Appalachia Brasstown

Brasstown Blotter – Carving Room

Brasstown-Blotter-March-1949

The Brasstown Blotter was a small publication published in the late 1930s and early 1940s by the John C. Campbell Folk School. In their own words: “The Brasstown Blotter aims to soak up local news, to boost local programs and enterprises, to be interesting reading.”

Today I’m going to share a piece from the March 1949 issue.

CARVING

We, at long last, have a REAL CARVING ROOM–in Keith House the old weaving room–it is equipped with work benches, vises, tables, tools, and room galore, to carve everything from a napkin ring to a big tray! It is really a workshop–whittlings all over the floor. The Veterans carve three days a week, and the community carve three days. The carvings continue to sell and the new folks trying their hand all the time. I wonder how many pieces have been carved since the beginning in 1931? And just how it has helped in supplementing the farm income aside from the satisfaction and pleasure of the carver. It was a wonderful inspiration Mrs. Campbell had when she saw the old bench being “whittled to pieces!”

——

The story goes that Olive Dame Campbell (founder of the folk school) saw men talking and whittling on a bench outside of Fred O. Scroggs’ store in Brasstown and said let’s put your skills to work in a way that will help you and us. Olive brought in folks to teach carving and the Brasstown Carvers were born.

The carvers are still going strong today. Richard Carter, who happens to be one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, manages the carvers today. Richard cuts out all the ‘blanks’ for the carvers to use as they create their beautiful creations.

If you live close enough to attend, Richard leads a free carving class every Thursday night (7:00 p.m.) at the Folk School. The location of his class on the Folk School grounds varies, so if you plan to attend let me know and I’ll find out where it’s going to be that week. If you ever get to meet Richard be sure to ask him about the Folk School and Brasstown in general. Richard has a vast knowledge of the history of both.

Tipper

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Gigi
    July 29, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Tipper, it is interesting. Seeing what a piece of wood can become a beautiful piece of art. On the Rd. Call Baileyton, out from Greeneville Tn. there’s a man carves big pieces of wood into Bears. Just beautiful. In Baileyton use to be a store there, Porters Gro. , outside was a long bench full of old men whittling away. Everyday. It’s closed down last year. My dad use to get a piece of wood, get his knife out pocket and whittle strips downto the ground. They would be a little pile there as i watch him . Sometimes he would use it to start a fire. Miss and love you Dad.

  • Reply
    Frank
    July 27, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    That’s really interesting… I wonder if there are any carvers around the area that carve doors…like a door for the front door of a house…?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 26, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Tipper,
    When I was a girl scout I thought that learning to whittle was the most wonderful thing…My brothers had good knives and Daddy occasionally would whittle a stick while talking to someone…I wanted to make birds, bowls, etc…I even got me one of those little whittle carving knife kits. I soon tired of it because the wood I had didn’t cooperate with my skills…lol
    I have a little Carolina Wren carved by a master carver from our area…I bought it from him years and years ago…I love it. I heard he had orders backed up over a year…He is now gone…I just got lucky when I ran into him one day at a little market where he said he had a bird or two he would part with and not promised…I am so glad…it was meant to be and that little wren with it’s tail popped up, just before hopping rests here on our hill…
    Thanks for the memories Tipper,
    Yes, some classes are expensive at the school…but remember you are learning from the experts in their field. It is not just another Adult education forty-five minute craft night class…Just the environment there is well worth the money…
    I would take them all if I had the time and the means to do so….lol

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 26, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    I love wood and working with wood, and I was just thinking the other day I might try my hand at a wooden spoon one of these days. Trouble is, I’ll save an interesting piece of wood and set it on a windowsill or hang it up in the workshop and then I’ll get so fond of seeing it in it’s natural state, I don’t ever want to cut into it. Does anyone else have “special” chunks of wood all over the place?

