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D Wood: 2021 Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts Writer’s Residency

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D Wood was awarded The Furni­ture Soci­ety’s Educa­tional Grant in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the award was extended through 2021 and she was able to attend Arrow­mont for the writer’s residency.

14 — 19 November 2021

Welcome to Arrowmont

Resi­dency context

Selec­tion by the Furni­ture Society, the Educa­tional Grant Partner and jury commit­tee. The grant includes room and board, and a travel stipend of up to $500 to help defray travel costs to allow for a one-week resi­dency with the aim of writing about the furni­ture field. Access to all ongoing work­shops for obser­va­tion, research, and conver­sa­tion will be given.

The grant serves three purposes: to produce a text about the furni­ture field (in the broad­est sense); Arrow­mont School of Arts and Crafts and The Furni­ture Society will actively support publi­ca­tion of the resident’s writing in rele­vant, to be-deter­mined outlets; and writing emerg­ing from this expe­ri­ence will serve to promote the Arrow­mont library and its compre­hen­sive hold­ings as an impor­tant resource for the field of craft.


The resi­dency was orig­i­nally slated for 2020 but deferred until 2021 because of the pandemic. When given the choice of dates to devote to the resi­dency in 2021, I chose the last session of the year for two reasons: 1) Betty Scarpino and Dixie Biggs were teach­ing. I met Betty at Ander­son Ranch in 2006 and had written for her while she was editor of Amer­i­can Wood­turner; 2) I assumed that the inci­dence of Covid-19 would have dimin­ished or a large portion of the popu­la­tion would have been vacci­nated by this time.

I booked air tickets to Knoxville, TN, in June to ensure that I could travel in daylight hours. However, in Septem­ber Amer­i­can Airlines changed my flights so that I arrived on Satur­day 13 Novem­ber at night and departed Arrow­mont for Canada on Satur­day 20 Novem­ber in the early morning.

Arrowmont Entrance

Arrow­mont School of Arts & Crafts, Gatlin­burg, TN, Main Office

Photo: Fran J Nagy, November 2018

Satur­day 13 November

The flight from Toronto to Char­lotte, NC, departed on time at 2.44pm but the flight from Char­lotte to Knoxville, TN, was delayed by 60 minutes so that I arrived at around 8.00pm. I pre-arranged a taxi from Knoxville to Gatlin­burg which dropped me at Arrow­mont at 9.30pm. I had been assigned Room 411 In Bill May Hall and an entry code. There appeared to be no-one on site but I found the dormi­tory and my room. I could not get in using the code. I tried other doors and found an unlocked room across the hall. If I found no other solu­tion, there was a room in which I could camp. I walked around the campus, obliv­i­ous to the fact that bears are frequent visi­tors. All was in dark­ness except for the Instruc­tors’ lodg­ings (iden­ti­fied by the taxi driver) where I found a towel and toilet paper. I took these back to the unlocked room, turned on the heat, washed and, at about 12.30am, lay down on the mattress. With my coat over me and my head on a pillow, I slept.

Bill May Hall

Bill May Hall

Opened October 2018 to replace a dormi­tory destroyed in forest fires in November 2016


Sunday 14 November

I woke around 8.30am. There were no Arrow­mont person­nel working yet, but I found a partic­i­pant who had been to Gatlin­burg before and knew where Star­bucks was. I set out on this sunny, cool morning and found the side­walks crowded with unmasked people, bumper-to-bumper trucks and SUVs on the streets, and exten­sive line-ups at every restau­rant serving break­fast. At Star­bucks I ordered a crois­sant and bever­age and just hoped that my brief time in the store would not give me Covid. The place was packed, and the only mask-wearers were a couple of servers. 

