Author: Podielski

[caption id="attachment_12744" align="alignright" width="300"]Rob unbricks the kiln. Rob unbricks the kiln.[/caption] It's like Christmas Eve over at Smoke in the Mountains Pottery today because it's the day before the big wood kiln will be opened and unloaded. Many potters from all over the region contribute pots to be fired the traditional way in Rob Withrow's huge wood kiln. This is Rob's 13th wood firing at his studio. I stopped by and caught him taking a little peek inside the chamber and took the opportunity to talk to him about the firing and clay in general. Join us in the sneak peek... CP: So what are you doing right now? RW: I'm unbricking this kiln here that's been cooling for five days. We heated it up to 2500 degrees using only wood, and now it's like Christmas! You open it up and see what's inside and this time the kiln fired so beautifully; it's such a joy. CP: Nice, How many time have you fired this kiln? RW: It's been a hard road but I stuck with it, and by golly the community came forth and helped me all along the way. I fired it nine times unsuccessfully. A weaker man would have caved or a smarter man would have stopped, but I kept going and here we are! The community came together and knew I was having problems. We put a new chimney on it and it works like a charm now. Now it's a third of the wood, and a third of the time (than when we first started). [caption id="attachment_12738" align="aligncenter" width="565"]Beautiful pots from the March 2015 wood firing Beautiful pots from the March 2015 wood firing[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_12633" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Tim Tyndall teaches Soap Making in the Wet Room Tim Tyndall teaches Soap Making in the Wet Room[/caption]

When I was a Work/Study in 2011, one of the classes I chose for my work/trade was Dr. T’s Soap Making class. For a total beginner, the class was an amazing introduction to the chemistry and art behind creating your own customized cold process soap batches. Dr. T (aka Tim Tyndall) teaches Soap Making regularly at the Folk School. I'm a huge fan of Tim and his soap... Enjoy our interview.

[caption id="attachment_12629" align="alignright" width="216"]Checking the temperature of the milk and lye. Checking the temperature of the milk and lye.[/caption]

CP: How did you become involved with the Folk School?

Dr. T: About 10-12 years ago, Charlotte Latin School bused their 8th grade “graduates to be” to the Folk School for a celebration where students could choose 2-4 classes over a 2-day period. A parent who had been a customer and attended one of my demonstrations here at the Soap Shed, suggested to someone at the Folk School that they contact me to do Soap Making segments for the Latin students.

The Folk School contacted me and I came down to initiate a soap class experiment. Things went well; the students were pleased; I had fun; and I was asked to propose what regular soap classes might look like for the curriculum. Soap Making classes have been a part of the “curriculum” since then. I guess I have kinda been the “lead dog,” so to speak.

CP: Why do you like teaching at the Folk School?

First and foremost, I have always loved teaching. I have been an educator and administrator at all levels from private high school, community college, and university, focusing in science. I live in Spruce Pine, NC where we have the Penland School of Crafts and taught in Rome, Georgia, home of the Berry School. These schools, like JCCFS and Berea, focus on the goal of helping mountain or rural people marshall their skills and talents from generations of practice towards economic gain and enrichment for themselves, their families, and their communities.

I expected this would be the “Spirit of the Folk School” which I so richly enjoyed my first visit. To be a part of that AND to share some of my self taught skills as a contemporary soap maker is a most satisfying endeavor. I have learned much “Lore” and have a cadre of stories about the history of soap making as a foundation craft in an earlier time and an artisan craft today. I teach because it is FUN and I love seeing my students accomplish things they came to the school thinking they could not do or understand. They surprise themselves and give a thrill at the same time. That’s why I like teaching at the Folk School.

