This week we are enthusiastic students at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
For 90 years this school has been teaching the lost arts of hand crafts – baskets, blacksmith, broom, caning, clay, dyeing, enamel, felt, jewelry, lace, leather, painting, quilting, soaps, spinning, weaving, woodworking, and so on. Each craft has a dedicated building or studio and the campus is spread out over several hundred acres. Lighted paths are threaded through the woods and along open meadows and most folks walk to class.
Programs are a week long and each week has a theme. We are here during Scandinavian week, so all the classes, food, and entertainment are centered around Nordic traditions. Tim is learning Viking style blacksmith techniques. His first project is to forge an axe head from a single billet of steel.
My project is Swedish Birch Bark Basketry, and I’m starting with a round canister basket project. The birch bark is surprisingly soft and supple and is sewn together much like leather work.
There are 115 students here this week, nearly a full house. Participants can choose lodging and meal packages for their stay. Room accommodations range from private cottages to not so private dormitories. It’s a bit like summer camp for adults. You can wander in and out of class or return in the evening after supper if you’re really dedicated.
Meals are served family style in the dining hall. Tables seat 10 and giant bowls of steaming food are served to each table…help yourself and pass the butter. Folks in the blacksmithing classes are encouraged to sit together and are served a little extra because “Those guys are a hungry bunch!”
The central meeting place, Keith House, has lively entertainment scheduled each evening, from storytelling to live music to contra dancing. There’s even yoga classes and chair massages offered several times during the week. We intend to enjoy it all this week!