Thursday, September 23, 2010

John C Campbell School

This is my Usaggi Rakki.

Pam and I went to John C Campbell Folk School last week to take a class with the wonderfully talented and funny Leslie Molen. The doll we were learning was Usaggi Rakki which means Lucky Rabbit. What a great experience the school was, I loved it. I really wasn't sure if I would, but I did! We started out on Saturday 9/11 and drove to Ashville, NC and spent the night. It was quite a long drive, but was a lot of fun. We listened to Harry Potter Audio Book for a while which helped pass the time. We arrived in Ashville about 6:40pm and checked into the Homestead Suites which is nicely located near the highway and downtown. After getting settled we went to dinner at a lovely restaurant, Carmel's. It was a beautiful evening, and the front walls fold back so it is almost like eating outside. The next morning after eating breakfast and checking out of the hotel we went downtown to the Ariel Gallery where they have many of Akira Blount's dolls for sale. They were amazing (amazing price tags too!). We walked through some more galleries and everywhere we looked there were rabbits!! It was definitely a sign of things to come. I really fell in love with Ashville, I could see myself living there when we retire, but there are a few more places on the list, it's too soon to think about that.
We set off on our way to JCC which was a 2 1/2 - 3 hour drive. We drove through the Smoky Mountains - so beautiful - and drove through a gorge in the Nantahala National Forest. It is just so beautiful there! We stopped along the road, there was a river with rapids running through it and plenty of places to rent rafting equipment. It looked like a lot of fun, maybe another time.
We stopped to look at the river and watched some rafters going by, some were even going backwards! But I don't think that was intentional.

We arrived at JCC and registed for our room. We drove down to where our building was and I realized they never gave me a key to get in. Then the person next to us came out of his room as he was unloading his car and I asked about the key. He told me they never lock the doors! What?? Or I should say Whyt?? (I'll explain that later). He assured me there has never been a problem there so, ok, lets just go with the flow.
This is the building we stayed in, it is one of their newer ones. We had a private room and a private bath. Some of the older buildings that people stay in are converted farmhouses and there is a commons room and shared bathrooms. I liked what we got better, and it cost a little more but it was definitely Pam's and my style.

After we moved all our stuff to our room it was time for orientation at the main house. At John C Campbell you walk everywhere, but our walk was quite lovely. From our building, the Field House, to the main building and the dining building was a walk through the woods. There where path lights for when we had to walk in the dark, it really didn't get light until after 7am because the sun had to come up over the mountains. Like I said it was lovely except for one thing - mosquitos!! They were the worst!!! It didn't even occur to me to bring some bug repelent. Where I live they spray for mosquitos the beginning of the summer and I don't deal with them. Well, everyone got eaten alive, so if you go please bring plenty of repelent. During orientation we found out that the week that we were there is called a short week because they have classes on the weekend. I guess they do this once a month. So we only had 4 full days of classes instead of 5. It would have been nice if we knew about it before hand even though we would have gone anyway, but would have known what we were getting into. The best thing of all was that there were only 39 students. They always have at least 100. The small class and the small amount of people in the dining hall was really nice, I don't think I would have enjoyed the dining with a lot more people.
After orientation it was time to eat, they love to eat at JCC, and the chef is excellent. If you have dietary restrictions, or are a vegetarian, or are strange like me and only eat chicken and turkey, no other meat the kitchen staff goes out of there way to accomodate you. A lot of the vegetables that they serve are grown right there, and there is quite a bit of land at the school and a large garden is part of it.
This is a picture of the dining hall, it is light and airy and tons of windows to see the beautiful views outside. We met some really nice people there. At the dining hall is when you really get a chance to meet people other that the people in your class. Most were very friendly, our class sat together and some brave men would come over and sit with us and I think they were happier for it. We were always laughing and talking and having a fun time. We did meet 2 women who usually sat with us. One was Jeanie from Louisiana and she was in the wood turning class. And the other woman was Martha from Tennessee. She was in the Mixed Media class.
They were a lot of fun.

