Bob and I spent last Sunday night through Sat. morning at the John C. Campbell Folk Art School in Brasstown, NC which is literally a one street town. It’s about 2 1/2 hours north west of us in the mountains. Think of it like camp for adults. It was exciting, educational, fun and exhausting. The drive up and back was so beautiful. The colors are barely starting to turn in the mountains. The campus has about 20 buildings that are classrooms, dining room, community center and lodging.
This is a much longer post than most. Just trust me and read it all. There is a really fun closing story.
The School was established in the late 1920’s based on a Danish education model that had no grading system and was to teach the mountain people the basic skills they needed but not be graded. The community pledged money and time to get the land and buildings started. It was started by two women and named for the husband of one of the women. One night I saw the documentary movie about the history of the school. What strong visionary women and community.
The Folk School is almost one of a kind in the country. They have about 12-15 week long classes each week as well as some weekend only classes. Courses include painting, woodworking, wood turning, black smithing, weaving, broom making, photography, story telling, pottery, stained glass, gardening, music, dance, wood carving, fabric dying, cooking, cheese making, and quilting to name just a few. People come from all over the country and world. We met students from Nova Scotia, Wisconsin, Ohio, California, Texas, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania. The place was full with about 150 students.
I forgot to mention there is no TV anywhere. The only internet access is a wireless connection in the corner of one room in the main building. We did not connect to the internet all week. Sometimes you can get phone service. This is a school, not a hotel. And we loved it. That’s not to say there was not technology withdrawal for both of us but it was good to be disconnected from the grid.
The weekend we arrived they had the annual Fall Festival Craft Show so there were about 150 artists there showing, selling and demonstrating their craft. What a great way to kick off our week.
Here is the schedule of our day:
7:45 Morning Song – We opted out of this.
Alarm goes off at 7:30 (Bob and I brought up two coffee pots, one regular and one decaf, so we could have coffee first thing in the morning. We definitely are not used to getting up that early.)
4:45-6 programs and tours (or in our case a quick nap)
7-9 programs like folk dancers or blue grass singers or work on your project. We listened to some really fine banjo/guitar folk music and singing.
9:15-bed, if you can wait that long. There is so much energy with all the people and excitement that it is also hard to sleep. One night we were in bed before 8:30. We weren’t prepared for just how busy and intense the day would be.
The meals were OK. All were served family style and a couple people from each group of 8 at each table cleared all the dishes to the dish room. I don’t think they were used to quite that many people but the meals always started on time. As you might guess they have a big garden so plenty of fresh vegetables. We really got to know many folks at meal time and got excited about the projects they were working on.
Rooms come in a variety of styles from dorm room of 4-6 who share a bathroom to private sleeping room with shared bath to private room with private bath which is what we had. Best mattress I have ever slept on that wasn’t my own bed. Clean towels once a week, no maid service which didn’t bother us. This was the view from our room. The building is the new wood turning shop. Here is an interesting statement about the culture of the place. The doors to our room didn’t lock. Can you imagine that in this day and age? It works for them.
To build the new wood turning shop and blacksmith shop, blacksmith school is one of the few in the country, wood turners and blacksmith organizations from around the country raised money and came to build the facilities. Talk about cooperation! I thought this was really wonderful.
Bob took a class in veneering and marquetry and he was so pleased at all he learned. Here is a picture of his project. It is 2 feet square. It still needs final coats of finish on it. I think each one of the flowers is 10 pieces. They are all cut at the same time with layers of stacked wood cut on a scroll saw. The squares are purple heart and cherry and the large boarder is oak veneer.
My class was painting. Our instructor was great. There were 5 of us in the class. We painted with watercolors, acrylics, pencil, water color pencil and oil pastels and the painting styles we learned were drawing, fantasy, realistic, abstract and subliminal. I had not done some of these so after I dealt with the idea that I was out of my comfort zone I had lots of fun. I haven’t taken pictures of my painting yet so that will come at a future post.
On the last night there is a big exhibition where we all show our work. I will post some of those photos. It is absolutely unbelievable what the students learn and accomplish in a week.
I would be lying if I said Bob and I weren’t both very nervous and intimidated about going but we got over it and had fun. It is good to be challenged and grow in knowledge and skills.
You might wonder about the cost. All meals, lodging and classes for both of us was a total of about $2500. Bob had a $120 materials fee and I had to bring all my own painting supplies. Of course we could drive to the School which was great. If you want to fly in you could go to Atlanta GA or Asheville, NC. It is a one of a kind experience which you will always fondly remember.
Bob got a special deal through a woodworking instructor and the Woodworkers Guild here in Greenville to do a weekend on wood turning in mid Nov. so he will be back there soon. I really recommend it. It was a wonderful adventure.
One last picture of the beautiful area.
A final fun story. This tiny little town has a huge New Years Eve celebration where they “drop the possum”. Just like dropping the crystal ball in NY they catch a possum, feed it well for a couple days and put it in a cage and slowly lower it at midnight. PETA has gotten in on the story and now is challenging the activity. Read the story and see the video. I suppose the little critter does get scared but then it is released. I also heard they have a very popular T Shirt that says “Possum, the other white meat”.
Are there other places like this? One I have come across and gotten a catalog
for is http://www.arrowmont.org/. It is also close to us near Gatlinburg, TN which is also only a couple hours from us in SC. We have it on our list of things to check out. Early investigation is that it is a smaller program with not as many classes. You also live on site.
I hope I opened your eyes to some new fun learning adventures. Let me know your thoughts.