A Week at The Folk School

Learning a new craft is irresistible to me. I suppose that’s how I wound up with such a long list of interests, and an even longer list of things I want to learn in the future (which ranges from loom weaving to learning to ride a unicycle). Earlier this month, I did something way out of my comfort zone, and took time off to learn something I knew nothing about. It wasn’t really a vacation, more like an intense work week that left my hands stained and sore, but I’m so glad I didn’t talk myself out of it. I had a pile of reasons to cancel my art camp plans, but the part about “it might be really cool” was what got my butt to Brasstown, NC.

I chose to take a jewelry metalworking course at the John C. Campbell Folk School, a place full of history, simplicity, music from another era, misty mornings, and practically no cell reception. This is the kind of place where you can learn blacksmithing one week, and traditional basket making the next. During the week of my attendance, there were about a dozen other classes occurring simultaneously. My time was spent in an area called “Studio Row” in a building dedicated to jewelry & metals. I’m still blown away by everything I learned in such a short time, but now I feel pressure (the good kind) to continue to take classes whenever I can, because I have an awful lot of things to learn, and an uncertain number of years left to learn them.

I’m already comfortable designing and making jewelry, it’s part of how I earn a living, but working with metal was 100% new to me, so it was a humbling experience to start from scratch, not knowing what would work and what wouldn’t. The instructor, Cindy Moore of www.cooltoolchick.com was extremely knowledgeable and patient, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the medium.

In just a few day’s time, my class of 8 got to try out embossing metals on the rolling mill, torch enameling, forging, soldering, the hydraulic press, cold connections (like rivets), plus cleaning & finishing techniques. We were permitted to focus on our own projects after general instruction, so I was able to skip things like wire working and making beads out of old coins in exchange for more time with the torch annealing and shaping copper, or experimenting with texturing enamel (my personal favorites, out of everything we learned). The curriculum was fairly open, which was perfect since everyone had different interests. I was thrilled to have the option for additional studio time in the evenings after dinner, which always went by way too quickly. That’s how you know you’re having fun - when having to eat or sleep becomes a major bummer because you don’t want to stop working!!

All in all, I made 32 pieces of jewelry. Some aren’t very good. Some I’m extremely attached to, and would love to add to my jewelry line in the future. I’m already making plans to invest in some of the equipment so I can continue material explorations in my own studio with my new found love of metals. I will always work in leather, wood, and wool, but I think metal is the missing element in my work, and I’m thankful to have had the chance to dabble in it just long enough to know I need to dabble more soon.

Some of my finished pieces from the class