Rags to Riches with JoEl Levy LoGiudice

Rag rug weaving embraces the folk art tradition of using everyday, readily available materials to build aesthetically beautiful, yet functional art: textiles made from the things we have, can forage, or acquire. With the craze du jour surrounding KonMari, now is a good time to think about new options for all those clothes you may be putting into the “Thank you, goodbye” pile. Rag rug weaving might be your perfect option!

A table runner made by JoEl with woven plastic bags! See a photo below of the process.

Rag weaving a craft that always offers a student the opportunity to get in the spirit of upcycling. I recently talked with longtime Folk School instructor, JoEl Levy LoGiudice about this sustainable, functional, colorful, and beautiful type of weaving. JoEl has taught rag rug weaving, among other subjects, at the Folk School since 1987. She has two classes coming up: Fabulous Fabric Necklaces on May 17–19 and Woven Rag Rugs and Runners on Oct 13–19. Enjoy our interview!

CP: You’ve been teaching at the Folk School for over 30 years! That’s so awesome. Do you remember the first time you came to the Folk School?

JLL: I learned about the school from a former student of mine when I taught at the Appalachian Center for Crafts. Douglas Atchley had recently moved to Brasstown to manage the craft gallery (at that time it was located in the History Center) and he thought I would enjoy teaching here. He put me in contact with Ruth, who was directing programs at that time, and the first class I taught was Appalachian Rib Baskets. Continue reading Rags to Riches with JoEl Levy LoGiudice

Studio Batik with Jessica Kaufman

Photo by Nicole McConville

Have you ever wanted to try batik and hand-dyeing? We have a very special surface design class coming up on April 7–13, 2019 with Jessica Kaufman: Studio Batik: Many Techniques, Amazing Results. Jessica has studied batik methods from Indonesia and India and is the owner of WAXON Batik & Dye Studio in Asheville, NC. With over 16 years of teaching experience and an MA in crafts education, Jessica has taught batik and tie-dye to summer campers, school children, high schoolers, and adults all over the country. We are lucky to have her for a week-long intensive focusing on this gorgeous and functional art form. Enjoy our interview!

Photo by Nicole McConville

CP: When did you first come to the Folk School? When were you a host?

JK: I grew up with relatives in Penland and would visit the school for community days, but couldn’t align my work schedule in a way that would allow me to take a class there when I was a young full-time teacher. Someone suggested I take a look at the John C. Campbell Folk School and it was absolute love at first sight. The week-long classes, offered year-round, were a dream come true.

I saved my pennies and booked a clay class over my spring break in 2005. I was teaching in a Haywood County public school and this class just lined up with my vacation days. Ted Cooley was our class assistant and two young women I knew from Asheville were the Hosts. I immediately saw the potential for myself there. I took a few more classes as a student, and then, in 2009, I served six months as Host. I was the last six-month host (the school went to a four-month system after that) but I wished it was still a 2-year position, as it was in Ellie Wilson’s time. I would have signed up instantly for that! Continue reading Studio Batik with Jessica Kaufman

Weavers’ Work Week

In our recent letter from Folk School Director Jerry Jackson, Weavers’ Work Week was featured in Janet Davis’ story (if you missed it, read the letter online here). I thought this would be a great time to talk to Pam Howard, the Folk School’s Resident Weaver, about this special week. Weavers’ Work Week is an annual tradition at the Folk School where skilled weavers are invited to come for a week and volunteer their time to do projects around campus and make improvements in the studio. Let’s learn more from Pam…

Pam Howard at the loom

CP: What is Weavers’ Work Week, and how did it start?

PH: The idea for Weavers’ Work Week started in 1992. A weaving teacher, Betty Hancock Smith and her weaving student, Dee Richard were talking about how hard it was sitting all week on the loom benches. Those two got to talking about what if weavers were invited to come to the school and weave fabric to make the cushions. They asked Jan Davidson, former director and Ruth Truett, former programs director. It was approved, and in the spring of 1993 the first Weavers’ Work Week happened.

I was assisting Betty in her weaving class in 1992, and I was the first weaver that was asked to participate. I have been to every one since. From 1993 to 2000, Betty was in charge of organizing the yearly event. In 2000, I became the Resident Weaver and took it over organizing it. Things went on fairly smoothly till 2008 when I had health issues and inherited relatives I had to take care of. After the dust settled and things had calmed down in my life, I thought it was time to restart the tradition of WWW. So, on February 4, 2015 I sent a letter to the “powers that be” and got Weavers’ Work Week back on the schedule. Continue reading Weavers’ Work Week

Folks School Stories: Janet Davis

When Janet Davis recently volunteered for Weavers’ Work Week, it was just her second visit to campus since her beloved husband, Jim, passed away in November 2017.

Much of her first visit in February, only three months after Jim’s funeral, “was taken up with just holding myself together.” Though it was an emotional time, Janet says that the people surrounding her made it easier. From our registration staff to her instructor to local friends, “It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket.”

Jim took his first woodcarving class at the Folk School in 1997, married Janet in 2000, and finally convinced his self-labeled “non-crafty” wife to try a weekend class in 2005. “The Folk School introduced me to the other side of my brain – like seeing in color for the first time,” Janet says. “Suddenly, I became a nerd who played music, who wove scarves and towels, who created stained glass panels (and even had commissions), and who made brooms. I was a nerd who knits. And spins.”

The Folk School became a regular and important part of Jim’s and Janet’s life. Their pre-retirement, annual week here allowed them to disconnect from the outside world, relax and focus on something different. Janet says, “We could feel the change in ourselves when we turned the corner by Clay’s. It’s as if the air at the school is different from the air in the rest of the world. I never could decide whether the Folk School is magical like Camelot, or whether it’s more like Brigadoon and only appears as we cross the bridge. Or perhaps it’s like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter, becoming whatever Jim and I needed for that particular visit.”

While it’s difficult to be without Jim in a place that remains part of their story, each visit for Janet brings a little more comfort and a lot more creativity. During Weavers’ Work Week in July, she helped craft the colorful Sticks-in-the-Mud Morris Dance-inspired panels now hanging in our Dining Hall.

Together, Janet and Jim were long-time supporters of the Folk School. They volunteered time, donated helpful items, and made financial contributions. Jim loved working with wood and donated several lovely pieces to our auctions. Janet carries on their support and recently donated a fiddle to our Junior Appalachian Musicians program, helping local high school students learn to play traditional mountain music.

“Jim and I firmly believed the Folk School is a vital place that must be supported. We first did this by being frequent students. When the school created the endowment, we began to contribute that way, too. We wanted to ensure the school remains financially strong so this magical place continues. There are people in the world who don’t yet know how much they need the Folk School, and it’s important that it’s here when they do.”

Janet’s Folk School story is bittersweet, filled with both love and loss. We are honored to have been a place where she and Jim spent many a week in the joy of making, and we hope to be a place where Janet continues to create, to heal, and to see in color.


Jerry Jackson


Header photo by Nancy Cutrer.