Friday, August 31, 2012

This Weekend: Crimson Laurel Opening and Soda Chicks & Chet

The Penland Boycott has kind of taken over the blog, but there are a couple of great clay events happening locally this weekend:

Opening Reception for three shows at Crimson Laurel Gallery, tonight, Friday August 31, at 6 pm:
1) Becky Gray - Keeping the Faith
2) Lorna Meaden - Kinship, Form and Surface
3) Lindsay Oesterritter - Featured Artist

Pictured: Becky Gray's Gardeners whistle.
Details on the Crimson Laurel Gallery website.

and

Soda Chicks and Chet Tenth Annual Pottery Home Sale

Soda Chicks & Chet - 10th Annual Labor Day weekend pottery homesale, featuring 13 nationally known ceramic artists exhibiting selections of their newest work at Fork Mountain Pottery. Sat, Sept. 1, 10 am to 6 pm, and Sun, Sept. 2, 10 am to 5 pm. Details on their website.

Any other non-Penland Boycott related clay events (or announcements, questions, rambling thoughts, etc.)? Please post them if you want.

Penland Boycott – UPDATE



I wanted to thank everyone who is supporting us to get Penland to PAY BACK THE ARTISTS!

We are doing so well! We have over 417 people who have signed our Change.org petition and over 100 letters sent to Penland, and in only 10 days old!  We are seeking 5000 petitions so we need your help to continue spreading the word.

All these Open Letters posted this week have been great and now I think Penland cannot just say it is John Britt. It is over 500 Penland supporters who have stood up and said – enough is enough. 

This support has only strengthened my resolve and with your help we will get Penland to do the right thing and repay the artists.  

Penland has over 27 million in assets and somehow can’t find one penny to spare for its hardest working artists?! I imagine that if the administration had been denied pay they would have found the money by now.
Just so you know, per your suggestions, I have bumper stickers on the way- 


Thanks and help us on Facebook to spread the word!

John Britt

REPAY THE ARTISTS- Penland School

If it smell like a skunk........

The interesting thing about Natalie's post is she was there with Adrienne from 2005 - 2007. Well, Adrienne quit just before I got Penland to agree to PAY BACK THE ARTISTS it shorted.  In fact, two weeks before. And she is one of the Artists they refused to pay back. It is a slap in the face to any artist associated with Penland.

WHY DIDN'T THEY PAY HER?

Simply arrogance and greed - they thought that they could get away with it- but now everyone knows.

BOYCOTT PENLAND!

PLEASE READ THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! Labor Issues, Artists Work and Held Wages…

I am not one to use FB as a soapbox for my socio-political beliefs, although I probably should more often. However, this issue is too close, too relevant, too important to me not to share or encourage your participation… here’s why:

Penland School of Crafts is an amazing arts institution with a long and rich history of celebrating and supporting craftspeople in the pursuit of living a creative life – from the early 1900’s to the present day. This educational experience in the arts is like no other. A workshop based philosophy, where artist/teacher works in the studio along side their students. Teachers and students live and work together, eat meals, go on walks, and I will say have a few great dance parties together day in and day out for weeks or months at a time in the remote mountains of Western North Carolina. This isolated environment and community allows for open and honest sharing of ideas and information in a concentrated technical based curriculum with ideas and interactions mixing and mingling among the 16 different studios ranging from glass, textiles, wood, clay, photo (to name only a few).

Anyone who has ever been to Penland, has breathed in its fresh mountain air, seen Luna Moths and spiders larger than your average apple, or heard the coal trains as they squeal on their tracks sound as if whales were singing in the mountains. But what really marks the true “Penland Experience” is the pure joy of making, the free experimentation in materials, the encouragement and beauty in processes and methodologies that seem to become more ancient history. This may sound like some magical fairytale, but, in fact, it is true – I witnessed it again and again.

I had the amazing good fortune to be a CORE Student Fellow at the school from 2005-2007. This scholarship granted me with a two year work exchange. I was housed in one of the original buildings on campus with 8 other CORE Fellows. If we weren’t working in the studio we were working for the school, cooking meals, cleaning houses, managing work study students, Mopping floors, etc etc. But, I got to be in two years worth of amazing classes and I really began to understand my love of material and my problem solving skills in making which carried me through grad school to this day. At the time, the school’s logo/motto was Penland School of Crafts: Mind, Hand, Material. Simple, Poetic, Profound. An essay can be written on each one of those words as it relates to art making. I’ll focus on Hand. In the crafts the idea of the hand is used so frequently to refer to the individual artist’s mark or evidence of making; their personal labor. However, it is foolish to think that any artist is a lone genius. The notion that their hand is the only one that made the work, is naive. No one really makes work alone, we often have a built-in community that shares the work. Someone helps us carry, cut, hang, lift, fix, move, hold, build or make with us or for us in relation to the work. These acts are directly related to the “Art”. But, what about all the hidden labor in our own making?? The work of industry for our materials or mining of our energy for overhead, belongs to a myriad of people unnamed and unknown. The Hand as it relates to Labor of Studio, especially at Penland includes the maintenance of the equipment, the ordering of supplies, the organizing of events, the availability as a resource, the demonstration of tools, the managing of assistants, the cleaning of studios, and the improvement of facilities. This is a tiny fraction of the labor of the Studio Coordinator, their labor is a part of the artist’s work. Their labor enables the student, their work creates the ‘magic dust’ so everyone can have that famous ‘Penland Experience’, their job allows the weaver to weave and the blacksmith to smith. We, as artists, owe it to the laborers who have played a part in our work. We, as a member of humanity, owe it to fellow workers who were taken advantage of and denied their earned pay. We, as members of the Penland community, owe it to our neighbors and friends who make Penland so wonderful.

It has been found that Penland was involved in illegal withholding of overtime pay for the Studio Coordinators, a very crucial part of the operational staff.

