From Brazil to Brasstown: Thiago’s Folk School Experience

Thiago Endrigo

Thiago Endrigo is one of those folks who feels like an old friend the moment you first meet him. His chipper spirit, bright smile, and outgoing personality led him to fit into the Folk School community from the moment he arrived–even if folks didn’t realize just how far he had traveled to get here. Thiago came to the Folk School last summer from Såo Paulo, Brazil, where, in addition to being a skilled woodworker with decades of experience, he leads community carpentry classes for kids, teens, and adults at his shop and other venues throughout his community. Calling his roving school Saber com as Mãos, which translates to “knowing by hand,” his classes have taught beginners how to build traditional hand tools, decorative boxes, stools, benches, and more. One of Thiago’s long-term goals is to build and run a folk school of his own in Brazil–so when he heard about the John C. Campbell Folk School on a popular crafting podcast, it made sense to come visit, do some hands-on research, and learn a new skill in the process.  

It was going to be a serious financial investment for Thiago, but thankfully, he was awarded one of our Craft Education Scholarships to make his trip possible. The scholarship, generously funded by the esteemed Windgate Foundation, covered tuition, housing, and meals for a weeklong class, giving Thiago the ability to fully immerse himself in a week of learning and discovery without worry. 

He signed up for Rick Stewart’s class thanks to a coincidence that felt like fate. Thiago first learned about coopering–a traditional process for making watertight containers like churns and buckets from separate pieces of wood joined together without glue–from a 1973 documentary he found on YouTube. The film focused on notable craftsperson Alex Stewart, who happened to be Rick’s grandfather. “When I was browsing the catalog, and I saw that Rick was teaching, I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is the class.’ In Brazil, especially with craft…if you want to begin making something, it’s difficult to find the old masters. It’s not very often that you have a chance to meet someone like Rick, who learned this skill from his grandfather, and is part of a family that has been doing this for five generations.” Thiago made a piggin–a small pail with a ladle on the side traditionally used for scattering feed–and found the whole experience to be inspiring and invigorating.  

The school was a magical place. I met incredible people there, people I’ll be keeping in touch with, and I felt so supported.

The immersive Folk School experience was also rejuvenating for Thiago. He started most days with Morningsong, had a lot of fun contra dancing with locals and students, and made friends with our work studies and student hosts. Eating family-style in our Dining Hall was a highlight for the independent traveler. Sharing meals with different students and instructors each day helped Thiago meet folks from all over the country, learning a bit more about different parts of America with each serving. 

It’s sometimes hard to believe it, but our school, tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, attracts folks from all over the world. This year alone, we’ve had students from London, Dubai, and as far away as Australia come to take a class or two. While many are happy to make the financial commitment, we’re proud to offer scholarships that encourage the imparting of craft traditions and help makers at all skill levels. We’re immensely grateful to the supporters like yourself who make these scholarships possible, and we’re always excited to see what students make happen with these benevolent gifts. 

When we asked Thiago to describe the impact of his week at the Folk School, and the scholarship that helped make it possible, he said, “it’s hard for me to put into words. I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to take in the Folk School and to live this experience…The school was a magical place. I met incredible people there, people I’ll be keeping in touch with, and I felt so supported.” He added that, 

“it’s so nice to be part of this community,” and we agree. Even though he’s a continent away, Thiago will always be part of our Folk School family. 

Thanks to our generous donors, the Folk School offers numerous scholarships year-round for lifelong learners, young adults, beginners, dabblers, semi-professional craftspeople, and anyone who admires the Folk School’s unique education model but faces financial hurdles. Scholarships allow folks from all over the country to experience the Folk School and help us in our mission to bring traditional crafts and skills to new audiences. Consider donating a scholarship using the button below.

About our Scholarships

Each year, the Folk School awards a limited number of scholarships to students with financial limitations. Scholarships provide partial or full financial support for tuition, housing and meals.

  • Visit for more information on scholarship applications
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Applications are accepted year round and there is no deadline, but scholarships are awarded on a first- come, first-served basis and are dependent on space availability.
  • Applications typically take two weeks to be processed.
  • Please note: We are unable to award scholarships for classes in which you are already enrolled.
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