Friday, February 10, 2017

What's Raspberry Island Folk School?

Hello! We are Gary and Janet Hill, the only human residents of Raspberry Island on beautiful, historic Big Sandy Lake, about 2 1/4 hours straight north of the Twin Cities. (For more information about life on Raspberry Island, see

We started offering summertime classes in blacksmithing and pottery on the island several years ago, mainly taught by Gary himself. Over the years, we've expanded our offerings to workshops taught by well-known and sought-after instructors in the folk arts.

Class offerings and sign-up information are provided below. We look forward to having you join us for an art and nature break!

Summer Workshops 2017

This summer we'll be offering the following workshops, and are honored to welcome these top-notch instructors:

Tapered Socket Hewing Hatchet (or Battle Axe option) 
Instructor: Tom Latané 
June 12, 13, 14

The National Ornamental Metal Museum named Tom Latané  its 2013 Master Metalsmith, and hosted a display of his work at its Memphis museum that year. The museum’s executive director, Carissa Hussong, wrote of Tom, "Latané is the epitome of the artist blacksmith." 
Tom will be 
at Raspberry Island this summer to teach a three day class on making a Norse hatchet with tapered socket eye. Students will work in pairs striking for each other to produce an axe with a tapered socket eye for each participant. The design is a modification of a pattern developed by Håvard-Bergland to reproduce a 17th century battle axe belonging to his family. The battle axe would be an alternative option to the hewing hatchet.

The socket will be forged from 3/8" x 4" stock and the forge welded socket will be welded to the blade (1/2" thick) with a high carbon bit welded in place. (Some experience forge-welding would be helpful.) Axes will be pickled in vinegar, filed, and punch decorated (if desired) before hardening and tempering. 

Course fee: $225 plus materials fee
Limited to 12 students

Instructor: Kitty Latan

June 12 and/or 13  9:00 to 4:00

Early European settlers liked tinware because it was inexpensive, lightweight, and shiny. No experience is necessary for this fun class, just a willingness to learn a centuries-old tradition. 

Kitty Latané will be teaching tinsmithing classes on the island on the same dates as Tom's class (above).  Projects will include punched tin votive light holders, miniature tinware jewelry, and nutmeg graters. Students will decide which item they want to learn each day from the following choices:

- Votive candle holder
- Tinware jewelry
- Nutmeg grater

Course fee: $75/day
Limited to 6 students

Watercolor Painting: Beginner and Intermediate

Instructor: Ann Rorem
Saturday, June 17, 9:00 to 5:00

Minnesota watercolor artist Ann Rorem attended the University of Minnesota, where she studied art with a focus on watercolor. She has been a painting instructor for over twelve years, and taught at the Eden Prairie Community Center before moving to our lake (lucky us!).

Ann will lead you in creating this lovely summer vine painting. She'll show you how to work with multiple transparent layers of color as well as blending colors on your paper, techniques that you can use with your own creations after you've learned them from Ann. 

A materials list will be provided when you register. 

Course fee: $85
Limited to 6 students

Watercolor Painting: Lights in the Sky
Instructor: Ann Rorem
Friday, July 14, 1:00 to 5:00

Come spend an afternoon working in watercolor to create those elusive aurora borealis that we are so fortunate to see in our northern night skies. All levels welcome. Materials list will be sent upon registration. Local artist/instructor Ann Rorem with be your guide.

Course fee: $35
Limited to 6 students (minimum 3) 

Watercolor Painting: Favorite Time of the Day
Instructor: Ann Rorem
Friday, August 4, 1:00 to 5:00

We are at the peak of summer and our days are filled with outdoor fun in the sun and water.  Let's take it down a notch and settle in for a bit and enjoy a quiet sunset. Join local artist/instructor Ann Rorem for an afternoon of quiet indulgence in painting sunsets. Materials list will be sent upon registration.

This class has been canceled.

The Magic of Paper Marbling
Instructor: Rebecca Heimark
Saturday, July 15, 9:30 to noon 

This is an introductory class for paper marbling:  the ancient art of dying paper. Each paper produced is unique. This technique was often used historically in book binding, and to prevent forgeries of important documents.  The beautiful paper can be used for note cards, decorating boxes, and gift wrap. All supplies provided. 

Course fee: $35, includes all materials
Limited to 6 students (minimum 3)
This class has been canceled.

Wooden Spoon Carving
Instructor: Fred Livesay

July 29 and 30

Spoon carving is what might be called a gateway to green woodworking. Seemingly simple, the spoon is a seductive and functional piece of sculpture rooted deeply in the common wooden culture of our ancestors. Spoons reached their highest forms of development in Scandinavia where they were in daily use from well before the Viking era until the 1950s in rural areas.

