The Collection:
Penland School of Crafts

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Institution Overview

Penland School of Crafts evolved out of founding director Lucy Calista Morgan’s commitment to helping the local Penland community through the revival of the craft of weaving.   In 1923, Morgan organized what became known as the Penland Weavers and Potters, a community craft organization that operated until 1967.   Wanting to provide advanced training for the community weavers, Morgan invited master weaver Edward F. Worst to come to Penland.   Worst’s first visit in 1928 led to the establishment of the summer Weaving Institutes in 1929 and the incorporation of Penland School of Handicrafts in 1938.   In addition to classes in weaving the summer programs offered instruction in ceramics, jewelry making, basketry, simple bookbinding, printmaking, leather tooling, and other crafts.   After Morgan’s retirement in 1961, the school’s focus expanded beyond traditional craft to include the emerging studio craft movement.  The school’s name changed to Penland School of Crafts and new media such as glass and iron were added to the school’s curriculum.  Information about current classes, instructors, and special events can be found on the Penland School of Crafts website.

Collection Overview

The archives of Penland School of Crafts include the official records of the school as well as special collections of manuscripts, photographs, and objects donated to the school by former instructors, students, trustees, and staff.   The archives are open to the public by appointment.  Visit Penland’s website for contact information.

Collection Descriptions

Archival Collections

Penland School of Crafts Records – Director’s Records, 1920-1950
The Director’s Records consist of the administrative files of Penland’s directors beginning with the school’s founding director, Lucy Morgan, who led the school until her retirement in 1961. The Lucy Morgan files include correspondence, publications, news clippings, and subject files. Of special interest are the files documenting the summer weaving institutes from 1929-1938.

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Penland School of Crafts Records – Penland Publications, 1920-present
These records include several distinct series. Series 1: printed materials, not published by Penland, but related in some way to the school or to craft history. Series 2:  printed materials published by Penland, such as newsletters, session catalogs, promotional materials, and how-to pamphlets. Series 3: postcard collection containing Penland-related images. Most, but not all, of the cards were published by the school. The postcard collection also contains a few historical images relating to the region and to other craft centers. Series 4: school photograph collection of photographs, slides, videos, and digital images documenting the school. Most of these images were taken by school staff, instructors, or students.

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Penland Weavers and Potters Records, 1923-1967
In 1923, Lucy Morgan organized Fireside Industries as a department of the Appalachian School, a mission school for children established in 1911 by the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Fireside Industries began as a community weaving cooperative under Morgan’s direction. Its name changed to Penland Weavers and Potters in 1928, reflecting the cooperative’s marketing of crafts in other media.  The cooperative continued in operation until 1967. The Penland Weavers and Potters Collection includes manuscript records, price lists, promotional brochures, photographs, and financial records.

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Penland Object Collection, ca. 1900 – present
The Penland Object Collection consists of two and three dimensional work created by students, instructors, staff, and community members. This is not a museum collection, but a limited study collection assembled because the items help document the history of the school. Of particular interest are the weavings, pewter, and copperware made and marketed by the Penland Weavers and Potters during the years 1923-1967.

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Special Collections

Appalachian Industrial School Collection, 1911-1952

The Appalachian Industrial School was founded in 1911 by the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina as a mission school for mountain children. The school served as the organization under which Fireside Industries (later known as Penland Weavers and Potters) was organized in 1923. The official records of the Appalachian School, which closed in 1964, are in the custody of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Penland School of Crafts has a small collection of materials, consisting primarily of pamphlets and photographs that document the mission school’s early history from 1914 through the 1950s.

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I. D. Blumenthal Collection, 1943-1946
I. D. Blumenthal (1894-1978), a prominent North Carolina businessman, philanthropist, and friend of the school, provided much needed advice and assistance to Lucy Morgan during the construction of the school’s new dining hall in 1945. The Blumenthal collection includes correspondence and school publications.  

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Frances Williams Brown Collection, 1936
Frances Williams Brown, a niece of Penland student Isadora Williams, spent the summer of 1936 working in the school’s administration office. This collection consists of Penland-related snapshots taken that summer.   

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Nancy Valliant Jones Collection, ca. 1933-1987
Nancy Valliant (1908-2006) attended the 1933 weaving institute as an occupational therapist from Brattleboro, Vermont.  She returned many times to Penland, as student and summer staff, maintaining a friendship with Lucy Morgan until Morgan’s death in 1981.  The Nancy Valliant Jones Collection contains Penland campus map placemats, photographs, woodcuts, news clippings, craft books, publications, and hand-woven smocks.  

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The Elizabeth Phillips Collection, ca. 1900-1940
Elizabeth Phillips (1919-2008) was a descendant of Susan Phillips (1828-1926) of Mitchell County, North Carolina. Soon after Lucy Morgan arrived at Penland in 1920 she visited Susan Phillips who had been a weaver in her younger years. Morgan recalled in her 1958 memoir, Gift from the Hills, that seeing Susan Phillips’ woven coverlets and Lindsey-Woolsey cloth inspired her to revive the craft of weaving in the Penland community. The Elizabeth Phillips collection consists of a coverlet section woven by Susan Phillips and several 1930s era linens woven by the Penland Weavers and Potters.

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Isadora Williams Collection, ca. 1933-1972
Isadora Williams (1884-1976), a Home Marketing Specialist with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension in Knoxville, Tennessee, attended a number of Penland’s summer weaving institutes in the 1930s and 1940s.  Williams, known for her woven rugs, was a founding member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The majority of her personal papers are housed with the Southern Highland Craft Guild. A small collection was donated to Penland School of Crafts by Williams’ nephew in 2006. The Williams collection includes weaving notebooks; drafts of weaving patterns; instructions for dyeing with natural materials; weaving related books, pamphlets, and periodicals; and photographs of weaving samplers.  

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Bayard Wootten Photograph Collection, ca. 1920-1940.
Bayard Morgan Wootten (1875-1959) was a noted North Carolina photographer and a cousin of Lucy Morgan. This collection consists of Penland-related photographs taken by Wootten in the 1920s and 1930s. The photographs document the early years of the school and include images of buildings, students, instructors, community members, and school activities.

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