North House Folk School was a wonderful experience for me, as I wrote about when I described my recent sweetgrass basketry class. The school started with Mark Hansen teaching interested area residents a skin-on frame Inuit kayak, and with the enthusiasm of the community, progressed to the founding of the North House in 1997 to teach traditional northern hemisphere crafts. “North House is inspired by Scandinavian ‘folkeshoskoles,’ developed in Denmark during the mid-1800’s; life-long skills and traditions shared in a non-competitive environment are the foundation of the folk school concept.” There are currently about 350 courses held at North House. During this two day class, there were also two different bread baking classes using the outside wood-fired ovens and the inside kitchen, a ukulele building class, and a crooked knife class (a type of drawknife) which included forging and woodworking.
I wrote about the history of Swedish traditional craft for the American Craft Council, for our Library Salon about Swedish Holiday Slöjd (handcrafts) in December 2012. Dr. Faith Clover, who taught art education at the University of Minnesota, spoke about the tradition of handcraft-based education in Sweden, and spoke of taking as many classes as possible at North House. Following her presentation, staff from the American Swedish Institute led the audience in creating wire and bead ornaments.
Taking classes beyond beading is a cross-pollination of sorts. My experience with needle and thread and tendency towards precision definitely shortened my learning curve. I do hope to make more baskets, especially sweetgrass. (I have some cattails in my workroom, something that you can find with the snow cover, that I’d like to try with the same style of basketry.) I also was excited to continue the intensity of making when I returned home, and spent hours beading. I’ve completed one project, put away (some) supplies, and have a selected reasonable list of projects I would like to bead next.
How to find classes? We all probably know the classes available in our town, through stores and perhaps art centers. There are bead retreats, often sponsored by bead teachers, bead stores, or bead societies. I would like to encourage you to occasionally think more broadly, try something new, and if you can, make your own retreat. Grand Marais, Minnesota was a wonderful place for this, even in the depth of winter. It’s a beautiful place, with many art venues beyond what its size suggests.
An ongoing project that I am doing for the American Craft Council is a listing of schools with craft workshops and classes. “This directory is a selective list of schools that offer workshops and/or courses in craft along with a broad sample of mediums for each program. Some of these schools may also offer degree and/or certificate programs in craft arts. Course catalogs for each of the programs listed below are available through the schools’ websites.”
Schools are described by the media they teach. Beading is a fiber art, making beads is glass. But please consider trying something new. Making something new may be just what you need.