How We Made Pizza: A Slice of Folk School Life

90th Birthday Pizza Party outside of Davidson Hall
90th Birthday Pizza Party outside of Davidson Hall

Pizza Day minus 6 years. A potter, a dulcimer player, a painter, a poet and a berry farmer build a barrel-vaulted brick oven. Timber-framers build a structure around it. Iron workers make long-handled rakes, forks and peels. Stone-building classes dry-stack elbowhigh walls around it, carpenters make picnic tables and benches. Gardening classes plant fennel, oregano and basil. Work-study crews grow tomatoes and split oak into keen firewood.

Head Chef, Steve Cipriano puts a pizza in the wood fired oven.
Head Chef, Steve Cipriano puts a pizza in the wood fired oven.

P-Day minus 1. Nanette drives to a dairy she knows about and acquires milk from non-corporate cows. At night, she builds fires.

P-Day 13:00. Susan the Blacksmith forges world-class sculpture, then rides from Clay Spencer Shop to Davidson Hall on the running board of a truck full of what appear to be pirates. She becomes Susan the Cheese-maker and leads a class in making mountains of fresh mozzarella. Chef Steve and Cory Marie and their Italian Cooking class simmer sauce not too long. The Dining Hall crew brings a crisp salad of fresh greens from the gardens.

Carla slices a piece of hot pie.
Carla slices a piece of hot pie.

P-Day 15:00. Is it going to rain? Sure looks like it. At some point, we could call it off? That is, I could call it off. I confer with my top people, very much like General Eisenhower. I watch the clouds, pacing, deep in thought. Tensely, we watch the gathering storm over Wells Mountain. My top people point out to me that I am not General Eisenhower and that the worst that could happen is we might get wet. So I decide it is on, the game’s afoot, fullspeed ahead and charge. We take the precaution of requesting the religiously diverse group of folks each to whammy shimmy shammy in his or her own beliefs towards the darkling clouds.

The rain, it raineth over all of the Southeastern United States and pretty ferociously on Murphy and Hayesville, and all the way from Hanging Dog to Smackass, while The Folk School appears on apps as a placid blip in the midst of much precip. A pleasant misting sweeps through the vale, but the music never misses a bump-ditty. The baking, done by dancers, flows gracefully as a contraline. Smoky, toasty aromas of wood and bread unite us. Some carry wood, some bake, some play, some dance, all eat and drink. It looks like a festival of colorful medieval people in a Breughel painting except no hellmouths or bagpipes. Continue reading How We Made Pizza: A Slice of Folk School Life

AACB Holds Hammer-In at the Folk School

Fireplace Tool Set by Paul Garrett, Susan Hutchinson, Lynda Metcalfe, Julie Clark, Andy Phillips, Clint Busbee, and Ron Nichols
Fireplace Tool Set by Paul Garrett, Susan Hutchinson, Lynda Metcalfe, Julie Clark, Andy Phillips, Clint Busbee, and Ron Nichols

On Friday night before the Blacksmith & Fine Craft Auction, blacksmiths from the Appalachian Area Chapter of Blacksmiths (AACB) met for their annual meeting at John C. Campbell Folk School.  The members worked into the wee hours of the morning together on many projects to put into the auction the following day. Some blacksmiths came together to create larger projects. Like a hotter, louder version of a quilting bee, an event like this is called a “Hammer-In”  where experienced blacksmiths come tougher to share ideas and collaborate on projects.

Seven of the blacksmiths including Folk School resident artist and instructor Paul Garrett and instructors Susan Hutchinson, Lynda Metcalfe, Julie Clark, Andy Phillips, Clint Busbee, and Ron Nichols worked together to create a Contemporary Free Form Fireplace Tool Set (seen above) which sold for $650 in the Saturday auction. Susan Hutchinson came up with the design for the tool hangers, Julie Clark created the handles, Lynda Metcalfe and Paul Garrett designed and created the stand, Clint Busbee tied the broom, and Paul Garrett created the shovel from a single piece of metal.  The overall concept for the piece was to create a contemporary free-form fireplace tool set with traditional joinery. 

The members of the AACB gather at the Blacksmith Shop at John C. Campbell Folk School
The members of the AACB gather at the Blacksmith Shop at the John C. Campbell Folk School

The members of the AACB collectively raised over $1000 with the projects they created that night. Next year, Paul hopes to expand the meeting to a larger event, where people who attend the Blacksmith & Fine Craft Auction can attend watch the projects actually being created at the Hammer-In. 

