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!



6 thoughts on “Folk School – Part Three: Excellence”

  1. This sounds so wonderful! I’m glad you could experience it and then share it with us!

  2. Flowering plant is called Lenten Rose – botanical name is Helleborus orientalis

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