Author: Podielski

[caption id="attachment_10289" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Cory Cory and fellow Tinsmithing student play music in the Community Room after Show and Tell[/caption]
In the spring, the Berea College Bluegrass Band comes down from Kentucky to charm the Folk School Community with a Friday night concert and a jumpin' Saturday night dance. I had the opportunity to have a good porch sit with Cory Shenk, a former Work/Study, Sticks in the Mud Dancer, and former man-about-Brasstown. Cory left Brasstown to pursue his undergraduate degree at Berea College. He is a member of the Berea Bluegrass Ensemble who will be playing at the Folk School April 4.
[caption id="attachment_10295" align="alignright" width="228"]Cory-Hay Laying on the hay in the Folk School field[/caption]

CP: When were you a Work/Study?

CS: March 14 – May 15, 2010. I remember the date clearly because I recall being mesmerized by the St. Patrick’s Day Party at the Murphy L & N Train Depot. Dale’s imitation of a leprechaun trapped in a brown paper bag - I thought that was brilliant!

CP: What have you been up to since your W/S session?

CS:I am currently a student at Berea College. I have been there for three years pursuing my undergraduate degree. I’ve also done a bit of working and traveling. I went to Ireland and Japan with the Berea Bluegrass Band. For a while before I went to Berea, I was working with Meredith Dahle (former host) at Sugarboo Farms in Blairsville. That was great because I could still be involved at the Folk School.

[caption id="attachment_10249" align="aligncenter" width="475"]DSC_4288-475px Leah and Aubrey Atwater play "Red Rocking Chair" on the Music Studio Porch.[/caption]

CP: Welcome back to the Folk School. What’s it like to be back as a second-time host?

LD: It has been so incredible to be back in this community. It’s a bit like coming back to folk-craft-musical-dance wonderland. Some of the cast of characters has changed, but the heart of the matter is the same. 

[caption id="attachment_10266" align="alignright" width="215"]Karen Mueller and Leah Dolgoy Karen Mueller and Leah Dolgoy[/caption]

CP: How is the Folk School different than your regular life?

LD: I think the best way to illustrate this is by telling you about what I’ve been up to between my last host term and my return to the Folk School. I finished my last host term in August 2011 and went back to school that September. Conventional school. Graduate school in Occupational Therapy. I remember the first day I went to get my ID card. I went to a computer and used a touch screen to print out a number. And then proceeded to wait in line for hours while cranky people all around me played on their iPhones. I remember thinking to myself, “when you register at the Folk School, a work study greets you, hands you a map, tells you how to find your housing through the woods, and directs you to the room with the freshly baked cookies.” Having just finished conventional school, it is so nice to return to a Danish Folk School model of learning. 

I arrived at the Folk School for my current host term on Christmas Day. I walked into Keith House, and was just struck by the comforting familiarity of everything around me. The smell of the wood, the creaky floors, the feeling of the Jr. host room at the top of the stairs. Then Winter Dance Week started. Suddenly I was in a literal embrace with all of these dear lovely folks I hadn’t seen in two years. I would run into friends in the contra dance line. I very quickly became re-acclimatized to the rhythm of how things are around here – morning song, ringing the bell, the exact time it takes to walk from any point on campus to the dining hall and not be late.

I stopped by the Yarn Circle on a Monday afternoon to speak with Martha Owen, our beloved longtime Resident Artist in Spinning, Knitting, Dyeing and Felt Making. We talked about many things including fiber arts, raising sheep, travel, artistic process, Fair Isle, her rich history with the Folk School, and more. Enjoy our interview!

[caption id="attachment_10134" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Martha-SheepLine Don't ever lead your sheep with feed! A student photo op pic by Bonnie Shearer[/caption]

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

MO: There was one year when I was a wee lass that I came to Little Folk School. I must have been 8, 9, or 10. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but my mother, Mary Porter Fain Owen came from Murphy. I would spend the summers here with my grandmother. At that time there was only one group of kids in Little Folk School. I learned to dance and I still sing the song I learned.