This past weekend, instructor Alice Russell taught a Quilting class. She brought some samples of her quilting, including this beautiful quilt she recently created for the Quilts of Valor Foundation​ which provides quilts to heal and comfort our service members and veterans. We think that's pretty awesome! Go Alice! [caption id="attachment_12533" align="aligncenter" width="599"]CP4_6898-AliceRussell-Quilt Julie Johnson and Alice Russell hold up Alice's "Quilt of Valor"[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_12507" align="alignright" width="284"]Ivan & Leanne Ewert Ivan & Leanne[/caption] I met Ivan Ewert in Leatherworking class at the Folk School this past fall. While we were busy cutting and riveting leather in the Wood Carving Studio, Ivan's wife Leanne was just across the way in the Jewelry Studio shaping metal into wearable treasures. This was Leanne and Ivan's second trip to the Folk School together. They were celebrating their 15th anniversary. It was inspirational to see in action how the Folk School is an awesome destination for couples. With V-Day right around the corner, I decided now was a great time to catch up with them about their Folk School experience. Enjoy!  CP: How did you hear about the Folk School?  IE: Leanne is a jewelry artist who subscribes to many art magazines. There was an advert in the back of one of them that grabbed her interest, and when we looked the school up online we knew it was something we had to do together. LE: I had been looking at that advertisement for sometime and when I finally mentioned it to Ivan, he was just as excited about the adventure as I was! CP: Why did you decide it would be a fun place to come as a couple?  IE: We rarely vacation apart, so if one was going, the other was too! Leanne's interest in learning new skills to apply to her career was inspiring. There was a painting class taking place at the same time as the classes she wanted to take, and a week painting in the mountains sounded like a wonderful retreat. [caption id="attachment_12505" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Leanne enjoys the vast supply closet in the Jewelry Studio. Leanne's "Mecca"- the vast supply closet in the Folk School Jewelry Studio.[/caption] LE: I work out of my home studio and it can become a very solitary/insular life if one is not careful. The opportunity to be surrounded by, and learn from, other creatives that work in my chosen field sounded fabulous and I immediately wanted to go. I was born and raised in the south, so any chance I have to go back home is always a big treat for me. This is the best of both worlds AND I get to share it with the person I love. This last trip was our anniversary gift to one another! CP: How many times have you come to the Folk School? What classes have you taken?  IE: Only twice so far, and never a class together. Leanne's focused on jewelry but branched into leatherwork with Donna Wiggins this year. I've taken painting, leatherwork, and The Art of Smoke... all of my classes have been a real treat. LE: The first time we came down, I took a week-long wire wrapping class with Judy Peppers. This last time, I was getting more advanced instructions in Metalsmithing with Tom And Kay Benham for my week course and then onto a much-too short weekend session with Donna Wiggins for beginner work in leather...LOVED IT!!!

[caption id="attachment_12188" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Painting by Sara Boggs[/caption] Every time I see Sara Boggs around campus, like a giddy child, I ask her: "Can I see your sketchbook?" She always says "yes." You see, Sara is one of those artists who constantly carries her handmade sketchbook around, capturing tiny moments of life here and there - taking the time to practice and develop her drawing ability everyday. It has been incredible to see her book grow with the faces, places, and the spirit of the Folk School during her host term this fall. She permitted me to scan in some pages from her book to share with you. We also sat down over cookies and tea to talk about her experience as host and artistic journaler. [caption id="attachment_12174" align="alignright" width="229"]Sara in the Folk School Painting Studio Sara in the Folk School Painting Studio[/caption] CP: You were recently a character in the night of Holiday Revelry hosted by David Vowell. Who did you play? SB: I got to play a couple of different characters: an all around reveler drinking wassail, the Little Pickle Boy in one of the tales about St. Nicholas, and Jack the Green in the mummer’s play. Jack’s character is traditionally full of mischief! In our play, Jack the Green saves the day in the story of St. George and the Dragon. CP: Very nice. So you are wrapping up your host term at the Folk School? What's been your favorite part of being host?  SB: It’s the people… it’s for sure the people. Every week, I get to meet all of these wonderful people with amazing stories and wonderful things that they have done. They are all so sweet and encouraging – they make me feel like this world we have here that’s not quite real life – this fairy tale world that’s all fiddle music and blacksmith coal – is something that we can carry always. It’s been really wonderful to meet them all. CP: Do you have any specific memories that resonate with you? SB: There have been quite a few. Maybe it was because it was so early on in my time here, but one that sticks out is a magical cooking class dinner party. The class was a wood fired cooking class and they had their Thursday night dinner outside on picnic tables, with candle light torches. There was wine, and ukelele music, and a beautiful pink sunset overhead… little dogs came wandering through. It was slow and delicious. I wasn’t even supposed to be there, I was just crashing, but they let me crash. It was a lovely evening and I felt like it was the right way to start off my foot here. [caption id="attachment_12175" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Page from Sarah's sketchbook: Thursday night dinner party for the Cooking Class Page from Sara's sketchbook: Thursday night dinner party for the Cooking Class[/caption]

