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JoEl's cure for the winter blues

JoEl’s cure for the winter blues

There may be lots of snow still outside but I am real cozy inside weaving away at my loom. I just finished a series of table runners woven with rags. A friend of mine gave me a pile of old sheets and a couple yards of fabric she never used. This was the inspiration to dress my loom with a colorful warp and spend the day weaving. The view outside was dreary but my rainbow of rags was the perfect cure for the winter blues.

After a long cold winter if you are like me you are dreaming about the arrival of spring. With springtime comes spring-cleaning. Out with the old and in with the new. So I invite you to raid your closets and find your old t-shirts, mismatched bed linens and your well-worn flannel shirts. Learn how to transform these old discards into new rag table runners or rag rugs for your floor.

Pack all this material in your suitcase or in your car and come to the Folk School May 31 to June 6 for the “Woven Rag Rugs and Runners” class. The weather is great that time of year and the camaraderie among fellow students is wonderful as everyone is so excited winter is over and we all can come out and play.

colorful rag runner woven with quilt fabric scraps

Colorful rag runner woven with quilt fabric scraps

In my class you will learn all about how to prepare rags, set up your loom and weave with rags. Never woven on a floor loom…no problem… my easy to follow method will have you weaving in a short time. Haven’t woven in years…no problem…it’s like riding a bicycle as you really never forget. With a few quick demonstrations you will be back to weaving again. Intermediate weavers looking for a challenge…no problem…I will assist you in creating block weave designs and weaving durable double-sided rag rugs and runners.

Clay's rag rug woven with polo shirts he collected from friends and thrift stores

Clay’s rag rug woven with polo shirts he collected from friends and thrift stores

Rag rug weaving is the ultimate recycling project. You have the opportunity to repurpose your fabric scraps into amazing woven rugs and runners. Quilters love this because they are always looking for new ways to use up all their piles of fabric. In this class you will also learn how to over dye material which is a great way to revive faded sheets and old tablecloths.

So come join me for Woven Rag Rugs and Runners: May 31 – June 6, 2015 and take a chance at learning something new. The reward is priceless: lovely woven rugs and table runners to proudly display at home.

Visit folkschool.org for more information on other weaving classes.

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Rob unbricks the kiln.

Rob unbricks the kiln.

It’s like Christmas Eve over at Smoke in the Mountains Pottery today because it’s the day before the big wood kiln will be opened and unloaded. Many potters from all over the region contribute pots to be fired the traditional way in Rob Withrow’s huge wood kiln. This is Rob’s 13th wood firing at his studio. I stopped by and caught him taking a little peek inside the chamber and took the opportunity to talk to him about the firing and clay in general. Join us in the sneak peek…

CP: So what are you doing right now?

RW: I’m unbricking this kiln here that’s been cooling for five days. We heated it up to 2500 degrees using only wood, and now it’s like Christmas! You open it up and see what’s inside and this time the kiln fired so beautifully; it’s such a joy.

CP: Nice, How many time have you fired this kiln?

RW: It’s been a hard road but I stuck with it, and by golly the community came forth and helped me all along the way. I fired it nine times unsuccessfully. A weaker man would have caved or a smarter man would have stopped, but I kept going and here we are! The community came together and knew I was having problems. We put a new chimney on it and it works like a charm now. Now it’s a third of the wood, and a third of the time (than when we first started).

Beautiful pots from the March 2015 wood firing

Beautiful pots from the March 2015 wood firing

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Around the Keith House with Irish Set Dancing

by Cory Marie Podielski on March 13, 2015

in Featured Classes, Music & Dance

I took this photo from the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. On this trip I actually had the confidence to jump in a dancefloor and do what I learn in Irish Set Dancing at the Folk School. It was magical!

I took this photo from the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. On this trip, I had the confidence to jump into a community dance and practice what I learned in Irish Set Dancing at the Folk School. It was magical!

Irish Set Dancing in the Community Room

Irish Set Dancing in the Community Room

The last time Irish Set Dancing was offered at the Folk School, I decided to sign up to try something new. I love to dance and I am half Irish in the ancestry department, so I thought it would be a good match. As a beginner to the style, I didn’t know what to expect, so the anticipation built as I walked into the Community Room on Friday night. What happened for the next 12 or so waking hours was joy, revelry, laughter, community and fun!

If you are familiar with American Square Dancing at all, Irish Set dancing is like the distant Celtic relative waving at you from across the Atlantic. Both Irish Set Dancing and Square Dancing derive from quadrilles, so they are a little similar. Jim Morrison is an excellent teacher who will break down the moves and figures patiently and clearly. The music is jumpin’ and lively and keep you in the St. Patty’s spirit for the rest of March.

Jim's Irish Set Dancing class takes advantage of the nice weather and dances in Open House, our open air pavilion, by the garden.

Jim’s Irish Set Dancing class takes advantage of the nice weather and dances in Open House, our open air pavilion, by the garden.

