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David Baker lights up any room with creative energy and joy. You may see him in a pink Easter bunny outfit in the spring, dressed as the spirit of fall at Fall Festival, or, on a more casual day, gliding around the Dining Hall in a flouncy, fluorescent tutu. In the spirit of the Folk School, he reminds us to embrace our inner child, to play, to laugh, to create, to experiment and to love each other and ourselves. David has been teaching Kaleidoscope classes at the Folk School for over a decade. He is also our regular massage therapist. Enjoy our interview!

David's Kaleidoscope class poses in front of the Jewelry Studio in Viking-inspired garb during Scandinavian Heritage Week 2014.

David’s Kaleidoscope class poses in front of the Jewelry Studio in Viking-inspired garb during Scandinavian Heritage Week 2014.

David Baker

David Baker loves color!

CP: Where are you from and how did you get here to Brasstown?

DB: Wonderful. I was originally from Hickory, North Carolina and my journey took me to Chicago and then to LA. When I was in Los Angeles, I was a nurse at UCLA and I had a premonition one day that something bad was going to happen. I went to the Grand Canyon and that weekend I lost my home in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I took that as a sign and decided that maybe it was time to go back to North Carolina.

I’d always dreamed of living in a cabin on a mountaintop. I would walk on the beach and actually see a cabin in my head. I told my family I was returning to NC and my brother, who is a truck driver, would tell me about this beautiful place he wanted to show me. He didn’t know anything about the Folk School, but he just knew this area was beautiful and close to big cities. He sent me a catalog of homes in the Brasstown area and in that catalog was the home–the home that I had actually seen in my dreams!

I knew this was the cabin. When I first came here to look, the realtor took me all around to everywhere but the cabin. Finally, at the end of the day, she took me there and I just knew: “This is it!” It felt like this is where I was supposed to be, so I got the cabin and I moved to Brasstown on May 1, 1994. At that moment, I knew nothing of the Folk School and the things that have become really important in my life today.


Kaleidoscope created in David’s class on display at Show and Tell.

CP: Where did your journey begin with the Folk School?

DB: Ah, in all truth it began because the first two years I lived here, I had a neighbor who really did not like me. Every morning he would scream horrible things and would shoot a gun when I would be trying to enjoy my life. This went on and on, and nothing seemed to happen with the sheriff since it was on private land. Eventually, one of the deputies told me to film him and I did. He was taken to court and charges were filed, and it was one of the worst times of my life. It might have been worse than the earthquake.

David works on a kaleidoscope project in the Jewelry Studio.

David works on a kaleidoscope project in the Jewelry Studio.

Anyhow, there was an article in the paper about it and I got a phone call from the wonderful artists Lee Davis and Doug. They contacted me and said, “We’re so proud of you, we want you to know that we read that article in the paper and we think you are very brave and we want you to come over for a dinner party.” We became good friends, and one day they said, “Don’t you love art?” Lee is a potter and Doug worked in the Folk School Craft Shop at the time. I said, “I love art!” They then asked me, “Why don’t you do something you really love? What have you always loved to do?” I said “I really love stained-glass.” And they replied, “Then that’s what you do!”

That’s how I started my journey with glass. I first took a glass class at Tri-County Community College and then I studied with Judson Bailey who used to teach at the Folk School. He had a little shop in downtown Brasstown and I studied as an apprentice with him for a year. I used to say to him, I want to make a kaleidoscope.” He’d reply, “I don’t know anything about making a kaleidoscope,” so I took a kaleidoscope class here at the Folk School and that made me very happy.

I went back to my studio and made a scope on my own, just for me. Somebody in the community came and bought it and then I got a phone call after asking if I would teach that at the Folk School. So, that’s how I came to the Folk School in a long round-about way. But everything works like that in my life, it just sort of unfolds. That’s when I started teaching, about 15 years ago.

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Around the World in the Cooking Studio

by Cory Marie Podielski on July 27, 2015

in Cooking, Featured Classes

Gulshan Singh teaches about spices and ingredients in Northern Indian Cooking.

Gulshan Singh teaches about spices and ingredients in Northern Indian Cooking.

Have you ever gone to an Asian market or stood in the ethnic food aisle at the supermarket and stared blankly at the bottles and spices, each staring back at you like a mystery waiting to be solved? It is challenging to jump into another ethnic cuisine without a helping hand or guidance. Many weeks of the year, the Folk School Cooking Studio turns into a trans-national laboratory for learning about a style of cooking and you often can take a trip around the world without leaving Brasstown.

Expand your ideas of cuisine by exploring the tastes, textures, and ingredients of Asia, Greece, France, India, and more. Demystify foreign spices and learn different techniques of cooking from professionals who specialize in specific cuisines. Your life in the kitchen will be forever improved as add new recipes and ingredients to your cooking repertoire.

Stuffed okra

Stuffed okra

Taste of India

Gulshan Singh teaches us the easy way of cooking complete Indian meals and incorporating the spices into your everyday cooking all while taking a cultural journey in Cooking of Northern India (April 3-8). Indian food is among the most delicious and nutritious cuisines in the world. Gulshan is a native of India and has taught North Indian cooking for 20 years.

