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Beyond the Sock with Master Knitter Charles Gandy

by Cory Marie Podielski on September 2, 2015

in Featured Teacher, Fiber Arts


Tulip detail on knitted sock by Charles Gandy


Charles holding his tulip-themed sock outside the Wet Room

You can envision Charles Gandy’s sculptural socks warming cold winter feet, or you could imagine seeing his socks in a fine art gallery. He has a show coming up at The Bascom Art Center in Highlands (see below for details) that explores this very topic. He is a TKGA Master Knitter and is a renowned designer with a published book focusing on his creative sock designs: The Embellished Sock: Knitted Art for the Foot.

We are lucky to have Charles teach regularly at the Folk School. I sat down with him in the Wet Room Studio during his last class where students were working on fantastic knitted pieces like vegetable gardens, jonquils, and Pop Art-esque Campbell’s soup cans. Let’s find out a little bit more about Charles Gandy.

CP: Your designs are just wild; I love them! Where do you find inspiration?

CG: We’ve been talking a lot about that here in class. I find a lot of inspiration in nature. For example, today I looked outside and saw a tree and I thought, “Look at those leaves hanging on that tree? Wouldn’t that make a fun sock?” I look at things and I listen to things (like your banjo playing this morning). I was on a hike earlier this year and there were icicles hanging on a rock wall, so I made a note to do something with icicles. Sometimes it’s a person, sometimes it’s a yarn, or sometimes it’s a just moment where I will find inspiration.


Socks by Charles Gandy

CP: In addition to nature, I noticed that places all around the world are inspirations for your work. I noticed your Hallgrim hat?


Hallgrim Hat (Interweave Knits Winter 2013)

CG: Oh the Hallgrim Hat! I have traveled a lot and that was a pattern based on my trip to Reykjavík, Iceland. There is an iconic church in Reykjavík called the Hallgrim church. Anybody who has been to Reykjavík has seen that church; it’s right in the middle of town, you can’t miss it. That hat has been the most popular pattern I’ve ever written. If you look at that hat, you don’t have to know that it’s from that church, but you know it’s a nice design. Do you like it?

CP: Oh, yes! I love the design and then finding out the backstory about your inspiration is an added treat.

CG: It’s a pretty design, and when you see the church, you see the church in the hat. When I travel, I  keep a sketchbook with me to record details of what I see. I once spent three days on the floors of St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice sketching the mosaic tile patterns. I have sketchbooks that date back for 40 years where I’ve cataloged colors and ideas. [click to continue…]


Remembering JD Robinson

by Cory Marie Podielski on August 20, 2015

in Folk School Folks


JD_Robinson_Bio_IMG_5177We are mourning the loss of our dear friend, JD Robinson. JD played an integral part in the music and dance community at the Folk School for decades. He taught music classes in a wide variety of instruments, engaged students at morningsong with songs and tales of fire safety, played for contra dances, led jams, and was involved in Winter Dance Week. JD also kept the community of Brasstown safe as the Fire Chief of the Brasstown Volunteer Fire Department. Always a phone call away, he always came to help whenever there was an emergency at the Folk School. He will be greatly missed.

Please gather at the Festival Barn this Saturday at 1 p.m. for a celebration of the life of JD. There will be a potluck meal & music by any of his friends who choose to join in. Please dress casually, bring a dish to pass, and your instruments. The Brasstown Fire Department and many others will bring JD’s ashes to the Barn, where there will be a short ceremony followed by visiting, reminiscence, music and food throughout the afternoon.

David Kaynor wrote a beautiful tune in JD’s memory.

David says: “I’ve been thinking on how thankful I am for 20 years’ acquaintance with JD Robinson and how sad I am that, suddenly, I no longer have 20 more years of playing music with him and getting to know him better. Here’s a rough multi-track of something I wrote in his memory:”

Click here to listen to the tune.


JD in the Music Studio / Playing a song at Brasstown Follies.


Teaching in the Music Studio


Brasstown roadtrip! JD played for many contra dances at the Folk School and in the region. Here he is playing fiddle at a dance in Chattanooga. Charlotte is calling & Dianna is on piano.


Playing Morningsong / Rehearsing with the Pressley sisters at Clay’s Corner.




Hammered Dulcimer

Hammered Dulcimer

Wow, just finished our 17th Dulcimer Celebration and it was wonderful. Every year I say it can’t get any better, but it seems to always be adding a special touch. The instructors that joined me this year (Bonnie Carol, Rob Brereton and Nina Zanetti) were such fun and all “in sync” with the Folk School atmosphere and philosophy of concentrated, non-competitive learning, creating and sharing. What a joy! 

Enjoy these comments about the week from instructors and students alike:

“Teaching at the Dulcimer Celebration was one of the happiest times I’ve ever had at a dulcimer gig. I loved the Folk School and am most grateful to you for such a wonderful experience. I could go on and on to enumerate all the things that made it so enjoyable: the small classes, the receptive students, the beautiful surroundings, the fun of mingling with folks who do other crafts, the history, the schedule that allowed for downtime and time to socialize…. It was all great, and I had a wonderful time. In fact, I was just getting ready to make myself dinner and thinking of how lovely it was to sit down with a bunch of friendly, interesting, and engaged folks and share those great family style meals!”

-Nina Zanetti [click to continue…]


A rare book in need of restoration

A rare book in need of restoration

Gian Frontini teaching in Lower Keith House Studio

Gian Frontini teaching in Lower Keith House Studio

Gian Frontini has taught book making and restoration at the Folk School for many years. He runs a small bindery in Amherst Island, Ontario, and concentrates on restoration and conservation of early leather and vellum bindings. I talked Gian about his upcoming class: Book Restoration Clinic, about book making, the Folk School, and more. Enjoy our interview!

CP: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from, and what originally brought you to Brasstown?

GF: I live on an island in Lake Ontario with my wife Pat, who is professional potter and weaver. Amherst Island is a wonderful and peaceful place, ideal to lose yourself in your craft. My wife is English and I am Italian. We both came to Canada 50 years ago. I was employed in an international company and Canada is the place we loved the most of everywhere I worked all over the world. Brasstown came into our life when Pat met Martha Owen in 1999 at a spinners’ conference. The next year we came to the school, and since then it has become a bigger, and bigger part of our life.

GIan's South Shore Bindery on Amherst Island

Gian’s South Shore Bindery on Amherst Island

CP: I know you have a cabin very close to the Folk School. Do you spend some of the year here?

GF: We spend three months of the year here, usually in the fall and spring. The summers are too lovely on Amherst Island and I love the fierce frozen wastes of the Northern winters. It is incredible that we have the choice of such lovely places.

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

GF: The Folk School is an unique sharing experience for both teachers and students. It is rare to find a place where you can freely exchange ideas and knowledge. I love teaching at the Folk School because I learn from the students and make so many good friends. [click to continue…]


English County Dance Starts in September

by Annie Fain Barralon on August 8, 2015

in Community Events, Music & Dance


A new monthly Saturday English Country Dance will start at the Folk School on September 12, 2015. English Country Dancing (ECD) is the historical predecessor to American barn or contra dancing. Like a contra dance, each ECD is made up of short, fun, easy-to-learn figures.

What really sets it apart is the music. It can be slow and elegant (dance like a Queen!) or quick and lively (dance like a Duke!) There is a definite air of sophistication and romance. More ballroom, less barn. Our band will be Margie McDonald on violin and Gretchen Wurth on piano, [click to continue…]