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

Travel in the Springtime

This spring, my husband and I embarked on the longest road trip either of us had ever been on. We drove from Greenville, SC to Austin, TX to attend SXSW and exhibit at Renegade Craft Fair. The events that brought us 1,100 miles each way were exciting all on their own, but I have to be honest, the drive and all of the pitstops were quite memorable as well. 

Every time we travel long distances like this, it does good things for my brain. After the playlists get old, and the scenery gets monotonous, that's when my mind starts working. During our long drive west (and back), I developed about 5 new jewelry product concepts, fleshed out 2 new novel ideas, and decided on some major business changes I wanted to implement for my craft biz, Once Again Sam. I owe so much of my inspiration to being utterly bored! 

Seeing new things is also quite inspirational for me. We stopped in New Orleans, made a run out to San Antonio for a day trip, and saw as much of Austin as we could manage in the better part of a week we were there. Here's a little glimpse of some of the sights that have stuck with me long after our return home. 

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If I Were A Hitchhiker

If I ever found myself on the side of a highway with my thumb in the air, I’d like to think I wouldn’t have a destination in mind. I’d like to think I’d go anywhere by way of any route, and that the freedom of the road and whomever was at the wheel would take me somewhere beautiful.

I have never hitched a ride in my life, and thanks to my mom’s words of warning, I’ve never gotten into a car with a stranger. Maybe that’s why the idea of hitchhiking is so interesting to me! I do, however, regularly get into the car with my husband and set off on a drive to nowhere in particular, camera at the ready. We drive aimlessly through the countryside, just for the pleasure of it. When we do these random drives, we always always always find beautiful things in unexpected places, and it’s a joy to photograph these sights because I know it’s my only chance to capture them, we’d never be able to find our way back even if we tried. Dilapidated farm houses, unusual wildlife, amazing cloud formations, abandoned towns...these are all things you can’t plan on discovering, you can’t set out looking for them, you have to come upon them purely by chance.

I experienced a cross country roadtrip vicariously through Nick and Celia’s journey. Although my main characters had no specific route planned for their trip, I got to spend a lot of time looking at maps and deciding where to have their story unfold. I was able to tie in some of my own travel experiences with the story early on in the book, but as Nick and Celia drove on, I got to write about places I’ve never been before, and that was an enjoyable challenge.

Now that the novel is complete and published, I daydream about doing a Nick and Celia road trip and following along with the book to visit all the places they passed through, though I’d prefer not to have to beg, borrow, or steal along the way.