Tuesday, October 30, 2007

John C. Campbell Folk School - Day 2

Another wonderful, fantastic day down here in Brasstown, NC. I've decided now, after being here just over 48 hours, that I want to marry this place. The whole she-bang -- the school, the region, the Smokies, the folk art, the folklore, the people, and the spirit that inhabits the area. Forgive me for gushing, but, this place is bliss. I now know I must come here at least once a year in order for my life to feel complete. The dreamer in me wants to move here and stay forever; the pragmatist in me knows that's not possible, currently. Maybe if I meet the man of my dreams and he's willing to retire here and support me while I take classes year-round.... (Hmmm.... How does one word that in a personal ad?)

Seriously, though. It's been a great day.

Yesterday was spent processing our wool -- picking and flicking the "schmutz" out of it, (as our instructor Annie Hall calls it), and then we carded and carded, all the live-long day. I decided that I preferred flicking my fiber with a brush rather than carding it, although I produced enough carded rolags to use for today's drop-spindling. The rest of the flicked fiber I will run through the drum carder tomorrow before spinning it on the wheel, because tomorrow, we do finally get to get our grubby hands on a wheel! I can't wait for my second attempt at wheel-spinning -- I just feel I will be more successful, this time.

If you've been a long-time reader of my blog, you may recall about 18 months ago when I first met Queen Bess, when she gave me very first (and at the time, my only) drop-spindle lesson. That was the last time I'd really touched a drop-spindle, and lately I was sure I'd forgotten everything Bess taught me. But today, it all came back! I get it! I can draft! I can spin! I'm not a pro, but, I get it! And I love it! Even if I never get the hang of wheel spinning, I can see that I might start drop spindling, just for the fun of it. So, thanks a million, once again, miss Bess, for that very first lesson. It was my launch into the world of spinning.

Today, in addition to our drop-spindle lessons, Annie also gave us a demonstration of spinning cotton on a great wheel (aka a "walking wheel"):

This is where I must gush, again, this time about my instructor. I have to admit that, before I came, I was worried about a couple of things. There was a last minute instructor change, because our originally-scheduled teacher had broken her leg. And so I worried that our second-string instructor would not make the grade. I was pleasantly and resoundingly proven wrong, thank God Almighty. Annie is absolutely wonderful. She is a lovely, gentle, positive and encouraging teacher, amazingly funny, (has a hilarious life story to illustrate everything she teaches), and moves the class forward at such a relaxed and flexible pace that we don't feel rushed or tied to a clock. It all flows naturally, effortlessly.

Case in point -- the weather today was so lovely that we couldn't help but move the class outside this afternoon, and Annie was all for it:

I also worried that, since this class was a beginning spinning AND beginning knitting class, that too much time would be devoted to teaching knitting, (a craft I already know), and not enough to spinning, (the reason I came), and I wouldn't feel I'd get my money's worth. But, once again, I was wonderfully proven wrong. On Sunday night, Annie went around the room and asked each of us why we came. Most of us came to learn spinning; a few also wanted to learn to knit. And so, on last night's field trip to Yarn Circle, (outside of our normal class time), Annie taught all the newbies how to knit, and they are now off and on their way as excited new knitters! What a perfect solution to the knitting vs. spinning dilemma.

Annie also taught a wonderful class at SAFF one year called "How to Knit an Appalachian Shawl", and she very generously made us all handouts from that class, which was definitely above and beyond the call of duty. From her incredibly organized and detailed handouts, (not to mention her great classroom instruction), it is clear that this lady is one sharp cookie. She does work in academia at a university, after all. This Thursday afternoon, we get to watch a presentation she prepared for another class called "Knitting: From the Sacred to the Profane", which promises to be incredibly interesting. All along the way, as she teaches us, she throws in lots of fascinating history about fiber arts, and I'm loving it.

My classmates are wonderfully diverse and also add to the joy of the experience. From the tall, beautiful, 20-something Rachel who works at a living history site and is taking the class so that she can be better at her job; to Shari who wants to learn to spin up the llama fiber shorn from her own animals; to Judy, originally from Brooklyn, who is a master embroiderer; to sweet Beryl, the matriarch of the group, who also happens to play the dulcimer. Just a fantastic group of ladies. Here's hoping we can all stay in touch after the week is over.

So, are you tired of my gushing about my class yet? Okay, I'll move on.

Yesterday I mentioned the folk school's craft shop. Today I took a few pictures of it:


just a few of the wonderful items for sale
(yes, even some handspun yarn!)

Since the craft shop is in the same building as the dining hall, I find myself in there at least twice a day, it seems, after the meal is over and before the next activity. So dangerous! Such lovely things -- I want it all. So far, I've only bought a book (A Handspindle Treasury) and a little wooden top that spins and spins and spins -- will come in handy for those long and boring conference calls.... :-)

And speaking of spinning fiber and spinning tops, there was more spinning going on after dinner, in the form of folks spinning around on the meeting hall floor during a Contra-Circle-Square Dance:

whirling dervishes

I went ostensibly just to watch and then go hang w/ my new knitting peeps in another room of the building and knit, but while watching I was asked to dance, and, even though I've got two left feet and kept going the wrong way, I had a blast! My partner knew what he was doing and was very helpful in pointing me in the right direction. I used to think this square dancing thing was for old folks and country bumpkins, but I now see the appeal, and I may just have to look into doing something like this when I get back home. I have friends who square dance and love it. And it's definitely great exercise!

After a long, full day, I'm back in my room at the B&B and need to get to sleep -- the alarm goes off way too early!

So, goodnight, for now! Here's hoping I can blog again tomorrow night.


Robin said...

I bought two of those tops!!! Love the color of them and the spin forever! Sounds like Annie is working out perfectly. So glad! We never stayed / came back for the dances. Not Andy's cup of tea and since I was in a boot... How's the B&B???

Bess said...

OH I am just loving reading this. I wonder if the folk art school can have two wives. I want to marry it too. And you are making me feel like I'm right there - seeing the autumn colors, hearing the music, tapping my toe. Oh thank you thank you thank you!!

Issy said...

Make that three wives! Reading your post, Robin's earlier posts when she and Andy went And reading more on their website I want to go there too!! Even my husband has shown some interest!! Can't wait for more "musings".

jane said...

I love to read about how much FUN you're having!!!!! Jane

LindaM said...

Ditto all of the above comments, Mary. Any chance the school is into poligamy? I'm thinking I'm needing to be wife #4!

And, um... don't you KNIT during all those conference calls??? I was in meetings all day yesterday and knit a, yes, A HAT, from start to finish.

Robin said...

I know you are having SO much fun, I love that area too...very much! Your posts really show what a great time you are having!
A Spinner is Born!!

emmy said...

Hey Mary!!

I am so glad to read about all the fun you are having!! What a wonderful place. Thanks for taking me on such a great trip!

Nikki said...

Oh wow... you're having so much fun!! I'm so envious! I'm really glad your teacher is working out so well!!

rho said...

oh it sounds like you are having teh BEST time! And I want to go too....