[caption id="attachment_10131" align="alignright" width="284"]Martha-Archives Photo shoot for Early American Life Magazine: Spinning near Festival Barn, August 1988 - That's Emolyn drinking a "grape coke" and trying to be good[/caption]

The next time, I was in college and I came for dancing again. I was doing volunteer work with a local church and we came to the dance one night. One summer my mother gave me a spinning wheel she had gotten from my great aunt and said: “Look! You always did like weird stuff.” She put the wheel down in front of me walked off and I thought “Well, I don’t know how to work with this thing.” My grandmother was reading the Cherokee Scout and saw an ad that the Campbell Folk School had a two-week class in Spinning and Dyeing. She said "Why don’t you go down and learn?" I said “Well, maybe I will.”

The full craft program that we have now had started in the '70s. The class was taught in Open House by Pam Strawn. We would card and spin and then do a dye pot when we had a pound of yarn between all of us. From that I made my first vest and I wore it for years to prove to my students that you should make something for any yarn you spin, you don’t have to wait until you spin “perfect” yarn.

My whole life turned left after taking that spinning class. That was 1978. I married my enabler, David Liden in 1979, and I had sheep by 1980.

CP: Tell me about your first sheep.

MO: I bought two ewes with lambs by their sides. One of the lambs was called "Maw Maw" and was the same age as my oldest daughter, Annie Fain. Maw Maw's portrait is hanging in our house. She was a pretty important sheep and I learned a lot of things from her. She lived to be 17.

CP: Do you have tips for beginning sheep owners?

[caption id="attachment_10141" align="alignleft" width="237"]MarthaDavidandPups Ro-bear and Julliet, our current Great Pyrenees dogs - they weigh at least 125 pounds each now and live with the sheep (Oh, and Martha and David!) - Photo by Charlotte Crittenden[/caption]

MO: Now I have 35 sheep, but you've got to start small. Sheep reproduce quickly. While you are learning about things like housing, worming, and hoof trimming, etc, the fewer sheep the better. Security is also top priority. Sheep don’t have a way to protect themselves besides snorting, stomping, and running away which is very attractive to dogs. The biggest problems you have are neighbors' dogs and strays. Try security animals like llamas, donkeys, or Great Pyrenees. I have two Great Pyrenees right now. I haven't had any predator problems since they have been here. We are on our fourth generation. A border collie's job is the tell the sheep what to do, but the Pyrenees protect the sheep. They live with the sheep.

CP: As a current resident artist, one of your duties is to schedule teachers for the knitting, dyeing, felt making and spinning classes at the Folk School. How do you find them?

MO: Every possible way you can think of. We need someone who is passionate about what they do, someone who has done their craft a lot, but is a good teacher. I am always looking around and listening.

[caption id="attachment_9833" align="aligncenter" width="432"]Quilted Landscape by instructor Karen Tunnell Quilted Landscape by instructor Karen Tunnell[/caption]

When I stepped into Karen Tunnell's "Quilted Landscapes" class, every wall had a different window peeking into a beautiful and unique world. The "windows" were the quilts students had been working on all week. Many worked from "near and dear" personal photographs of places that inspired them.

[caption id="attachment_9825" align="alignright" width="313"]Landscape Quilt by Stephanie Wilds Reference photo & landscape quilt by Stephanie Wilds[/caption]

Stephanie Wilds from Black Mountain, NC used a photo she took of the Folk School labyrinth on a previous visit. The result was a gorgeous depiction of the garden rivaling the beauty of the original photo.

Stephanie is an experienced quilter and has taken several classes at the Folk School including Marilyn Wall's "Fabricating Faces" and Julie Sibley's "Design on Paper and Fabric," which she refers to as "life and career changing." She is currently creating the quilt to be displayed at the 2014 Swannanoa Gathering. We can't wait to see what see comes up with! Find out more about Stephanie on her website.

Margaret Radcliffe is teaching two Knitting classes next month at the Folk School: My First Sock (Feb. 28 - March 2 / Weekend) and the Easiest Sweaters in the World (March 2-8). Come learn new techniques to take your garment knitting to the next level (or the first level if you are new to socks and sweaters). I chatted with Margaret about Knitting, the Folk School, and what it is like to write about Knitting. Enjoy our interview!