I had the pleasure of having my first ever Folk School Quilting class taught by one firecracker of a quilter, Audrey Hiers of Blairsville, GA. This lovely lady has been picked to be featured in McCall's "Quilting” Magazine 6 times and her "Crazy Dazies” designs is a McCall's pick of their top 16 scrap quilts. She is teaching “Appalachian Holiday Quilts" during Holiday in the Mountains Week, December 7-13. I caught up with Audrey about quilting and more. Enjoy our chat! [caption id="attachment_12026" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Detail of "It's Fall, Y'all: Fun Scrappy Autumn Quilt" by Audrey Hiers Detail of "It's Fall, Y'all: Fun Scrappy Autumn Quilt" by Audrey Hiers[/caption] [caption id="attachment_12018" align="alignright" width="227"]Audrey teaches Sara about quilt design in the Folk School Quilting Studio. Audrey teaches Sara about quilt design in the Folk School Quilting Studio.[/caption] CP: How did you get so involved in the quilting world? AH: Probably because of the quilting genes in the family. Both of my grandmothers quilted and although I never saw either of them at the frame, I do believe in heredity! You could say I fell into it, and once I tried it, I got hooked big time. I seriously started quilting in the early 80s and taught my first class in 1987. CP: Has quilting changed since then? Comparing quilting 1980s to now is like the difference between night and day. For the most part we still use fabric and that's about it. CP: What’s your favorite holiday motif? AH: My favorite holiday motif is a sprig of freshly cut pine with holly sprigs mixed in. Alone, it would be a holly leaf. CP: How is Appalachian style quilting different from quilting in other regions? Does it have any distinctive characteristics?

[caption id="attachment_11908" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Wood Engraved print and block project by Nancy Darrell created in Jim Horton's Folk School class Student print and block project created in Jim Horton's Wood Engraving class at the Folk School[/caption] I recently talked with instructor Jim Horton about printmaking, wood engraving, his upcoming classes and the new Book and Paper Arts Studio. Jim has been a printmaking/graphic design instructor for 43 years, with special interest in historic graphic tools and processes. His work ranges from job printing and book arts to limited-edition prints. Enjoy our interview! [caption id="attachment_11904" align="alignright" width="285"]Poster by Jim Horton Poster by Jim Horton[/caption] CP: Where are you from? JH: I was born in Oklahoma, but lived most of my life in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Midwesterner to the bone, but I sure like to visit the South. CP: Tell me about your history with printmaking? JH: My father was a sign painter, the old fashioned kind using a brush and gold leaf. It was an incredible skill. He also did silk screen printing back when the fabric was real silk. He cut stencils by hand. So graphic arts was always highly respected on our family culture. Making woodblock prints was way cool. As a college student in art school, naturally, I gravitated to the printmaking studio. I was at home there. I loved the industriousness of proofing an edition of prints on fine paper. CP: What do you do when you are not in Brasstown? JH: I was an art teacher, and at every level, teaching graphic design, studio art.. all mediums. That and always printing. A few years back I deeply got into letterpress and engraving. I live in a rural area, and love working outdoors, walking and doing yoga. I still love to draw too. I go over to the local universities and draw from life (models). [caption id="attachment_11906" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Class photo and projects from Jim's class: "The Art of the Great American Poster" Class photo and projects from Jim's class: "The Art of the Great American Poster"[/caption] CP: How long have you been coming to/teaching at the Folk School? JH: I want to say about seven years. Dea Sasso got me here, and she was right. People like the Pattersons, we can only get down here in these hills. [caption id="attachment_11910" align="alignright" width="480"]Wood Engraving and Letterpress Printing with Jim Horton5 Folkehøjskole print by Jim Horton and illustrations by Nancy Darrell[/caption] CP: What are projects are you working on currently? Where do you draw inspirations from? JH: I am illustrating and printing a book of traditional folk songs. I love cowboy songs...why? I don't know. I also love old gospel, though I am not the least bit religious in a doctrinal sense.

