By Jane Izard

Have you ever wanted to learn how to create a basket with a shed mule deer antler? What about the ancient art of charcuterie? Or turn a bamboo rod into a stream-ready fly rod? How about create lost-wax cast jewelry? Learn to play the fiddle? One can learn to do all this and more at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. With more than 880 weeklong and weekend classes offered every year, one is bound to find a course — if not several.

The John C. Campbell Folk School, or simply “The Folk School,” was founded in 1925 by Olive Campbell and Marguerite Butler. The two ladies spent more than 18 months studying folk schools in Denmark, Sweden and other European countries before settling in Brasstown to start their experimental school. Based on the principles of the Danish folkehojskole — literally, “folk high school” — movement, the goal was to bring together adults of different social backgrounds and educate them in a noncompetitive environment. With no grades or tests, students and teachers instead formed a community that works together to help each other advance in various Appalachian Mountain crafts. Today the principles are still the same, with the school offering an extraordinary combination of classes, beautiful mountains surroundings and an atmosphere of collective learning.

There is so much offered that I cannot speak with authority about the many things there are to do at the Folk School. A class day can involve a morning walk (guided or unguided) before Morningsong — a Danish custom of music, storytelling and singing lead by a different person ever morning. Classes are held between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (including a lunch break) with optional studio time in the evening. Class limits are usually set at 12 and designed to have demonstrations, individual instruction and time to work at one’s own pace. Optional activities are scheduled every day late in the afternoon and after dinner. Choices range from learning to contra dance, attending a concert, or visiting a local artist studio. Instructors also offer demonstrations, inspiring students for what class they may want to take next. Workshops conclude with a student exhibition, with each class setting up work on tables around the main hall.

The school offers classes in 46 different subject areas, from basketry and metalwork to painting and writing; students choose one area to focus on per visit. Most courses run for a week, but there are also weekend and longer offerings. Weekend classes are a great way to get a “taste” of the Folk School. It is an abbreviated version of what to expect in a week.

Prices vary by program — most weeklong courses are $442, plus materials. The cost of room and board depends on the type of lodging chosen. For example, meals and a shared room with bath for five nights can range from $392 to $606. Day-trippers can visit the campus and the school holds concerts, dances, a festival and auctions that are open to the public.

Immersing oneself in a weeklong or weekend of creativity is a fantastic way to restore the soul. The spirituality that takes place while engaged in making something is one I encourage (and dare) everyone to experience this year. To learn more about The John C. Campbell Folk School, please visit

Jane Izard is a freelance graphic designer, writer and photographer; she grew up in Charleston and may be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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