I walked back the way I came, passing souvenir, fudge, candy, and cookie stores as well as Ripley’s Believe It or Not, other enter­tain­ment venues and the SkyLift with open chairs and gondo­las leading up to SkyLift Park. As I passed Arrow­mont Main Office I saw a woman on a golf cart and asked if she was house­keep­ing. I told her about my Satur­day night. After deter­min­ing that I had the right room and the right code, she unlocked Room 411 with a key. I was able to unpack in my’ room and when main­te­nance came to review the problem, it turned out that the door lock’s battery had died. The lock had to be disas­sem­bled. Then I was good to go and come back.

It was then time to explore in the daylight. I saw people eating under a marquee and real­ized that one was Betty Scarpino. With her was Dixie Biggs, whom I’d not met before. Sharing the table was Lanny Bergner, an instruc­tor for flame paint­ing on metal mesh. They suggested that I grab provolone, ham, bread and potato chips from the Instruc­tors’ lodge fridge. I did so and chatted with the instruc­tors. I followed this with a perusal of the library, where I tried to find books on African Amer­i­can crafts­peo­ple (a poten­tial writing topic) and catch up on the latest issues of craft maga­zines (the Toronto Public Library system still does not allow access to maga­zines).
I returned to my room, sent a few emails and returned to the dining hall where at 5.30pm a queue formed to pick up a casual dinner – sand­wiches, salad, chips, Rice Krispies Squares and a bever­age. This time I talked to Tina Curry who was teach­ing animal carving in clay. She gave me the url for her website which, when I checked, was impressive.

Arrowmont Entrance to Dining Hall

Entrance to Dining Hall

Photo: Carol Barton, August 2011

Work­shops began on Sunday evening. While instruc­tors and students drifted in differ­ent direc­tions, I returned to my room. Since I was a teach­ing assis­tant for a course about Toronto history at Ryerson Univer­sity, I began marking the few essays that were submit­ted elec­tron­i­cally before the dead­line of Monday morning. I turned out the light around 9.00pm and slept well.

Monday 15 November

Knowing that break­fast was served from 8.00 – 8.30am, I set my alarm for 7.20, had a shower and quickly checked my emails. Break­fast was full south­ern fare, includ­ing a choice of fruit, grits (tried once in NC – never again!), scram­bled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, oatmeal, pastries, orange juice, tea and coffee. I joined Betty and two wood­turn­ers; after the men left, Betty and I got caught up on our respective lives.

When Betty departed for her work­shop, I went to the library to wait for Bill Grif­fith. Bill is a studio artist, admin­is­tra­tor and educa­tor at Arrow­mont. He was Assis­tant Direc­tor (1987 – 2008), Direc­tor of the Artists-In-Resi­dency Program (2006 – 2015), Program Direc­tor (2008 – 2015) and Outreach and Part­ner­ship Liaison (2016-present). He was given the task of super­vis­ing my resi­dency which I expected to spend in the Arrow­mont Archives to write about its history. However, Bill said that, in its present on-site loca­tion, the archives were not acces­si­ble. Instead he proposed that I inter­view two artists-in-resi­dence who work with wood: Naomi Russo and Kyle Cottier.

Follow­ing my meeting with Bill, I took notes on the history of Arrow­mont from a wall display in the Turner build­ing and went to Lanny’s class­room where I looked at work in his exhi­bi­tion cata­logs (outstand­ing!) and talked to him and his students indi­vid­u­ally. The class had five women and a male work-study student. Several partic­i­pants were expe­ri­enced basket makers (they showed me images on their phones) who were at Arrow­mont to learn addi­tional tech­niques; others intended to add wire mesh to their art practice.

Arrowmont Lanny Bergner

Lanny Bergner, with wire mesh, colored by propane torch


Lunch was catfish, salad and a home-baked peanut butter cookie. Bill intro­duced me to Kyle and Naomi and I followed them to the artists-in-resi­dence studios. We talked about their work and agreed to meet the follow­ing day for taped inter­views. Then I stopped by Betty and Dixie’s class where students were using Master­carver Micro-Pro Cham­pion rotary carvers to create over­laid leaves on a hemi­spheric wood blank. Dixie did demos using an over­head projec­tor so that all students could observe.

