Play the video above to view our new crankie.

We miss having our Folk School family with us here in Brasstown and have appreciated hearing from so many of you who feel the same. So, here’s a fun romp through the Folk School’s campus that reminds us of the camaraderie and creative learning we’re all eager to get back to. 

It’s in the form of a crankie – a delightful storytelling device – and we hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it. If you’d like to know more about cool crankies, below is an interesting interview with Sue Truman, crankie-maker extraordinaire and a Folk School instructor.

Our crankie illustrates our beautiful campus and the meaningful learning that happens here. People making music and dancing, folks in studios exploring their creativity and learning new skills, and everyone enjoying our gorgeous landscape. Can you spot the possum?

But the Folk School needs your help. Having our typical classes suspended for most of 2020 has hurt us financially, so we’re asking everyone who cares about the school to donate to our annual fund to help keep the Folk School healthy.

The reality is that the Folk School’s financial recovery from the consequences of Covid-19 will not end in 2020. We’re looking forward to a better 2021, but our class sizes will be smaller once they’re safe to resume and our financial challenges will continue even through next year. It’s with your committed financial support and attendance in classes that we’ll be able to fully recover. With your help, the Folk School will persevere!

It’s easy to donate today at our Fund-A-Need site, or you can mail your check to:

Keep the Folk School Healthy
John C. Campbell Folk School
1 Folk School Rd.
Brasstown, NC 28902

Thank you for being part of the Folk School family!

Crankie Credits

Illustration: Cory Marie Podielski
Videography: Nathan Baerreis
Music: “Fig for a Kiss” by Black Market Haggis
Voiceover: Tammy Elwell

All About Crankies with Sue Truman

Sue Truman is a crankie artist, fiddler, guitarist, and stepdancer from Seattle. Sue started her journey of creating crankies in 2011, using it as an avenue to incorporate the folk-art images she loves with fiddle music. Since then, she has performed, presented, and taught her craft in the United States, Canada, and abroad – including at the Folk School.

BW: Can you give us some history behind the crankie as an art form?

ST: Before TV and film, even before photographs were readily available, there were moving panoramas. This storytelling art form originated in Europe and was referred to as moving panoramas. Their popularity peaked between 1840-1850. There were three sizes of panoramas then, ranging from small to extremely large. Toy moving panoramas could fit into the palm of your hand and were sold at moving panorama shows, medium-sized panoramas were performed for family and friends in their parlors, and huge panoramas hundreds of feet long that were the newsreel of the day. These large panoramas told tales of lands far away; Arctic expeditions and the American Civil War, to name a few.

A 19th-20th century moving panorama from the collection of Erkki Huhtamo. Photo by Sue Truman.

BW: How did you get started creating crankies? Is there anyone or anything you took inspiration from?

ST: In 2011, I saw a crankie created by Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle called “The Lost Gander”. I was immediately enthralled.  In addition, crankies had a fascinating history dating back to the 19th century. From there, I had found what I wanted to do, and it has been my passion ever since.

BW: What do you think is key to a good crankie?

ST: If I had to say one thing, it would be a heartfelt story that communicates to the audience.

BW: Take us inside your process and timeline of creating a crankie. How long does it take to get the final product?

ST: For a larger crankie that I would perform, it takes somewhere between two to six months to complete. I keep crankie journals to capture all my ideas, and I have projects lined up like ducks in a row. Other things go into the process of creating a crankie as well, such as choosing material for the scroll, adapting the crankie box to support the story, considering the audio for storytelling, speed, and illustration. I consider all my crankie scrolls a work in progress. Going back and making changes on a scroll I had created years ago is like visiting an old friend. I enjoy fussing over tiny details.

BW: You were able to teach a class at the Folk School in 2019. What was that experience like? How did you come to know the Folk School?

ST: Teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School was incredible! The moment I arrived, it felt like coming back home. I grew up in Ohio and spent much time in the south at fiddle festivals before moving to Seattle. Being there brought back many memories. I had learned of the school many decades ago from the book “Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands”, published in 1937.  I had an extremely hard-working class of students who put their heart and soul into crankie making. They were amazing! We performed an evening concert of crankies at the end of the week and the students assisted me by cranking the crankies, making limberjack puppets dance, and narrating stories. We got a standing ovation! That is a very special memory. I hope to return when we are through all of this, either to teach or to take a class. The Folk School is near and dear to my heart.

A crankie scroll made from 100-year-old player piano paper. Photo by Sue Truman.

A crankie created with a 1930’s quilt patch by Ima Schur. Photo by Sue Truman.

BW: Are you working on anything in particular now you’d like to share?

ST: Since March I have been creating smaller crankies through my “Cranking In Place” series of videos. It’s like a crankie journal, documenting my time at home and telling my story. In addition, I am teaching and presenting workshops online and performing in various online festivals.

BW: What’s the best way to stay in touch with you and follow along with what you’re creating?

ST: There are lots of ways! My website, along with my Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts are a great way to stay up to date and learn about how to get started creating a crankie of your own.

John C. Campbell Folk School
About John C. Campbell Folk School

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.