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Eclipse viewers congregated near the vegetable garden for a view of the big event. Photo by David Baker.

When I heard about the eclipse, I immediately thought of watching it in Brasstown: I have friends to stay with, I know where there’s a big, open field, and it’s always nice to be in a special place for a celestial event. So Saturday afternoon, I headed down the road with two friends, Dane and Jessica.

Folks congregated near the garden gate.

Throughout the day Sunday, more and more people—friends and strangers—arrived at the house until it felt like a large family gathering. On Monday at noon, we walked over to the Folk School and laid out a picnic blanket on the edge of the gardens. If you didn’t get to see the eclipse, here’s what happened.

Crescent shadows on the Rainbow Bridge near the Rivercane Walk.

At 1:05 it began. Everyone put on their eclipse glasses and watched the first tiny edge of the moon appear at the top-right of the sun. Everyone snapped photos of everyone else watching. Someone had a special telescope. Dane taped eclipse glasses to a pair of binoculars. After a minute, I’d retreat to the shade, only to find myself back out there, checking the sun, a moment later. As more of the sun disappeared, people spread white sheets to observe the crescent shaped spots of sun filtering through the trees, or held up pinholes to cast a crescent onto the ground.

At first, the daylight didn’t seem different. I was surprised by how little of the sun it took to make the day bright; even when the sun had been reduced to a crescent, the light seemed almost normal. It did get a little cooler, though, so at 2 p.m. I ventured out into the field. More and more viewers were gathering at the edge of the garden, and I liked the relative silence in the field. When Dane and Jessica joined me, we walked out to the ever-present Folk School hay bales and climbed on.

Eclipse watchers by the Cooking Studio watch as the moon just begins to touch the edge of the sun. Photo by Pam East.

John Clarke, Folk School Building & Grounds Manager stands in the field to watch the eclipse by the hay bales. Photo by Karen Hurtubise.

Around 2:20, the light began to noticeably dim. The barn swallows flew out from their nests at Davidson Hall, swooping to catch insects, but after a minute, they retreated, perhaps realizing that something was not quite right. All around the horizon, the sky grew pink, like a 360 degree sunset. Only a fingernail of sun remained. I took off my glasses because I wanted to watch the darkness set in. Venus appeared overhead, along with two or three other bright stars or planets. Then, in the direction of Field House, there was a deeper darkness, like a menacing storm covering the trees; you could imagine you saw the shadow coming. Then the sun went out.

I looked overhead (no eclipse glasses, time: 2:34:29) and saw the final brightness of the sun still shining out from the left side of the moon. It dimmed and went out, and for a moment everything looked dark, and then the white corona of the sun appeared, with the black disk of the moon at its center.

Near Totality at the Folk School. Photo by Liz Domingue.

The corona wasn’t symmetric; there was a complete ring, but it smeared out on the right side, and farther out on the left. It looked unlike anything I’d ever seen. And it was up in the sky—there was no way it was being projected or imitated. It wasn’t like looking at a photo of an eclipse, because there was so much space around it, a whole sky’s worth.

Sara Boggs looks at the eclipse in totality.

A collective gasp/shout went up from the crowd. I might have whooped. Next to me, Jessica repeated, “That’s so amazing. That’s so amazing,” over and over. But everyone knew we only had 2 minutes and 26 seconds, so no one moved. I looked around at the deep twilight colors—it hadn’t gone pitch black, and only the few bright stars were visible—and then I looked back at the eclipse.

It seemed far too soon when the sky to the right of the moon began to brighten. “Here it comes!” someone warned. A few seconds later, the sunlight burst through. I ducked my head and donned my eclipse glasses, then checked the reappearing sun. But then I found myself taking the glasses off, to see the eclipse again. “I can’t,” I told myself. “It’s gone.” Around me, the darkness was fading fast, the hot sunlight returning. Already it felt over. It felt like the day after my birthday, if I were going to live forty more years and never have another birthday.

David Baker in his festive eclipse garb.

Dane & Emily on the hay bales, post-totality.

There was something real about the eclipse, and later I thought in the same way there is something real about the Folk School. I couldn’t rewind 15 seconds to watch it a little bit more, the same way you cannot hit “undo” when your pottery collapses on the wheel or you break the antler off your deer carving. You must go carefully. Of course, someone could probably simulate a pretty good solar eclipse in a theater, with lights dimming and a small breeze blowing. In the same way, you can buy a machine-woven blanket or a five-dollar basket made by a poorly paid woman churning baskets out in a third-world country. But it’s not the same as a craft handmade with love and care. There’s something deeper that cannot be imitated. We were there at the eclipse with family, sharing the experience. And the eclipse was viewed in the wide-open sky. You might recreate the look of it, but not the soul.

As we came down from the hay bales and shared our thoughts, someone mentioned a friend who’d declined to watch, saying eclipses were nothing special. I could see being disappointed if you stepped away from the office at 2:30, expecting to be awed by the highlight reel of the event. Like a craft, the eclipse was a process, and we’d been there at the start, in tune and watching.

Students in Pam East’s jewelry class made beautiful eclipse-themed pendants for the occasion. Photo by Pam East.




