Enjoy recordings of our 2020 Appalachian Traditions Disscussions, our master-artist-led series on traditional Appalachian craft. These free, hour-long conversations provide a space for instructors in traditional craft to share their personal stories and discuss their creative process. We explore the historic role of craft in Appalachia, examine its continued relevance today, and learn how practitioners are working to promote their craft and inspire the next generation of traditional makers.
Appalachian Traditions is part of a grant-funded program designed to connect highly-skilled Appalachian craft instructors with present-day students. Although we are not able to hold this series of master-artist-led classes in person, we hope to use this digital platform to celebrate traditional craft and help viewers connect with and learn from master artisans.
Recordings of Past Events
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Anne Freels
Original Recording Date: November 30, 2020
Anne is a full-time craft artist who has been making corn shuck dolls since 1975. She is devoted to the creative process of craft, and especially the alchemy of transforming raw, natural materials into new forms. She dyes the natural dried corn shucks by hand, then rolls and ties them into the doll figures, using a variety of natural materials and repurposed objects to embellish the dolls. Anne’s dolls represent her imaginative notions of folklore, legend, myth, and earthly and celestial entities, as well as traditional Appalachian themes. Because of her interest in keeping corn shuck doll craft alive, Anne teaches workshops and classes, and has authored an instructional book on the craft: “Making Colorful Corn Shuck Dolls.” You can find her work at various craft galleries and shops in the southern Appalachian region.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Helen Gibson
Original Recording Date: October 19, 2020
Helen, the Folk School’s Resident Woodcarver since 1990, is a Brasstown Carver in the famed local tradition. She studied with Jack Hall and is one of the few instructors who still carves and teaches the Brasstown Nativity figures she illustrates in her books, “Carving the Nativity” and “The Animals of the Nativity.” These, along with her books on carving Moses and St. Francis of Assisi, depict her highly detailed style of carving in the round. Helen teaches workshops throughout the Southeast.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Marlow Gates
Original Recording Date: September 14, 2020
Topic: Broom Making
Marlow is a second-generation broommaker, carrying on his father’s tradition of craftsmanship in broommaking. Rumor has it that he has been tying brooms since he was 5 years old (“bonus points” to any student who brings in the tabloid article from 1977 which verifies this rumor). With a degree in design from North Carolina State University, Marlow now joins his wife, Diana, in creating brooms as functional art at their studio in Big Sandy Mush, North Carolina.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Jason A. Lonon
Original Recording Date: August 17, 2020
Topic: Ironwork, Woodworking, Toolmaking
Jason is a professional woodworker and blacksmith. Since 1997, he has studied, practiced, and taught traditional woodworking, carving, and blacksmithing in a variety of settings, from youth summer camps to community colleges. In his blacksmith shop, Jason specializes in making traditional woodworking tools, and for fun he carves wooden bowls and spoons. Visit Jason’s website.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion: Colors from the Garden with Catharine Ellis
Original Recording Date: July 13, 2020
Topic: Natural Dyes
Catharine taught in the Professional Crafts/Fiber Program at Haywood Community College for 30 years and is now devoted to studio work, research, and specialized teaching. She co-authored The Art and Science of Natural Dyes with Joy Boutrup (Schiffer, 2019), and is the author of Woven Shibori (Interweave Press, 2005). Her work has been featured in Fiberarts magazine and Surface Design Journal. Catharine has exhibited and taught classes throughout the United States and in Canada, Korea, Chile, Japan, Holland, France, and Australia. Visit Catharine’s website and follow: blog.ellistextiles.com.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Lyle Wheeler
Original Recording Date: June 15, 2020
Topic: Woodworking, Classic Ladderback Chair
Lyle Wheeler has been working wood for most of his life, specializing in ladderback chairs and furniture from the late 19th century and is an accomplished blacksmith. He has been teaching at the Folk School for over two decades and is a long-time member and demonstrator at the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Visit Lyle’s website.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Aubrey Atwater
Original Recording Date: May 18, 2020
Topic: Music & Dance
Aubrey Atwater is an award-winning folk musician, vocalist, writer, and dancer. Aubrey is a performer and teacher throughout the U.S. and beyond, sings, plays mountain dulcimer, old-time banjo, guitar, mandolin, Irish whistle, and does highly percussive traditional clogging. She conveys the heritage behind traditional folk music and dance, and alongside Elwood (her husband) has produced 13 recordings and seven books. Visit Aubrey’s website.
Appalachian Traditions Discussion with Sue Williams, Pepper Cory, and Penny Prichard
Original Recording Date: April 27, 2020
Topic: Basketry & Quilting
Sue Williams has been making white oak baskets for over 30 years. She has been an exhibitor and demonstrator for the annual White Oak Craft Fair in Cannon County for 15 years, winning Best of Show numerous times. Sue has won several top awards for her baskets and has been sharing her basket skills for over 20 years. Sue was one of only nine recipients in 2019 of the inaugural In These Mountains: Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships, a program of South Arts designed to highlight and support exemplary traditional bearers from the Appalachian region of Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina.
Learn more: Cannon County Basket Tradition with Sue Williams
Pepper Cory is an avid quilt collector, author of seven books and numerous articles for quilt publications, and teacher. Pepper fell in love with quilts in 1972 when she bought an antique quilt at a rummage sale for $1. After seeking out quilt makers to teach her the art, she became a professional quilter in 1975 and has pursued quilting since. Visit Pepper’s website.
Learn more: A Look at Southern Scrap Quilts with Pepper Cory
Penny enjoys a life filled with cooking and fine crafts, nurturing creativity, and the desire to create things by hand. She has been a Folk School instructor in Cooking since 2000, in Quilting & Sewing since 2008, and most recently, Needlework. Penny has been an avid quilter for over 35 years and has branched out into many other fiber arts — sewing, knitting, needlework, weaving, and basket making. Her latest focus is working with wool appliqué. Penny’s whole life has been involved with catering and restaurants. An award-winning chef and cookbook author, she specializes in breads and the foods of France and Tuscany. Her approach to food is both practical and fun, inspiring her students’ cooking for years to come.
The Folk School transforms lives, bringing people together in a nurturing environment for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing.