© Becky Linhardt 2013
A narrow driveway off Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s bustling Parkway leads to a quiet but active arts and crafts school with historic ties to the city. As a travel writer, I was introduced to Arrowmont during a press tour of Gatlinburg. As an artist, I was so impressed that I decided one day I would come back to create.
For the artist in me, a week long workshop focused on producing art was a dream. Being in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains was an additional plus and by arriving a day early I had Sunday to explore parts of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that I had not seen during other travels. I enjoyed a drive through the park to Cherokee, NC as autumn color came to the higher elevations – and took lots of photographs.
As a professional artist I work in photography and my paintings are done in oils. I think I have tried almost every artistic medium. I have found that working with a variety of materials inspires my creativity. I love glass and although I have done some work in stained glass and even glass fusing and hot glass, I had never tried enameling. I knew that glass powders were applied with heat to copper. I was soon to learn that the process is much more complicated than I thought.
Arrowmont has living spaces on campus. The housing is clean and comfortable with the feel of a summer cabin; most bathrooms are shared dormitory style. There are a few single rooms, a few with private baths. I requested a single with shared bath and was assigned to Teacher’s on the second floor and for that session we had only three female residents sharing two bathrooms although the five rooms on that floor could accommodate as many as nine. Downstairs, couples shared larger rooms.
Teacher’s is an older building; an easy walk from the main building that housed the administration offices, auditorium, bookstore and some studios, including the enameling studio. I could walk through that building to the dining hall and the other side of campus where additional students were housed. In other residence halls friends shared rooms. Some arriving by car shared driving expenses to cut down on transportation costs. Students do have a choice of staying “off-campus” and some booked rooms at nearby motels on the Parkway that had private baths and amenities like cable TV.
A variety of meal plans are offered and almost everyone chose to have lunch in the Dining Hall on campus. The food was very good, healthy, and plentiful. During the 1 ½ hour lunch break we often “talked shop.” Good weather found many of us opting to sit in the sun at picnic tables outside. In the above image fabrics strung to dry on trees outside the dining hall added a festive air.
The daily workshop schedule was 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the long lunch break. We were also allowed access to the studios in the evening to continue working. There were nightly programs and one night an impromptu folk sing on the patio adjacent to the library (both pleasant spaces to relax/calm the mind).
We were encouraged to visit other studios to talk with the teachers and students there. I was intrigued by the wood studio (my dad would never allow me near his tools), the first basic projects, and later the more advanced bowls. Fabrics also interested me. So many artistic options!
Painting, surface designs on textiles, metalwork for jewelry, doll-making, and ceramic workshops were part of the session that week so I had a chance to see and talk with people working in many disciplines and from various parts of the USA, Canada, and even from Europe. I learned so much in the Enameling Workshop, from our instructor Gail Nelson, and from the other students. Some were professional already looking to try new techniques; some had experience but were looking to take their skills to a higher level. All were willing to share their knowledge.
Most of us were so involved in learning and creating that we started in the studio early and stayed late – then in sleep dreaming of what we would make the next day. Cleaning up the studios late Friday afternoon was a bit melancholy. There had been more than a dozen students with me in Gail Nelson’s Enameling Workshop. We gathered to look over ALL that we had created in a week. We did not have a dramatic or stressful critique, rather we marveled at the unique styles and beautiful work we had produced.
Even as a novice I had pieces that I was happy with, some that would be part of jewelry I planned to assemble later into multi-piece necklaces, some as gifts. It was late December before I finally sat down to assemble the necklace I planned for myself.
The two enameled pieces were OK. I knew that my enameling skills were still at an amateur level. What amazed me is how this project came together in ways I had not imagined. I was able to hide a problem area (Gail “saved” me by carefully re-drilling a major opening that had fused close). In some ways assembling the necklace was like the experience at Arrowmont – multi-faceted: with memories of great learning experiences, generous and creative people, new ideas, an inspiring location in the Smokies – an all round wonderful creati-vacation.
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts: 556 Parkway,Gatlinburg,TN 37738
www.arrowmont.org or 865-436-5860
www.gatlinburg-tn.com or 800-588-1817