Leather Outback Hat with Donna Wiggins

Here’s Olga, a Work/Study student wearing the Leather Outback hat sample created by Donna.

Learn how to make a stylish and practical leather outback hat in Donna Wiggins’ upcoming class, Stylish Leather Hat for Men or Women. You don’t have to have a trip to the Australian outback planned to rock this rugged hat which will shade you from the sun and keep you cool whether you are in the bush, at a festival, or on a walk through the woods. Continue reading Leather Outback Hat with Donna Wiggins

Living a Crafty Life: My Interview with Kay Patterson

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Kay teaching int the Jewelry Studio
Kay teaching in the Jewelry Studio

Kay and Tom Patterson are teaching Hand Engraving here in the Jewelry Studio this week. You can find Kay teaching many times throughout the year at the Folk School in a variety of subjects including Jewelry, Metalwork, Felt Making, Enameling, and Shoe Making. She also supports the school’s Enameling and Hot/Warm Glass programs as Studio Assistant. I sat down with Kay to learn a little bit more about her life, inspirations, and her crafts. Enjoy our interview!

CP: How did you first become involved with the Folk School?

KP: Tom and I had moved here in 1992 from southern Oregon and didn’t even know about the Folk School at the time. At the time, Tom was working as a hand engraver for a signet ring company. That allowed use to live anywhere we wanted to because his work was all by mail. I was working for a florist when I got word that the Folk School wanted someone to answer the phone on the weekends (this was before the era of cell phones). When I worked one Saturday overnight, I stayed Keith House and the dance was happening. I met people in the community and would watch the dancing, and that was the first thing that got me curious about the Folk School. I was interested in both craft and music.

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A variety of recycled jewelry pieces made out of copper and recycled materials (L-R: Pin by Kay; hair pin made by Leah Dolgoy, a student’s pin in progress).

Continue reading Living a Crafty Life: My Interview with Kay Patterson

Make a Puppet, Make a Pal! with David Stephens

The class display at Show and Tell (2013)

If you are looking for a unique class at the Folk School that incorporates visual art, mixed media, and performance into a week of puppet fun, check out David Stephens class Hand-and-Rod Puppet Construction (April 10-16, 2016). When David teaches his class, an infectious feeling of whimsy, fun, and joyful energy permeates the campus. David has been a puppeteer and puppet maker for over 20 years and is founder of All Hands Productions in Atlanta, GA. I sat down with David during his last class here at the Folk School to find out a little more about the magic of puppetry.

David with his new alien creation

CP: Is the person who creates the puppet usually the puppeteer?

DS: Some people are just builders, and some people are just performers. I do both and I feel like I am a more informed builder, because I am a performer, and vice versa. Understanding the mechanics of how the puppet is made makes me a better performer. Thinking like a performer makes me a better builder, because I know what I want the puppet to be able to do. It can be a symbiotic relationship.

I like the visual art aspect just as much as the performance part. Making a puppet from scratch is very gratifying. You take this idea in your head and realize it in three dimensions, which is pretty cool.

CP: Describe what a week is like in your Hand-and-Puppet Construction class.

DS:  For the first few days, everybody is making the same basic form. By the end of the week, students are creating their own characters, using their imaginations to come up with different facial feature combinations. The personalities of the puppets start to come out later in the week. You see this extreme change in the room from things that look very much the same, to very distinct looking characters.

The difference between the puppets that I make and the puppets that these students make is about 20 years of experience. We are all working with the same basic pattern. Experience is the only difference; otherwise we are making the puppets from exactly the same patterns and materials. Continue reading Make a Puppet, Make a Pal! with David Stephens

From Soap to Nuts: Soap Making with Dr. T

Tim Tyndall teaches Soap Making in the Wet Room
Tim Tyndall teaches Soap Making in the Wet Room

When I was a Work/Study in 2011, one of the classes I chose for my work/trade was Dr. T’s Soap Making class. For a total beginner, the class was an amazing introduction to the chemistry and art behind creating your own customized cold process soap batches. Dr. T (aka Tim Tyndall) teaches Soap Making regularly at the Folk School. I’m a huge fan of Tim and his soap… Enjoy our interview.

Checking the temperature of the milk and lye.
Checking the temperature of the milk and lye.

CP: How did you become involved with the Folk School?

Dr. T: About 10-12 years ago, Charlotte Latin School bused their 8th grade “graduates to be” to the Folk School for a celebration where students could choose 2-4 classes over a 2-day period. A parent who had been a customer and attended one of my demonstrations here at the Soap Shed, suggested to someone at the Folk School that they contact me to do Soap Making segments for the Latin students.

The Folk School contacted me and I came down to initiate a soap class experiment. Things went well; the students were pleased; I had fun; and I was asked to propose what regular soap classes might look like for the curriculum. Soap Making classes have been a part of the “curriculum” since then. I guess I have kinda been the “lead dog,” so to speak.

CP: Why do you like teaching at the Folk School?

First and foremost, I have always loved teaching. I have been an educator and administrator at all levels from private high school, community college, and university, focusing in science. I live in Spruce Pine, NC where we have the Penland School of Crafts and taught in Rome, Georgia, home of the Berry School. These schools, like JCCFS and Berea, focus on the goal of helping mountain or rural people marshall their skills and talents from generations of practice towards economic gain and enrichment for themselves, their families, and their communities.

I expected this would be the “Spirit of the Folk School” which I so richly enjoyed my first visit. To be a part of that AND to share some of my self taught skills as a contemporary soap maker is a most satisfying endeavor. I have learned much “Lore” and have a cadre of stories about the history of soap making as a foundation craft in an earlier time and an artisan craft today. I teach because it is FUN and I love seeing my students accomplish things they came to the school thinking they could not do or understand. They surprise themselves and give a thrill at the same time. That’s why I like teaching at the Folk School.

Continue reading From Soap to Nuts: Soap Making with Dr. T

Asia to Appalachia: Japanese Influence at the Folk School

Bonsai by Tim Ryan
Bonsai by Tim Ryan

Japanese aesthetic philosophy inspires us all the way from the Far East to the Folk School. Radically different from Western design, Japanese design principles mesh especially well with the Folk School due to an emphasis on simplicity, unobtrusive beauty, function, irregularity, weathered textures, nature, and tranquility. Cultivate a bonsai, write a haiku, try Ikebana flower arranging, learn about traditional Shibori dyeing, demystify Asian spices, create raku vessels for a Japanese tea ceremony and much more at the Folk School. Embrace Wabi-Sabi and Zen philosophy with these 2015 offerings focusing on Japanese design and techniques:

Beading by Judy Walker
Beading by Judy Walker

Beaded Kumihimo
with Judy Walker • February 1-6

Learn to do kumihimo – the beautiful Japanese braiding technique – with beads! Use a braiding disk for consistent results, starting with the easiest cords. Progress to more intricate designs and discuss the various results achieved with different materials and with the traditional marudai stand.

Haiku Poetry Writing Workshop
with Redenta Soprano • February 6-8 Weekend

Haiku Poetry by Redenta Soprano
Haiku Poetry by Redenta Soprano

Haiku is a traditional Japanese poem, consisting of 3 lines and 17 syllables. It is easy and fun to write, as well as an expedient, creative way to capture life’s special moments. Try your hand at it, using the winter beauty of the mountains as inspiration. Bring your powers of observation and depart with a:

Small book of haiku
At the end of the weekend
To take home with you! Continue reading Asia to Appalachia: Japanese Influence at the Folk School