To retain safety in the Covid-19 climate, classes were restricted to six students, all were double vacci­nated and wore masks. Arrow­mont also housed each partic­i­pant in a room with private bath.

Arrowmont Dixie Biggs Leaves

Dixie Biggs demo: carving of leaf shapes and texturing leaves

Dinner on Monday was baked chicken, red pota­toes, saut ed zucchini and choco­late mousse cake. I talked to Tina then returned to my room to mark essays. At 8.00pm the instruc­tors and artists-in-resi­dence were sched­uled to give three minutes each to talk about their work. The event was held outside where cold temper­a­tures did not deter riders on the SkyLift from yelling to inter­rupt presen­ta­tions. I then made haste to my room, turned up the heater and read myself to sleep.

Tuesday 16 Novem­ber
I rose at 7.30am and made my way to the dining room for a break­fast of oatmeal with fruit, nuts and maple syrup, biscuit with jam, and decaf coffee. My table compan­ion was a wood­turner from Michi­gan who explained how he’d started: he was gifted with an exer­cise machine that he thought he’d never use, so the giver exchanged it for a lathe.

After­wards, antic­i­pat­ing the need for a Covid test for my return to Canada, I phoned Amer­i­can Family Urgent Care in Sevierville to confirm avail­abil­ity and timing.

Then I visited Tina Curry’s class where I talked to her and her students. The first assign­ment was carving an animal in profile on a clay tile and the second was a three-dimen­sional animal (chim­panzee, fox, rabbit, gopher). Torsos and heads were created around a paper arma­ture. The hollow core made the piece lighter and it would dry more quickly.Arms (paws) were added once the body was shaped and detailed.

Arrowmont Tina Curry

Tina Curry — carved clay jackrabbit


Next I dropped in on a textiles work­shop taught by Sonya Philip, the author of The Act of Sewing: How to Make and Modify Clothes to Wear Every Day (Roost Books, 2021). Knowing that some sewers would be daunted by commer­cial patterns, Sonya’s work­shop was devoted to making clothes from simple patterns. Students brought fabric (one used recy­cled fabrics from thrift shops) to sew blouses, dresses and pants. Most were expe­ri­enced seam­stresses; one, who was an amateur, proudly wore a pair of pants she’d made herself during lunch on the final day.

Arrowmont Sonya Philip

Sonya Philip


The final work­shop I viewed on Tuesday was Shake and Shoot Powder­coat Two Ways’ deliv­ered by Rachel Shim­pock. On Sunday evening and Monday, Rachel had demon­strated powder­coat­ing by two methods – sifting and with a static gun – and I watched students working at their benches or with torches to make bases to be powdercoated.

Arrowmont Rachel Shimpock

Rachel Shim­pock


This image, from Rachel’s website, shows that powder­coat­ing can be applied to anything! Rachel’s port­fo­lio includes bases such as crinkle potato chips. I didn’t see anyone at Arrow­mont powder­coat­ing food items but noticed a student named Jackie coating earrings made with scraps of metal mesh from Lanny’s workshop.

Tuesday’s lunch was chicken tacos, a choice of vegeta­bles for salad, and green mousse squares for dessert. After lunch I taped an inter­view with Naomi Russo in her studio. Naomi has a BFA in Wood­work­ing and Furni­ture Design from Maine College of Art. Our conver­sa­tion suggested links to other artists on site so I intro­duced Naomi to a sewing student who is a kinder­garten teacher (Naomi wanted to test her toys and furni­ture on chil­dren) and to Lanny. Kyle Cottier was to have an inter­view that after­noon, too, but was firing ceram­ics in a barrel and needed to tend the fire. Kyle earned a BFA from the Art Academy of Cincin­nati and works with indus­trial wood scraps.

