Letterpress Printmaking with Jessica White

Next week is a special week for our Book & Paper Arts Program as our brand new beautiful studio opens its doors to students for the very first time. It’s appropriate that the first class is a letterpress printing class considering that printmaking will flourish with the new space and room for equipment and presses. We talked with instructor Jessica White who is teaching the inaugural class about her craft and process. Enjoy our interview!

CP: Congratulations on being the very first instructor to teach class in our brand new Book and Paper Arts Studio! So what drew you letterpress printing? Why is the medium meaningful to you?

JW: When I was a printmaking grad student at the University of Iowa, I made drawings and prints that combined images with text. One day, a friend saw me struggle with different methods of printing the text on a lithograph, and he suggested letterpress. He showed me how to set and print one line of text, and I haven’t stopped since!

For me, letterpress printing started as and still is a means to an end; I like all types of printmaking, but my love of text always brings me back to letterpress because it’s the perfect method to printing my work.

CP: How would you describe your work?

JW: My work tends to be humorous and looks sweetly charming, but there is a philosophical and slightly dark side. I’ve been told that my work is “what you get if Beatrix Potter crashed into Edward Gorey.”

“Never Mind the Bears” letterpress print by Jessica White

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The Magic of Paper Cutting with Ingrid Lavoie


The intricate paper cuts of Ingrid Lavoie draw you into a fantastic world of whimsy, nature, and storytelling. We are so happy to have Ingrid come to teach her unique craft during Scandinavian Heritage Week, March 19-25. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) who fell in love with papercutting while on vacations visiting family in Denmark. Self-taught, she found her rhythm and style by using an X-Acto knife to “draw” images, instead of scissors. She enjoys unfolding a new work to reveal the paper’s transformation, and has been teaching others this delightful art form for several years. Enjoy our interview!

Continue reading The Magic of Paper Cutting with Ingrid Lavoie

What’s a Hobo Nickel?

Tom Patterson has been a hand engraver and metalsmith for more than 50 years. Starting in his father’s shop at age 14, he has been a lifelong student of metals and their manipulation. Currently, Tom continues his studies from his home studio in the mountains of western NC, where he fabricates artifacts of astonishing peculiarity. His upcoming class Hand Engraving-Hobo Nickels caught my eye as a very unique class. Unsure of what a hobo nickel is, I resisted the urge to google and decided to sit down with Tom and find out a bit more about the class. Enjoy our interview!

Hobo nickel by renowned original era carver Bertram “Bert” Wiegand

CP: What is a hobo nickel?

TP: It’s a modified Indian Head Buffalo nickel and the profile of the Indian or the buffalo on either side has been modified to be something else. It was commonly used by hobos during the Great Depression to increase the value of a nickel. They could trade it for a ride, buy a meal, or buy off a train cop. People started liking hobo nickels and then coin collectors start to collect hobo nickels. Some of nickels created by carvers during the Depression Era became so valuable that modern people, who had some engraving ability, began to buy nickels from coin dealers to copy and counterfeit these original hobos. The counterfeit artist would get the big bucks for their “collectable” nickel. They were discovered, and instead of being discredited, they were celebrated and collected for their own abilities. So today, even though it is definitely a niche, there are a lot of hobo nickel carvers. One of the famous carvers, he had this little kit, or box, of his handmade tools, and it went to auction a few years back and it sold for $9000. The old original nickels are worth thousands of dollars now and some of the new nickels are worth a lot of money too. Continue reading What’s a Hobo Nickel?

Folk School Holiday Traditions with Nanette Davidson

Children make cookies for the Holiday Kids Party
Children make cookies for the Holiday Kids Party

The month of December is a special time at the Folk School. Events, parties, food, themed classes, concerts, dances and performances unite the community in the holiday spirit. When the wreaths, garlands, and handcrafted ornaments appear in early December, we know the magic of the season has arrived. Recently, I connected with Nanette Davidson, our longtime decorating maven and mastermind, to ask about holiday traditions at the Folk School. Enjoy our interview!

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Nanette in the Cooking Studio

CP: When does the holiday season begin for you?

ND: Well, I think about this off and on through out the year, planning simple projects for the winter holiday season and for spring’s May Day and June’s Auction Gala sometimes many months in advance. I have asked for help from other artists and dancers in the community to generate handmade decorations including giant puppets for parades. Jan and I love the seasonal celebrations that come from many rural, agricultural communities. When you live in the Appalachian countryside where there are distinct perennial landscapes, it’s easy to celebrate the beauty of the changing seasons.

CP: What is your favorite Folk School December holiday tradition?

ND: We have so many great parties in December for the local community as well as our students who come in for a week. In the original days of the JCCFS, the student body was closely tied to the community and seasonal events were held to pull everyone together. We still want to include our local community and they are present here at weekly dances and concerts. We have the Old Folks Party, Christmas Dance/Dessert Potluck, New Year’s Eve Dance, and the Children’s Party when Santa arrives in the BFD Firetruck, sirens wailing. I have always helped with the Children’s Party which includes crafts, musical chairs, storytelling, Morris performance, homemade cookies, and live music and dance for the kids. Even though we are an adult school we reach out to our local kids at Christmas and in the summer. More and more show up on the dance floor now. Every child that has a great folk school experience can help us preserve the school for the future. Continue reading Folk School Holiday Traditions with Nanette Davidson

Quest: Pottery, Printmaking & Family Vacations

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I met Tom Quest over meatloaf dinner in the Dining Hall on Sunday night. We quickly discovered that we were enrolled in the same class: Jim Horton’s “Great American Poster” printmaking class. I discovered Tom is a professional potter and he got his start in clay years ago at the Folk School. He and his family often come here for vacation. This particular week, his wife and daughter were taking felting & dyeing together. I sat down with him to learn a little bit more about his pottery, our class, and why the Folk School is a great place for a family vacation. Enjoy our interview!

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Instructor Jim Horton and Tom decide what ink colors to roll out for the press. Black is always a good place to start!

CP: What made you want to take letterpress printing?

TQ: Well, my family had a lot of things going on this year, and we just wanted to have a nice, restful vacation. The Folk School is one of our big go-to places to come as a family to just kick back and not have the pressure and stress of going to a big city. Its just very relaxing. We like to come here about every other year. So this year, my big pottery show was over with, my daughters wedding was over with, so we just thought, “Let’s go to John C. Campbell!”

CP: Do you take a different subject every visit?

TQ: I’ve taken so many pottery classes, now I try to take other subjects that will help me to branch out. Last time I was here, we did marbling. The time before that I did metal clay jewelry, and that was an interesting class.

CP: How did you get into pottery? Continue reading Quest: Pottery, Printmaking & Family Vacations