I stand with the studio coordinators for rightful pay, not because I stand against Penland, but because my intention and signature stand for the Penland that I believe in. What I hope is that Penland, an institution made up of people and artists (many of whom I love and respect), will come out from the shadows of their pride, and recognize this egregious error for what it really was and reconcile the wrong in an honorable and honest way. I hope Penland will make the changes so labor injustices won’t happen again. I hope Penland will change policy so that can be a leader as an employer and stand out as an exemplar in the much larger Art Community.

If you sign this you love Penland. Or perhaps you love art, the process of art making, the labor of artists and the hope for institutions like this to stay true to its vision, and not get swallowed up by a pride cloaked in corporate greed. Let’s hope Penland finds its moral compass, navigate back on track toward the mission that sets them apart from any other art educational institution or Corporate Big Business.
Occupy Penland.

I hope my fellow Core Students and extended Core Family stand with me too.

Natalie Tornatore Core’05-‘07

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Open Letter to Penland’s Board of Directors- Chris Winterstein former Iron and Wood Coordinator.

There are people, we all know them, who are so angry they’ve just gone crazy. People who are hard to join sides with even when they’re right because their kind of anger is hard to be around, and often difficult to justify. In its recently posted “Response to Recent Allegations about Penland’s Labor Practices,” Penland responds as if to one of them, offering to take the high road and let bygones be bygones. But John Britt is not one of those people. And theirs is not the high road. I worked along with John Britt for most of his tenure at Penland as coordinator of the iron studio from 2001-2005, and also of the wood studio in 2002 and 2003. As I remember him from that time, John had a remarkably amicable relationship with the school’s administration and was a good humored and dedicated member of the staff. I’m sure there are annual performance reviews in a file somewhere that would make the case plenty well that he was a model coordinator.




Since then, John has made his life in the neighborhood. So why the rift? If the school, as it contends in its Response, had met its obligation to everyone’s satisfaction but John’s, why on earth would he, or anyone (particularly a potter living in Western North Carolina) risk his standing in the community and his relationship with the school defending a bunch of happy former employees? John has never been compensated, but he insisted that others who had been impacted by Penland’s illegal policies be compensated fairly instead. OK, so maybe he is crazy – but damn honorable. And he is not making this up.

A disclosure: I have never approached Penland for compensation. I was unaware compensation had been offered, and whether or not I fit in the class depends on how far they’ve gone back. But John’s point is stronger than compensation denied or granted. Why hasn’t Penland contacted me? Why stop at two years? They have admitted fault and corrected the offending policy, but they haven’t even tried to correct the offense itself. For that matter, have they even apologized? If I found myself to have made an error that negatively impacted a group of people I had any respect for, the first thing I’d do is apologize to all of them.

Penland gives two answers for refusing to reconsider the issue. First, there is time passed; but if there is a statute of limitation which denies former employees any legal recourse, does that clear the obligation of an organization dedicated “to teaching the value of the handmade” to fairly compensate those craftspeople they employed as facilitators of that teaching? Secondly, the Penland response cites poor records. Does anyone really believe that an organization demonstrating Penland’s institutional depth and maturity – managing monstrous infrastructure and attendant liability, securing grants and donations, hiring renowned architects to design award-winning structures, putting on vast benefit events, all while pursuing its mission – doesn’t have past payroll information readily accessible? Doesn’t an audit require years of filing information? Obviously I am in no position to know what records Penland has or doesn’t have, but I suggest that anyone who thinks Penland hasn’t had that information – submitted by staff members every pay period, digitized and saved for annual budget building and employee reviews – ready at hand doesn’t know and has never worked with Laura Way. Furthermore, there was a separate and legal overtime policy in effect for other staffing areas of the school during the time in question. I will not speculate as to whether Penland knew their overtime policy for coordinators was illegal, but the effect was clearly sought: pay the coordinators less than you would under another (legal) policy. Is this any way for an arts-based institution to prioritize the labor (admitted in the Response as often being provided to the school below market value) of the craftspeople it employs?

Penland goes on in its Response to state, “both the law and common sense suggest that it is time to move on.” Generally, I don’t understand the law to suggest anything. The law didn’t suggest Penland pay coordinators fairly, it demanded it. Now enough time has passed that the law will not demand Penland do anything regarding those undercompensated employees, but the law has no say regarding what Penland may do to right its unfortunate error. It seems a conflict of interest that a few people making real-world salaries can decide that it is common sense to move forward while they have yet denied fair and legal compensation to the people who worked for them.

Here’s the real problem and here’s why Penland thinks it can move on. Anyone who’s witnessed the carefully mediated Penland student experience might reasonably assume that Penland is an ideal employer. It isn’t. In fact, Penland is a classic case of why unions happen. A steady supply of people ready at hand who’d love to get paid to stay, combined with the toothless labor policy of and at-will state give management the upper hand when dealing with people who sincerely support the school’s mission. Added to that there is a tightly controlled one-way flow of information to the Board. It is, or at least was in my time, against employee policy for staff members to discuss school policy with members of the Board of Directors or the greater Penland community. This type of policy is quite common but it still seems appropriate to ask of an organization like Penland what the leadership would be so careful to prevent escaping from a staff of craftspeople devoted to Penland. And if those weren’t enough already to keep people in check, add to Penland’s unique situation a Director who is known for responding with personal attacks to professional dissent and it is not a bit surprising that you hear so little. Together, these factors often combine to leave staff members feeling as if they must choose between supporting that mission and speaking up in protest. I don’t say these things lightly. I would not speak except from personal experience, and I can’t speak for anyone else’s, but even in the worst case, where I am wrong or my experience unique, my contribution to this discussion shouldn’t discredit the central argument John has brought to everyone’s attention: Penland failed to fairly compensate a number of its workers for a number of years.

Given, or perhaps despite, all I said above, staff members often, to their credit, choose to stay and support the school’s mission, rather than risk their jobs protesting the conditions of their employment. They believe the school does fantastic work, brings together fantastic people and will outlast any given administrator. But ultimately they stay at their own expense, and that of others. They often leave unhappy, as will some of their successors, and so Penland also loses. There are always reasons not to speak up, chief among them being to just get along and preserve our welcome places at the school. But there are times to support each other and remember that for many of us, Penland’s success in pursuit of its mission is and should be inseparable from its success in building a supportive community that integrates the artists and craftspeople who work to insure it may continue that pursuit.

