Friday, October 18, 2013

Arbutus Folk School opening in Olympia

The Weekly Volcano, Oct. 17, 2013

To the best of my knowledge, Arbutus Folk School opening in Olympia Oct. 19 will be the first school of its type in the Pacific Northwest. The school at 600 4th Ave E will offer classes in such arcane (and common) crafts as Scandinavian knife making, blacksmithing, woodworking, top-bar beehive building, fiber arts, ceramics, and growing and preserving foods.

The core subject areas offered in the first phase of the school’s development will focus on wood crafts, music and storytelling. The second phase will include a pottery studio, fiber arts studio and commercial kitchen. Just a few of the many other classes they plan to offer includes gardening, food preservation and storage, beekeeping, wine/beer making, wooden boat building, folk dance, canoe carving, foraging, food preparation and preservation. 

The public is invited to the grand opening celebration Saturday, Oct 19, from 3-9 p.m. There will be craft demonstrations, kid's activities, live music by Back Porch Swing and a presentation about the folk school. Classes will start the following Monday. 

The school is a work in progress, and not all classes will be available in the beginning. Some of the classrooms are still being built. Most of the woodworking shop is complete and they have a kiln, but some of the ceramics equipment is yet to come and there are walls to knock down and rearrange, stuff still to be built.

The school is the brainchild of Stacey Waterman-Hoey who has worked for Washington State University more than 20 years but quit her job last year in order to pursue her dream of opening this school. She says she is grateful to a “phenomenal team of co-visionaries and co-founders” for helping her bring her vision to fruition.

In addition to classes in a wide variety of crafts taught by some of the best crafts persons in the Puget Sound region, Arbutus will have a small gallery where artworks and hand tools will be displayed and sold, there will be performances and workshops in the spacious front room, and classrooms will be available for rent.

“I have been thinking about it for at least five years,” Waterman-Hoey said. She wanted to get out of working in a cubical and “do something heartfelt.” She kicked around many ideas, but “When I got this idea I knew it was a go.”

Most of the board and volunteers who have been helping to get it started are working for free right now, and a lot of the equipment has been donated. Windfall Lumber donated 2-inch-thick maple woodworking bench tops. 

Arbutus will be using and selling sustainably harvest lumber from small farms in Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties. They have partnered with the Department of Natural Resources to utilize urban waste lumber. 

The blacksmithing classes will be taught by Kelly Rigg, who has taught at South Puget Sound Community College and The Evergreen State College. The Scandinavian knife making with leather, wood and metal will be taught by Tim Nagel, who taught on the East Coast for 15 years. Furniture making will be taught by local craftsperson Jay T. Scott. Kirk Hanson and Matt Newton will teach top-bar beehive building

Most classes will be held evenings and weekends. Waterman-Hoey says “It’s not all Little House on the Prairie.” She says they want to have a lot of activities for families.
For now, Arbutus Folk School looks like a fabulous idea off to a great start, but they have almost exhausted their start-up funds and will need to raise more money to keep it going. For this they will need investors, donors and paying students. Waterman-Hoey is confident they will succeed.

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