The papers of artist Paulus Berensohn measure 7.7 linear feet and 9.1 GB and date from circa 1950-2017, bulk 1976-2010. The collection documents his career as a poet, ceramic artist, dancer, and educator in Penland, North Carolina, through biographical material, correspondence, writings, teaching files, printed materials, photographs of artwork, and works of art on paper and mail art.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of artist Paulus Berensohn measure 8.6 linear feet and 9.1 GB and date from circa 1950-2017, bulk 1976-2010. The collection documents his career as a poet, ceramic artist, dancer, and educator in Penland, North Carolina, through biographical material, correspondence, writings, teaching files, printed materials, photographs of artwork, and works of art on paper and mail art.
The biographical material series includes digital video and audio interviews as well as a daily planner from the mid-1990s and various awards and resumes.
Correspondence includes letters from notable individuals as well as letters of recommendation. Also found are examples of correspondence art between Berensohn and his artistic community, many the result of workshops on creating envelopes and binding.
Writings include lecture journals Berensohn used to organize his talks, draft manuscripts of books and articles, as well as writings by others including poetry by M.C. Richards. Also included are sound recordings by Berensohn on his tapestry making.
Teaching files include instruction materials and lesson plans for the topics of pottery, movement, journaling, and making envelopes. Also included are materials related to Berensohn's Pebble Ritual, including a sound recording that would have been played during this instruction and ritual.
The printed material series includes various source materials including articles and journals, as well as promotional material for Berensohn's workshops and printed material regarding collaborators and friends.
Photographic material includes printed photographs, snapshots, slides and negatives of the artist, instructional events, nature and artwork. Also included are digital photographs of the same subjects.
Artwork includes works on paper by Berensohn, handmade cards, enveloped and bound booklets, and works by others.
The collection is arranged in seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1990-2017 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1, 7.21 gigabytes; ER01-ER03)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1956-2017 (bulk 1985-2010) (0.8 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1970-2016 (2.4 linear feet; Boxes 204, 11, 0.072 gigabytes; ER04-ER06)
Series 4: Teaching Files, circa 1970s-2005 (0.3 linear feet; Box 4, 0.152 gigabytes; ER07)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1970s-2009 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 4-5, OV13)
Series 6: Photographic Material, circa 1950-2011 (2.6 linear feet; Boxes 5, 7-12, 1.659 gigabytes; ER08-ER19)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1980s-2010 (1.7 linear feet; Boxes 5-6, 12, OV14)
Biographical / Historical:
Paulus Berensohn (1933-2017) was a ceramicist, dancer, and arts instructor in Penland, North Carolina.
Berensohn was born Paul Bernsohn in New York City in 1933. Despite being dyslexic as a child, he was accepted into Yale University before dropping out in his first semester to attend Juilliard School, and later Bennington College. While in college, Paulus was finally able to pursue his childhood interest in modern dance and upon returning to New York City studied with Merce Cunningham and performed for Martha Graham.
Berensohn was first inspired to study pottery during a visit to the Land commune, a community of artists near Stony Point, N.Y., where he met the potters Karen Karnes and M.C. Richards. Richards would become a lifelong friend and collaborator. In the late 1960s Berensohn settled at the Penland School of Craft in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina where he taught workshops in pottery, movement, and journaling. Berensohn purposely avoided becoming a commercial artist, and for years refused to fire his clay works, often returning them to the earth. He became well-known particularly for his pinch pottery technique, and he published the book Finding One's Way with Clay: Pinched Pottery and the Color of Clay in 1972. He travelled extensively throughout the 1990s and early 2000s teaching workshops and lecturing on various topics. Later in his life he lectured frequently on the environmental and ecological philosophical topic of deep ecology, and how it related to his lifelong endeavors in the arts.
Also found at the Archives of American art is an oral history interview with Paulus Berensohn, 2009 March 20-21, conducted by Mark Shapiro.
Donated in 2017 by Paulus Berensohn Estate via Jon Ellenbogen, executor.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings and born-digital records with no duplicate copy requires advance notice.
An interview of Harlan W. Butt conducted 2009 July 27-28, by Mija Riedel, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Butt's studio, in Ptarmigan Meadows, Colorado.
