From blacksmithing to instrument making
Twice each year, Shakori Hills Farm in Chatham County becomes the place where people gather to listen to and participate in music and dance. Later this month, Shakori will become a gathering place where people will get lessons in blacksmithing, hide tanning, making fire without matches, basket-making and other “primitive skills” during the Piedmont Earthskills Gathering.
Organizers say the all-ages event is the first of its kind in the Piedmont. The region is ripe for such an event, because “there are a lot of people interested in developing the skills of living closer to the earth,” said Fuz Sanderson, chief coordinator of the event. The Piedmont is an ideal site for a gathering because it “has great resources to offer for learning and teaching,” he said.
Visitors may camp at the four-day, three-night event, but tickets for individual days also are available.
The mission of the gathering, according to the website, is to develop skills that foster “a deep appreciation of inter-connectedness, cultural heritage and ecological respect.” The gathering also seeks to foster an appreciation for “the lives and skills of our ancestors, whether they came from the plains of Africa or the caves of Europe, or anywhere else across the globe.”
Similar gatherings, sometimes called earth gatherings and sometimes primitive skills gatherings, are held at many sites across North America. (The website hollowtop.com lists schools that teach wilderness skills, including Earth Connection North Carolina in Chapel Hill.) Sarah Haggerty of the Piedmont Wildlife Center (a beneficiary of the proceeds from this event) is the co-coordinator of the Piedmont Earthskills Gathering. She teaches earth skills, and her specialty is the use of plants for food, medicine and crafts.
She has been taught by teachers at a similar gathering held each year in Georgia. Some teachers at the Piedmont event have also taught there, as well as at other gatherings across the country, Haggerty said. “I can attest to the value of the teachers. I would say the instruction is world-class,” she said. “I am a primitive skills instructor, and these are the people I go to learn from.”
Classes will be geared toward children and adults, with lots of hands-on experiences, Haggerty said. Visitors may take home any tools or items they make, she said.
Although his duties this time will mostly be organizing, Sanderson also teaches skills like friction fire, musical-instrument making, basic carving, cast-iron cooking and other skills, many of which he learned from instructors at other gatherings.
The number of students at this gathering will be limited to 300 to allow for smaller classes. “With a small camp like that, you get a much more personal experience,” Sanderson said.