[caption id="attachment_9786" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Radcliffe_KN_13_01_BIO Sweater by Margaret Radcliffe[/caption]

CP: Where are you from?
MR: I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, and now live in Blacksburg.

[caption id="attachment_9788" align="alignright" width="233"]Radliffe-IMG_3099 Community Knitting Project[/caption]

CP: How long have you been coming to/teaching at the Folk School?
MR: Since 1997. I was starting out as a knitting designer and teacher and saw an ad for the Folk School in Knitters Magazine. I got a catalog and discovered that there was one week in the summer, Little/Middle Folk School, when I could come with my daughter. She was just old enough (seven), so that summer we both came. We loved it so much, we kept coming back. It was actually years before I even approached the school to teach-I was too busy learning. That summer was the beginning of a tradition, attending Little/Middle with my kids, that lasted 15 years. I started teaching knitting, both adult classes and during Little/Middle in 2004. A few years later I expanded to add dyeing to my classes.

[caption id="attachment_8858" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Karen Karen teaches "Classical Stained Glass Panels" in the Jewelry Studio at the Folk School.[/caption]

CP: Why do you like glass?

KR: Glass is a magical, magical, magical medium. Never a liquid or a solid, glass is always in between those two states of matter. Through heat, you can control its characteristics. I believe that there are endless possibilities in glass as a creative medium. It is a wonderful combination of "science meets art." The way you see glass is all about the light.

CP: What made made you want to be a glass artist?

[caption id="attachment_8864" align="alignleft" width="184"]Bargello-inspired piece Bargello-inspired piece[/caption]

KR: I was into many crafts and I especially loved quilting - piecing things together. For Valentine's Day in 1981, my husband gave me a pair of grozing pliers and a glass cutter and encouraged me to try glass. Working with glass filled my soul, so I started my love affair with cold glass techniques (like stained glass) etched under 1000 degrees.

From there I wanted to try it all, so I learned warm glass techniques (like fusing, fritting, and ground glass) and plastic glass which is glass at a temperature above 1650 degrees (like beading). Now I have been working and teaching glass for over 30 years. My studio out of Huntsville, AL is Earthstar Glass.

CP: What inspires you?

[caption id="attachment_8866" align="alignright" width="192"]An example of Powder Painting by Karen Reed. An example of Powder Painting achieving a watercolor look by Karen Reed.[/caption]

KR: Creative challenges. I take inspiration from other media, like oil painting, watercolor, pastels, quilting, and think: "I would like to figure that out in glass."

I also take technique driven inspiration from different cultures around the world, I get lost in a subject. For example, I look at Balinese Folk Art and wonder "how can I make that in glass?"

CP: Functional or Decorative?

KR: It's a balance. As an independent studio we need to do functional work and custom pieces to fund our other more conceptual and creative pieces. My creative work is what goes in the galleries, the functional and smaller-sized work pays the bills. Small will sell better, but I love doing the big pieces.

CP: Who is your favorite glass artist?

KR: Harry Clarke (1889 -1931) a master of stained glass from Ireland.

CP: What’s the most meaningful piece you’ve ever made?

Reed-Chapel

KR: The 57 fused glass panels for the chapel in Madison, AL. In 2012, I was commissioned by three siblings to create an installation piece in a hospital chapel to commemorate their parents. Because of a lead ban, you cannot put lead in a hospital, so the siblings had a hard time finding an artist to hire. I have been fusing glass over 25 years and was honored and delighted to be able to work on such a commission. I loved every second of it! They wanted something soothing, non-denominational and artistic with nature as a theme - a place of retreat for everyone to enjoy.

