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 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.
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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