After dinner it was down the pretty path to our room for a night's sleep then down the path again for breakfast and down another path to our studio, which was across the street from our room. There was a lot of walking done that week.
This is a picture of the studio, it seems kind of dark but it had great windows and great light. This is a cute sign above the door.

So we started on our fabulous journey of making our Usaggi Rakki - Lucky Rabbit. This is the first time that I have really used clay. It was an air dry clay - DAS. It is wonderful to work with, I was so proud of myself, it actually looked like a bunny!
These are the parts that I sculpted then let air dry. They were dry enough the next day to work with. We were very lucky with the weather while we were there. It was beautiful, sunny, warm and low humidity. After sculpting it was off to lunch then after lunch we started sewing the bodies because we couldn't work with the heads until the next day.

Here is a picture of the other ladies in my class working away, JoAnn and Kim were in the front row, left to right and Pam is in the back on the left, I was taking the picture. As you can see, the class room was well lit, we each had a table and the extension cords came down from the ceiling. It is a wonderful place to take a class.

The next morning we started out by painting our bunnies.

This is a picture of Leslie showing us how to paint and this is my bunnie's head, ears and paws. We used black acrylic paint for the ears and eyes and the rest of the face, ears and paws were colored with Decorating Chalks - another thing that I had never used. I loved them!! The colors were so soft and you can mix the colors so easily to darken, blend, antique. I ordered a set when I got home!! After coloring the rabbits with the chalks we waxed their heads, ears and paws. Wow, what a difference, it went from looking like clay pieces to porcelaine or even wood. They are really lovely in person. Such a fun, fun way to make a doll.

Then they were put in the window to help them dry.

These are the rabbits waiting for their beautiful outfits to be finished.

Then it was on to finishing the bodies, making the costume and putting in the clay pieces and embroidery. I haven't hand embroidered in a long time and my finger still hurts!!

This is a picture of our class. Someone from the staff of John C Campbell stopped by the classroom everyday to see if things were going well and if the instructor needed anything. She was kind enough to take our picture. Left to right: JoAnn, Pam, Leslie, me and Kim.

There was usually something going on after dinner. This is a picture of a local group that sang some folk songs from the area and also some country songs. It was enjoyable. But, one night they had massages in a massage chair so that was a definite. It felt great, didn't get all the kinks out but it helped. You don't realize how tight your muscles get when you are sewing all day.
Well, Thursday arrived very quickly, and our dolls were done by the end of the day. I have never come close to finishing a doll in class before so I was very excited.
This is Pam, JoAnn and Kim with their finished dolls.

And of course Leslie, I tried to get a nice photo but she hammed it up. She is so funny, she made our time there so interesting, exciting and fun, fun, fun!

One last story about class. This is Kim's rabbit and one of it's ears are turned sideways and Kim thought she looked like she was saying what? Well, that got shortened to "whyt?" said really quickly. It was really funny, but maybe you had to be there. So, that was one of the major tag lines for the week. I think all the other students and instructors thought we were just crazy.

Friday morning arrived and it was time for all the students at JCC to put their work on display for everyone to see. Well, I think all week long all the men thought and said - oh, you're doll makers. I don't know what they were expecting but everyone was so impressed with our rabbits. When I walked in with mine there was a young man and he looked shocked and said - "Oh wow!!" and some of the other men were checking the dolls closely trying to figure if the heads were wood or what they were made of. That made all of us feel pretty good, we worked so hard on the rabbits and they all came out fabulous!!


  1. How wonderful...and your description of JCC makes me want to think about going year? LOL!

  2. Great post Mary. I still haven't hooked my camera up to the computer. Guess I better get at it.

    We really did have a great time and the class was fantastic and Mary, Kim & I are in Leslie's Santos Doll class at AFIC next spring!