Atwater_BIOUsing clogging, music and storytelling to charm Folk School audiences since 1996, Aubrey exudes a talent, grace, and humor unique to only the most tenured and talented of performers. Aubrey returns to the Folk School this September to teach two dynamite classes: Singing with Clawhammer Banjo (Sept. 8-13) and Clogging (Sept. 13-15 - Weekend). She is also scheduled to perform in special Thursday night concert, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. Don't miss out on this opportunity to learn to play, laugh, sing, and dance with Aubrey this fall! I recently checked in with Aubrey to talk to her about her upcoming classes, the Folk School, tunes, heroes, dance moves, folk music, the Phoebe, and more! Here's what we talked about: CP: You teach quite regularly at the Folk School. How did you find the Folk School? When did you teach your first class? AA: I got the idea to apply to the folk school in the mid-90s when I saw that one of my dulcimer player mentors, Lorraine Hammond, from Boston, was working there. I got in touch, sent materials, and was invited to teach my first class in 1996. I thought I had died and gone to heaven-what a unique, beautiful, nurturing, and exciting place! Teaching a 30+ hour dulcimer class felt daunting back then for my younger self. I was nearly quivering on the plane as I travelled to the Folk School. I have learned a lot over the years teaching at the Folk School. The luxury of time in the week-long class has been a great opportunity to refine and expand my teaching. CP: Do you think anyone can learn to sing? Do you have to know how sing well to take your classes? AA: YES to first question - I think anyone can learn to sing. Absolutely NO to second question - you do not need to know how to sing well to take my classes. This question reminds me of college when I took a few drawing classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. I realized that maybe I didn't have a deeply inherent gift, but I learned the skill quite well. Some people can easily SING and it is beautiful, like when they are three years old. Some people don't have the gift quite as well, but I have never ever denied someone who wanted to sing or learn to control the pitch of their voice better. I think of two students in particular over the years who considered themselves "tone deaf" and we worked together, trained, and over time, I heard each of them sing on pitch. There were tears. It was quite a moment, very moving! [caption id="attachment_8338" align="alignleft" width="234"]Aubrey charms audiences of all ages! Aubrey charms audiences of all ages![/caption] CP: What came first for you, playing music or dancing? How did you learn clawhammer banjo? How did you learn to clog? AA: I started playing piano by ear at about 5 years old, then my parents started me on piano lessons. I quit at 13 and then picked up the guitar at age 15. I had a defining moment that summer in 1979. I figured out how to play two simple chords to a Beatles song and then I sang along and voila! I could play a song and then I was off and running and have never looked back. It was a major turning point in my life. From there I learned to play the tin whistle, mountain dulcimer and in my late 20's, I went to Eastern Kentucky and started to learn clawhammer banjo and to dance. My friend Cari Norris taught me. She is the granddaughter of the legendary Lily May Ledford, leader of the first all-female string band, The Coon Creek Girls, in the early radio days, so I got to learn from a wonderful lineage of women. When I wasn't with Cari in Kentucky, I'd commission her to send instructional recordings (cassettes!), and she walked me through tunes by ear that way. That same time frame, I learned a few clogging steps (aka Flatfooting) and then over time, I learned traditional freestyle clogging by imitating and collecting steps from percussive dancers I would meet on the road. It was a wondrous and quite traditional way to learn. More than ten years later, somewhere in my 40's, I said to my husband Elwood, with some surprise, "I'm a dancer!" I had never taken dance as a child. CP: Do you have a favorite tune right now? AA: Yes, always. It is often whatever song I am learning at the moment. I am always having some kind of a love affair with a song. Two right now are: "The Jamestown Homeward Bound," a 19th century seafaring song and "Mornin's Come, Mariah's Gone," a Jean Ritchie song. Another song I have sung to myself all year is the beautiful hymn "Resignation" written in 1719 by Isaac Watts. Pete Seeger is famous for saying a song can change the world and I believe that songs help heal our broken hearts. My father died last year and we lost a bunch of other old friends and family members nearly all at once. That one quiet and beautiful song has rescued me over and over again in the last year. CP: As a musician who has performed multiple times at the Folk School, do you have a tune you always include in your set? How many times have you performed at the Folk School? AA: I have performed at the Folk School about every year since 1996. It is one of my absolute utter favorite places in the world to play, teach and visit. When I am on that stage and looking at that roomful of smiling, warm, and, now, many familiar faces, I am in one of my happiest places. I often, but not always, play "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" at the end of my shows. It's a silly, centuries-old song about the devil who comes up from Hell to talk to a dimwitted farmer about taking one of his family members back with him. The farmer says, "Don't take my son, I need him on the farm. But you can have my wife."  Then we see how things turn out for the DEVIL. It's a very funny song, still, to this day!  Someone captured in on video last time I was there: