I met Ivan Ewert in Leatherworking class at the Folk School this past fall. While we were busy cutting and riveting leather in the Wood Carving Studio, Ivan’s wife Leanne was just across the way in the Jewelry Studio shaping metal into wearable treasures. This was Leanne and Ivan’s second trip to the Folk School together. They were celebrating their 15th anniversary. It was inspirational to see in action how the Folk School is an awesome destination for couples. With V-Day right around the corner, I decided now was a great time to catch up with them about their Folk School experience. Enjoy!
CP: How did you hear about the Folk School?
IE: Leanne is a jewelry artist who subscribes to many art magazines. There was an advert in the back of one of them that grabbed her interest, and when we looked the school up online we knew it was something we had to do together.
LE: I had been looking at that advertisement for sometime and when I finally mentioned it to Ivan, he was just as excited about the adventure as I was!
CP: Why did you decide it would be a fun place to come as a couple?
IE: We rarely vacation apart, so if one was going, the other was too! Leanne’s interest in learning new skills to apply to her career was inspiring. There was a painting class taking place at the same time as the classes she wanted to take, and a week painting in the mountains sounded like a wonderful retreat.
LE: I work out of my home studio and it can become a very solitary/insular life if one is not careful. The opportunity to be surrounded by, and learn from, other creatives that work in my chosen field sounded fabulous and I immediately wanted to go. I was born and raised in the south, so any chance I have to go back home is always a big treat for me. This is the best of both worlds AND I get to share it with the person I love. This last trip was our anniversary gift to one another!
CP: How many times have you come to the Folk School? What classes have you taken?
IE: Only twice so far, and never a class together. Leanne’s focused on jewelry but branched into leatherwork with Donna Wiggins this year. I’ve taken painting, leatherwork, and The Art of Smoke… all of my classes have been a real treat.
LE: The first time we came down, I took a week-long wire wrapping class with Judy Peppers. This last time, I was getting more advanced instructions in Metalsmithing with Tom And Kay Benham for my week course and then onto a much-too short weekend session with Donna Wiggins for beginner work in leather…LOVED IT!!!
CP: Where do you currently live and what do you do there?
IE: We live in northwest Illinois. Right at the moment, we dig out of a snowstorm. Leanne’s a full-time jewelry designer whose work can be seen at Triskele Moon Studios and I’m the author of two horror novels available on Amazon.
CP: So between the two of you, who is craftier?
LE: We both are equal in our own ways. Ivan has failed to mention that he also performs, on a very regular basis, at our local theatre company, The Raue Center for the Arts. He is quite talented in many “wordsmither” forms. His creativeness translates in different ways from mine, but we both express creativity quite well through our varied outlets. Personally, I want to see him take more Cooking classes at the Folk School, those smoked eggs he learned how to make during our last visit are worth their weight in gold!!
CP: Leanne, how did you get started in jewelry making? What kind of jewelry do you like to make?
LE: I started out very early as a painter, I love to play with clay, I still like to draw and sketch, but jewelry is IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION…well, almost immediate..some pieces can take awhile, but those are the ones I love to do best..the kind of work that sucks you in body, mind, spirit and won’t release you until the Muse has been satisfied.
Any type of work with metal is my favorite to design with, be it in wire, sheet or Precious Metal Clay. I’m also a huge sucker for semi-precious stones and raw mineral specimens to make one of a kind statement pieces.
CP: Ivan, when I met you we were in Leatherworking. Have you pursued the craft beyond our time at the Folk School?
IE: I did re-arrange my workbench. Does that count? Honestly, I’ve made a few basic cuffs and have a half-finished bag on the bench; but I’ve been more involved in trying to finish Book Three.
CP: Do you ever collaborate on projects?
LE: A few years ago, I asked Ivan to make me some simple leather cuffs so that I could attach some of my precious metal clay, celtic-inspired dragons onto them. They were a hit and now you can find that style in every jewelry-making magazine that’s out there.
CP: What is your favorite thing about the Folk School?
LE: I know this is suppose to be brief, but all I can say is that I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE FOLK SCHOOL!!! I love the ABUNDANT sharing of art, ideas, crossing-over mediums, the music, the people, the land, the night sky, the gardens; the potential, space and resources to create whatever you can imagine. And of course, all the delicious food and instant friendships that are struck when you sit down at every meal.
My most favorite memory is from our first visit to the school. I had just finished up a long day in the Jewelry Studio and saw Ivan making his way up to the Keith House, half way across the field. All I could see was his BEAMING FACE; he was SOOOO HAPPY and SOOOO RELAXED!! He had just finished up a beautiful day of prolific paintings and he was In.The.Zone. From our last trip, I spent a lot of time hovering around in the Blacksmith’s Shop during the week nights… it is absolutely fascinating, so many wonderful people eager to share their experience, their time and their talent with seekers such as myself.
IE: Oh, I forgot that day … yes, it was so relaxing and so amazing to be in place devoted to your art and purpose … away from the office and the cubicles.
CP: What is your favorite place at the Folk School?
LE: ANY place on the school grounds holds beautiful memories for me. I took a lot of pictures from our last visit and currently have a shot of the fields outside of Davidson Hall with the rolling mountains in the background, as my screen saver on my phone. It helps to be reminded of the lush greens and moist, warm air during our cold, dark winters up here in No. IL. I also love the area around the Blacksmith’s Shop…very pastoral and serene…the perfect place for my cabin..
CP: Where do you stay when you come to the Folk School?
IE: On grounds. Always. I’m not missing breakfast for anything!
LE: HEAR, HEAR!! We stayed in Davidson Hall this last visit and had a fabulous room overlooking the gardens and the large field that heads out towards the mountains. I woke up almost every night to the most dazzling display of stars I have seen in a very, very long time. And I was even able to see the Milky Way, which I cannot remember seeing since I was a kid and living in the TN foothills… just magical!
CP: Would you recommend the Folk School as a good vacation destination for couples?
IE: Oh heck yes. As long as both partners have an interest in art, craft, or self-improvement, I’d recommend it highly! The land is beautiful, the people are friendly, and the food is as good as you’ll find.
LE: DITTO! There are a number of our friends I would LOVE to have join us for a weeklong, total immersion into creative pursuits!
CP: Any closing words?
LE: Can we just come and live there, please? We won’t take up much space…
Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com