The David Rakoff Scholarship Fund

The David Rakoff Scholarship Fund
To celebrate the life of David Rakoff, The John C. Campbell Folk School has established a fund that will award the first David Rakoff Scholarship in 2013. This Scholarship fund will provide tuition for a week-long class. David was a student, a dear friend of the Folk School and a member of its Board of Directors. In a New York Times article, David wrote, “The week I spent there is as close as it gets to my idea of paradise.” This scholarship fund will help deserving students experience this unique school in the North Carolina mountains that David loved. We hope that you will consider joining us in this endeavor and make a tax deductible donation to help strengthen this fund. (click here to read David’s entire NY Times article)

As a thank you for donating $500 or more to this fund, the School would like to send you a Folk School t-shirt and a copy of our Emmy-nominated DVD “Sing Behind the Plow”

About the School
The John C. Campbell Folk School, located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, provides experiences in non-competitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening. Over 6,000 people a year participate in 800 hands-on, non-competitive classes in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing. The Folk School also makes available a vast range of public activities including free concerts, literary readings, lectures and demonstrations. For more details about our School please visit

Our distinctive educational experiences allow students to acquire new skills, not only as artists, but as thoughtful individuals working together in a community. Students accomplish things here that they never thought possible. They learn to build, create, and craft new things in a no pressure environment— a rarity in today’s world. This type of non-competitive learning has a profound impact on a student’s life. It offers them a new perspective on art, fine craft, and the world around them. It gives pride and a sense of accomplishment in work well done. As a student once said, “There is no other place quite like the Folk School. I hope to return often for being here gives me clarity and focus on how I would most like to live my life.”

The John C. Campbell Folk School is a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. (EIN: 56-0552780)

*This post was updated 9/2/16

Quadruple Your Contribution to the Newly Formed Folk School Endowment!


As many of you know the Folk School has received a matching grant of $75,000 to help establish the John C. Campbell Folk School Endowment.  The BIG NEWS is that this 2:1 match has become a 4:1 match.  That’s right, every dollar you contribute to the Folk School Endowment will become four dollars. This fundraising endeavor will contribute $300,000 to the newly founded endowment.

An endowment is essential to the continued success of our unique School, but don’t take my word for it… here is an eloquent letter from instructor, artist, and past Folk School Development Manager, Susi Hall.

Dear Folk School Folks,

I am excited by the grant that the school has been promised from the Wingate Foundation — it will directly benefit all of us.  Please read on…

Why is this so exciting?  It is a grant to be used exclusively to grow the school’s endowment.  That endowment is a wonderful safety net: the money is invested, the principal is never spent, and the earned interest is used to support the operating budget.  In other words, what it costs to open the doors, hire teachers and staff and welcome students every day gets a subsidy of sorts that lasts forever.

Every year the school faces rising costs; food and toilet paper and gas and art supplies and studio maintenance.  Where does the budget come from to pay for these things?  Without an adequate endowment cushion, the tuition must be raised. 

Every year student enrollment varies from week to week and the economy demonstrates its eccentric behavior.  The one constant in all of this chaos would be a healthy endowment that keeps our school on an even keel, providing a reliable source of income through thick times and thin.

There is a bit of a string attached:  this is a matching grant, so we will all have to donate what we can to add up to $75,000 before the foundation will contribute an equal amount.

The grant is just a start, but I suspect – as an old development director – it is one that will do well for the Folk School, encouraging more grants and gifts to bolster the endowment.  As a professional artist and teacher, I hold the Folk School close to my heart and want it to last forever.

I hope there are enough really smart and loving people out there who will understand that making this grant happen won’t build another beautiful building but will surely guarantee the school’s future.  Please join me in supporting this initiative.


Susi Hall

Bang for Buck Quadruples – Right Now, Your Donations are Matched 4 to 1!


Everybody knows, that for the future, The Folk School must have an Endowment.

We know the good the Folk School does. We want it to continue for generations to come. We want it to be strong enough to ride out downturns and emerge true and intact. We want the School to be available to folks, so we want to be sure there are scholarships.

I am delighted to report that we’ve just taken some important steps in that direction.  We have planted the John C Campbell Folk School Endowment and seeded it with fund we’ve been saving up for the purpose.  We got a generous matching grant from the Windgate Foundation to water it.

Now it’s time to let the sunshine (donations from you and me) in.  Right now, your donations to the Endowment are matched 4 to 1.

Gifts to funds like the John Neil Davidson Scholarship, the David Rakoff Scholarship or to the general scholarship fund will have four times the effect.  The sunshine you let in now will help the Endowment sprout and grow strong.

The fertilizer? I’m hoping it is this note right here.

Love from Brasstown,
Jan Davidson, Folk School Director

Click here to make a donation to the Capital Campaign, and your donation will be matched 4 to 1, thanks to a generous grant from the Windgate Foundation.