(BPT) - It makes sense that in our hyper-connected world where digital gadgets and interconnected gizmos do stuff for us, there has been a growing interest in traditional arts and crafts. You feel more connected, more engaged, like you’re tied to a larger tradition and community.
This is the idea behind folk schools.
Originally founded in Denmark in the 19th century, folk schools are common throughout Scandinavia. Their mission is largely to build community by connecting people with traditional arts and crafts. This could be through activities like building a chair out of reeds, wood joining, blacksmithing and rug hooking.
A mainstay in northern Europe, folk schools have been popping up throughout the U.S. Founded in 2015, Ely Folk School has become a magnet for those who want to try snowshoe weaving, birch bark canoe building or any of the other ways to dive into the culture and craft of northern Minnesota. It's a way for travelers to connect to Ely traditions and heritage in a personal, lasting way, and more and more people are building their vacations around the classes.
Classes that celebrate Minnesota’s heritage
From the French fur traders to miners from Finland and Slovenia, diverse groups brought along traditions, crafts, recipes and customs to their home in northern Minnesota.
The folk school aims to celebrate this rich cultural heritage through the classes. Some of the most distinct offerings include:
Basketry — In a number of different classes, students can choose to weave black ash baskets of various sizes or create wet felted baskets.
Furniture — In this two-day class, the instructor demonstrates the art of making a bent willow chair on the first day, and participants make their own chair on the second.
Other courses involve building a customized fishing rod, jewelry creation and participating in the birch bark canoe project, in which participants learn about harvesting the bark and spruce root and creating the pitch needed to build a birch bark canoe.
There’s more, and it’s worth browsing the website to see their complete list of offerings.
Bringing traditional crafts into the modern world in an unmatched wilderness setting, the folk school is one of many ways the Ely area offers such a rich experience for visitors.