"There's a bond that happens, and I call that the community of Penland," she said. "So there's this network of people that are going to continue to help you make things, answer questions and support you as you continue on this journey of finding self-expression."