I stopped by the Oscar Cantrell Blacksmith Shop, the current shop of Resident Blacksmith, Paul Garrett. Paul and I talked about the upcoming Blacksmith & Fine Craft Auction on November 1, a special event planned for October 31st, and about Folk School life in general. Enjoy! [caption id="attachment_11679" align="aligncenter" width="600" class=" "]Come see blacksmiths in action forging items in the Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop on October 31 at 7 p.m. Items created will be auctioned off the following day. See blacksmiths in action forging items in the Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop on October 31 at 7 p.m. Items created will be auctioned off the following day at the Blacksmith & Fine Craft Auction.[/caption] CP: So, the Blacksmith & Fine Craft Auction is coming up on November 1. I hear there’s going to be a new special event on Friday night. Can you talk about that? PG: I can. Traditionally, there has been a joint meeting of the Appalachian Area Chapter of Blacksmiths (AACB) and NC ABANA at the Folk School during the auction weekend. The meeting is on Saturday morning, bright and early. [caption id="attachment_11683" align="alignright" width="320"]Fire place set forged at the "Hammer In" 2013 Fire place set forged at the "Hammer In" 2013[/caption] I had been trying to think of a way to expand the meeting and make it more appealing for smiths to stay over on Friday night. Last year, we tried a small invitational Friday night “Hammer In” (A "Hammer In" is where blacksmiths get together and make things collaboratively). It went really well. We made a few things for the auction, including a fireplace set, and it was encouraging enough to try it again this year. I put the word out to members of the blacksmith chapters and we are expecting quite a few smiths on the evening of October 31st. We are opening the shop up to auction goers to come and see what’s involved in the work and to observe how the items are handcrafted. I believe it will add value and interest to the pieces if folks can see the forging process. Tim Ryan is going to have a kettle of cooked goodness to offer up for a small cost per bowl. It’s gonna be fun! We are going to have a few set projects: a fire tools set and maybe a sculptural piece. Blacksmiths can forge smaller items too. It’ll be a good crowd.

I stopped by the Yarn Circle to speak with Charlotte Crittenden to talk about calling and dancing. Charlotte, a Brasstown local, is a regular caller at the Folk School on Tuesday and Saturday night dances. She is a popular regional caller who has recently called at Old Farmer's Ball, River Falls, Grey Eagle, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Sautee and more! Enjoy our interview... [caption id="attachment_11663" align="aligncenter" width="600"]contradance_5114 Charlotte calls a contra dance in the Community Room.[/caption] CP: How long have you been calling at the Folk School? CC: I came to the Folk School as a Work/Study in the winter of 2006 and I took Bob Dalsemer’s Dance Callers' Workshop that summer. So technically I’ve been calling since 2006, but I wasn’t calling regularly 'till a little time after that. CP: Why did you get into dance calling?  CC: I’d been a contra dancer for a long time. When I was in elementary, high school and college I was involved in other kinds of dance, so I’ve always had a history of being interested in dancing. I wanted to be a provider of the activity as opposed to just a consumer. Recognizing that my skills as a musician might be a little lacking (laughs), I embraced calling as the next fun way I could be able to do that. [caption id="attachment_11666" align="alignright" width="340"]Charlotte & Charlie Charlotte & Charlie[/caption] CP: What’s the best thing about calling a dance at the Folk School? CC: What a good question! I’d say the dance community at the Folk School is one of the best for integrating all kinds of different folks. People who have been dancing for years and years and years are dancing on the same floor as those who have never ever done it before. Little kids all the way up to folks in their 70s and 80s - all on the same dance floor and everyone’s having a great time, enjoying each other's company. That’s the best part! CP: Do you have a favorite tune? CC: I really like the old time tune called Growling & Grumbling, which I love as a dance tune. It got this great low, mumbly beginning and then it busts into this fun, upbeat tune. CP: Is that the same tune as Growling Old Man and Grumbling Old Woman? CC: Yep! That’s the one! It a great tune. CP: Where do you get your dances from? CC: Oh goodness! Lots of sources. Primarily (and I’d say traditionally) from other callers, but also from going to other dances. I’ll go to a dance and enjoy something that I just danced, run over to the side and write it down real quick. So I collect dances from dancing. I collect dances from other callers. And in our modern day & age, the internet is a wonderful place, not only to collect dances right off the web, but also to find literature from different places. I use the Country Dance & Song Society which is an organization up in Massachusetts that promotes folk dance and music. I peruse their bookstore pretty frequently. They are a great resource for all things dance.

[caption id="attachment_10936" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Class Photo: Yoruba Batik, Adire, and Tie Dye with Gasali Adeyemo Class Photo: Yoruba Batik, Adire, and Tie Dye
with Gasali Adeyemo[/caption] [caption id="attachment_10935" align="alignright" width="230"]Gasali and Charlotte by the Indigo Dye Pot Gasali and Charlotte by the indigo dye pot[/caption] I had the pleasure of assisting in the Science of Bread class in the Cooking Studio at the beginning of this month. As a class that produces more warm crusty delicious bread than we know what to do with, you can imagine that we make friends with other classes pretty quickly. Our next door neighbors in the Wet Room, the Surface Design and Dyeing Class with Gasali Adeyemo and assisted by Charlotte Crittenden, received the bulk of the bread bounty. In return, their class invited us to watch one of the most exciting moments of their class: the magic moment of the indigo dye pot!