EmilyBuehlerEmily Buehler is the author of this blog and a frequent bread instructor at the Folk School. She became a bread baker in 2001, intending to take a break after finishing a degree in chemistry. Six months later she began teaching bread classes. Emily has written two books: one on bread making called Bread Science, and one about her bicycle trip across America called Somewhere and Nowhere. Visit Emily’s website for more information.

Emily will be teaching bread making class again in October 2017.





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From the Desk of Jerry Jackson

by Jerry Jackson on August 20, 2017

in From the Director's Desk

Dear Folk School family,

It has taken me fifty-plus years, but in May, I experienced my first class at the Folk School. It was well worth the wait! I enrolled in the organic gardening class with Jane Burke, an extremely knowledgeable instructor who filled my mind with new gardening ideas, provided useful growing methods and gave helpful insight into the heart and soul of the Folk School.

Although I was excited about my class selection, I had a secondary reason for taking the class. At the suggestion of the Folk School’s board of directors, I took the class as part of my interview process for the executive director search. Ultimately, this class experience led me to another first-time experience: addressing you now as the “new guy” who hopes to cultivate a relationship with each Folk School family member.

“Cultivation” is a term that’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in North Carolina as the grandson of two farmers who embraced a way of life that mimics the mission of the Folk School. As an arts administrator for the past 20 years, I have cultivated arts organizations to be able to meet the needs of their constituents and to help secure those organizations’ futures. Both forms of cultivation are important to the future success of the Folk School.

During my week in class, I found myself waking early in order to make my way to the garden—my personal entry point into the spirit of the Folk School. After my routine garden inspection, my mornings consisted of coffee in the Keith House, Morning Walk, and Morning Song. Each experience fostered my connection to the Folk School and a growing confidence that leading the school was the new adventure I wanted to experience.

For the majority of you who have explored your creativity through the many offerings at the Folk School, you understand my attraction to the energy and influence of this special place. As a newcomer, I had much to learn, both in the studio and from the overarching influence of the folk school model. At every turn, someone was there to elevate my experience by offering simple directions, sharing their past Folk School experiences, or inquiring how my week was going. By mid-week, I had discovered that my true attraction to the Folk School was clearly the people who bring the studios, dance floors and stages to life. I experienced a profound spirit of community and met like-minded individuals who nurture learning and personal growth on all levels.

Continued growth, either in the garden or for this enduring institution, requires individuals willing to engage and nurture the many needs of the Folk School. I thank you for your past support of this amazing place and know that your continued support will ensure its future. Please remember that support can come in many forms; the easiest is telling a friend about the many rewards of attending a class or event at the Folk School. Your support in any form or at any level is greatly appreciated.

As I dive into this new chapter at the school, I hope our paths will soon cross as I am eager to hear your Folk School story.




Jerry Jackson

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Try Your Hand at Ukulele

by Cory Marie Podielski on August 19, 2017

in Featured Classes, Music & Dance

Join Peter Thomas on September 17-23 and learn how to make your ukulele sing. This introductory class is appropriate for beginners and intermediate alike. Even though the class description says level one, students who already have a little experience are welcome and will certainly have fun and advance their playing skills by taking the class. The class is always great fun.

Enjoy a video of a previous class made by Peter’s teaching assistant Dave Peters – as the class performed “The Brasstown Polka,” an original song by Dave:

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Back to School Class Picks

by Cory Marie Podielski on August 18, 2017

in Featured Classes

As back to school season arrives, the Folk School invites you to embrace the spirit of learning and exploration. View these upcoming fall class picks, and experience the joy of discovering a new craft.

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Welcome Home to the Folk School

by Phil Mattox on August 15, 2017

in Folk School Folks

A student recently suggested we place a sign above the red door to Keith House saying “Welcome Home.” When I asked him what he meant, he explained each time he returns to the Folk School, it feels like coming home. And that is what this place is to many folks— a place where one can come (and return time and again) to thrive and grow.

I was business manager at the Folk School in the early ’90s, and coming home to step into the role as interim director has given me the opportunity to once again be a part of this vibrant place. These past few months have been a humbling experience. The evolution of the school is nothing short of mind-boggling. The physical growth on the campus alone is stunning, with the most recent addition being the new spacious, light-filled Book & Paper Arts Studio.

In my brief time back, I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of students who travel here from all over, eager to learn, make things with their hands, and have new experiences. Ideas flow freely from teacher to student to teacher—everyone creates something new and is enriched in some way. Our students, instructors, and staff understand the joy of this sort of self-discovery, and the astonishment and self-confidence that accompany the realization that you, too, can make things and be creative. It’s a thing of wonder to witness.

Upon the retirement in March of our long-serving director, Jan Davidson, the Folk School’s board of directors partnered with an executive search firm to conduct a national search for the next director, and reached out to over 200 potential candidates. In June, the board voted unanimously to appoint Jerry Jackson as our new director. As the deputy director of Penland School of Crafts for the past 10 years, Jerry brings extensive experience and knowledge. A community leader who is passionate about the arts, he possesses a great deal of enthusiasm for preserving the traditions of the Folk School and leading us forward to our centennial in 2025.

Please join our Folk School family in welcoming Jerry to his new home this August.



Phil Mattox
Interim Director