Arrowmont Naomi David Russo

Naomi David Russo, Rote Mirror


Arrowmont Kyle Cottier

Kyle Cottier, When I am Among the Trees


I returned to my room and sent emails. I consulted friends employed in wood­work­ing programs about recom­men­da­tions re grad­u­ate schools for Naomi and Kyle; I received approval to write about Tina Curry for Ceram­ics Monthly. And based on a conver­sa­tion with Bill, I made a booking for a Covid test on Thurs­day. Dinner was Swedish meat­balls, roast carrots, broccoli/​cauliflower salad, and a brownie. That evening I marked essays.

Wednes­day 17 Novem­ber
After an early shower and hand­wash­ing smalls,’ my break­fast was orange juice, scram­bled eggs, bacon, French toast with fruit sauce, and decaf, during which I chatted with women from Lanny’s class. I then taped an inter­view with Kyle and revis­ited the progress of Tina’s students. Tiles were ready to go into the kiln and I watched Tina demon­strate the removal of the paper arma­ture from the inte­rior of an animal sculp­ture. In the same build­ing was Dietlind Vander Schaaf’s work­shop focused on encaus­tic. I admit I’m more inter­ested in three‑D works than two‑D but I was inter­ested in meeting Dietlind because her bio said she was a writer. I subse­quently sent her the name of a book that I thought she’d enjoy: Hannah Kirshner’s Water, Wood & Wild Things.

Arrowmont Dietlind Vander Schaaf8

Dietlind Vander Schaaf, All the Clouds in the Sky, 2019


After a brief return to my room to down­load Kyle’s inter­view to my laptop, my lunch was salad, sausage, chips and blue­berry pie. In the after­noon I scanned several chap­ters from books in the Arrow­mont library and talked to Bill about acquain­tances-in-common and his retirement.

At 3.00pm I inter­viewed Horacio Casil­las, another of the artists-in-resi­dence. Horacio has an MFA in ceram­ics from the Univer­sity of North Texas and is working on a port­fo­lio that honors his Catholic faith. It includes mugs, urns, holy water fonts, etc., with reli­gious motifs. We had a discus­sion about whether he should be restric­tive in direct­ing his func­tional ware to a singu­lar faith. Follow­ing that I returned to my room to down­load the inter­view and complete the Arrive­Can form, neces­sary to return to Canada.

Dinner was Caesar salad, tasty meat lasagne, and a pecan square. Tina and I talked about promot­ing diver­sity in craft and then we walked up the hill to visit the Open House for artists-in-resi­dence. Later I taped an inter­view with Betty and Dixie about their joint teach­ing gig in wood­turn­ing. The two women have been friends for a number of years, phoning each other regu­larly and meeting up when possi­ble. I enjoyed the infor­mal conver­sa­tion and warmth of their relationship.

Thurs­day 18 November

Despite being tired from the long previ­ous day, I woke at 6.15am and became anxious about Covid testing to return home. I checked my emails and then sat alone for a break­fast of orange juice, oatmeal and decaf. I returned to the library to print my Arrive­Can form and my article from Amer­i­can Wood­turner about Graeme Priddle. Deborah Sosower (Market­ing & Commu­ni­ca­tions Manager) met me in the library and took my photo to post that day on Arrowmont’s social media (some atten­dees told me later that they saw it on Face­book). I then intro­duced myself to Fran Day (Direc­tor of Insti­tu­tional Advance­ment). Having just browsed The Haystack Reader: Collected Essays on Craft 1991 – 2009, I asked Fran whether Arrow­mont had thought of publish­ing a mono­graph about its history. Fran said it had been on her agenda for some time. I gave her the Priddle article and promised to send her my CV and the flyer for my book, Craft is Polit­i­cal. In addi­tion, we shared a few good laughs about Haystack and Maine.

Arrowmont Library

Arrow­mont Library


In Lanny’s work­shop, I gave him an update on my pitch for his profile in Metal­smith, as well as observ­ing how his students had progressed. Subse­quently I talked to Sonya about her book and admired the array of finished cloth­ing pinned to the work­shop walls. Follow­ing about an hour in my room, lunch was tuna salad, bread, green salad and pineap­ple upside down, still warm!

