Tammy Elwell from Oak Park, Minnesota has been a work study student and a host at the Folk School. During her recent time as a host she studied glass beads, book arts and broom making. She also participated in our Thursday night woodcarving class. She asked to be photographed with Chester the Squirrel carved by Richard Carter. Tammy’s passion and joy on the dance floor are infectious! Photo by Darcy Holdorf.

These images were made during my time working as a Sales Associate in the Folk School Craft Shop. The series began as a way to recognize the work study students and hosts who come and go from the Folk School so quickly, yet are a vital part of what we do. I was curious about their lives, before and after the Folk School. I invited work study students to visit the Craft Shop and pick out work that spoke to them for a portrait shoot. This allowed me to share a bit of their personal story while also highlighting work by the talented artists we carry in the shop. When I didn’t have work study students to photograph, I started inviting Folk School staff to participate and the scope of the project grew.

An unintended result of the fashion shoots is that they helped build friendships between the Craft Shop team and other members of the Folk School staff. Everyone who works in the Craft Shop joined in to help style the models and, in the process, we all got to know each other better.

Richard Carter started working at the Folk School in 1969. He has been carving for more than 40 years and started selling his carvings in the Craft Shop in the late 70’s. He says he finds carving peaceful and relaxing and enjoys the satisfaction of finding something in a piece of wood. Over the years, Richard has made an effort to preserve the Brasstown Carving tradition. He is currently teaching our staff and work study students on a weekly basis. You can find Richard carving in the Craft Shop on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. Photo by Darcy Holdorf.

The portrait of carver Richard Carter elicited a lot of comments from local community members and connected him with a local teen that is interested in learning to carve. For me, those small connections make this project worthwhile. They prove that photography and social media really can bring people together.

Before I came to the Folk School, I worked as a photojournalist, so this was a natural way for me to bring my experience and skill set into my work at the Craft Shop. When I first moved to Brasstown, I saw craft and journalism as worlds apart. This project helped me to discover a strong commonality between the two: storytelling. I’m honored to be teaching my first class at the Folk School this Spring and look forward to seeing the portraits and the personal connections that my students make!

Enjoy some of the photos from the Craft Shop Portraits below. If you click on each image, you will go to the original Instagram story of that image with the complete set of photos. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, which is a collaborative effort of Folk School staff, to see the greater Folk School story.


Rebekah Anne Tatkovsky from Sullivan, NH was a 2018 work study studying carving, woodturning, and blacksmithing. Her eventual goal is to make and repair farm tools. Photo by Darcy Holdorf.

Mariana Flores is a pastry cook at the Folk School and often bakes our bread in the morning. She moved to Murphy from Yucatan, Mexico 4 years ago. Photos by Darcy Holdorf.

Leah Spigelman is from Brooklyn, New York. Leah came to the Folk School to learn woodworking in order to build banjos and to work with her hands in the garden.  Photo by Darcy Holdorf.

Shannon Bateman from Thunder Bay, Ontario was part of a group of 2018 work study students. She went on to study Folklore in St. John’s, Newfoundland. We wish her luck in all her future endeavors!

Amber Lee Marcet was a 2018 work study at the Folk School. She packed up her cottage in Savannah to seek inspiration from the mountains, art and community in Brasstown. Photo by Darcy Holdorf.


Darcy Holdorf currently works in the Folk School Marketing Department as our Marketing and Communications Outreach Coordinator. Her Craft Shop Portrait series was captured while she was working as a Sales Associate in the Craft Shop. Darcy has a BA and an MA in photojournalism and has worked as a professional photographer in the U.S., South America, and Asia. She’s photographed everything from presidential elections to natural disasters, beauty pageants and bodybuilders. The primary focus of her personal work is documenting the ways in which different cultures influence each other. She will be teaching a Documentary Photography class at the Folk School in early April:

Upcoming Class

Photography: Documentary Storytelling with Darcy Holdorf

April 7–Apr 13, 2019

Let’s get out of the studio and into the community! Through field work and group feedback sessions, learn how to meet people, connect with them, and put them at ease in front of the camera. Shoot, edit, and sequence images to tell honest stories that show people in their natural form through candid imagery. We’ll play with light, composition, and moment to make good photos in unpredictable environments. Ideal for intermediate photographers experienced at shooting a DSLR on manual settings.

Register today. Limited space available.

View Darcy’s website.


Darcy Holdorf
About Darcy Holdorf

Darcy Holdorf is the Programs Director at the John C. Campbell Folk School.