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…
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
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.
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
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.
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!
A big congratulations to Jan Davidson for his honorary doctoral degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN! On October 6, Jan received an honorary doctorate of the fine arts for his accomplishments as folklorist and his leadership of the John C. Campbell Folk School. Jan retired earlier this year after 25 years of leadership.
During his tenure at the Folk School, Jan focused on programming, facility building and renovation, fundraising, historic preservation, and conservation. Under his direction, the school’s annual student enrollment has grown from 2500 students to an average of 6000 students. An accomplished writer, musician, and speaker, Jan has exemplified the Folk School’s mission of providing experiences in noncompetitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening.
When I heard about the eclipse, I immediately thought of watching it in Brasstown: I have friends to stay with, I know where there’s a big, open field, and it’s always nice to be in a special place for a celestial event. So Saturday afternoon, I headed down the road with two friends, Dane and Jessica.
Throughout the day Sunday, more and more people—friends and strangers—arrived at the house until it felt like a large family gathering. On Monday at noon, we walked over to the Folk School and laid out a picnic blanket on the edge of the gardens. If you didn’t get to see the eclipse, here’s what happened.
At 1:05 it began. Everyone put on their eclipse glasses and watched the first tiny edge of the moon appear at the top-right of the sun. Everyone snapped photos of everyone else watching. Someone had a special telescope. Dane taped eclipse glasses to a pair of binoculars. After a minute, I’d retreat to the shade, only to find myself back out there, checking the sun, a moment later. As more of the sun disappeared, people spread white sheets to observe the crescent shaped spots of sun filtering through the trees, or held up pinholes to cast a crescent onto the ground.
At first, the daylight didn’t seem different. I was surprised by how little of the sun it took to make the day bright; even when the sun had been reduced to a crescent, the light seemed almost normal. It did get a little cooler, though, so at 2 p.m. I ventured out into the field. More and more viewers were gathering at the edge of the garden, and I liked the relative silence in the field. When Dane and Jessica joined me, we walked out to the ever-present Folk School hay bales and climbed on.
Around 2:20, the light began to noticeably dim. The barn swallows flew out from their nests at Davidson Hall, swooping to catch insects, but after a minute, they retreated, perhaps realizing that something was not quite right. All around the horizon, the sky grew pink, like a 360 degree sunset. Only a fingernail of sun remained. I took off my glasses because I wanted to watch the darkness set in. Venus appeared overhead, along with two or three other bright stars or planets. Then, in the direction of Field House, there was a deeper darkness, like a menacing storm covering the trees; you could imagine you saw the shadow coming. Then the sun went out.
I looked overhead (no eclipse glasses, time: 2:34:29) and saw the final brightness of the sun still shining out from the left side of the moon. It dimmed and went out, and for a moment everything looked dark, and then the white corona of the sun appeared, with the black disk of the moon at its center.
The corona wasn’t symmetric; there was a complete ring, but it smeared out on the right side, and farther out on the left. It looked unlike anything I’d ever seen. And it was up in the sky—there was no way it was being projected or imitated. It wasn’t like looking at a photo of an eclipse, because there was so much space around it, a whole sky’s worth.
A collective gasp/shout went up from the crowd. I might have whooped. Next to me, Jessica repeated, “That’s so amazing. That’s so amazing,” over and over. But everyone knew we only had 2 minutes and 26 seconds, so no one moved. I looked around at the deep twilight colors—it hadn’t gone pitch black, and only the few bright stars were visible—and then I looked back at the eclipse.
It seemed far too soon when the sky to the right of the moon began to brighten. “Here it comes!” someone warned. A few seconds later, the sunlight burst through. I ducked my head and donned my eclipse glasses, then checked the reappearing sun. But then I found myself taking the glasses off, to see the eclipse again. “I can’t,” I told myself. “It’s gone.” Around me, the darkness was fading fast, the hot sunlight returning. Already it felt over. It felt like the day after my birthday, if I were going to live forty more years and never have another birthday.
There was something real about the eclipse, and later I thought in the same way there is something real about the Folk School. I couldn’t rewind 15 seconds to watch it a little bit more, the same way you cannot hit “undo” when your pottery collapses on the wheel or you break the antler off your deer carving. You must go carefully. Of course, someone could probably simulate a pretty good solar eclipse in a theater, with lights dimming and a small breeze blowing. In the same way, you can buy a machine-woven blanket or a five-dollar basket made by a poorly paid woman churning baskets out in a third-world country. But it’s not the same as a craft handmade with love and care. There’s something deeper that cannot be imitated. We were there at the eclipse with family, sharing the experience. And the eclipse was viewed in the wide-open sky. You might recreate the look of it, but not the soul.
As we came down from the hay bales and shared our thoughts, someone mentioned a friend who’d declined to watch, saying eclipses were nothing special. I could see being disappointed if you stepped away from the office at 2:30, expecting to be awed by the highlight reel of the event. Like a craft, the eclipse was a process, and we’d been there at the start, in tune and watching.
Emily Buehler is the author of this blog and a frequent bread instructor at the Folk School. She became a bread baker in 2001, intending to take a break after finishing a degree in chemistry. Six months later she began teaching bread classes. Emily has written two books: one on bread making called Bread Science, and one about her bicycle trip across America called Somewhere and Nowhere. Visit Emily’s website for more information.
Emily will be teaching bread making class again in October 2017.