Lindsey Liden is a 7th generation Brasstown native and his family has been associated with the Folk School since 1925. After time traveling, studying, and exploring, he has resettled down in Brasstown and has recently built his woodworking shop, Mulheron Craft, on his family’s farm in Brasstown. Lindsey enjoys making handmade banjos and fine furniture. He is also a regular instructor and our Resident Artist in Woodworking. Enjoy our interview!
CP: You grew up in Brasstown and the Folk School community. What brought you back to Brasstown to start your Woodworking business, Mulheron Craft?
LL: I moved back to Brasstown because I felt it had a lot to offer in terms of supporting a craftsperson’s lifestyle. Brasstown is a thriving artist community and we all support each other and work together to make that possible.
CP: How does your upbringing and sense of home influence your craft?
LL: When I was young, I wanted nothing to do with craft/folk. I did take art lessons when I was very young and attended Little/Middle Folk School from age 7, until I was eighteen. I grew up in a craft family, but no one ever told me I had to make craft, or be a craftsperson. I played punk rock music, went to the mall, etc. First chance I got, I left Brasstown. I then went on to study art at Warren Wilson and music at UNCA. After years of traveling, touring, and experiencing life outside of Brasstown, I started getting a strong feeling to come back.
CP: Were you always interested in Woodworking?
LL: I knew that when I came back to Brasstown, I needed to come with a profession. I’ve always loved woodworking. One of my best friends and mentors is woodworker Dana Hatheway. I’ve worked with him since I was a little kid. I’ve always been envious of his life as a professional woodworker. I asked him once to take me on as an apprentice and he said, “Sure, but if you really want to learn how to do this correctly you should go to the Professional Crafts Program at Haywood Community College,” and that’s what I did.
CP: Both you and your fiancé, Sienna Shute, attended the Professional Crafts Program at Haywood Community College in Clyde NC (You in the Woodworking program, and Sienna in Clay).
What was that experience like? Do you recommend an education program if you are interested in a professional craft career?
LL: It was life changing. I loved every second of it! I couldn’t believe there was a place where you could go and be a maker all day everyday with the best equipment and the best teachers. I highly recommend it. I was a different person when I walked out of that program.
CP: What is the origin of the name Mulheron and why did you choose it for your Woodworking business?
LL: It’s my middle name. I like how it sounds unique or old. I had a professor in college say to me, “What a name, you should become L. Mulheron the composer.” It stayed with me.
CP: Can folks stop by your woodworking shop when they are visiting the Folk School?
LL: My shop does not have a showroom per se, but folks stop by all the time and are welcome to. If they need a banjo setup, or are curious what builds I have at the moment. Come on by!
CP: Do you prefer custom work or making readymade pieces?
LL: I make a lot of custom furniture but when it comes to banjos I prefer readymade. Right now, I’m all about doing a batch of banjos. I’ve always done one at a time now I’m doing my first batch of 5. Should be ready and on my website soon!
CP: What are your favorite projects?
LL: I have to say I really love the banjos. It’s just such a fun feeling to spend so much time building something and then it’s like now we get to play it! Can’t play a table.
CP: What are your favorite woods to work with?
LL: I don’t really have a favorite wood. Right now I’m working on a maple, a mahogany, a walnut and a cherry banjo. I cut and selectively harvest most of my wood. It’s all native local hardwoods.
CP: Color and texture are a signature of your style, especially with your banjos. Can you talk about what inspires your designs and your creative process? Describe your style.
LL: This is a hard question. As I go through life, when I come across something that hits me, or sparks curiosity, I make a mental note of it, and then I apply it to my work. Whether it’s a color pattern, or a texture, I take it in and then find creative ways to apply the ideas to my work. It doesn’t always turn out the way I like or imagined. It’s also not for everyone. Some people describe my style as steam punk chic. Ha! I guess.
CP: Tell me about a favorite Folk School memory.
LL: My favorite Folk School memories would be Fall Festivals as a child. We always had a crew. We had about six forts all over campus. We would travel from fort to fort. There also used to be a guy who brought a set of mules with a covered wagon. We got to know him really well. He was our bud… and our transportation to the next fort!
CP: What are your current musical interests or projects?
LL: I’m really into Riley Baugus’ banjo playing right now. I’ve taken his class a few times at the folk school and I really love his playing. I highly recommend taking his class. I also have my string band Chompin at the Bit. We’re not playing as much as we used to, but we are always game to get together and perform.
CP: Is it true you live in a treehouse in the woods that you built?
LL: Ha. Well it started out as a treehouse, yes, but I’ve since built to the ground. I have a fiancée now, so I had to get rid of the rope ladder. It’s more of an off grid cabin.
CP: Who are some of your inspirations?
CP: What is your favorite thing about teaching at the Folk School?
LL: I love meeting all the different people. You never know who you’re talking to. One time I asked a random guy what he did for a living and he said, “I fly Nascar drivers in helicopters to the race tracks.” What?!
CP: What is your favorite place at the Folk School?
LL: I may have a fort or two left over from when I was a kid… but I can’t tell you where they are.
CP: Do you have any advice for aspiring woodworkers?
LL: Go for it! Never think you know it all, and ask all the old fogies as much as you can.
CP: What’s next for you?
Learn a New Finishing Technique from Lindsey
Enjoy a video of Lindsey talking about finishes for the Folklife from Home series produced by the North Carolina Folklife Institute.
Lindsey Liden Originals in the Craft Shop
Lindsey is a featured artist in our Craft Shop. You can browse his fine woodworking items both in the shop and online. Visit his artist page on Craft Shop Online to see what is currently available.
Cherry Cutting Board by Lindsey Liden
About the Craft Shop
Visit craftshop.folkschool.org for hours, location, and more information.
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