Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What's Raspberry Island Folk School?

Update -- May 31, 2020: We are canceling ALL classes due to COVID-19. We are sad to have to do this, but we want everyone to be safe. We hope to try this again next year?  Stay well, everyone!






We admit, the term "folk school" may be a bit grand for what we do, but Raspberry Island Folk School is a folk school in its truest sense: simply a place where people learn new skills using their hands.

We were recently featured on the TV show Common Ground on Lakeland PBS (thank you, Scott Knudson!).  You can see the episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NCfcofcDn8&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR03CH9WAaVF7ta5ryoqfI7WhWbkW-bMJnOpBz_1vq8daO13rNBWWy-LxAI

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

Raspberry Island is located 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 http://raspberryisland.blogspot.com/)

Class offerings and sign-up information are provided below. We hope you can join us this summer for an art and nature break!


Because we run our folk school from our home, visitors are welcome by prior arrangement only by calling Gary at 218.851.6085. Classes are held only from May to September; there are no winter classes. Thanks!  









How to Register for a Class, What to Bring, Driving Directions, and Contact Information

To register for a class, print and complete the Registration Form (click here) and mail it with your check(s) to Gary Hill, 50569 218th Place, McGregor, MN 55760. Fill out one form for each student, for each class.  


* * * * To teach a class or recommend an instructor, please contact us! * * * * 

WHAT TO BRING

Your instructor will supply materials and tools you'll need for your workshop. You should also pack the following:
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear for your workshop (this usually means old clothes you don't mind getting dirty or stained), and something to wear in the evenings if you want to change out of your work clothes.
  • Toiletries and medications
  • Insect repellent
  • Sleeping bag and pillow, and other camping bedding (if sleeping on the island)
  • Towel and washcloth
  • Beverages and snacks as you wish, and a small cooler if needed (refrigerator space is limited).
  • If you have opted out of our catered meals, or if you have food allergies or other restrictions, bring pre-made meals. We can provide limited refrigerator space and warming options.
  • Bathing suit and floaty things optional, for lake swimming off the dock. 

WHERE TO FIND US

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

Gary's email: hillx001@umn.edu
Janet's email:  janethillnew@gmail.com (email is preferred)


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: 50569 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: 50569 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.




2020 Classes


Update -- May 31, 2020: We are canceling ALL classes due to COVID-19. We are sad to have to do this, but we want everyone to be safe. We hope to try this again next year?  Stay well, everyone!


* Beginning Blacksmithing *

Canceled due to COVID-19

THIS CLASS IS FULL:  If there is enough interest, Gary will consider offering another Beginning Blacksmith class. Contact him by email at hillx001@umn.edu or by phone at 218.851.6085 if you want to be put on a waiting list.
Saturday, May 16, 2020 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.   Instructor: Gary Hill













A beginning class in the principles of blacksmithing using a coal fired forge. No previous forging experience required. This one-day class includes starting and maintaining a coal fire in the forge, tapering, upsetting, hot cutting, fullering, swaging and forge welding techniques. Projects will apply these principles.

What to bring: Bag lunch, water bottle, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing.

Course fee: $40 (includes all materials)
High School students 14 years and older are FREE!
Limited to 4 students

* Beginner and Intermediate Wheel-Thrown Pottery *

Canceled due to COVID-19
Wednesdays, May 20, 27, June 3, 10, 24  (Five Sessions; no class June 17)
9:30-12:00 noon
Instructor: Gary Hill 
























Wheel Pottery Class for all ages. Learn to throw your first mugs, bowls, vases etc. or get back into it if you have thrown pots in the past. Course fee includes 25 pounds of clay and over 100 combinations of glazes. All tools and firings are provided. No experience required. Electric wheels and one kick wheel available.

What to bring: Old clothes, old towel, clay tools if you have them

Course fee: $10/session, must register for all 5 sessions, at $50/person
High School students 14 years and older are FREE!
Limited to 4 students

* Forging Tongs *

Canceled due to COVID-19
Saturday May 23, 2020
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Instructor: Gary Hill
























A blacksmith class in making a pair of tongs to be used at the forge. No previous forging experience required. What to bring: Bag lunch, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing.
What to bring: Bag lunch, water bottle, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing. 

Course fee: $40 (includes all materials)
High School Students 14 years and older are FREE!
Limited to 4 Students

* Beginner’s Class in  Forging Pattern Welded Steel (“Damascus”) *

Possibly rescheduled to early fall, due to COVID-19. Stay tuned.

THIS CLASS IS FULL

Saturday-Sunday May 30-31, 2020
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (evening participation optional)
Instructor: Jeff Harper

























This two-day introductory class will take you through the basics of pattern welded/Damascus steel to make either a blade or small tool. On the first day, using high carbon steel, we will focus on material preparation, and will forge-weld a small billet by hand. Our subsequent larger billets will be done with the help of the power hammer. Pattern manipulations such as random and twist will be followed by raindrop and ladder as student proficiency allows. In the evening we will go into forge welding billets of steel cable and chain.

Day two will consist of shaping, polishing, heat treatment, and etching. We will also be continuing work begun the previous day.
Students will go home with a couple of billets of their own creation to use in other courses and projects, as well as the knowledge to make more.

Course Fee: $150 plus materials fee $35-40
Limited to 8 students (class is full)
No forging experience required.

Meal cost is extra: see registration form
Lodging, if needed, is free on the island (first-come-first-served and limited; see registration form). Meal cost is extra or bring your own food and beverages at no cost: see registration form

* Forging Hooks and Hangers *

Canceled due to COVID-19
Saturday, June 6, 2020
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Instructor: Gary Hill

A blacksmith class in making wall hooks and plant/birdfeeder hangers. No previous forging experience required.

What to bring: Bag lunch, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing.

Course fee: $40 (includes all materials)
High School Students 14 years and older are FREE!
Limited to 4 Students

* Frontier Blacksmithing I: Forging a Roasting Fork *

Canceled due to COVID-19

Big Sandy Water Institute (Ages 14-18 only. Boys and girls welcome)

Monday, June 8, 
9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Instructor: Gary Hill
























Early frontier cooking was often done by roasting foods over an open fire of hot coals.  A roasting fork is a useful and efficient way to accomplish cooking over a fire.  Students will forge a roasting fork and then use their own handmade fork to roast a hotdog or bratwurst over a campfire.

What to bring:  Water bottle, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing (long pants, long sleeves). Lunch is provided

Be ready to go at our dock  at  50569 218th Place, McGregor (Big Sandy Lake) by 9:00 a.m. for a short pontoon ride to the island. If you are running late you must contact Gary at  218.851.6085. The pontoon leaves the dock promptly at  9:00 a.m.  You will be returned to the dock at 1:00 p.m.

Cost: FREE!
Limited to 4 students age 14 to 18

Frontier Blacksmithing II: * Forging an 18th-Century Belt Axe *

Canceled due to COVID-19

Big Sandy Water Institute  (Ages 14-18 only. Boys and girls welcome)

Monday June 15, 2019
9:00-5:00
Instructor:  Gary Hill 
























An axe was an important tool in the early days.  It provided the means to build a house of logs and to harvest wood for heat. The belt axe was a popular trade item and dates from the mid-seventeenth century to the late 19th century.   Many thousands of "trade axes" were brought across the Savanna Portage near Big Sandy Lake. These axes were typically manufactured in England, France and Spain. They arrived by ship on the east coast and were then transported by voyagers in canoes to arrive at their destination, a trading post such as those on Sandy Lake. This will be a course involving forging a small belt hatchet or "Trade  Axe" in the traditional manner using a coal forge, anvil and hammer.

Prior forging experience is desired, but not essential.

Be ready to go at our dock at 50569 218th Place, McGregor (Big Sandy Lake) by 9:00 a.m. sharp for a short pontoon ride to the island. If you are running late you must contact Gary at  218.851.6085. The pontoon leaves the dock promptly at  9:00 a.m.  You will be returned to the dock at 5:00 p.m.

What to bring: Bag lunch, water bottle, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing (long pants, long sleeves).

Cost: FREE!

Limited to 4 students age 14-18 

* Frontier Blacksmithing III: Forging a Knife from a Railroad Spike *

Canceled due to COVID-19

Big Sandy Water Institute  (Ages 14-18 only. Boys and girls welcome)

Monday June 22, 2019
9:00-5:00
Instructor: Gary Hill





Students will forge a knife from a steel railroad spike, grind and heat-treat the blade.

Be ready to go at our dock at 50569 218th Place, McGregor (Big Sandy Lake) by 9:00 a.m. sharp for a short pontoon ride to the island. If you are running late you must contact Gary at  218.851.6085. The pontoon leaves the dock promptly at  9:00 a.m.  You will be returned to the dock at 5:00 p.m.

What to bring: Bag lunch, water bottle, safety glasses, boots, ear protection, leather gloves and cotton clothing (long pants, long sleeves).

Cost: FREE!
Limited to 4 students age 14-18 

* Raspberry Island Forged Pierced Gothic Dividers *

Canceled due to COVID-19
Monday-Wednesday July 6, 7, 8 (Three days)
9:00-5:00
Instructor: Tom Latane’































Students will forge a pair of three-leaf dividers with a pierced Gothic tracery window in the wide section below the pivot. The two halves of the dividers will be forged and fitted together and holes will be drilled through all three leaves. The holes in the outer two leaves will be sawn and filed into larger openings than the center leaf, so when closed the pattern developed in the center leaf will show through the openings in the outer leaves.  The top will be riveted and the legs of the dividers will be filed decoratively to complete the tool.