Irish Set Dancing
Jim & Owen Morrison (March 20-22 Weekend)

The border between counties Cork and Kerry witnessed the rise of a unique style of Irish music and dance. Here polkas and slides still dominate the dance tune repertoire, and musicians trace their roots to music masters Padraig O’Keefe or Tom Billy Murphy, active a century ago. The dances are descendants of the 19th-century polka quadrille. They are fast-paced, exciting, and so easy to pick up that you’ll leave the weekend able to show a set to an unsuspecting group of friends. Register on our website.

 

Watch a video of an Irish Set Dancing Class Performance at Show and Tell:

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Felted Rug Class with Becky Walker in the Wet Room

Felted Rug Class with Becky Walker in the Wet Room

Felt is the oldest known fabric used by man. That stands to figure… felt is so easy to make, it was probably first discovered by accident. The recipe for felt, after all, is wool, moisture and agitation. Picture lining a sandal or shoe with raw wool to act as a cushion. Now picture walking around on that wool, smooshing it with every step, maybe sweating on it a bit to add the needed moisture. By the end of a long walk, you’re not taking out bits of raw wool, but essentially a felted sock that fits your feet perfectly. While felting techniques have come a long way, that essential concept of felt making is still the same.

 I sat down to talk with Becky Walker about her adventures with felt making. You’ve seen Becky around the Folk School campus wearing a knit hat, sweater or socks, or maybe on the dance floor wearing her felted name tag. Wherever you may meet Becky, her enthusiasm for her passions – music, dance, good food, good friends, animals and fiber – becomes clear right away. Let’s meet her.

Becky and her felted name badge

Becky and her felted name badge

CC: How did you first become interested in becoming a fiber artist?

BW: Well, my mother taught me to knit when I was a real little kid, I was about seven. I’ve always loved animals, or anything with fur, anyway, and one thing lead to another. I’ve pretty much continued knitting through out my life so far. So I haven’t knitted all my life yet (she laughs).

CC: How did you discover the Folk School?

BW: After I met Steve, my husband. He was a Folk School person and this was one of the first places we came. His son, Able lived over here, and he wanted me to meet Able and his mom. Of course we had to come dance because we were right here. Actually, I had encountered the Folk School in my early 20s in the book Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands. There was a chapter on the Folk School and I thought, “Wow, that seems like such a great place. I’d love to go there!” but didn’t really think I ever would. So the fact that we came here right away was pretty neat, and I’ve been loving it ever since. It was a while before I got to take a class, so anyway, we’d come here to dance and see family.

CC: What kind of fiber arts do you do?

Felted Rug with Woman

Felted Rug with Woman

BW: Well, felt making is what I’ve become known for and I dabble a little bit with spinning. I’m not very good, but I just need to sit down at my wheel and do it more.

CC: Martha Owen, the Folk School Resident Artist in Knitting and Spinning, told me a story about teaching you to spin and you told her you might be more interested in felt making, right?

BW: I told her that I loved her, that I was interested in spinning, but I wasn’t really ready to sit still yet. And so when I said that, she said “Well, you know, there’s this thing called felt making and it’s really active and I think you would like it. Carla is teaching a class here at the Folk School sometime coming up pretty soon and I think you should try that.” So I did.

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Tim Tyndall teaches Soap Making in the Wet Room

Tim Tyndall teaches Soap Making in the Wet Room

When I was a Work/Study in 2011, one of the classes I chose for my work/trade was Dr. T’s Soap Making class. For a total beginner, the class was an amazing introduction to the chemistry and art behind creating your own customized cold process soap batches. Dr. T (aka Tim Tyndall) teaches Soap Making regularly at the Folk School. I’m a huge fan of Tim and his soap… Enjoy our interview.

Checking the temperature of the milk and lye.

Checking the temperature of the milk and lye.

CP: How did you become involved with the Folk School?

Dr. T: About 10-12 years ago, Charlotte Latin School bused their 8th grade “graduates to be” to the Folk School for a celebration where students could choose 2-4 classes over a 2-day period. A parent who had been a customer and attended one of my demonstrations here at the Soap Shed, suggested to someone at the Folk School that they contact me to do Soap Making segments for the Latin students.

The Folk School contacted me and I came down to initiate a soap class experiment. Things went well; the students were pleased; I had fun; and I was asked to propose what regular soap classes might look like for the curriculum. Soap Making classes have been a part of the “curriculum” since then. I guess I have kinda been the “lead dog,” so to speak.

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

First and foremost, I have always loved teaching. I have been an educator and administrator at all levels from private high school, community college, and university, focusing in science. I live in Spruce Pine, NC where we have the Penland School of Crafts and taught in Rome, Georgia, home of the Berry School. These schools, like JCCFS and Berea, focus on the goal of helping mountain or rural people marshall their skills and talents from generations of practice towards economic gain and enrichment for themselves, their families, and their communities.

I expected this would be the “Spirit of the Folk School” which I so richly enjoyed my first visit. To be a part of that AND to share some of my self taught skills as a contemporary soap maker is a most satisfying endeavor. I have learned much “Lore” and have a cadre of stories about the history of soap making as a foundation craft in an earlier time and an artisan craft today. I teach because it is FUN and I love seeing my students accomplish things they came to the school thinking they could not do or understand. They surprise themselves and give a thrill at the same time. That’s why I like teaching at the Folk School.

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