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

Folk School Stories: Tommye Scanlin

Having grown up just 12 miles down the road from Brasstown, many of Tommye Scanlin’s earliest scanlin photoFolk School memories date back to her youth. In the mid-1960s, she and her boyfriend would often catch a glimpse of campus on their way to the drive-in movie theater in Peachtree. Since those drive-in, drive by days, Tommye’s Folk School story has come full circle.

Tommye was officially introduced to Folk School classes by Bob Owens, a potter who also happened to be the head of the Art Department at North Georgia College where Tommye taught art and textiles. “I was learning about weaving at the time,” Tommye says, “trying very hard to figure it out on my own. In the summer of 1974, I had the chance to take a weaving class.” During her week as a student, she learned to read weaving drafts and added to her growing love of the craft. “With my newly gained knowledge, I doubled down on my weaving and within a year or so began to show and sell my woven works.” Continue reading Folk School Stories: Tommye Scanlin

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.

We Welcome Ted Cooley as the Folk School Music and Dance Program Coordinator

We are so happy to welcome Ted Cooley as our Music and Dance Coordinator. Ted has an illustrious history with the Folk School. He’s twice served as a host, and then settled in the area to help launch our JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) Program in 2005. He taught and served as the JAM Program coordinator for 8 years. Ted has taught over 40 Folk School classes over the years. He served as the Nature Studies Resident Artist, and is currently the Storytelling Resident Artist. I talked to Ted about his experience in the Folk School community, and his thoughts on returning as the Music and Dance Coordinator. Enjoy our interview!

CP: What originally brought you to the Folk School?

TC: Like so many of us, I found out about the Folk School by happening upon a catalog, and I was amazed that you could study so many different things at one place! At the time, I was a graduate student at ETSU and I immediately decided to take a break from my studies and apply for the Host position. The rest (as they say) is history.

CP: What’s it like returning to the Folk School as a full-time employee?

TC: It has been wonderful reconnecting with the greater Folk School community! Though I have been teaching in Virginia, it feels, in many ways, as though I never left. One of the magical qualities of the Folk School is that you always feel at home here.

Ted playing a fiddle tune outside the History Center.

CP: What are the strengths of the music and dance program at the Folk School? What are you excited to bring to the table?

TC: The Folk School is unique in regard to the amount of programing offered in music and dance. There are weekly opportunities for folks to study a wide variety of musical instruments and dance styles. There are also opportunities for the larger community to attend live concerts and participate in weekly dances at the Keith house. There is always something being offered!

I have a deep love for traditional music and dance. During the last few years my social life revolved around playing music at weekly jams and going to dances around the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. I also enjoy running sound and coordinating events. One of the advantages that I have in my new role is that I have been working for the Folk School for many years. I have been a host twice, been a Resident Artist and Recreation Leader for our youth programs. I not only have met a lot of artists connected with the School, but these opportunities have also given me a unique perspective that I feel will be helpful during my tenure here! Continue reading We Welcome Ted Cooley as the Folk School Music and Dance Program Coordinator

Thank You for a Wonderful Gala & Benefit Auction!

Executive Director and Auction Emcee Jerry Jackson welcomes a full house for the live auction.

The 2018 Gala & Benefit Auction brought close to 200 Folk School friends together for a lively evening of bidding, mingling, and entertainment. The event, an annual highlight in our community, featured offerings by artists and donors as near as Brasstown and as far away as Belgium.

Chef Jarrett Palmer fills the Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall with delicious treats from the forthcoming Folk School Cookbook.

Musicians Annie Fain Barralon and Jonah Graves welcomed guests to the first part of the evening with traditional mountain music on the porch of Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall. Through the screened porch door, folks were treated to their first glimpse of a stunning display of over 100 silent auction pieces in a variety of mediums, from jewelry and paintings to baskets and pottery. Attendees also dined on featured dishes from the forthcoming Folk School Cookbook, including “Mushroom Turnovers” and “Cheese Pennies and Stars with Green Tomato Marmalade.”

During the second portion of the evening, guests were invited to the historic Keith House to view and bid on nearly 50 unique pieces from artists and other Folk School supporters. Throughout the live auction, solo auctioneer and longtime Folk School friend Tim Ryan kept the crowd engaged and entertained with his signature wit and charm. Continue reading Thank You for a Wonderful Gala & Benefit Auction!