During your two-day exploration, you will learn traditional safe knife strokes and safe practices from one of the America's best spoon carvers.  You will begin on small projects, then move to spoons.  Discussion and hands on demonstrations will focus on design, proportions, knife sharpening, decorating and finishing.  This class requires some hand strength.

Course fee $150 
Materials fee:  $20.00 includes tool usage, practice wood & spoon blanks
Limited to 8 students (minimum 5)

If students wish to, they may bring their own tools or they may purchase the following:

  • Mora carving knife (120 or 106)
  • Scorp or hook knife available from ( get your order in early
  • Sharpening stones if they have them (also available from
Bring favorite old or new wooden spoons to share with the class.

Traditional Norwegian Knife and Sheath Making

Instructor: Kjetil Groven
August 11, 12, 13

Acclaimed Norwegian knife-maker Kjetil Groven will be teaching a 3-day class, forging traditional Norwegian 3-layer knife blades. You will heat-treat and grind the blades, then set them in a wood handle that you will shape and stain. If time allows, you will make a traditional leather sheath; if not, Kjetil will demonstrate all the steps so that students can finish the sheath on their own, if desired. 

Course fee: $225 plus materials fee
Limited to 12 students

In addition to the listed classes, Gary Hill also offers introductory classes in blacksmithing and pottery (contact us for dates; we will do our best to arrange them when you are available). Stay tuned for additional day-classes. If you have a request, please let us know!


Photos of Classes and Class Projects

Tom Latane's hammer class, 2016

Getting started on a sunset painting in Anne Rorem's class, July 2017
A few results from Kitty's tinsmithing class
Kitty Latane's tinsmithing class, June 2017
Fred Livesay shows how to rough out a spoon from green birch, using a hatchet, July 2017

Student work from Fred Livesay's spoon carving class, July 2017

Knife handles soaking in oil overnight -- Kjetil Groven's Nowegian knife-making class, September 2017
Kjetil Groven's knife students. Kjetil is in the top row on the left. 
Knife students working on leather sheaths
The crew at Tom Latane's hewing axe class, 2017

Gary's barn door latch

The bathroom latch in the main house

Detail from one of the guest cabins

Hammer from Tom Latane's hammer class 2016

For more photos, check out the link below. These were taken by Grant Stromgren at our axe-making class with Tom Latane in June 2017. (Disclaimer: Grant gives permission to use any of these photos for personal use, but please do not take personal credit or sell any of these photos. Additionally, do not use them for business or commercial needs unless you ask permission from Grant first, via email to Gary Hill (

Contact and Sign-up Information

Raspberry Island is located on Big Sandy Lake, about 10 miles north of McGregor, MN, just off Highway 65. Our landing is at 50569 218th Place (see map below). This is where our dock is, and where we will pick you up when you arrive. There is parking available. 

Mailing address and phone:

Gary and Janet Hill
50569 218th Place
McGregor, MN 55760

Gary's cell phone:  218.851.6085
Janet's cell phone: 218.259.4090

To sign up for a workshop:

1)  Contact us at, or call or write (see address and phone numbers above) to make sure there is space in the class.

2)  When you get the go-ahead, send a check (sorry we don't take credit cards) made out to "McGregor Community Ed, ISD #4." Include your email address and the name of your class. We will keep you informed of what to bring and when the class minimum is reached. 

-- To teach a class or suggest an instructor, email us at --

Driving directions:

From the south: From the Twin Cities, follow Highway 65 to McGregor (about 2 hours north). Driving north out of McGregor, MN on Highway 65, go about 9 miles. You'll pass Zorbaz restaurant on the right, and Eagle Point Resort after that. When you come to mile marker 127, start looking for a sign that says "Bridge Road." Turn right on Bridge Road (the street sign is Long Point Place). Go 1/2 mile, and turn left on 218th Place -- this is the first opportunity you'll have to turn left. Go a couple tenths of a mile, and you'll see our mailbox: 50568 218th Place. The best way to park is to continue up the road and turn around, and come back to park on the lake side of the road. Be sure to leave room for the postal worker if it's a weekday.

From the north: Coming south from Jacobson on Highway 65, you'll see Big Sandy Lake on your left. You'll pass the overlook/memorial on your left, and Fisherman's Bay tavern on your right, and then you'll need to start looking for a sign that says "Bridge Road." Turn left on Bridge Road (the street sign is Long Point Place). Go 1/2 mile, and turn left on 218th Place -- this is the first opportunity you'll have to turn left. Go a couple tenths of a mile, and you'll see our mailbox: 50568 218th Place. The best way to park is to continue up the road and turn around, and come back to park on the lake side of the road. Be sure to leave room for the postal worker if it's a weekday.