I’ve read comments to the effect that this is the conduct we should expect of a business operating on the scale of Penland, and yes, Penland is a business. To continue its work pursuing the mission we all support, it must be a well-managed one. But to say “this is what you get” is to cede the possibility of just corporate citizens. Shall we prioritize award winning air-conditioned housing for craft students in the mountains over fair compensation to the craftspeople who facilitate that mission just because we can? Because that’s easier money to raise? Why shouldn’t Penland step up to its presumed place as a leader in the field and go beyond proper compensation to provide a model of humane employment? Penland should show a better way. What institution is better positioned? It should be what most casual observers already think it is: a rare responsible corporate citizen, not only a place that educates, but one that supports working artists, beginning with its own staff.

Chris Winterstein

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A lawyer explains the allegations about Penland's labor practices

A lawyer who goes by the handle LawPots has posted an explanation of the allegations about Penland's labor practices over on the Ceramic Arts Daily forum. You can read it here. (Please note, as John Baymore does in the following post, that while he is referred to in the beginning of this post, subsequent references to "John B" refer to John Britt.)

I love Penland

Got into a nice discussion with Sean Scott, Paul Kowalchuk of Studio Potter Archive, Tony Clennell and many others about Penland School and Arts Organizations in general.

YES, I love Penland and what it stands for more than anyone! Why would I be so outraged by their behavior? Because I think they are better than this and I think that they and the board should address their tacit approval of exploiting artist, without regret or remorse. All they have to do is say oops, my bad, we will fix it and not do it again.


So- No, I don't hate Penland. Why do you think I didn't file a law suit in 2007? I was trying to let them do what was right and fix things themselves. Unfortunately, they still have a bit of work to do on that end, but let's give them a chance and see what they come up with. They can still be called to a higher level of action. So I am definitely not trying to destroy Penland. I want them to recognize the problem and correct it.

But it brings up a larger question about all arts organizations and how they treat workers. I have worked on the ground level of many small arts organizations and believe me Penland is not alone. Because of this call to action, I have had dozens of letters saying bravo, this happened to me and it is a real shame. Thanks for speaking out because I couldn't. You know when you give your heart and soul to a group and then find out you were only a being used and exploited for their gain, it is hard and hurts. But the people who are able, need to stand up because these groups can and should do better.

What happens is that when small arts groups do well, they grow. But then they still try to operate out of the same ethos or world view, we are poor and we need free work and could you just help us out. Well, when they are no longer poor and, in fact, have assets in the millions, they have to change and stop crying poor, realize that they need to find money for the artists that they employ. They claim they don't have money for them but we know that they somehow have money for everything else that they value and prioritize. So hopefully, this type of discussion may make groups start to prioritize the artists that they employ.

Let's make this a movement to have all arts organizations review how they treat their workers and try to do better. We all participate and need the good things that they provide, the classes, education, networking, gallery shows, etc. So if there is way to make them better stewards of the art, time and money we provide, then this call to action will have been worth it!

John Britt Pottery




Pay Back the Artists Penland School



Dear Penland School of Crafts,

Yes, I am pretty sure the almost everyone knows that I am unsatisfied with the way Penland handled it. You admitted to illegal overtime violations, you agreed to pay back wages for two years and you did NOT do that. 

The question is WHY did you not live up to your word?

Why didn't you tell the coordinators to whom you owed back pay, to come forward?

I await your answer......





Other obvious questions like why should anyone,( artist, teachers, students, etc. ) support such a dishonorable institution...can be left for later. Or why did your board chair and your lawyer lie?

Let's just stick to one easy question,

John Britt Pottery

Monday, August 27, 2012

exact text of the only message Penland School has sent to the local community about this matter

Robin Dreyer asked that this be posted:

What follows is the exact text of the only message Penland School has sent to the local community about this matter:


To the Penland community:
Some of you may have recently received a communication from potter John Britt having to do with past employment practices at Penland. During the past week, he has also made numerous posts about this on Facebook and other Internet platforms. We have posted a response on our website, which you can read here: http://www.penland.org/about/response.html.






The situation in question was resolved in 2007, although John was clearly not satisfied with the way it was handled. We want to assure you that Penland follows all applicable labor laws, including those governing overtime pay, which is the issue underlying John's complaint. If, after reading our response, you have further questions, you can direct them to Jean McLaughlin (jeanmclaughlin@penland.org) or Robin Dreyer (publications@penland.org). We are committed to answering all inquiries and will be sure to get back to you.

Thanks for your ongoing support of Penland School.

How Did Penland Go So Wrong?

Hey Clubbers,

Hate to dominate the blog. Can't wait to get back to stupid posts about the best dog in the world. And I have some great jokes for MudFire. But may be too soon, as they say.

I just have to say that I appreciate everyone's support and also everyone who is worried about me being too involved and that is takes a toll on a person. True.

That is kind of you.

I just know that if you see oppression and don't stand up and say THIS IS WRONG, no matter how it turns out, then what good is a calm peaceful life? People have to speak out for things to get better.

None of the current employees can speak for fear of reprisals, no local potters can speak for fear of reprisals, even Cynthia Bringle can't speak. Imagine if she can't stand up for the very workers who keep the clay studio operating....then how can coordinators?

My further question in all this is HOW DID PENLAND GO SO WRONG?  Being operated my greed, lawyers, accountants, fear and reprisals?

Support our cause for a better Penland!  Please ask your friends and family to join.

http://www.change.org/petitions/penland-school-board-chairman-repay-the-artists


John Britt Pottery

From a former coordinator

I was woodworking studio coordinator from August 2006 to March 2009. My starting pay was $12.23 per hour but working for Penland wasn't about the money because, well, it was Penland and I got to help make the magic happen. This was referred to as the Penland Glow and eventually I joined my co-workers in being amused at how quickly the Glow became tarnished on each new hire.

It is sooo easy to fall under Penland's spell that there is no shortage of those eager to work there. This creates an hourly work staff that is underpaid, generally overqualified, and without any real decision-making authority. It is natural for employees to feel as though they are easily replaced parts.

