Penland Part II
June 7, 2012
Going home
June 25, 2012
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Paulus Berensohn

Paulus at Penland

I first met Paulus in 2000 at Schumacher College in Devon, England. We were both enrolled in a class with Thomas Moore and Joan Hanley (now Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa).

Paulus was talking to another man, Peter Adams, at the outdoor bar on our first day there. We began to talk and I learned that he was a former potter. I took a chance that he might know of a book that I had read as an undergrad, whose title I couldn’t remember, a book that inspired me to concentrate in ceramics and to make many of the choices that I made in my early 20’s. So I described it to him, and he looked at me and said, “I wrote that book, Finding One’s Way with Clay.” To this day I get chills up and down my spine when I remember this moment.

Over the past twelve years, I’ve had the opportunity to take a class with Paulus, visit with him, and exchange cards. And these small moments of time with him have influenced my own teaching as well as how I want to be in the world. My past two weeks at Penland allowed me to see him a few times, to be reminded of how I want to be as a teacher–encouraging, gentle, inspiring and expansive.

Paulus is an inspiring teacher, someone who finds the right words to help the creative soul find it’s way in the world. One of his ways of encouragement is to invite people to find their own way of hanging out in their journal, be it doodling, writing, realistic sketching, collaging, whatever it is. This past week, he talked a lot about seeing. To sit with whatever you are looking at and let it come to you, to be quiet, and turn off the computers and smarty-pants phones and let it come to you.

He also asked us this question, “what story has infected you?” And he means this as what stories do you believe about yourself that may need to be discarded and other stories that could be highlighted. I keep coming back to this question in myself, as I go forward on my own journey of trying to be the best person, teacher, mentor, lover, friend, sister, daughter I can be.

What stories have infected you? How do you hang out in your journal, sketchbook that feels really good to you? Would love to know…


  1. Thank you for this sweet, sweet and soulful sharing of your journey as an artist and the way Paulus reaches you. This is one of the things I love about the synchronicity in OUR friendship- that day at Press last summer when we realized that we both knew and admired Paulus. Do you recall our conversation?
    When I first met Paulus, in Wellfleet and we both sat at a table where we opened our large format, coptic stitch journals and saw how similarly we constructed them— I felt as though I had indeed met ” my tribe”. There we were, artists who enjoyed the artist journal as a place to ” hang out” and create for ourselves. The chemistry among us was memorable. My journal is a container for so many experiences. Including that lovely retreat with Suzi and a half dozen other artists all dedicated to the “seeing path”. There’s more to this story, but I’ll save that for another time.
    As for an infectious story- let me pause to search my memory…. & see what I find for you!
    Looking fwd to seeing what you’ve made a Penland, karen

    • Melanie says:

      Karen–I totally remember our conversation at PRESS last summer about Paulus. I can’t wait to talk more about all of this–we have to get together soon! xoxo

  2. Oh Melanie, I am so glad you have seen Paulus. I am about to go make paste papers with Joy Seidler, another of the artists Karen and I spent time with along with Paulus.
    A story that has infected me is one that tells me I will never get to where I want to be, fast enough. That all I do just does not add up to being published or valued. And, I must tell you I have put my heart and soul and courage on the line this year as I have stood for my value over and over again and written or lived a new story, one in which I value my own work and trust that the world will follow in it’s own perfect time. I have spent so many years wanting to be recognized for my work and these days, I would rather do the work, engage with others creatively and continue to fuel myself with friendships and deep connection. I just wrote about this on the Laundry Line this week.
    Thank you for this writing. I look forward to seeing your new creations.
    Love, Suzi

    • Melanie says:

      Suzi, I met Joy the same time I met Paulus and Peter–give her a hug from me. I’ve wanted to travel east to take a course with her, but never got around to it, maybe some day.
      Thanks for your comments, they resonate with me too, that need for recognition. Would love to chat about that one day, maybe when you bring your 17 year old pals up to PRESS. So glad that our lives have come together.

  3. india says:

    i needed to read this today, thank you

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