Prepare wholesome and tasty soups, curries, Indian breads like naan & paratha, chutneys and delicious appetizers like pakoras, tikkias, and samosas in Eclectic Indian Cuisine (June 26-July 2) with Ruby Banerjee. Ruby is originally from Calcutta, India. Growing up in different regions of India gave her the opportunity to experience the varied cultures and cuisines of her country.

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A Fabulous Folk School Story Quilt

by Keather Gougler on July 16, 2015

in New & Noteworthy

KS2A8787Instructor Mary Lou Weidman of Spokane, Washington recently sent us a quilt depicting the story of the Folk School. Three and a half years in the making, the wonderfully colorful and imaginative quilt is hanging on display in the Community Room of Keith House.

“I was told about JCC by instructor DeeDee Triplett who told me that making money teaching was not the main reason for being there. And the first time I taught there I knew just what she meant. The people, the feeling of community and joy was what it was about. Meeting people from all over in the dining room and hearing experiences and seeing people help each other and in the end hug and wave “Goodbye” was lovely. People were happy with projects and a week of loveliness in the meadows and gardens and just walking along the paths is joyful. Imagining those that came before you is a nice thing to do also while you look at butterflies and nature and lovely wrought iron and folk art here and there. It is a pleasure to come and enjoy all there is, including music and dancing at night. This is a great place to work on gratitude and all that God can provide in one lovely place.


I decided to work on a quilt because there is so much to tell stories about there. Once I got into designing it, I realized that it should be a series of quilts because there is so much to tell and not enough room in one quilt. But I did the best I could and wanted to have John and Olive and Marguerite and the deed for the property from Fred Scroggs as that seemed very important to say. I worked for over three years on this quilt and Kathy Woods quilted it for me. Connie Donaldson my neighbor worked on it too and we both read many of the catalogues and other things online for ideas. Then we had too many ideas and so we did the best we could. [click to continue…]


Olive Dame Campbell

Olive Dame Campbell

Olive Dame was born the daughter of a middle class New England family of Mayflower descent. Her father was a talented botany teacher and school principal. A gifted mother taught her early the love of art and music. She enjoyed an active, rich youth that developed an inquiring mind and strong, determined will. These attributes would serve her well in the coming years of adventure with future husband, John C. Campbell, and later as the founder and director of the Folk School she named in his honor. Though less well known, she became one of the leading social reformers of her time.

After graduating from Tufts College in 1903, she taught literature several years before planning a vacation voyage to Scotland in 1906. On the voyage, she met John Campbell who was traveling to his ancestral homeland to recuperate from the loss of a wife and the stress of being President of Piedmont College. Olive was a smart, talented and dedicated Christian woman with a great sense of humor. She had indeed been called to serve humanity through education. In these ways, she was a lot like John. By trip’s end, they were engaged. Olive and John married in 1907 in her home town in Medford, Massachusetts. [click to continue…]



The Olive Dame family gather for a quick photo in front of Keith House. Kids, standing left to right: Calder LaFollette Huck, Otis Cary, Maxwell LaFollette Huck. Second row, left to right Toby Sackton (married to Marcia), Elisabeth Sackton (married to Liz Coolidge), Liz Coolidge, Tavia LaFollette, Donick Cary, Amadi Cary, Richard Cary. Back row, left to right: Jan Davidson, Marcia Butman, Kim Huffman Cary, Kim Huffman, Josh Wipf (behind Kim), Jeanne Huffman, Lorin Cary.

Members of Folk School founder Olive Dame Campbell’s family gathered here during a recent weekend in June (12-14) for a mini-family reunion and a chance to experience the Folk School. While some members took classes in Photography, Spinning, and Gardening, others spent time on campus, browsing the school’s archives, visiting and meeting with Folk School staff and community members. I recently caught up with Marcia Butman (Olive was Marcia’s Great Aunt) and Tavia LaFollette Zabriske (Olive was her Great Great Aunt) to ask them about their thoughts about the Folk School and to learn more about their family’s connection to Olive.

KG: Tell us why you decided to gather your family here for a mini-reunion at the Folk School.

MB: I had been reading Olive’s diary and sending it out on a daily basis to a large group of extended family, calling it “Dame A Day.” I sent out the year of Olive’s baby Jane’s life, from April 1912 through January 1913. I think this really involved our family in Olive’s life, and we began talking about holding a reunion at the school. Toby and I visited the school twice in the past ten years and I also visited with my daughter for the day when we were at The Great Smokies. We also hosted Jan and Nanette in Nantucket when they came to do a talk and concert. Our relationship to them made me feel it would be possible to arrange a family visit. Jan and Nanette are such special and wonderful welcoming people, they were very positive and enthusiastic about the idea of a reunion and I knew they would help us arrange a reunion. And they did so much to make the weekend great.

However, it seemed very difficult to come up with a date. Then Lorin Cary, whose brother, Richard lives in Asheville, said he was planning to visit on Richard June 12, after his grandson’s graduation from High School in Toledo, and both of them were going to go visit the school. Once one person said they were definitely coming, it all fell into place. (Olive was also Great Aunt to both Lorin and Richard. They are the sons of Olive’s niece June and Harry Cary, who lived and worked at the Folk School from 1938-41).

TLZ: I have grown up with stories and artifacts. This was an opportunity to learn and share with family, first hand, in a place that has captured and treasures cultural heritage. What a unique opportunity! [click to continue…]