PROTECTING THE CRAFT
How Laura Freedman and Beth Bugdaycay Are Protecting Sustainable Craft
Laura Freedman, owner of Broken English, and Beth Bugdaycay, of Foundrae, joined forces for a powerhouse trip to The Campbell Folk School in Asheville, North Carolina. As a beacon in the folk arts community, the school invites all skill levels to explore hundreds of class offerings ranging from basketry to metalwork. By the end of the three-day visit, Laura and Beth were so moved by the tireless work of the educators and their passion for the arts, they organized and funded a scholarship program aimed to support the study of enamel. We sat down with Laura and Beth to better understand the importance of craft in our communities, the risks it faces, and the ways we can bring it into our everyday lives.
All photos by: Natasha Stanglmayr
What inspired you to visit the Folk School, and what was the reason for your visit?
BETH: I’ve wanted to go for a few years now, and the reality is: we just had to put a date down and make it happen. I think it’s a very important part of the creative process to get out of your typical environment and to open yourself up to inspiration.
How long had it been since you were in a classroom? What was it like to be a student again?
LAURA: I hadn’t been in a classroom in ages! I think like most people, I get bogged down with trying to keep up with day-to-day life, which leaves little space for investing in personal growth. Part of what I loved about The Folk School is that you are fully immersed in the classroom experience. Each touchpoint conjures energy that got me excited to try something totally outside my comfort zone. For me, that was the welding class.
It’s so easy to get caught up with the notion of “accomplishment” that we forget what it feels like to surrender to the love of learning. Being at The Folk School felt like being in the driver’s seat, where I could focus on the creation of arts versus the intake.
“I think folk art is an underestimated part of our American heritage. Beyond its beauty, it is also part of our history.”
Beth, The Folk School, has an enameling program, a medium that Foundrae is famous for; what makes this medium so difficult to work with?
BETH: At Foundrae, we use a technique called champlevé enamel, which is very difficult and requires a high level of skill. The glass enamel powder is applied by hand to each piece, then heated one at a time in the kiln until it reaches temperature heights in the thousands! If you take a piece out of the kiln seconds too early (or late), it can ruin the entire piece. I have fallen deeply in love with enamel and have a real respect for not just the artisans but all of the producers in the supply chain. It’s all quite fragile. We want to preserve traditional enamel making.
Laura, you chose a metal welding course at the school, and Beth, you explored working with a new enameling technique. What surprised you about these courses?
LAURA: I found that I had no choice but to be completely present when working in the art studio. Especially with something like welding, which is the class that I took at the school. Safety is paramount - you are dealing with fire and scolding metals, while simultaneously trying to design and construct a piece. It felt like my entire brain was engaged, with no room for distraction. The craft transcended the physical component and took on a meditative quality, which was both surprising and liberating.
BETH: I had the opportunity to play with flame enameling techniques which, I have never done. I loved how loose it was, much more organic!
Switching gears a bit, Laura, what informs your decision to take on a new jeweler at Broken English?
LAURA: I try to keep the process of adding designers as organic as possible. I am constantly scouring the market for designers that see jewelry from a unique perspective. Ultimately it has to feel right for our store and also for our clients, who look to us to find what’s new in fine jewelry. Taking the art classes was a fresh reminder that the journey of creation is as important as the creation itself. It’s part of the finished product and should be honored as such.
Similarly, Beth, craft is a huge part of your life as it pertains to your business, but what are your tips and tricks to bringing crafts into the home, especially with kids?
BETH: I think you need to have materials all around that inspire people to play with their hands: stamps, fabrics, felting wool, anything, and everything! It can’t be hidden away! Most of the objects in our house and store are handmade from folk art to street art to fine art, it’s all beautiful and inspiring.
Can you tell us a bit about the Broken English x Foundrae Scholarship Fund set up at The Folk School? What was the main inspiration behind the fund, and what are your greatest hopes for underwriting such important work in the arts?
BETH: Sophia Cantizano, a Foundrae staff member, expressed an interest in developing her enameling skills since joining Foundrae. While we were at the school, the instructors emphasized that it was rare to see young people, like Sophia, building their skills in this area. We realized a lack of exposure is one of the biggest threats facing the folk arts in general. It’s about teaching the next generation and supporting the Campbell Folk Arts school in their efforts to do so.
LAURA: I think folk art is an underestimated part of our American heritage. Beyond its beauty, it is also part of our history. If we don’t support the education of craft, we risk losing it entirely. I think education and, like Beth said, exposure are the first steps in preservation.