Did you get a chance to listen to the interview about the Folk School with Pattie Bagley, Mark Hendry and Jack Smoot on The Avenue Lounge Show on WREK Radio 91.1 FM, Atlanta, GA? If you missed the live show modern technology has preserved the interview for all to enjoy, at any time, here on Soundcloud. Learn about some Folk School history and also about Pattie, Mark, and Jack’s personal stories and experiences.
It just so happens that all three instructors featured in the interview are here teaching this week. Pattie (assisted by Mark) is teaching “Baskets of the Folk School,” and Jack is teaching “Build a Short-scale Mountain Dulcimer.” I wanted to take a moment to thank all three of these Folk School folks for their endless commitment to promoting and supporting the School.
Come on down to Brasstown the week of August 13- September 6 for Scottish Heritage Week at the Folk School, featuring a festive week of Celtic themed classes and demonstrations. If you are of Scottish descent, or merely love the culture, come enjoy a “taste of Scotland” through fascinating history and stories, lively music & dance, and savory food.
Do Celtic knot designs fascinate you? Don’t fear the knot! Learn to construct designs from patchwork in “Celtic Illusions” Wall Hanging taught by Marolyn Floyd.
Early Scotch and Scotch-Irish settlers contributed greatly to American culture, and nowhere has their influence been more strongly felt than in the Appalachians. Learn about the musical connection in Sara Grey’s Ballads and Songs from Scotland to Appalachia and Beyond. Students will explore and sing about the migration of ballads and songs from the British Isles (primarily Scotland) to North America. Explore similarities in legends and folktales and learn techniques and devices used by traditional storytellers in Bobbie Pell’s Scottish Roots in Appalachian Traditions.
The hosts at the Folk School keep the show running smoothly. Unlike the year-round staff who go home at night and the regular students who are here for only a week, they are fully involved in the daily life of the School for a four month period. Without further ado… Let’s get to know a little bit about our current senior host, Bonnie Lenneman!
CP:Where are you from and what do you do there? BL: I am originally from Michigan, but most recently I was working for a non-profit in Portland, Oregon.
CP: What about the Folk School appealed to you before you first came? BL: Last spring I was leaving my job at the non-profit and I wanted to do something new & different that engaged both my artistic/creative side and also involved doing something outdoors. The Work/Study program was a perfect fit!* The Sing Behind the Plow motto also appealed to me – the idea of working more closely with the land and celebrating the simplicity and satisfaction of our labor. (*Bonnie came here first as a Work/Study in Fall 2013, now she is host)
Chair Making has a long history in Appalachia and at the Folk School. When the school first opened its doors in 1925, folks in the community donated 100 hand-made chairs to be used in the school’s opening celebration. Most of those remain on campus today in places like the Keith House living room, as well Farm House, Orchard House, and the History Center. Did you know that you could take a class and make one, or refurbish one that you may have in your home?
Chairs come in different shapes, designs, and sizes. If you are interested in a traditional ladderback style chair, you may want to check out this upcoming popular class with emphasizes the use of hand tools:
Embark on chair making by constructing a one-slat ladderback side chair in red oak. Shape parts on the shaving horse with drawknife and spokeshave and assemble with a brace & bit and mortise chisel. History of the trade, discussion of green woodworking techniques, and a demonstration of splint bottoming are included. Expect to complete a chair frame. Students should have moderate hand strength and some physical endurance.
If you are more interested in learning to make contemporary chairs using power tools, this class may be for you:
Make a simple, elegant dining chair that is highly customizable, while also considering the structural and comfort requirements of a chair. This machinery-based class will cover bent laminations and joinery on angled and curved surfaces. To complete the chair, fabric will be provided for a simple upholstered seat. Students of all levels are welcome.
When I found out Pattie Bagley (Resident Artist for Baskets, Brooms, and Chair Seats/local mischief maker) was teaching an introductory rib baskets class, I knew I wanted a spot in the class. Right before coming down to the Folk School to begin my term as a second-time host, I completed my masters degree in Occupational Therapy (OT) – a rehabilitation profession that focuses on working with people to regain function and get back to meaningful occupation (self-care, leisure and work) after illness, injury or disability. Traditionally OTs have used crafts such as basket-weaving as a way to work on rehabilitation-related goals. There is also a strong connection between OT and the Folk School. Murray Martin, who was integral to the growth and success of the Brasstown carvers, was trained as an occupational therapist. For all these reasons, I knew it would be a special week for me. What I didn’t know was that Jan Stansell, an expert basket-maker, long-time Folk School instructor, and recent stroke survivor, would be one of my classmates.
Jan agreed to sit down and have a chat with me at the end of our week together.
LD: Tell me about your history with this craft. What kind of baskets do you like to make best? What is meaningful to you about basket weaving?
JS: Oh gosh – I probably started 30 years ago just as a little hobby. It was one of those hobbies that became a small business. I learned initially from someone in the town where I was living. Generally people who have made baskets as long as I have tend to specialize in one kind or another (whether it be Nantucket, or naturals etc). I never did. I always called myself a basket generalist. Whatever class was going on that sounded interesting, I would come and try it, and generally incorporate it into my work. I guess what’s meaningful to me about baskets is that along with pottery, it is just such an old craft and an old way of doing things. You can also go in so many different directions with it – the artistic end, the functional end. You can use traditional materials or go to something else entirely.
LD: I understand you have a very long history with the Folk School. Can you tell me more about your relationship with JCCFS?
JS: My very first class here was 26 years ago. It was a white oak baskets class and was fairly advanced. It was so exciting to discover a whole other way of life and that there were people who just loved to be together and make things, and make music. At the time, I was not a person who made a lot of long-term goals in my life. I would go to these seminars at work and they would say “you’ve got to set goals, you’ve got to do this or that.” And I thought to myself “if I had a goal, what would my goal be?” And I thought “I know! My goal will be to teach at Folk School.” So I started thinking to myself about what I would have to do to make that happen. I suppose I’d have to get a portfolio together, volunteer to assist in a class and make myself known. And then as I was mulling this over I was at a craft show, and a woman who happened to be in charge of programming at the Folk School approached my booth. She asked if I ever taught at the Folk School. I said “No.” She asked if I’d like to. I thought to myself – this goal-setting thing is a cinch! If I had known that, I would have been setting goals years ago! It was at a time when the Folk School was actively looking for instructors so I started coming up as an instructor 20 or 25 years ago. Over the years, I have met so many wonderful people. Coming here is not like going away; it’s like coming home. I used to cry going home from Folk School (laughs).