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Kathy Hays displays her eco print creations outside the Wet Room.

Kathy Hays displays her eco print creations outside the Wet Room.

Class projects

Class projects

I stopped by the Wet Room to visit Kathy Hays’ recent class “Eco Printing Meets Felt Making” to see what they were creating. I talked to Kathy about her craft and the joys of eco printing. Enjoy our interview!

CP: Tell me about where you’re from, what you do there, and about your craft.

KH: I’m from Florida, an unusual area for felt making due to the climate. I began making felt here at the Folk School in 1999. After struggling and trying to figure how to make felt on my own, I was able to come here and after the first day, it was like all my questions were answered! The rest of the week was purely a bonus.

CP: How is Nuno Felting different from other felting?

KH: Felt making is wool fibers being arranged and then adding soap, water, and agitation. In the case of Nuno Felting, you are merging fibers through another fabric. The term is a little ambiguous. That fabric can be cotton, linen… anything that is thin enough for it to come through. It creates a unique texture when it does that. [click to continue…]

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90th Birthday Pizza Party outside of Davidson Hall

90th Birthday Pizza Party outside of Davidson Hall

Pizza Day minus 6 years. A potter, a dulcimer player, a painter, a poet and a berry farmer build a barrel-vaulted brick oven. Timber-framers build a structure around it. Iron workers make long-handled rakes, forks and peels. Stone-building classes dry-stack elbowhigh walls around it, carpenters make picnic tables and benches. Gardening classes plant fennel, oregano and basil. Work-study crews grow tomatoes and split oak into keen firewood.

Head Chef, Steve Cipriano puts a pizza in the wood fired oven.

Head Chef, Steve Cipriano puts a pizza in the wood fired oven.

P-Day minus 1. Nanette drives to a dairy she knows about and acquires milk from non-corporate cows. At night, she builds fires.

P-Day 13:00. Susan the Blacksmith forges world-class sculpture, then rides from Clay Spencer Shop to Davidson Hall on the running board of a truck full of what appear to be pirates. She becomes Susan the Cheese-maker and leads a class in making mountains of fresh mozzarella. Chef Steve and Cory Marie and their Italian Cooking class simmer sauce not too long. The Dining Hall crew brings a crisp salad of fresh greens from the gardens.

Carla slices a piece of hot pie.

Carla slices a piece of hot pie.

P-Day 15:00. Is it going to rain? Sure looks like it. At some point, we could call it off? That is, I could call it off. I confer with my top people, very much like General Eisenhower. I watch the clouds, pacing, deep in thought. Tensely, we watch the gathering storm over Wells Mountain. My top people point out to me that I am not General Eisenhower and that the worst that could happen is we might get wet. So I decide it is on, the game’s afoot, fullspeed ahead and charge. We take the precaution of requesting the religiously diverse group of folks each to whammy shimmy shammy in his or her own beliefs towards the darkling clouds.

The rain, it raineth over all of the Southeastern United States and pretty ferociously on Murphy and Hayesville, and all the way from Hanging Dog to Smackass, while The Folk School appears on apps as a placid blip in the midst of much precip. A pleasant misting sweeps through the vale, but the music never misses a bump-ditty. The baking, done by dancers, flows gracefully as a contraline. Smoky, toasty aromas of wood and bread unite us. Some carry wood, some bake, some play, some dance, all eat and drink. It looks like a festival of colorful medieval people in a Breughel painting except no hellmouths or bagpipes. [click to continue…]

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A "Tina James Magic Primrose" with bloom and trumpets waiting to bloom.

The Tina James Magic Primrose

Each evening, one of nature’s botanical wonders, the Tina James Magic Primrose is putting on quite a show at dusk in the Vegetable Garden and behind the Painting Studio.

In today’s age, folks congregate to watch movies, or concerts, or lectures, but not usually a plant. It’s strange and fantastic to see small groups of Folk School folks gather and wait patiently around a plant box in the garden, to see the primroses bloom. Before the show starts, attendees pensively walk around the plants to see if they can guess which bloom will lead be the leading note of the overture. Excitement and anticipation is high as we all circle around the plant and wait.

A crowd gather to watch the blooming in the Folk School Garden while the Rapper Word Team practices in Open House (behind). Note Charlie's fiddle (left). There is a theory around the Folk School that the primroses like old-time music!

A crowd gathers to watch the blooming in the Folk School Garden while the Rapper Sword Team practices in Open House (behind). Note Charlie’s fiddle (left). There is a theory around the Folk School that the primroses like old-time music!

Primrose Party! A Tina James tradition.

Primrose Party! A Tina James tradition.

Look! Look! There it goes!

A woman has spotted a blossom slightly quivering, the signal that is is about to bloom. Everyone leans in to watch. The sepals (the green outside of the flower) peel down the flower and the tightly wound yellow trumpet begins to relax and open. Within seconds, before your very eyes, the blossom opens fully and settles into a large bright yellow flower with a delicate, sweet smell. It’s is like watching time-elapsed photography in real time; it’s just incredible.

The show continues as blooms start to move and open all over the plant. It is not uncommon to hear many “ooooohs” and “aaaaaahhhhhs” and “This one! This one!” A little girl was standing next to me. I heard her say to her mom, “Primroses are nature’s fireworks!

Once the show is over and darkness has fallen, night-flying hummingbird moths come out to pollinate the flowers. Each bloom only lasts through the night until mid-morning of the next day.