Arrowmont Elizabeth Belz

Eliz­a­beth Belz

Honey Bee & Elephant Beetle


In the after­noon I taped an inter­view with Eliz­a­beth Belz, a black­smith and artist-in-resi­dence. As well as making func­tional metal­ware like spoons and ladles, she makes insect sculp­tures. Eliz­a­beth told me that in looking around at objects made by black­smiths, colors were mono­chrome and dull so she has been exper­i­ment­ing with patinas that are natural to the bugs.

At 4.20 I met Katie Sharpe, Studio Tech­ni­cian in textiles/​metals. She lives in Knoxville and was drop­ping me off at AFC Urgent Care in Sevierville, for a Covid antigen test. The appoint­ment was at 5.30 and I had my nega­tive results by about 5.50pm. The clinic recep­tion­ists then tried to call me a taxi and phoned about eight numbers with no-one answer­ing. I had them call Bill Grif­fith and he arranged for Elite Taxi to pick me up. The driver arrived at 7.30pm. He was very talk­a­tive and I engaged with him until he said that he and his family had had Covid and he subse­quently agreed to one vacci­na­tion. He wasn’t wearing a mask, whereas I was double-masked. Even so, I worried that he was contagious.

I got back to Arrow­mont around 8.00pm with the result that I missed out on two things: dinner, and the walk-about to various studios to see student work. The latter was a loss. I ate snacks that I had in my room and went to bed to read a novel called The Survivors by Alex Schul­man (trans­lated from Swedish).

Friday 19 Novem­ber
After a shower at 7.00am I checked my emails then headed for the dining room for orange juice, fruit, quiche, bacon, tea biscuit and jam, and decaf, talking compan­ion­ably with Tina. 

Horacio had asked me to look at his Cover Letter for a job appli­ca­tion so I went to his studio. The letter was well written
and needed only a few tweaks. I went to Tina’s class where I helped her unload tiles from the kiln and looked at the elephants that the students had made since the previ­ous day. One was a Dumbo look-alike with big ears and others were real­is­ti­cally detailed. I was surprised and honored when Tina gave me her tile of a bobcat. I then went to the wood­turn­ing studio where students were packing up and being hectored about a group photo. Betty gave me one
of her eggs, some­thing I’ll treasure.

With people grad­u­ally disap­pear­ing I marked some essays and headed for my final lunch: salad, pizza, and choco­late bread pudding, still warm from the oven. Yummy! I said goodbye to Tina who packed her car to return to Knoxville and pick up her dog from the kennel.

I went into Gatlin­burg to see if I’d missed anything on the previ­ous visit. The most inter­est­ing spot was a Western boot store where I marveled at the vari­a­tions in deco­ra­tion and stitch­ing on women’s boots, obvi­ously another form of craft. The streets were once again crowded on this sunny, mild day and almost no-one wore masks. My own mask drew looks.

Arrowmont The essence of Gatlinburg TN

The essence of Gatlin­burg, TN


I had made arrange­ments to meet Betty for dinner and returned to the Arrow­mont campus to confirm our rendezvous. When I went to my room I found an email saying that she left for home (Indi­anapo­lis) shortly after I saw her. I was disap­pointed and with no-one else around, I stayed in my room for the evening, marking essays and eating snacks. I prob­a­bly got about three hours sleep.

Satur­day 20 Novem­ber
I set my alarm for 4.00am; got up, washed, dressed and finished packing. Pick-up time dictated by 1‑N-Only Airport Taxi was 4.45am but when no-one arrived I checked my emails. There was a message from the driver saying that the rangers had closed the road through the National Park so he would be at Arrow­mont around 6.00am. I waited in my room, was picked up just before 6.00 and arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport at 7.00am for my flight to Char­lotte at 8.59am. My break­fast was a feta and spinach wrap and hot choco­late from Star­bucks. The flight from Knoxville to Char­lotte took 40 minutes.

