Folk School – Part Five: Leaving

The whole experience at the John C. Campbell Folk School was so great, I didn’t want to leave.

So I didn’t.

Okay, I admit I was already booked to stay an extra night to avoid having to pack up and move back to the Holiday Inn before my Sunday flight out of Chattanooga, but still. I was delighted to prolong the Folk School high. I just didn’t expect it to be so lonely.

I had spent some time Saturday with Mom in Murphy, dodging raindrops and browsing galleries and shops, but then I drove back to the Folk School to start packing and to take advantage of a pause in the rain to shoot a few final photos.

The sudden quiet was a little unnerving after the bustle of the week, and I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself in the evening after I got back from one last dinner with Mom and Dick. My wine buddies had all gone home. But then I noticed a flyer that there was to be contra dancing that night in the Community Room. I decided to go watch.

Well. That’s not really how they do things at JCCFS. You don’t watch. You do. So next thing I knew, people were introducing themselves and teaching me the steps, and I danced until I begged for a pause to get a drink of water. It wasn’t hard to pick up, although I had a few random lurches in odd directions. But as the caller said, if you didn’t do what he called, it wasn’t wrong. It was different. So much fun, and I’m glad I went, but I ducked out early to finish packing up.

Sunday morning, the sun was breaking through as I loaded the rental car and drove down the hill to Keith House to make myself a cup of tea and bid the place farewell.

At some point during the week, digging through the heavy bag I carried to and from the painting studio, I noticed in the bottom a small, smooth, black rock, the perfect size to fit in the palm of my hand. It startled me at first, seeing it there, but I knew what it was. It was a grief rock, given to me during my earliest grief counseling in a group for the newly bereaved. It was meant to be something solid to hang onto, something smooth to soothe the ache. But it also had a little weight to it. I had another one at home on David’s dresser. That one was not going anywhere. Not anytime soon. But this one? Did I really want to continue carrying a memento of grief with me everywhere I went? No, I decided. I was ready to let it go.

So in the freshness of a glorious sunny Sunday morning after a week of rain, before I got in my car to drive away, I held it in my hand for a moment, then I left that stone among the daffodils just beginning in earnest to raise their heads and shine with gold.

I left something behind that needed leaving, but I brought home so much more. And I’ll be back. I hope to see you there with me someday.

Folk School – Part Four: Happy Clappy

The week flew by, and by midday Friday we were all choosing and/or finishing a few examples of our work to display in the Community Room for what the schedule calls “Closing Ceremony” but people actually call “Happy Clappy.” Love that. Here’s where we could finally see what had been produced in all the various studios. Like these bowls from the woodturning class:

And this candelabra from Metalworking, which happened to be “Hammered Copper in the Arts and Crafts Style” this week (by one of my housemates, Stuart Lenz):

And this table from Woodworking:

I showed you in the last post some of what they were making in blacksmithing. There were also classes in glass fusing, clay tile making, hand-stitched book binding, mountain dulcimer, and more.

Here’s the display from my watercolor gouache painting class:

Painting class display for Happy Clappy — Mine are the three on the far right, starting at the top.

Here’s a better shot of my “Loose Goose Spruce” painting, so called because the brush I used is called a Loose Goose brush.

I wanted you to see it, because just after we got everything set up, a woman from the fused glass class came over and asked me if I sold my work. What?! I was so discombobulated, I think I said, “Uh,” and turned around and walked away laughing to tell Mom and Kathy! Excellent salesmanship, right? But she was persistent. When I wandered back toward the painting display, she said, “I’m serious. Give me a price. And take a photo, because I’m leaving here with it.” So I sold it to her. She made my day. I was smiling so much my cheeks hurt.

Then Kathy said, “I can just see David going, ‘Yes!'” as she pumped her fist. As soon as she said it, I could too, so the tears threatened, but I didn’t stop smiling. I think I floated to dinner.

Then we all came back to the Community Room for a mountain dulcimer concert with Don Pedi, which included hilarious stories and flying-finger tunes with catchy titles like “Jenny Broke Her Wooden Leg A-Dancing at the Ball” and “I Love My Wife As Well As Anybody, But When My Back Is Turned, She’s A Huggin’ Everybody.” You can click on his name above for a link to his website, or search for him on YouTube, and you should, but neither will quite capture the fun of his live performance. It was the perfect cap to an evening called “Happy Clappy.” There was a lot of both.

Wishing you many happy-clappy evenings of your own!

(One more JCCFS post to go!)



Folk School – Part Three: Excellence

As you know if you’ve read the last several posts, I just spent a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and what a joy it was. It didn’t even matter that it rained all week. The people were warm and friendly. The teachers, highly skilled craftspeople all, were nevertheless patient and encouraging. The weather, though wet, was warm, and the grounds were beautiful and blooming.

View from Keith House
Anyone able to identify this flower?

I didn’t have much chance to hike around snapping photos, but here are a few I managed between deluges:

And yes, that is a giant tree in the bottom right photo that fell over due to the soggy soil. Yikes. On the plus side, I got to wear my fab plaid rain boots all week and splash through the muck like a little kid.

Folk School Motto — See the rain on this truck’s door? I don’t think it dried all week!

Mostly, though, the classes were so interesting, we didn’t mind being inside. If you need more convincing, check out this great video. As well as excellent instruction . . .

This is Kathy, showing us how to vary the values (lights and darks) in our painting of the bluebird.

. . . there were several demonstrations offered after studio hours, so Wednesday evening Mom and I braved a downpour to check out what went on at the blacksmith shop. Here’s Paul Garrett, resident blacksmith at the Folk School, during a demonstration for those like me who had only a vague image of blacksmithing as just heating stuff up and banging on it with a hammer:

Okay, yes, technically he is banging on hot stuff with a hammer, but of course there’s a lot more to it than that. The temperature of the steel, the timing of the quenching, the tool used for striking, the placement of the strike, the position on the anvil, all come into play. And more, I’m sure. I still know next to nothing about it. I can’t even promise I have the vocabulary right. But check these out. Here’s what he was teaching the blacksmithing class to make:

Exquisite. The evening of the demonstration, in about 45 minutes, he made a simple square-edged nail, a beautiful little hook for hanging on a wall, one of the delicate ginkgo leaves you see above, and then showed us how to fashion the perfect twist you’ll find on a lot of wrought iron railings. Bonus: Here’s part of the building where he gets to work:

Staircase in the blacksmith shop

So much beauty and excellence everywhere you looked. Once I could take my eyes off myself and my fears and inadequacies, there was so much to admire and appreciate. If you know me at all, you know opportunities for gratitude are some of my favorite things.

So, thank you, Kathy Chastain, for cheering us on, for showing us the same thing multiple times until we got it, and never letting us give up on a painting.

Thank you, Deborah Rossi–book binder, repairer, and conservator extraordinaire–for the fascinating demonstration of limp vellum binding and the intricate hand stitching required.

Thank you, Paul Garrett, for the fun, fiery demonstration on that rainy evening, and for patiently re-explaining, when I accosted you at breakfast, various details I didn’t get the first time around. (And thanks for making us wear safety glasses!)

While I’m thanking people, thank you to my fun housemates, Linda Martin, Sarah and Stuart Lenz, and patient David Frick, who rarely joined us, but never complained if we were up a few minutes past the 10:00 p.m. Quiet Hours deadline.

And, of course, thank you, everyone at JCCFS who makes these weeks possible. We’re not done yet! Next up, Happy Clappy.

Wishing you endless opportunities to appreciate excellence!