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Pushing the Handmade Envelope

by Jan Davidson, Director on July 30, 2014

in Book & Paper Arts, New & Noteworthy

Book_KS2A5694“What do you like best about the Folk School?” I asked an eight-year-old friend.

“All the new old-timey stuff.”

The Folk School is cutting edge, ever pushing the handmade envelope. We were growing our food in Brasstown before any of us knew we were locavores. When bigger was surely better, we were small and rural and believed it to be the fountainhead of creativity. (Yer welcome, cityfolks). We wanted art to be a part of everyday life, and every person an artist, not just for art’s sake (but, hey, art, yer welcome) but for our own sake. We said there was art in all of us, especially as children, and that we just wanted to give it back to those who may have missed it or laid it aside. BA-GianWe were helping people to find common ground at times when others tried to divide us about race, class, gender, orientation, origin, personal appearance, attitude, religion, and footwear. We are not really about crafts or music or books, though we teach and learn them at the very highest levels; to us, they are a legacy and a way to get beyond our bad selves and try to love one another. We teach good ways. Some of them are very old. Cool.

Words under glass are handy, like when you’re waiting in the drive-through at the Krystal and you can’t remember who it was that shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.

BA-Holly-XOBut books are more than the words or images they contain. They are a physical object, the best-ever communication device and an inspiration. The fact that we’ve had paper and books around a long time does not mean we are through with exploring them, it means that we have a lot going for us in the forward journey. We still paint mountain landscapes in oil, though there are quicker ways to grab an image. We still carve wood, though plastics may be a quicker route to “bear.” We still play the banjo, heaven help us, though it is easier to plug in the earbuds and listen to somebody else making music.
That would be too easy for the likes of us. We are willing to go to some extra trouble to have beauty in our lives.
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Bowed Psaltery Weekend

by Annie Fain Barralon on July 30, 2014

in Featured Classes, Music! Dancing!

Ivan Stile teaches autoharp and bowed psaltery a the Folk School.

Ivan Stile teaches autoharp and bowed psaltery a the Folk School.

The bowed psaltery can be traced back to at least 1600 A.D. The strings are strung across a sound box, most often triangular in shape allowing each string to extend a little farther than the one before it, so that each can be played individually with a small horsehair bow. It is also possible to play with a bow in each hand which allows for the addition of harmony notes to complement the melody. The result is a sweet, Medieval-type sound (many a video example can be found online).

What I see as one of the best parts of this particular instrument, is that it is very approachable and easy to learn. So much so, that the contemporary bowed psaltery became popularized as a tool for music education in primary schools by German music teacher, Edgar Stamer.

So where does the Folk School come into this story?

We have a bowed psaltery class coming up this Weekend! There are 2 spaces left.

Bowed Psaltery with Ivan Stiles, August 1-3, 2014
This enjoyable class will lead you through the basic of playing the bowed psaltery. Single-bow techniques for more flowing melodies will be followed by double-bow techniques for the addition of harmonies and playing rapid melodies. No knowledge of written music is required, but students must bring a psaltery of triangular design. Level 1- No experience required. Register on our website.

Ivan Stiles performs nationwide and is known in autoharp circles across the country as an autoharpist of unique ability; not just as a performer, but also as a recording artist, instructor, author, and co-founder and co-editor of Autoharp Quarterly magazine. In addition to the autoharp, he plays the Appalachian lap dulcimer, bowed psaltery, and musical saw. Ivan has given concerts and workshops since 1980 at such places as the Walnut Valley Festival, Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering, California Traditional Music Society, Augusta Heritage Center, Swannanoa Gathering and the John C. Campbell Folk School. Ivan was even inducted in the Autoharp Hall of Fame!

Here is a video of Ian in concert, check out 26:40 to hear the bowed psaltery:


Scrap copper

Scrap copper









What to do with all your scrap copper?……… Make jewelry, and then enamel it!

Learn how to make beautiful jewelry out of scrap copper in Enameling Class “Reuse, Recycle…Enameling!” September 12-14, 2014.

From scrap to finished jewelry

From scrap to finished jewelry

We will cover where to find scrap, including roofing copper, old copper tubing and other types,  how to clean and cut it to make pendants, and then we will go through the process of enameling step-by-step! With the high price of copper, it just makes sense to use scrap!

All materials and tools will be provided, so all you have to do is sign up, show up, and plan to learn a lot and have tons of fun doing it!

For more information or to register, visit the Folk School website:

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Housing Makeovers

by John Clarke, Buildings and Grounds Manager on July 18, 2014

in Around Campus, New & Noteworthy


Fresh touches for the Little House living room

Earlier this year the Buildings and Grounds staff, the Housekeeping staff, and a small number of flooring and painting subcontractors got busy to do renovations at three of the Folk School’s student houses.


Mill House, built in the 1930s

We provided lower-level Mill House rooms with new floors, window blinds, a dropped ceiling, fresh paint, and energy-efficient lighting. We also addressed air leakage problems and sealed off around the old mill wheel so that outside air and moisture will be kept out of the basement and crawl spaces.

We remodeled the Little House, installing new cabinets and a wood floor for the living room, plus fresh paint for the lower level bedrooms and living room. Little House was built in 1981 by the Homesteading students. The lighting was upgraded here also.


Bidstrup, built in 1989

In Bidstrup House, we replaced the old vinyl tile floor in the hallway with ceramic tile. We brightened up the dormitory rooms with new paint and light fixtures.

All these add up to a nicer experience for our students and instructors who stay on campus and enjoy the history and warmth of the older houses and the peace and quiet of staying on the Brasstown campus. All three houses were redecorated with a mixture of vintage and new furniture as well as beautiful framed art pieces and photographs taken at the Folk School by staff, students and instructors.

Thanks go to Carl Patterson Carpets, Browning Precision Paint, and the Folk School staff members who put in concentrated hours in order to get everything done speedily. Thanks also go to Business Manager Marianne Hatchett and Resident Artist Nanette Davidson who helped pick the flooring and the wall colors respectively.


07_26_10_dulcimer_6800Come celebrate the joy and beauty of both the hammered and lap dulcimer in a small, intimate, non-competitive setting. Unlike any other dulcimer camp, Dulcimer Celebration, now in its 15th year, is a unique week designed for both hammered and mountain dulcimers to provide the opportunity to improve technique, expand repertoire and have fun with harmony and chords. With four instructors, two skill levels are offered for both instruments – novice/intermediate or intermediate/advanced. Morning class time is spent in a concentrated session building skills and repertoire with at least two different instructors through the week. A flexible week, participants can choose to stay with one instrument, or do a couple mornings of hammered and a couple mornings of mountain if they wish.

The highliLough_Anne_BIO_3512ght for many participants is the afternoon session, bringing all together for ensemble playing. With everything from dulcimers, guitars, flutes, fiddles, bowed psalteries, harmonicas (the list goes on) it is opportunity to put into practice some of the skills from the morning session, learning some new tunes introduced by a different instructor each day. Top that off with optional jam sessions, craft studio demonstrations, folk dancing, singing, new friendships and you have an experience that you will want to come back to year after year!

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