Tom Patterson has been a hand engraver and metalsmith for more than 50 years. Starting in his father's shop at age 14, he has been a lifelong student of metals and their manipulation. Currently, Tom continues his studies from his home studio in the mountains of western NC, where he fabricates artifacts of astonishing peculiarity. Unsure of what a hobo nickel is, I resisted the urge to google and decided to sit down with Tom and find out a bit more about the class. Enjoy our interview!
[caption id="attachment_16076" align="alignright" width="150"] Hobo nickel by renowned original era carver Bertram "Bert" Wiegand[/caption]
CP:What is a hobo nickel?TP: It’s a modified Indian Head Buffalo nickel and the profile of the Indian or the buffalo on either side has been modified to be something else. It was commonly used by hobos during the Great Depression to increase the value of a nickel. They could trade it for a ride, buy a meal, or buy off a train cop. People started liking hobo nickels and then coin collectors start to collect hobo nickels. Some of nickels created by carvers during the Depression Era became so valuable that modern people, who had some engraving ability, began to buy nickels from coin dealers to copy and counterfeit these original hobos. The counterfeit artist would get the big bucks for their “collectable” nickel. They were discovered, and instead of being discredited, they were celebrated and collected for their own abilities. So today, even though it is definitely a niche, there are a lot of hobo nickel carvers. One of the famous carvers, he had this little kit, or box, of his handmade tools, and it went to auction a few years back and it sold for $9000. The old original nickels are worth thousands of dollars now and some of the new nickels are worth a lot of money too.
[caption id="attachment_12507" align="alignright" width="284"] 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'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!!!