Marlon Lewis ’20 — Before I begin, I would like to first give thanks to Michael Dill ‘71 for his generosity and commitment to giving back to Wabash. The Dill Fund was established to support the educational mission of the College by enabling students to explore off-campus opportunities outside of the normal academic year. I was given the opportunity to pursue a workshop in Penland North Carolina at Penland School of Craft. It was a two-week intensive glass casting workshop led by Sayaka Suzuki. Without his contributions, I would not have been able to afford my summer experience
I had no idea what was in store for me on this journey. The drive from Asheville to Penland was beautiful. Mountain ranges, rivers, streams and forest on both sides of the road. I had never seen the landscape of North Carolina before, so I was completely taken aback by its beauty. My driver made
a left turn about 40 minutes into the trip, and we began ascending up the mountainside, the small town we just were in vanishing behind the thick tree lines. The driver nor myself had any idea what was yet to be seen further ahead. Up two thousand feet from the nearest town, we emerged out of the forestry and it was just beautiful. Huge open fields and behind it over a hundred years of Penland history atop the mountain. They integrated their historic log cabin buildings and their modern additions beautifully.
To my surprise, there were only five undergrads besides myself out of the 180 people in the 18 sessions that took place over the same two week period, that was a huge shocker to me because I had just assumed that everyone would be relatively around my age. There were people of all ages and backgrounds, people from over thirty states and seven countries. One thing that shocked me but wasn’t really a surprise was the lack of Black bodies in the programs. There were two others besides me, one of whom was a resident artist of Penland. It was great to meet so many people from places all over and to hear their passions and stories and experiences. The knowledge they would pass on just in our subtle interactions was priceless. We were all brought together because of what we knew Penland could give us a life-changing experience.
Glass casting was a style of art I had never heard of before Penland and the technique pat de ver I had no experience with. Our Instructor Sayaka was phenomenal; the two weeks we spent with her felt like two months. Our days started at nine in the morning and many times did not end until three in the morning to go to sleep and do it over again. I made lasting connections with my workshop mates as well as with those in other workshop sessions. Whether it was camp fires on the noll or jam sessions in the cabin, we were always finding something to do and express our creativity.
I was able to channel thoughts and ideas that wouldn’t have been possible if I did not have the opportunity to attend. My artistic ability, insight, and vision all achieved new levels thanks to this experience.
There was a road name “Road to the heavens above” that was beautiful to me, it was perfect for where I was. I had never seen a street or road name like it in my life, and it was one of the last things I could expect to see when I arrived, but it’s a detail and a sight that will remain in my memories for a lifetime.