In February of 2008 I came across a few-years-old Annual Report. I looked at the list of employees as of May 1st, 2005 and calculated that there were 39 resignations since that date for an average of 1 employee resignation every 26.1 days. (“Resignations” includes firings and those not rehired the following year.) Additionally, there were 10 coordinator resignations for an average of 1 coordinator resignation every 3.3 months - an average tenure of 23.1 months. I lasted over 30 months. Yay for me! I'm above average!

The coordinator’s job is unique.  They are the only employees on campus required to have studio proficiency.  They are the only employees on campus (along with core students) required to interact with the students.  They manage budgets and perform equipment maintenance.  They hire assistants and screen work study applications.  They are largely responsible for shaping the student experience. Institutional memory within each studio is essential for the smooth running of the studio.

My first pay raise was 2%. The federal COLA that year was 3.4%.

As various frustrations mounted I would turn to my boss John Britt for advice. John's understanding of human psychology is unsurpassed and he regularly provided the calming words I needed. And just as the staff universally protected the student experience from workplace bickering, so too did John protect the coordinators from the mounting grievances he had with his superiors. When he left, the few remaining remnants of my Penland Glow were ripped away and being a coordinator was just a job. Not a career. Not a cause. Just a job.

In the spring of 2007 (before John left), when I was building the workbenches for the new print/letterpress studio, I knew I was working well over 40 hours per week. I didn't mind this as there was a deadline and I still had a bit of the ol' Penland Glow. Four months later (after John left) these were the overtime hours I listed when the illegality of Penland's pay practices came to light and employees were paid for past overtime. What wasn't mentioned was the fact that every Penland employee is always on duty when on campus. Studio access is theoretically a job perk but because of any number of work-related distractions, focused studio time is difficult. These distraction hours add up really fast but are impossible to add up really accurately and they slowly - imperceptibly - tarnish the Glow.

I first came to Penland for session 3 of 1986 and for over 20 years Penland was my best friend and I was its best ambassador. Because of that I probably shouldn't have worked there. I failed to heed the advice of a great sage - written on a bathroom wall - "Don't sleep with your friends, you'll find out things you don't want to know."

Perhaps when Penland institutes some operational overhaul alongside some extremely specific attrition I'll try to rebuild my friendship with the school. Until then, I'm just not interested.

Steven Tengelsen

In response to Penland's statement ("Response to recent allegations about Penland's labor practices")

Here is the email I sent Jean McLaughlin (copied to Rob Pulleyn and John Britt) on Friday, August 24. Jean's message to Marcos Lewis can be read here.

Dear Jean,
I have been following the situation regarding John Britt's allegations about Penland's labor practices. To be honest, I hoped that an explanation from Penland would make it clear that there was some sort of misunderstanding about what had happened. Instead, the unsigned response that Penland posted on its website on August 23, 2012, made it clear there was no misunderstanding: former employees who did not come forward - because they had no way of knowing they needed to do so - were not paid what they were owed. What the response refers to as a "technical violation" was a violation, pure and simple. It sounds like Penland did the minimum to comply with legal advice and did not make an effort to contact former employees who were affected by this violation. I am very disappointed to learn this.

Clearly it would have been better for everyone if this matter had been fully addressed and resolved at the time. I understand that Penland has no legal obligation, but I agree with what one poster on facebook wrote: Penland should reconsider compensating these former employees because "the amount of negative goodwill being generated at the moment is going to cost them their reputation." (You can see the thread with Rose O'Neill's comment here.) I hope that you and the board of trustees will reconsider Penland's handling of this issue.

Please know that the initial unsigned Penland response and your personal response to Marcos Lewis seemed to me dismissive of these claims and of John Britt and, by extension, his supporters. I hope that this dialogue is not finished and that future responses from Penland and its representatives will be more considerate.

Respectfully,

Amy Waller
Bakersville, NC

Open Letter From From a Past Clay Coordinator on Penland's Abusive Labor Policies

I was clay coordinator at Penland from summer 2005 to February of 2007. When I left, I was very frustrated with Penland and completely burned out on the situation. I will do my best to stay objective here and lend a little support to the struggle to get Penland to own up to their mistakes. I will also say that I was paid the back pay from overtime that I was owed during the short period of time when Penland was negotiating compensation to coordinators from John's initial efforts on this issue in 2008.

I am glad to see that there are some folks willing to talk about Penland's abusive labor practice openly. I too am having a hard time understanding why the Board and Directors are not willing to readdress.

Lyman Edwards

Open Letter to Penland - Repay the Artists

The issue is what is the objective standard for proper compensation? It is the agreement between the employer and the employee working within the scope of the law of the land. 

In this case, Penland SHOULD resolve ALL PAST CLAIMS WITHOUT REGARD TO DATE WHEN CALLED UPON BY THE OFFENDED.

It is fine to employ one on any terms over the minimum required by law. The problem is that Penland did NOT DO WHAT IS RIGHT: 
1) Investigate all past illegal payment of overtime
2) Make a good faith effort to contact ALL OFFENDED.
3) Leave OPEN THE DATE TO MAKE A LEGITIMATE CLAIM.
4) Settle ALL CLAIMS OBJECTIVELY.
5) Make a WRITTEN PUBLIC ACKNOWLEGEMENT and APOLOGY.
6) Ensure that all future employment contracts meet minimum LEGAL STANDARDS.

Sterling VanDerwerker

Open Letter to Penland From June Perry

Agree. Their letter was very revealing. They obviously had some records of those employees, so why didn't they contact them to let them know they would be making things right? If was only when forced with the threat of being reported for illegal practices that they agreed to resolve it in house; and then they only gave lip service by doing as little as they thought they could get away with. 

They were not in compliance with the law by not keeping proper records, nor by not paying for overtime; and looking at their healthy financial state, it makes one wonder why they would treat artists so shabbily?? I certainly hope they have changed the way they do business, but after reading their letter, I doubt very much if there's been much of a shift there. 


June Perry 
shambhalapottery@centurylink.net

Penland is a Disappointment

I too was disappointed by Penland's legalistic response. If they truly believe their policies are fair and responsible, then that is the case they should make. I believe in supporting nonprofits that are sensitive to economic fairness with employees. Simply being barely legal is too low a bar.

Sincerely,
David Freeman

What Does Cynthia Bringle think?

Cynthia,

Since you posted your kiln load on the blog, My question to you is:

What do you think about Penland ripping off coordinators for 7 years?

What do you think about their "alleged" efforts to repay them?

Do you think that they should repay all the artists?


This is an open letter to the Penland Director, Board Members, Donors, and Community



This is an open letter to the Penland Director, Board Members, Donors, and Community

We are deeply saddened and disturbed, but unfortunately not surprised by the Penland administration’s response to a whistleblower (the classic conservative corporate response). 

Penland portrays itself as a progressive, caring, and liberal institution for artists and craftspeople, yet it has exploited the people most responsible for facilitating its arts and crafts programs. Not only is it egregious that Penland administrators violated labor laws in the first place, but it’s worse that all coordinators were not sought out and fully compensated for every hour of every year that they worked. Penland administrators have taken a legalistic approach instead of appropriately compensating all workers and apologizing to them—including the whistleblower, John Britt. This would have been a more healing and compassionate response and would have benefited everyone (notably Penland’s public image) at relatively little cost.

We were also disappointed to learn about coordinators’ low hourly wages. A handful of people—the coordinators—ran the creative programs for abysmal pay (even without considering the overtime violations). How much did the director make during this same period? The gap in pay between front-line workers and administrators should be an economic justice issue for Penland’s board to resolve if they believe Penland is a truly progressive arts and crafts institution...and not a Wal-Mart-like institution. The comparison to Wal-Mart is not a fluke—it, too, has been found guilty of wage and labor violations in the past in the name of maximizing profits.

The current Penland administration focuses heavily on fundraising, courting donors, and touting physical plant improvements. There should be a stronger focus on valuing the heart and soul of Penland, which is the amazing community of artists and craftspeople and their work. Maybe it’s time to revisit what Penland’s priorities should be for the future. Penland should set an example for how artists and craftspeople can be fairly compensated for their efforts, rather than perpetuate the stereotype that exploiting artists is OK.

Potential students and artists planning to teach at Penland should consider seeking opportunities at other crafts schools (are they doing any better?) until Penland rectifies this situation through full restitution and public apologies. Donors should likewise boycott Penland until it can justify their generous support. The rights of working artists and the Penland community spirit have been damaged by the administration’s past violations and inadequate remedy.

Jeff Supplee (former student, studio assistant, and Penland donor)
&
Martha Copp (Penland donor)

Penland Community Silence

I totally agree with all that you've said. I've been following along with this issue and the fact that so few people have come to support you on this has really been on my mind . I'd like to go on the record as saying Penland School lost a great part of their staff and community the day they signed off on John Britt. I don't think anybody who worked alongside you or had you as an instructor would disagree with me. Does anybody reading this have recollection of a clay coordinator at Penland (or anywhere else) as knowledgeable and fun to be around as Britt? I truly doubt it. I have a sense, however, that the clay coordinator position, like most other positions at the school, was intended by the administration only as a slot for young guns wanting to be affiliated with Penland and all too willing to put up with a year or two of abuse before moving on to other things. Unfortunately, your serious, career minded approach to the position put you at odds with their diminutive and perhaps illegal treatment of employees and this kind of conflict was probably inevitable. I think it's a sad statement that so few people in the "Penland Community" have publicly offered you the empathy you deserve for standing up to the unjust employment practices at the school. Surely, this has more to do with their own insecurities and compelling need to remain connected with the school than with any desire to shun you. A quick survey of behavior in cult organizations offers more parallels here than I care to ponder. Best of luck, John.

Nick Friedman
The Duckpond Pottery
Brevard, North Carolina
Penland School Blacklistee

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Aug 2012

Great to get a firing done .....

Stunning Silence in Penland Community

I know that Penland sent out a memo to its mailing list saying that no victims stepped up, and John Britt is a freak!  (Think we knew that already.)  But I have sent them names and these people wrote letters yet  they still claim I am lying.

They want coordinators to step up publicly (in spite of the history of black listing).

What I find most depressing is the stunning silence by the so called Penland Community. They all write me notes behind the scene but won't speak out publicly. They all know what happens and they all know the way Penland treats employees. Many of them have worked there.  Many are still working there.

I know that some of this attitude revolves around the apprentice system of crafts in this country. Craftspeople are trained to work for someone for free or subsistence wages, in exchange for knowledge and the time necessary to develop their craft. Unfortunately that system doesn't extent to companies who hire employees.

In this community everyone is quick to stand up to support gay rights, or women's rights but worker exploitation is  just accepted as part of the training.

If people cannot see that Penland did not honor its promise to pay the workers for two years and is hiding behind legal language then I cannot convince them. But the people who can see that and know what it is like to work at Penland need to speak up.

People tell me you shouldn't try to change this - it is bad for your health. But unless someone had fought for you to get equity and equality you would not be enjoying it now. And if no one stands up today then the children of tomorrow will suffer.

I cannot do this alone so if there is anyone out there with moral compass still intact, please stand up and tell Penland publicly that they should do the right thing.

If you want change, Wade on in the Water!



online discussions about Penland labor practices allegations

For those following the situation with the allegations about Penland School of Crafts labor practices, there are good discussions happening on the clayart listserv and the Ceramic Arts Daily education forum.

If you don't subscribe to the clayart listserv, you can read posts on yahoo groups or www.potters.org. There are several threads on this, including "boycott," "penland - no harm no foul," "penland boycott" and "penland story, time to move on." (Personally I find the potters.org site easier to read, but it can lag a little (often by just a few hours) in posting. I think yahoo groups is more current.)

If you want to submit a post to clayart, you need to subscribe. You can do that here.

The Ceramic Arts Daily forum discussion is here.

If there are other discussions happening, I hope folks will share the links.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Break for Levity

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to drop in and spread a little mirth with this video. The very best is Lindsey's expression after the act.

Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pduXBNUUNHc&feature=youtu.be


Peace,

Erik Haagensen
www.haagensen.net
www.mudfire.com

Friday, August 24, 2012

Digital Glazes

Does any one use/have experience with Digital Fire's Insight glaze program, by Tony Hansen?  I've acquired several glaze programs in the past hoping to find one that's really useful. So far struck out. TH's program seems very thorough--seems so--but does any one actually use it?  It is full of stuff, too much stuff?

Thanks - hp

Looks like the Mountain Express has picked this up.

Penland Response 2 -John Britt's Response 2 (rev.)



Re: Response to recent allegations about Penland’s labor practices (rev.)

I read Penland’s Response with great interest. 

http://www.penland.org/about/response.html

I thought I would try highlighting a few points to clarify things. They said that 

“Five years ago, in 2007, it was brought to Penland’s attention by this employee that there we a technical violation of wage and hour statutes in the School’s methods of calculating and paying for overtime. Penland sought legal counsel to assess its pay practices, and made a good faith effort to address this error with its employees”

Translated this means: That I, John Britt, informed Penland of illegal labor policies and when they refused to cease them, I threatened to turn them into the Wage and Labor board and quit in protest. Penland then contacted its lawyer to assess the situation. I met with the then board chair, at  D.T.’s Coffee Shop, and he assured me that if I did not file a claim and allowed him to handle it “in house,” that he would rectify the situation in a fair way with employees.

To the best of my memory the “technical violation” was three fold. They structured the work week at 80 hours for two weeks, instead of 40 for a week. This allowed workers to work 60 hours one week and 20 the next so that there was no overtime. Could have been 70/10 or 50/30 but only after 80 hours for two weeks did anyone get overtime. This is a clear violation of Federal Law. But it suited their purposes because all coordinators have to work the changeover weekend which could add 12 – 24 hours in two days. The next “technical violation” was to require time cards be turned in on Wednesday of the second work week which ended on Friday. This forced employees to estimate hours for three days and it was always below the 80 hours.  Another clear violation. And the third “technical violation” was not keeping accurate records. It is their legal duty to keep accurate records!

Calling these three things “a technical violation”, kinda like it was a minor hang nail, and it really strains credulity. I might have called it a three egregious violations or a system of violations perfectly designed to deny workers their pay, but that is just me talking.


Oh, and the magical thing was that the Facilities Department had the legal overtime policy during that time. So Penland was implementing two different policies simultaneously.

My question is: If Penland surprisingly found out about a three-fold technical violation which deprived their workers of legitimate legal pay, why didn’t they immediately try to pay them all back for the entire period of the policy, 2000 – 2007 ? 

This had been going on for 7 years. These workers were only making $10 - $12.00 an hour and barely making ends meet and then being denied the most meager amount of overtime. It may only have been in the range of $1,000 - $1,500 a year. Why only pay 2 years if you were so sorry it happened? Why only pay only the legal minimum required by law, when your workers worked the illegal maximum for you? They did the hundreds of hours of overtime to help you and you don’t make the first effort to rectify the situation? Is that how we want our Arts Organizations to treat workers?

And finally I find it hard to believe that Penland, which has assets of 27,000,000, income of around $5,000,000, can file complicated tax forms, file and administer multiple government grants, and employ 30 or more people and yet somehow doesn't know the most elementary requirements of Federal Labor Law? How is that possible? 

These things don’t just happen accidently. Someone has to decide what the weekly hours are, how the pay period is structured and had to decide not to keep records. That is really weird. Was it really an accident? Maybe just an amazing coincidence? 

The next sentence is the best: 

“At that time, in August 2007, following the advice of counsel, Penland provided remedial pay to its then current employees, and to former employees who came forward at that time, for overtime worked during the previous two years.”

The interesting thing about this sentence is that they did not inform former employees, but allowed them to “come forward”. How could they come forward if they didn’t know?

So I am left trying to understand what is “good faith” about not telling anyone you withheld their legal pay? Why didn’t you inform them is the question?

Remember that this is a small organization.... there were only 7 coordinators. They knew all of them. It is not like GM with 10,000 employees. Seems to me you would simply apologize to your workers and offer to repay them.  It is that simple.

You can’t argue that everyone is satisfied when you didn’t inform them. What Penland needs to do it to send out a letter to the artists it shorted with a modest check for damages, $1,000 - $1,500 and apologize.  Simple as that.

Don’t ask the artists to come in and remember their hours worked. It was Penland’s legal responsibility to keep records. Also, the former workers don’t want to come in to ask you for back wages when they see how poorly you treated me, by banning me from the campus, black listed me from teaching and tried to portrait me a lunatic. That is why no one comes forward to complain. They would face the entire power of a multimillion dollar organization and no one wants to do that. Even the board members who are artists- are afraid of speaking out. 

This is not about bashing Penland. It is about being an example to all arts organizations on the treatment to artists. Penland wants to be a “leader in the field” then it needs to correct its past treatment of artists/workers. 

Why should any artists today want to donate work to the Penland auctions when they have such an unrepentant attitude when they found out they were denying artist their legal pay? 

When Penland has $27,000,000 in assets, maybe it is better support struggling arts groups who treat artists humanely!?

Perhaps Penland should not try to diminish me and rather focus on their policies that caused this mess and reform their current policies that are not allowing it to PAY BACK ITS ARTISTS!

I call on the Penland Board to do the right thing!

Join our protest:
http://www.change.org/petitions/penland-school-board-chairman-repay-the-artists

Penland Boycott John Britt's Response 1 of 2



Penland Response 1

First, it is nice to see Penland is abandoning the lie that -it paid artists going three years back.

The fact that they only paid two years at best is in this link:


A different story than I have in a threatening letter their lawyer sent to me, where he said they paid three years. Also, the future board chair told me the same talking points. Three years.  

Hope no one at Penland lied to them?!  

Not good to lie to your future Board Chair. When they have to write it publically, funny how things change.