Course fee: $225. A small materials fee may be applied (collected at class if so)
Limited to 10 students  

Lodging, if needed, is free on the island (first-come-first-served and limited; see registration form). Meal cost is extra or bring your own food and beverages at no cost: see registration form

* Tinsmithing a Pierced Tin Lantern *

Canceled due to COVID-19

Monday-Wednesday July 6, 7, 8 (Three days)
9:00-4:00
Instructor: Kitty Latane’
























Learn tinworking skills while creating a work of art for your home. Pierced tin lanterns like this were common in Europe and the Americas from the 14th to the 19th centuries. They protect candles from the wind on shipboard and in barnyards, and the piercings provide charming twinkling light patterns. In this class students will cut pattern pieces from tinplate, punch the pieces with the pattern of their choice, and assemble the lanterns. All materials and tools are provided. No prior experience necessary.

Course fee: $200 plus materials fee of $30 (latter payable at class)
Limited to 6 students

Lodging, if needed, is free on the island (first-come-first-served and limited; see registration form). Meal cost is extra or bring your own food and beverages at no cost: see registration form


* Flat Felting * 

Canceled due to COVID-19

Saturday, July 11
9:45 a.m. to noon 
Instructor: Christine Valento


Two-dimensional wet felting is wooly fun!

In this class, you will create a 2-D wet felted artwork.  You'll learn both wet felting and needle felting.
Felting with a needle is like painting, but with wool and a needle.

Spoiler alert:  Felting can be addicting!  The image design will be completely up to you.  Come join us!

Course fee: $50 plus $20 materials fee (latter payable at class)
Limited to 12 (minimum 5)
Bring a bath towel (it will get wet, but not ruined)


* Swedish Kurbits Painting * 

Canceled due to COVID-19

Saturday, July 11
12:45 to  4:00 p.m.
Instructor: Rachel Johnson































A fun and forgiving way to jump into the world of acrylics, Swedish kurbits painting lends itself to individualism and expression even if you’ve never picked up a paintbrush. Come learn the basics as well as a bit of the fascinating history of this folk art from the 1700s. We will also cover some of the standards of the craft to enhance the intermediate student. All skill levels welcome! Materials provided unless you have a small wooden item you’d like to embellish (if so, bring it prepared [sanded and/or primed if needed] and ready to paint). Please contact Rachel at akkamarie@gmail.com with any questions.

Course fee: $45 plus small materials fee (latter payable at class)
Limited to 4 students
Wear clothes you don't mind being “painted”!

* Forging the Finnish Puukko with Birchbark Handle *


Saturday and Sunday, August 14 and 15 (two-day session)  
9:00-5:00
Instructor:  Gary Hill
























The Finnish Puukko is a traditional short-bladed knife for the working man or woman, commonly carried in a sheath on a belt. This class will involve forging the blade from carbon steel, shaping, hardening, tempering and fabrication of a handle from multiple layers of birchbark cross sections stacked on the tang. (Sheath making will not be a part of the class). 

Course fees: $ 100 plus $15-20 materials fee
Limited to 4 students 

Meal cost is extra or bring your own food and beverages at no cost: see registration form 
Lodging, if needed, is free on the island (first-come-first-served and limited; see registration form).




* Raku Teacups From the Ground Up *

























Two Saturdays: August 29 and September 12
9:00 until around 5:00 p.m. both days
Instructor: Bud Larsen 

Raku is a Japanese style of simple pottery-making that produces tea bowls that are unpretentious and natural. The tea cups are formed either by hand or on a Japanese style wheel turned with a stick, then they are glazed with a low-fire glaze and fired in a simple kiln with a lot of smoke, and quenched in a big pot of “tea.” The results produce metallic colors that are always surprising.
First Saturday:  On the first day we will meet early to briefly talk about the Japanese culture of tea, the process, and look at examples. Then we will dig our own clay from the shores of Raspberry Island, learn what kind of clay makes good raku, and clean and process the clay. We will practice the Lotus Flower method of clay kneading, and then form our tea cups. The forming methods we will practice will be: 1) throwing on a Japanese style wheel, 2) pinch pots, and 3) shaping in a mold. Note:  everyone will be successful in forming their pots because our motto is, “we help each other to succeed.” It will be a fine sunny day, so we will place our formed pots in the sun to dry. Then we will talk about ways to fire them and about the glaze we will be making. 

Second Saturday: While the wood kiln is heating, we will glaze, decorate our pots and put them near the kiln to dry.  When the kiln reaches orange-hot we will put in our pots one or two at a time to melt the glaze.
The final step in the process will be to make a pot of natural tea – perhaps raspberry leaf tea from Raspberry Island, and celebrate our experience with our new teacups.
About Bud Larsen:
Bud has a Masters in Art Education from Moorhead State with a concentration in ceramics, and has taught pottery in Papua New Guinea, Melbourne, Darwin and Perth Australia, Madera, Mexico, and Minnesota. He throws his pots on a Japanese-style wheel made from a car tire, and has made many primitive wood-fired kilns. 

Course fee: $40
Limited to 10 students

Minimum class size: 6 students