I turned off the lights in my studio and set out for Brasstown, just 12 miles away.  Around the curve and up the hill to Keith House, the signs of buds and new growth are everywhere. I park by the old oak tree outside the fiber arts studio so I can walk down the hill to Tower House, my first stop. I’ll mention here that since it was fairly spring like that day, I had worn a bright pink skirt with lace trim, a hand-dyed pink jacket with rhinestones, and my trusty pink tiger striped hi-tops. Topping this outfit off was pink heart shaped sunglasses. Voila!

Tower House looks like part of a castle that got left in a field, and with the renovations that have been done, it has all the sturdy charm its original designer intended. The first time I ever visited Tower House, Tom Ellis, (then resident enamelist) was living there. It had a rudimentary kitchen on the back wall downstairs.  Before I leave, I go upstairs.  Windows all around, with the dormer insets and closets built under the eves, it still has all the original wood walls, ceiling and trim. Pure romance that is practical in every way for light, ventilation, and storage. One wall has a massive rock fireplace, which provided heat to what used to be a bedroom. The view of fields, ridges and mountains is so lovely from every spot in the room.
Continuing upwards, I glance over to my right and on the further edges of the field, I can see the work-study students in the garden. The work-study program is one of the original Folk School programs. They live on campus for a period, exchanging work for class time. The work-study group is always a fascinating mix of mostly younger ones who are investing themselves in unique experiences, learning a particular craft, or wandering awhile before settling down.

Trees burst with Spring color at Keith House porch

I then arrive at Christie Rogers’ weaving class to visit my quilter friend, Nancy Hinds, who is there to use up extra fabric. The class has the looms almost warped and some students have begun their rugs. Nancy and I look at colors and make some design decisions about the Fall Festival banner which we are in the early stages of creating. She shows me the locker hooking technique for another rug she is making which is similar to needlepoint, (a new interest on my part.)

We then visit Pat Meinecke in the quilting class next door. There we find great pieced stars and trees, which I would like on the banner. Pat explains to me a bit about the piecing and appliqué processes, the precision of which fascinate me. As an impulsive painter, I don’t have the temperament to execute designs with mathematical accuracy.

Continuing along on my walk, I check out the front and newly added side to the Jewelry Studio. Not to muddy my tiger stripes, I decide not to go further around the side for viewing. However, I can see that the addition doubles the size of the building and that is exciting!

With anticipation, I go down the staircase to the bookbinding class in Lower Keith House. Annie Fain Liden is teaching and I am so excited to see her and the various papers and book designs the students are crafting. Annie Fain introduces me as her former Little/Middle Folk School teacher (from when she was 6 years old.)  She really is just as adorable now as she was then! As a teacher, I can tell you that it never gets old to see a former student doing well. I don’t ask her this, yet she volunteers anyway that summers at Little Middle Folk School did inspire her at an early age to keep making things with her hands.
I then get ready for the Tuesday night dance at the Folk School. The Dog Branch Cats are playing. There’s a fiddle with them tonight and something inside me leaps for joy when the fiddle carries the tune! My skirts are twirling and I relish the familiar steps and faces of dear friends. The evening concludes with a circle gathering: holding hands as Bob leads us in a final goodnight song. The stars guide me home and I’m smiling all the way!




Julie Sibley
About Julie Sibley