Second,  I sent Penland the name of a person and a letter stating that they were not paid and would accept a generous settlement. Funny how if you tell people – they know. If you lie and keep it all quiet then it is funny how no one knows to come forward. 

Response 2 in another post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

20x20 Clay Invitational Sale- Clemson SC


This Weekend!! - You are invited to :

20x20 Clay Invitational Sale
featuring 

NC Clay artists:
Will Baker
Marcia Bugg
Patti Connor-Greene
Linda Dalton
Elise Delfield
Claudia Dunaway
Sue Grier
Ann Gleason
Joy Tanner
Alex Matisse
Teresa Pietsch
Maria Andrade Troya
Doc Welty

SC Clay artists:
James Cornell
Rob Gentry
Ernst Meyer
Marquerite Palmer
Chris Troy
Mike Vatalaro
Denise Woodward-Detrich

at The ARTS Center in Clemson, SC - details at http://explorearts.org/20-x-20-invitational-clay-exhibit-and-sale

Pottery Wheel for Sale SOLD!!!


Vintage 1960  Leo McNeal wheel: A machinist in the airplane industry made these wheels for Wayne State U. in Detroit Mich.  Several potters in Michigan, including John Glick, Julie, and I purchased wheels directly from McNeal.  Julie's wheel was made a little smaller to fit her leg size. Her wheel has been sold.

Of historical interest: When Michael Cardew visited Wayne State in the mid 60's he threw a screw top bottle on the McNeal wheel . We still have the screw top bottle.


Solidly build oak construction, high quality craftsmanship. 
100 lb flywheel.
Smooth action treadle.
Stand or sit. 
Built-in tool box.
Copied from Leach wheel.
Plaster bats and key available with purchase.

Can be seen at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Next door to the sweet-smelling scenic sewage treatment plant.  Please call ahead.

Asking SOLD


Contact xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Penland Boycott


Penland Boycott

Sign our petition:


change.org/petitions/penland-school-board-chariman-repay-the-artists#share 

I need some help with a situation that I have been unable to resolve on my own. 

I worked at Penland for about 4 ½ years and during my time as the Studios Coordinator, I was asked to conduct an illegal overtime policy that had been in effect from 2000 – 2007. This was against workers who made $10 -$12.00 an hour and were barely able to pay their bills. I declined and became a Whistle Blower against Penland School who refused to stop the policy. After, quitting in protest and informing them of my discussions with the Wage and Labor board, they finally admitted that they conducted 7 years of an illegal overtime policy, ceased implementing it and agreed to pay back wages to employees. I agreed to allow them to handle it “in house” provide they complied and stopped the practice. This was my mistake because I trusted that Penland would live up to their word. They did not!

Several months ago I was informed by a former employee that he never received payment and so I went to Penland and asked why that was? They assured me everyone was paid going back three years. Since that discussion, I found 3 others that were within three year window and hadn’t been reimbursed for illegal over time either. All they say now is that the matter has been resolved and they refuse to reopen it, in spite of multiple discussions with board members.

My thinking is that if you honestly made an error and mistakenly structured your overtime rules to deny coordinators the pay that they deserved, then you would surely want to reimburse them all. The coordinators did the work and Penland got the benefit so they should be paid.

The coordinators were all artists who were working very hard at Penland and simultaneously being asked for art donations to be sold at the auction, while being denied their legal overtime. To me it is just disgusting that they make around $500,000 every year at the Penland Auction and somehow can’t find any money to pay back what these coordinators/artists legally earned. And while this is going on, they manage to build million dollar buildings every year. They are not poor, they just choose not to pay their artists.

So I am coming to you to ask for help to get these artists the justice that they deserve. It is not about the money but the idea that arrogant not-for-profit arts organization like Penland can so egregiously abuse workers with no consequences simply because they will black list anyone who crosses them. If they are allowed to trample on the rights of the very people they are purporting to serve, artists and craftspeople, then workers there are never safe.

Please help me convince the administration that paying all of these artists, from 2000 - 2007 for work they did is the right thing to do. If you want to help to send email to  rob@pulleynstudio.com , jeanmclaughlin@penland.org  , and please  cc: me at occupypenland@gmail.com  This is because the letters I have sent to them never see the light of day but this needs to be out in the open! So please post on your Facebook page and blogs.

If you don’t know what to write, just write: “REPAY THE PENLAND ARTISTS!” It is that simple.

If you could share this letter on Facebook and with as many artists and friends as you could, I would really appreciate it. I am trying to get 5,000 emails as soon as possible!  I also ask that you stop donating to Penland’s until they REPAY THE ARTISTS!  

The artists that work at Penland are the ones who make the Penland magic possible. If artists don’t stand up for other artists then there will never be justice.  Thanks for trying to make a difference! 

John Britt Pottery
Occupypenland@gmail.com

RESURRECT THOSE SHARDS

For all of you potters out there that unfortunately find themselves with shards...Consider taking a class at Wildacres Retreat October 1-5 with Pam Brewer.  The Magic and Mystery of Mosaic will give you the information that will allow you to take the perceived refuse of our craft and create a new kind of masterpiece.  While Cynthia Bringle is teaching an act of creating ceramics downstairs, I will be teaching how to break and reassemble ceramics upstairs.  You will be guaranteed a unique experience and the ability to go home and embellish your surroundings with your work in an entirely new way.  Or, perhaps, you know someone, confusing as it may seem, who has been drooling over your shards and would appreciate the opportunity to put them to use. 
I know that we work very hard to create the perfect pot.  And it may seem difficult to see value in it broken.  But I can assure you, to me they are rich a shard at a time.  I would guess that Antonio Gaudi would have agreed.
For further information, just contact me at pambrewercreates@yahoo.com

Monday, August 20, 2012

Garth Clark Talk at the Mint


Subject: Garth Clark 
 Garth Clark
October 16 - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Mint in Charlotte NC

Dear Potter,

The Delhom Service League of the Mint Museum of Art is sponsoring a symposium featuring the noted ceramics critic Garth Clark on October 16, 2012.  The program will focus on traditional pottery, with an emphasis on North Carolina pottery.  Matt Jones, Mark Hewitt, and Charlotte Wainwright will also speak.  Garth has particularly asked for a significant amount of time to be allotted to audience discussion.  I am sure it will be a stimulating and exciting experience, particularly for potters.  Here is your chance to be heard! 