Amer­i­can Airlines in Knoxville had accepted my nega­tive NAAT Mole­c­u­lar Rapid Testing/​DNA antigen test but it was rejected at the depar­ture gate in Char­lotte. An intran­si­gent male AA employee would not accept the circum­stances* of my test and insisted that I could not board a flight without a PCR test. He gave me the address for a clinic and put me on wait­lists for flights the next day. This was unac­cept­able because it meant staying overnight in the airport. I stopped at an AA Customer Infor­ma­tion kiosk where the female repre­sen­ta­tive was consid­er­ably more oblig­ing, tried to phone the clinic (no answer) and deter­mined that the place was open on Satur­day. She also said there was a flight to Toronto that evening via Miami and if I got back to the airport in time I could be booked on it.

I got a Green Taxi to StarMed Family and Urgent Care. The driver was famil­iar with the clinic and wasted no time getting there. Coin­ci­den­tally, the clinic was having a Covid testing event with marquees in an adja­cent parking lot
and members of the mili­tary giving direc­tions and infor­ma­tion. I got a Rapid PCR test – nega­tive results – and the same taxi driver returned to take me to the airport again. I was away for about an hour. Another polite and friendly female AA employee booked me on the Char­lotte-Miami-Toronto flight, ensur­ing that I would not have to pay extra.

The flight to Miami left on time at 4.25pm but the flight to Toronto, supposed to leave at 8.05pm, was delayed by an hour and 20 minutes. I arrived in Toronto at 12.30am on Sunday, by which time the UP Express train into Toronto had stopped running, requir­ing me to take a limo at five times the cost of the train. I arrived at my home at 1.30am, brushed my teeth and climbed into bed.

It was the trip from hell! The meat in the sand­wich – 6 days at Arrow­mont – made up for the snags in getting there and coming back to Toronto. The pandemic has provoked measures that, depend­ing on your desti­na­tion, are impos­si­ble to comply with and are admin­is­tered by indi­vid­u­als who are empow­ered with inadequate information.

I enjoyed meeting artists and students at Arrow­mont, a School to which I had not been before. I would certainly recom­mend Arrow­mont for its setting (except the tourism), meals, accom­mo­da­tion and work­shops. The reason I have detailed the meals is that pleas­ant and tasty dining makes for a produc­tive atmos­phere in the studio. Chat­ting over a deli­cious meal breeds convivi­al­ity which extends to the sessions and vice versa. While most people sit with their class­mates, strangers’ taking empty chairs are welcomed.

Rather than use the resi­dency for writing I came away with writing assign­ments. I secured artist profiles for Tina Curry with Ceram­ics Monthly and Lanny Bergner in Metal­smith. A publi­ca­tion that high­lights Naomi Russo and Kyle Cottier to fulfill The Furni­ture Society compo­nent of the resi­dency is yet to be deter­mined. I intend to pitch stories about basket makers I met, as well as approach Ebony about Arrowmont’s African-Amer­i­can instruc­tors and mandate of diver­sity. My week at Arrow­mont was valu­able for making contacts for the future.

I want to thank Arrow­mont School of Arts and Crafts and partic­u­larly Bill Grif­fith for facil­i­tat­ing my partic­i­pa­tion and making inquires for Covid testing in the area. I am grate­ful for the Canada Council for the Arts’s travel grant that has paid for unex­pected charges as a result of require­ments for travel during the pandemic. And, above all, my sincere appre­ci­a­tion goes to The Furni­ture Society for giving me the oppor­tu­nity to visit a School I had long wanted to attend.

*Covid PCR tests must be taken within 72 hours of depar­ture. Results from the Sevierville clinic, where swabs are sent else­where for analy­sis, take 3 to 5 working days. The clinic’s doctor recom­mended going to Knoxville, where I would find testing at a hospi­tal, but the lack of a vehicle prevented this option. I did the next best thing by having a Covid antigen test and trusted that my expla­na­tion for this would be accepted.


D Wood

PhD, MFA, BArch, BA

Decem­ber 2021


The Furni­ture Society

Arrow­mont School of Arts and Crafts

Canada Council for the Arts