Though Eleanor Annand was born in Wilmington, NC, her family was living in Germany when she began kindergarten. She met the challenge of not speaking the language by immersing herself in drawing. “It became an important way to communicate,” she remembers.
That young, formative experience set Annand on an explorative — and yet unwavering — path to full-time artist. Her newest work is hand-built ceramics, a discipline she began in 2020.
“The isolation of [that year] had an effect on me in that I reconnected to something I had worked with sporadically in the past,” she explains. “Maybe that connection was what I needed at that time.”
After three years in Germany, Annand’s family returned to Wilmington, where she graduated high school, then enrolled in the College of Design at North Carolina State University. After freshman year of fundamentals and exploring different mediums, she decided to major in graphic design. Her advisor signed off on her choice, with a bit of skepticism. “He told me he thought I would really miss working with my hands; he recognized that before I did.”
With much of contemporary graphic design done on computer, Annand found a tactile way to approach it, focusing on letterpress printing. “I was always drawn to old processes and physical space.”
With her graphic-design degree, she dove into the professional world, taking design and letterpress jobs for several years before being accepted into the two-year Core Fellowship program at Penland School of Craft. “It’s so intensive, being there in the studios day and night in this incredibly creative community,” she says. “That program allowed me to explore so many mediums and learn so many skills that will always influence my practice.”
Post Penland, she landed in Asheville, starting a letterpress-printing and graphic-design business with another woman, and continued creating her own work in her home studio.
In 2017, she returned to Penland for a three-year resident-artist program. “One of my goals being back there was to explore the nature of paper and how it could be sculptural. Sometimes [the paper was] printed and folded; then later I began making a pulp and casting it into molds.”
Back in Asheville since 2020, she has continued that study in her home studio, creating large works of folded paper and cardboard such as The Tide Rolls In, The Tide Rolls Out and cast-paper compositions like Birds Come and Then They Go — individual pieces that are painted and fixed to the wall with two-inch steel pins.
“This creates shadows and allows light to play a part in the work,” explains Annand.
Similar to Birds, Annand’s ceramic composition Blue Landscape No. 2 is individual pieces mounted on pins; other multi-component pieces are structured for display on a shelf. “I have always moved from one material to another, and clay felt so right and exactly what I needed to be doing at that time.
“Whatever the expression, making art is how I feel the most connected to the world.”
Eleanor Annand, Asheville. Annand is represented by Blue Spiral 1 Fine Art + Craft (38 Biltmore Ave., downtown, bluespiral1.com), where her new work (ceramics and framed prints) is also part of Print + Pattern, an exhibit running through Wednesday, Dec. 28. Her work also shows at Penland Gallery (Penland School of Craft, 67 Doras Trail, Bakersville, penland.org) For more information, see eleanorannand.com.