The attached form will allow you to reserve a seat for the program, and indicate your lunch preference.  Note that you may register by mail (check) or by email (credit card). 

If you do not object to doing so, I would appreciate it if you would forward this registration form to your email list, or to those you think may be interested.  It is our best means of getting the information to the most relevant attendees. 

Thank you for your help.  I hope to see you on October 16.

SPEAKERS:
Matt Jones “A Challenging Dialogue”
Mark Hewitt: “Sweetening the Pot: Reviewing a Resilient Tradition”
Charlotte V. Wainwright: “Collectors: Obsession and Advocacy”
Keynote: Garth Clark: “Traditional Pottery: Present and Future”
Audience responses

Reservations required; Check back for reservation information.
Lunch included

Barbara Perry
Delhom Servicer League


or call 704-377-2010

Attention to Detail w/ Emily Reason, Crystal Lake, Il


October 12 & 13
at McHenry County College Conference Center in Crystal Lake, Il.
For info & registration:
www.mchenry.edu/pottery
conferencecenter@mchenry.edu
Amy Carzoli 815-455-8764

In this demonstration workshop, Emily Reason shares the techniques
and principles she applies in making porcelain pots. Demonstrations
include her process of throwing, trimming, carving, brush-working and
embellishing her pieces. Emily will share tips for working with porcelain
and explain how she makes decisions about form and surface in her work.
As potters, our initial objective is to create forms that are conducive to
function. Emily believes that when surface details are given thoughtful
consideration of the form and pots are crafted with care, artistic voices are
exposed. As a group we’ll discuss our motivation for making pottery, from
inspiration to making a living as a potter. A slide presentation of Emily’s
work and experiences will also be given.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ground Hog 2012


Finally caught the elusive ground hog stealing weeds!  I knew someone was weeding this garden and it wasn't me!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Clay Club Show At TRAC 2012

Here is a link to a short video of the Current Clay Club show at the Toe Rive Arts Council.  August 11 - September 22, 2012.  (in case you can't make it.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYL3ft_hEAI&list=UUkzm7dzTmNY64cMjuFtAjGA&index=1&feature=plcp

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Firing and Glaze Advice Needed


Just unloaded a kiln full of pots. 
Lots of pinholing.
Believe it's a clay body problem.

Pots fired from reconstituted porcelain (same formula) in soda kiln to cone 10 next to pots fired with this particular batch of porcelain are not pinholed.
Porcelain contains:
grollegg
tile 6 
custer spar
silica
pyrotrol
bentonite

Glazes boiled/pinholed, particularly glazes that have a wider firing range, and those that flux earlier or like a lower temperature. The clay body is "lumpy", some bits are whiter than others, and some parts have shrunk away from the lumpy bits. Pots made from the newer batch that have pinholing in the glaze (amber celadon and a barium matte turquoise) are next to pots thrown from a reconstituted batch containing no scraps from this current questionable newer batch, and the reconstituted batch pots have not pinholed. Looking at older pots made last year from a completely different batch, no pinholing problems with the amber celadon in them, furthermore, even when amber celadon was thinner on those older pieces, no pinholing problems.

The question is: can I refire any of these pieces with the pinholes and have the glaze settle down? If so, how may I refire them? What would work best? electric, refire in soda?, gas no soda? no reduction? (the soda deposits seem to exacerbate the problem in areas where the glazes used are more "fluxy"). Would refiring them in soda with adding more soda make them worse?

Thanks!!! for any advice!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Clay Club Opening and Show

Had a great opening at TRAC tonight. Our first show!

 Thanks to Sue, Tria, Kari, Erin, Nelle, Gluck, Amy, Robbie and Rob, Pat and Kathryn for all their work.


Turned out to be a great show.

Here is a link to a video of the show if you can't make it in person.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYL3ft_hEAI

Cut Bowl - Sarah Wells Rolland 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdijkG0lM5A&list=UUkzm7dzTmNY64cMjuFtAjGA&index=2&feature=plcp

Here is another video from the August Clay Club.This is Sarah Wells Rolland who is the owner of the Village Potters in Asheville. GREAT studio!

Here is the finished bowl:

The Village Potters, Sarah Wells Rolland

http://thevillagepotters.com/

Friday, August 10, 2012

Clay Club Opening Saturday August 112012 5-7p.m.



Yo Clubbers.......Anyone who is coming to the OPENING for our first show this Saturday .... and bringing a pot luck dish...if you could email me to let me know what you are bringing, that would be great!



The North Carolina Clay Club formed to connect potters and ceramic artists of WNC. Beginning August 11 and continuing through September 22, the Toe River Arts Council’s Spruce Pine Gallery will host“va•ri•e•ties–Western North Carolina Clay Show” — a display of diversity from the collection of artists.


A reception will be held on opening day, Saturday, August 11 from 5 to 7 pm at the TRAC Gallery in Spruce Pine, 269 Oak Avenue. For more information, call 765-0520.

Kyle Carpenter Cutting a raised foot

Here is a link to our Youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtAOYrPmvd4

Here is another video that we did at the August Clay Club 2012. Thanks again to the Village Potters in Asheville and Kyle.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Easy Coil Pots- Mary Jane Findley 2012

Here is a link to our Youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgbHeOlzTi4


Here is a short video of Mary Jane doing a demo of a nice coil method.  She was one four people demonstrating at the August 2012 Clay Club.  Enjoy!

Clay Club at Village Potters

 Sarah Rolland 
pierced bowl demo
 Kyle Carpenter 
cut foot demo
Britt and High-tops on the treadle wheel

Thanks Village Potters!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Great Clay Club


Had a great Club Tonight!  Here is everyone watching Kyle Carpenter demo one of his cut bowls.

Thanks to the Village Potters for having us!  WHAT A NICE PLACE!!  You have to check them out!!

I have some very nice videos that several people did. Worth the drive!

I will post them tomorrow.