The Arts-and-Crafts Vacation

Back to basics, on a vacation devoted to acquiring a manual skill

They resemble resorts, with their outdoor pools and tennis courts, their wooden lodge buildings and country barns, their guests in skimpy sports clothes. But there all likeness ends. Within the barns are lathes and looms, potters' wheels and blacksmith's forge, all heavily in use throughout the day by guests in throes of creation.

At a growing number of residential countryside crafts centers, more and more Americans are devoting their vacations to the mastery of a folk manufacture--the ability, say, to make a ladderback chair or an earthenware vase, a hand-bound book or a rough wool cloak. For them, the activity is a rewarding expression of art, a satisfying connection with the past, a deeply pleasurable return to human basics (in a time of high technology), and therefore the best possible use of leisure time.

Nine awesomely scenic locations are especially active in the world of arts-and-crafts vacations.

Penland, North Carolina: Penland School:

Penland School, of Penland, North Carolina, an hour's drive from Asheville, is the big one, a sprawling complex of 41 buildings on 400 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain land. A pioneer in creating new American forms of craft art, it urges its guests to let their imaginations soar and tolerates outlandish experiments. "We blur the overlapping lines between fine and applied arts," says the school's director. The new approach is then applied to all the standard materials--wood, clay, fibers, glass, iron, metals, and paper--and results each week in countless varieties of stunning products emerging from classes taught by eminent figures. Sessions run from mid-March to mid-September, are between one and eight weeks in duration, are open to students of all levels of skill, and average $320 a week, plus room and board fees of $320 (dorms) to $839(double with private bath) per person per week. For more information or reservations, contact Penland School of Crafts, P.O. Box 37, Penland, NC 28765-0037 (phone 828/765-2359, fax 828/765-7389, email office@penland.org, web site penland.org).

Snowmass Village, Colorado: Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Anderson Ranch at Snowmass Village, Colorado, is a somewhat costlier alternative of equal fame; it's found in the Rockies, ten miles west of Aspen, 160 miles from Denver, at an elevation of 8,200 feet. Many of the nation's most renowned craftspeople--prize winners, manufacturers of crafts, academics in the field--come here each summer (early June to late October) to teach weekend, one-, two- and three-week classes in woodworking and furniture design, ceramics and art history, in addition to courses in photography, printmaking, digital imagery, sculpture and painting. Some have such outstanding reputations that they attract other professionals, who make up a third of some classes otherwise composed of sheer novices--the advantages for these beginners are obvious. Interdisciplinary studies combining people from different fields are especially interesting at this high-quality gathering of leaders in crafts instruction, all in a setting of old ranch buildings refurbished to provide considerable comfort in both lodgings and labs. Tuition, including lab fees, starts at about $500 per week (children's and teen classes are cheaper), to which you add room and board costs of $495 to $1,295 per week, depending on room category. Acommodations range from simple dorm rooms to three-bedroom condos. For further information, contact Anderson Ranch Arts Center, P.O. Box 5598, 5263 Owl Creek Road, Snowmass Village, CO 81615 (phone 970/923-3181 or andersonranch.org).

Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts

Arrowmont, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a mile down a scenic road from a main entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is another nationally known visual arts complex, particularly noted for its instruction in odd new techniques: patination of metal, anodizing of aluminum, granulation of sterling silver, combining "media" on cloth; it is also, according to one faculty member, "the wood-turning capital of America" (and teaches the standard crafts as well). One- and two-week sessions are offered in March, April, June, and July, to persons of varying skills, including those of no previous crafts experience at all. Some students, energized by creative excitement, work up to 15 hours a day in well-equipped workshops or in the 10,000-tome library of arts and crafts. On average, figure on costs of at least $500 a week for everything. For further information, contact Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, 566 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (phone: 865/436-5860, or arrowmont.org/).

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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