    • Reply
      Papaw
      July 26, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      I have many pieces of wood lying around everywhere just wait for me to identify what is contained within them. Crepe Myrtle, Holly and Boxwood are my favorites. I have a few pieces of Oak and Curly Maple. Holly is my wood of choice. It’s hard to work but is makes beautiful pieces of art. I’ve made wooden eggs, rolling pins and fiddle sticks from Holly. I’m am currently working on gearshift knobs.

      • Reply
        Quinn
        July 27, 2018 at 11:22 am

        That’s a nice way of looking at it – identifying what is contained within them! Thank you, I’ll try seeing a piece of wood that way 🙂

  • Reply
    Papaw
    July 26, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Do local people attend the Folk School? I know they work there but I thought the tuition was too high for locals unless they can get some kind of aid. My Aunt Violet worked there back in the late 50s or early 60s but she was a maid or something menial like that. Maybe she got to attend classes too. Aunt Violet was raised over on Needmore, Davis Branch to be exact. She did well and married into money so I don’t know her reasoning but I know she worked there even though she didn’t have to. I remember her taking my whole family on a trip there. That’s the farthest I had been from home at that time.
    Her name was Violet Luman. Please let me know if you or Katie run across her name at the School. Thank You!

    • Reply
      tipper
      July 26, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      Ed-thank you for the comment! Yes local folks do take classes. The folk school has a scholarship program that assists folks who can’t afford it. That’s how The Deer Hunter got to take his blacksmith class a few years back. If we see anything about your aunt we’ll let you know 🙂

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 26, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Tipper,
    When I was young, I watched Ralph Hardin carve Roosters from a Laurel Limb. He’s at an Old Folks home here in Andrews, and can make a Rooster the best I’ve ever seen. Ralph had a bunch of sisters and they all looked like Movie Stars. He only had one brother and I went to his funeral about 3 years ago. They both carried their share of corn and sugar through the Mountains, making Liquor with their daddy. Ralph was about 18 years older than me, but he could cook the best hushpuppies and trout I ever had. He didn’t go hunting, except coon, but he could roll those flies over the water till a big ole trout just couldn’t resist. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 26, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Yep, if there is a knife and wood and time, there is likely to be shavings. And at least some of that whittling on the bench was because a good chore in otherwise idle moments is to sharpen your knife. And then the edge has to be tested on something …

    Which reminds me, anybody ever see those faces carved on branch stubs so there are people peering out?

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    July 26, 2018 at 8:44 am

    So near and dear to my heart! Carving under Jack Hall is what brought me to the Folk School for the first time 41 years ago in June of 1978. We haven’t missed a year since and it really changed our lives.

    • Reply
      Glenda
      July 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      I don’t know about faces on branch stubs. But I’ve seen numerous faces on the big oaks around St Simons island in Georgia. I hope they don’t damage the trees. They sure are interesting.

  • Reply
    Jim
    July 26, 2018 at 6:51 am

    Tipper, what a wonderful memory your post sparked this morning. As a child some of my best memories are listening to the men of our community debate knives as they whittle the bench in front of our county store on summer evenings back in the early 60s.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      July 26, 2018 at 6:44 pm

      I remember going thru Marshall NC on the way up the mountain to see granny…There were always several men sitting’ on the bench in front of the courthouse. As we slowed down before taking the left we had to take, I always observed a little pile of shavings between their feet from the twigs they were whittling…and them just talking’ away while doing so…never missing a lick…Dad said, “They were knife bragging and swapping, and had to bring a new stick to the bench ever morning!” I’m sure they also caught up on all the latest gossip being right there at the courthouse where all the important county business, etc…occurred..

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 26, 2018 at 6:32 am

    The school is a wonderful example of skills most have forgotten. The paper a good example of local news

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 26, 2018 at 5:34 am

    That’s very inspiring, Tip, The Folk School has done a lot to help the area over it’s entire existence. I am in awe of how the school just keeps growing with people coming from all over to learn our country skills.

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