Harlan Butt speaks of the influence of Asian art on his work; the use of text and imagery in his work; the use of pattern in his work; his undergraduate minor in weaving; the influence of Asian religion and mythology; series The Earth Beneath Our Feet , Garden Anagogies, and Snakes in Heaven; his childhood growing up in Hopewell, New Jersey, near Princeton; undergraduate work at Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; discovery of Buddhism and Eastern religions; his mother's death when he was 20; studying with Stanley Lechtzin and Elliot Pujol at Tyler; graduate school at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; interest in Japanese tea ceremony; more exploration of Zen Buddhism; use of color in his work; studying with L. Brent Kington; reliquary series; move to Connecticut in 1974; second trip to Japan in 1984 to co-curate Kyoto Metal: An Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Art Metalwork; introduction to Japanese system of artisan apprenticeship; early efforts as a writer and poet; the influence of poet Gary Snyder; summer teaching position at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; teaching job at San Diego [California] State University in the mid-1970s; rattles and pipes series; exploring the Western landscape; the power of the snake image; taking a teaching position at University of North Texas, Denton (1976- ); first trip to Japan in 1980; differences in artisanal/metalworking practices in Japan and the United States; teaching workshops at various craft schools, Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina; Haystack School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine; and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, compared with teaching in a university; the pros and cons of the gallery system; work with the Nancy Yaw Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan; the challenge of commission work; National Parks Project, Denton Center for the Visual Arts, Denton, Texas; the role of haiku and text in his pieces; series 1,001 Views of Mt. Mu; series Snakes in Heaven; the influence of his wife and children; trip to India and organizing Colour & Light: The Art and Craft of Enamel on Metal, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, 2001; trip to Australia; involvement with the Society of North American Goldsmiths, Enamelist Society, and American Craft Council; subtle issues of environmentalism in his work; his affinity for metalsmithing and enameling. He also recalls [Rudolf] Staffel, Robert Winokur, Italo Scanga, Jan Brooks, Mike Riegel, Rachelle Thiewes, Eleanor Moty, Albert Paley, Shumei Tanaka, Ken Glantz (Ken Chowder), Randy Thelma Coles, Sandy Green, Mickey McCarter, Gene Pijanowski, Hiroko Pijanowski, Toshihiro Yamanaka, Helen Shirk, Ana Lopez, and Sarah Perkins.
Biographical / Historical:
Harlan W. Butt (1950- ) is an artist, metalsmith, and educator in Denton, Texas. Mija Riedel (1958- ) is a writer and independent scholar in San Francisco, California.
Originally recorded on 4 sound mini discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 7 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hr., 19 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
REEL 4515: Printed material, mostly written and illustrated by Howard C. ("Toni") and Bonnie Willis Ford, and Lucy Morgan, Penland's first director. Included are a history and a description of the school; a copy of the Penland song, 1955; an announcement of the 1940 sessions; an announcement about Penland's 10th anniversay; instruction sheets and 5 booklets, 1943, by Toni Ford concerning spinning, weaving, blockprinting, bonecraft, and the construction of a loom, flower holders, and hurricane lamps; three issues of Mountain MIlestones, 1945-1949; 2 clippings, and 2 photographs.
REEL 4973: Additional materials regarding The Penland School of Crafts, includes: a declaration and donations from the citizens of the town Penland toward the construction of the Edward F. Worst Craft House, ca. 1935, and other letters, ca. 1935-1988; notes, typescripts, a scrapbook, and maps on the history of the school; school course brochures, ca. 1929-1994, including 2 early brochures by Lucy Morgan describing The Appalachian School, Department of Fireside Industries, later to become The Penland School of Crafts; programs and announcements of school events, including the log raising of the Edward F. Worst Craft House, 1935, and "An Order of Service for Craftsmen"; 6 issues of Mountain Milestones, 1949-1961; clippings, 1941-1995; and photographs, ca. 1935-1974, including 19 of Morgan and Morgan with others, and ca. 450 of students, staff, crafts, and environs, several taken by Bayard Wooten. Also included are weaving samples and patterns, some published by the Lily Mills Company for The Penland School of Crafts, ca. 1954 and undated.
Biographical / Historical:
Howard C. "Toni" Ford was an instructor and publicity director of The Penland School of Crafts. His wife, Bonnie Willis Ford, was an administrator for the school.
Lent for microfilming in 1991 and 1995 by William H. Ford, son of Howard C. and Bonnie Willis Ford.
The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.