Imagine the hustle and bustle of the city. One big both in mass and reputation with skyscrapers breaking the horizon line with ease. The other small but not lacking in reputation as monuments and museums can be found on nearly every street. Now imagine leaving those cities for the Blue Ridge Mountains and Mitchell County with a generous population of a bit over 15,500 and an area of 222 square miles.

 “I was offered a job at Penland,” said Stacey Lane Kline, a metalsmith and jewelry artist, “thinking I would only be here for two years. But then I met Michael, and we ended up sticking around.”

Stacey’s studio is carved into Michael’s pottery building, that takes point up on a hill behind their house. A full-time pottery, he makes tableware, as he calls it—things he, his friends, and customers use daily. Most of his pieces reflect detailed, repetitive designs. The contrast between the glaze and the patterning creates an elaborate, identifiable look that is seen in shops and galleries around the country.

 “Actually, the more intricate and process-oriented I get, the more excited I am about the work,” Michael offered, “Whether it’s painting or using wax resist, and stamping or other treatments, I think it’s all very process-centered.”

At the other end of the studio, Stacey works in wax creating jewelry that is then cast in repurposed metals, such as bronze or gold. Her technique is called lost-wax casting. The artist molds the wax to the intended design then casts or molds in hot metal. As the metal cools, the wax melts, leaving the jewelry cast behind.     

“I start with soft wax and build structures,” she explained. “The wax is easy to manipulate. Instead of carving into it, I build it up.”         

The Klines came from big cities—Stacey from Washington, D.C. via the University of Georgia where she got her degree in art history; Michael graduated in Massachusetts then moved to New York City. And both worked in the arts.

 “That’s one of the main things I took early on was that I could make a living at this,” Michael said considering his choice of craft.

Both found themselves at the Penland school for different reasons. Stacey became part of the Penland staff; Michael became a residential artist. They met in the “small world of Penland”, according to Michael. Now they, along with daughters Evelyn and Lillian, little dog, and several chickens, make their home about 10 minutes away from the school.

“I love that there is an art community here, and I definitely feel a part of it,” Stacey said, “I think artists are great community members, tend to be very active in supporting local businesses, and really understand the networking that goes into sustaining a community.”

Michael’s and Stacey’s work can be found in local and regional galleries. Michael hosts workshops around the country; Stacey works as community collaborations manager at Penland. And they are heavily involved in the community.

“There is an element of support, like the mentorship of younger artists and then the younger artists looking to up their game,” Michael said, “I realized early on that, ‘wow this is an awesome place; these people are good.’ So, I want to bring my A-game.”

And when it comes to games, Michael and Stacey definitely play on the A-team.

CIRCA: 2017 A bit further north.

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