Jeff Johnston's Minnesota Adventure at the North House Folk School
The next destination on our Minnesota adventure is the North House Folk School. Working on arts and crafts projects while they travel is a popular past time for RVers. A lot of those RVers also enjoy learning more about it while they’re traveling.
Well, we’re here in beautiful Grand Marais, Minnesota, at the North House Folk School. The North House teaches a variety of crafts and skills that may seem all but forgotten in today’s modern world. Let’s take a closer look. Whatever your hand craft interest, there’s probably something for you at the North House. It’s location on the shore of Lake Superior is inspiring and good for the soul. The group of modest buildings that house the classrooms harken back to traditional small-town America in style and decor. The school is as much about why the classes are important as it is about what it teaches.
Greg Wright: It was not that long ago, our ancestors knew quite literally how to make their lives with their hands. Looking at the landscape around them, they could grab on to the resource they’d need, working with their neighbors, working with their family, and they carve a bowl they needed to brew the ale for the community celebration. They could cut the beams to raise the timbered barn where the livestock would stay. They could create the traditional toboggan that would allow them to travel across the northern landscape on the snow and the ice. North House Folk School is an educational non-profit that teaches traditional northern crafts. Our mission, enrich lives and build community through the teaching of traditional northern crafts means we take people on all kinds of learning adventures. Traditional timber framing, wooden boat building, skin-on framed kayak building, cedar-stripped canoe building, wool blanket shirts, blacksmithing, moose-hide mukluks.
Jeff: During our visit, the wooden boat class and the small house construction class were actively in process. Students learn about structural and aesthetic design elements that are in step with the small house movement growing in the U.S. Skills learned here make it possible for students to build their own compact residences.
Ken Koscik: It’s nice to be building these crafts, but the most important thing is it’s a father/son working together here, and there’s a father and son working together there for 11 days building a canoe and a kayak that’s gonna be an heirloom for their family. But more importantly I think is the fact that these two people are bonding, and it’s something that they’re gonna remember for the rest of their lives. And for me, that’s more important than the canoe or the kayak that would end up as the end product. I’m enjoying myself more than anybody else, so otherwise I wouldn’t be here teaching the class.
Greg: Classes happen at North House year around. Every month of the year, almost every weekend of the year, and there are 19 different teaching themes. Classes range in length from a half day to two weeks. If you wanna do some soap making, guess what? It’s a half-day class. If you want to do an introduction to wood-fired bread baking, it’s a half-day class. If you wanna go home, take home a cedar-stripped canoe, well, that takes just a little bit longer. In addition to being open for course work 12 months a year, we’re open to visitors, and many people will stop by while they’re traveling the North Shore to learn more about the school. Classrooms are open, and so visitors are welcome to be curious and see things that are going on. And in the high season, early June to late September, we actually have mini-classes that happen three or four days of the week that people can sign up for.
Jeff: Regardless of the marvelous things you can actively learn at the North House, you’ll also be tempted to take part in social time by the campfire, or just sit in the swing seat and enjoy the view of the lake and the world passing by.