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What’s a Hobo Nickel?

by Cory Marie Podielski on January 13, 2017

in Featured Classes, Jewelry & Metalwork

An altered Indian-head nickel (left) by Tom Patterson and an original Indian head (right). Photo by Tom Keran.

Tom Patterson has been a hand engraver and jeweler/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. His upcoming class Hand Engraving-Hobo Nickels caught my eye as a very unique class. 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!

Hobo nickel by renowned original era carver Bertram “Bert” Wiegand

CP: What the heck 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. [click to continue…]

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Beat the Wintertime Blues

by Cory Marie Podielski on January 12, 2017

in Class Picks, Featured Classes


Come explore your creative, adventurous side in the New Year. Experience our hands-on, non-competitive learning environment through a craft, music, or cooking class. Settle down with a warm cup of tea, and take pleasure in browsing our class picks that will help enrich your life in 2017.

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Cozy Up with a New Craft

by Cory Marie Podielski on January 5, 2017

in Class Picks, Featured Classes


Colder weather beckons us to discover satisfying indoor pursuits. During the winter months, come to the Folk School and cozy up to a new craft or cooking style. Enjoy our class picks that will bring warmth to your body and fuel your creative spirit.

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Children make cookies for the Holiday Kids Party

Children make cookies for the Holiday Kids Party

The month of December is a special time at the Folk School. Events, parties, food, themed classes, concerts, dances and performances unite the community in the holiday spirit. When the wreaths, garlands, and handcrafted ornaments appear in early December, we know the magic of the season has arrived. Recently, I connected with Nanette Davidson, our longtime decorating maven and mastermind, to ask about holiday traditions at the Folk School. Enjoy our interview!

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Nanette in the Cooking Studio

CP: When does the holiday season begin for you?

ND: Well, I think about this off and on through out the year, planning simple projects for the winter holiday season and for spring’s May Day and June’s Auction Gala sometimes many months in advance. I have asked for help from other artists and dancers in the community to generate handmade decorations including giant puppets for parades. Jan and I love the seasonal celebrations that come from many rural, agricultural communities. When you live in the Appalachian countryside where there are distinct perennial landscapes, it’s easy to celebrate the beauty of the changing seasons.

CP: What is your favorite Folk School December holiday tradition?

ND: We have so many great parties in December for the local community as well as our students who come in for a week. In the original days of the JCCFS, the student body was closely tied to the community and seasonal events were held to pull everyone together. We still want to include our local community and they are present here at weekly dances and concerts. We have the Old Folks Party, Christmas Dance/Dessert Potluck, New Year’s Eve Dance, and the Children’s Party when Santa arrives in the BFD Firetruck, sirens wailing. I have always helped with the Children’s Party which includes crafts, musical chairs, storytelling, Morris performance, homemade cookies, and live music and dance for the kids. Even though we are an adult school we reach out to our local kids at Christmas and in the summer. More and more show up on the dance floor now. Every child that has a great folk school experience can help us preserve the school for the future. [click to continue…]

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firesideflyer2016Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts in our beautifully decorated Keith House and Davidson Hall (next to the Craft Shop). Craftspeople will offer handmade items such as jewelry, weaving, forged iron, photography, quilts, and turned wood. Come spend the afternoon with us.

Enjoy homemade refreshments such as sweet and savory scones and light bites, cookies, and gourmet coffee from the Brasstown Morris Dancers and Cherokee County Arts Council.

Visit the Folk School Craft Shop, offering 15% off all items from November 25 through December 24.
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