For Beaver, work is play

Staff WriterJuly 24, 2005 

What ever happened to that Busy Beaver from summer camp? The one who finished braiding her lanyard first, then finished three more before you could figure out how to attach the lacing to the whistle-holder?

Well, chances are you'll find that Busy Beaver at one of several craft camps for grown-ups.

The Busy Beaver will go the distance to find a unique craft, finding it wholly worthwhile to drive across the state to Brasstown, 2 1/2 hours west of Asheville -- to the John C. Campbell Folk School, where the beaver can find weeklong and weekend crafts classes, as well as room and board -- just like summer camp when he was a bitty beaver.

Nancy Shroyer, fresh from a post-Hurricane Cindy visit, reports that there was tons of fun to be had. Shroyer, a Busy Beaver her own self, owns Nancy's Knit Knacks, a Cary-based knitting-supply business, and taught a weekend knitting and dyeing class at the school.

"It really was like an adult camp," she said. "I got a room of my own, but most people share rooms like you do at camp -- with a twin bed, little desk, little dresser." Some rooms have a bathroom in them, some share a hallway bath.

The crafts at the folk school include fiber arts, metal arts, music, writing and, the beaver's favorite, woodworking. Another fun class for the beaver: learning to play the musical saw (the catalog says: "Amaze your friends and irritate your enemies with the musical saw.") If honing the music doesn't work out, he can always use to saw to build a dam.

Class size varies -- Shroyer's had 12 -- and can call for varying levels of ability; check the school's catalog for recommendations.

"I know the saw people had never played saws before," Shroyer says.

During camp, there was no short-sheeting of the beds, Shroyer said, but there was plenty of communing on the porches and in the main hall. And a gaggle of knitters headed down to the local bar to do their homework.

"What's really nice is staying in a single location," Shroyer says. "You're not trying to get home and make dinner."

For Shroyer, it was a luxury to spend so much time with students: two hours Friday night and Sunday morning, and all day Saturday, with an optional Saturday night studio.

"People did come back and knit and we chatted," Shroyer said. The facilities were fabulous, she added, with lots of good lighting and tables to sit around, as well as an abundance of fiber tools on hand.

"It was really, truly the best place I've ever taught as far as the facility," Shroyer said.

Like any summer camp, the food is an issue.

"Oh my gosh, the food," Shroyer said. "I don't know how you could go for a week and not be rolling out of there."

Dinner is served family-style, so you can commune with crafters taking different classes. And recipes are available for all the dishes, so you get a side of culinary arts, too.

"You're at this place where everybody else is involved in learning something," Shroyer said. "It was a very sharing, nurturing, noncompetitive environment."

Best of all, classes run year-round, so if you miss summer camp, you can go in winter. And if you happen to be in Western North Carolina for other reasons, stop by for a day visit. You can't take a class, but you can check out what's what in the Crafts Shop.

Other places to check out for long-term classes include Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Swannanoa Conference at Warren Wilson College near Asheville.

Busy at the beach

Even while gathering seashells by the seashore with the family, the Busy Beaver is fashioning them into necklaces and lampshades. Photographs are already mounted in the summer scrapbook, surrounded by sweet quotes and stickers. To help get a boost on these, Fort Fisher Aquarium is offering several craft classes, including making a frame with seashells and making T-shirts using the ancient method of Gyotaku -- that is, slapping a painted fish onto a T-shirt -- ah yes, the more unusual, the better for the Busy Beaver. And they do like to slap wet things around.

For a craft fix closer to home, the Busy Beaver likes to take classes at the local arts councils in Durham, Raleigh, Orange County and Carrboro.

A bit farther east, Pocosin Arts in Columbia holds a Cabin Fever Reliever in February, featuring quilting, pottery-making, weaving, jewelry-making and performing on stringed instruments. It's a sleepover camp, too, so pack your footie jammies so you can get to the top bunk first.

Staff writer Marcy Smith Rice can be reached at 829-4765 or mrice@newsobserver.com

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