Don’t miss this impressive floral show at the Folk School, now blooming (until supplies last: about 3-4 more weeks), every evening around 9 p.m. in two of the box beds in the center of the garden, across from the bench below the herb garden gazebo, and in the back of the Painting Studio.

Closed blooms at sunset / Open blooms at dusk

Closed blooms and old blooms at sunset (L) / Open blooms at dusk (R)

Evening Scented Primrose Tina James Magic

Produces large fragrant blooms. At dusk, they suddenly burst open displaying crisp, yellow, showy four-petalled flowers. The flowers circle a spire of reddish, swollen buds. Blooms are 2/3 open within 10 seconds or less, and fully open within 1 to 2 minutes! Blooming lasts five to six weeks or more. Produces a flat rosette of leaves the first year, followed by 3 to 4′ yellow spires the second year. Very hardy. During the evening the flowers are pollinated by night-flying moths as large as hummingbirds. This variety was discovered by garden writer Tina James who hosts “primrose parties” every year.
[Introduced 1987 by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.]

A real-time video of a Primrose in the gardens here at the Folk School blooming:

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Terry teaching in the studio

Terry teaching in the studio

I sat down with Terry Hale in the Folk School Enameling Studio where she teaches bead making several times a year. We talked about the joys of craft addiction and how she got hooked on moving glass into beads, what she likes about teaching, what she loves about the Folk School, and more. Enjoy our interview!

Dotted Bead by Terry Hale

Dotted Bead by Terry Hale

CP: What are your students making this week?

TH: This week I am teaching an all-levels class called Beyond the Basics—Bump Up Those Beads! I have a variety of students (some are beginners, some are advanced); what we are doing is stepping back and learning some of the basics that make all-around good beads, not only surface decoration, but how to build a good foundation.

CP: I noticed while reading your bio that the one of the main reasons you started making beads is because you were making jewelry and just couldn’t find the right beads for your projects, so you took the initiative and decided to make your own beads. What was the moment you embraced bead making as your main craft?

Glass waiting to be transformed

Glass waiting to be transformed

TH: From the first moment of putting the glass in the flame, I was hooked! I took my first lesson with Marjorie Langston (who’s also a teacher at the Folk School) and after about 15 seconds at the torch, I fell in love. I had no idea that you would see so much movement in the glass.

I love the process of craft, so to know that it was so active from the get-go was incredible. You take this breakable, fragile, dangerous material, make it molten, coax it into a shape, it hardens up again, then it’s something you can put on your body and wear! And then when I took the first beads out of the kiln, it was like ahhhhhh okay here’s the cliff, now I’m going off.

CP: Where do you live and work?

TH: My studio is in Madison, Alabama, in my home. I had a commercial studio and store for a while, but I found that in selling beads you have to be able to tell the story behind them and finding the right people to be able to do while I was away teaching was often difficult. People think to just go to Michaels and buy a $3 strand of beads if they don’t see the value and story of hand-crafted beads. I have so many teaching gigs and I am traveling so much, my current studio is now more of a private home-based studio than a retail/commercial studio. [click to continue…]

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Remembering Jean Ritchie

by David Brose, Folklorist on June 9, 2015

in Folk School Folks, From the Archives, In the News, Music & Dance

JeanRitchie_Dulcimer

Jean Ritchie at the Folk School playing the mountain dulcimer during the summer of 1948.

Jean Ritchie (February 1922-June 1, 2015) was an icon of Appalachian folk music. The youngest of fourteen children, Jean grew up in Viper, Kentucky hearing songs throughout the day as her parents and siblings sang while working with crops, cleaning the house, walking to places in the community and while at leisure. Jean was the only Ritchie to not attend the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky; she attended and graduated from Viper, Kentucky high school.

Jean Ritchie plays a concert in Open House in 1979.

Jean Ritchie plays a concert in Open House in 1979.

By the time Jean left home, she knew over three-hundred old mountain ballads and folksongs. Perhaps her biggest legacy is the fact that when she moved to New York city to teach music in a settlement school, Jean brought a dulcimer with her. Because New York was a hub for the folksong revival, Jean introduced the dulcimer to a community of folk music lovers in New York, and through her appearances at folk festivals, colleges, and universities she created a national interest in the dulcimer in the United States, as well as Great Britain.

In the 1940s Jean married photographer and filmmaker George Pickow. Jean’s husband accompanied Ritchie on an 18-month trip to Great Britain, where Jean collected folksongs and studied the relationship between the ballads in Great Britain, and the ways that the lyrics changed after they had reached Appalachia. In 1917, Jean’s elder sisters, Una and May, sang for British folksong and ballad collector Cecil Sharp. It was May Ritchie who married Leon Deschamps; Deschamps came to work at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and among other things built studios and homes out of field stone.

May lived at the Folk School with her husband, and Jean would come and spend summers here prior to Jean’s marriage to George Pickow. The lovely photograph (above) of Jean playing the dulcimer was taken while Jean was here at the Folk School during the Summer of 1948. Jean was twenty-six at the time the photograph was captured. In this photograph, Jean is playing a dulcimer built by Nathan Hicks of Northwestern North Carolina. This dulcimer is still in the collection of the Folk School and is on exhibit in the History Center. Because of their singing, concerts, and presence in Brasstown, Jean and her sister, May Deschamps, will long be remembered here at the Folk School.

EPSON MFP image

A Folk School puppetry class of the early 50s has their “show and tell” in the Community Room. Among the puppeteers are Jean Ritchie (in gingham dress, back row, 2nd from right) and her sister (far right) Edna Ritchie Baker.

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