Yoav Liberman Writes About America's Finest Craft Schools

Take a Workshop at Peters Valley – One of America’s Fine Institutions for Crafts

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs, Woodworking Classes

DSCN1486Summer is a great time for expanding your woodworking horizons via classes and workshops that take place at some of the best craft schools in the country. Peters Valley is one of these schools and the only one in the metro New York area. I visited Peters Valley in New Jersey a few weeks ago to drop off one of my pieces Mulberry Trio  for their show, Making Matters: Fresh Perspectives in Fine Craft from Visiting Artists and Summer Artistic Staff. I also got to know the place well since later this summer I am scheduled to teach a woodworking class there. The school is located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and is surrounded by beautiful nature (see pictures gallery).

There are at least half-dozen reputable educational craft institutions in our nation that offer classes in many disciplines spanning from two days to two or three weeks, from late spring to early fall.

The schools invite the best artists and craftspersons from the U.S. and the world to share their knowledge and talent with students who are everyone from professional artisans, recreational craft folks, amateurs to even complete beginners. This fantastic amalgamation of people is what makes the workshop experience so meaningful and fun.

I was fortunate to already have taught in two of these schools in the past, Haystack in Maine and Penland in North Carolina, and I am very excited to go to Peters Valley this summer. There is a lot in common between all of these prestigious craft institutions.  Besides all being located in lovely bucolic settings, they all offer classes in subjects such as woodworking, ironsmithing, clay, glass, jewelry and fabric art. Their campuses include shops, living quarters, a common dining hall, a gallery or a supply store and in many cases an assembly hall. A typical day begins with a great communal breakfast followed by a few hours in the shop or studio, lunch, more time in the shop or studio, then dinner that is often followed by a presentation by one of the teachers about his or her work. After this, students can return to work on their projects by themselves or they can just relax.

Most schools offer a variety of classes in each of the disciplines they offer. That means that just in the wood program alone, one can choose between a few different classes and pick the one that will fulfill him the most. While visiting Peters Valley’s woodshop I met Keith Tompkins who taught a class in segmented turning (see pictures gallery). Keith showed me the clever jig that he developed to facilitate accurate cutting of segments on the table saw. The woodshop is divided into two spaces, machine room and hand tool room. Outside the shop I saw a pile of wood stumps, trunks and root bases that was up for grab for projects.

“A Winter Rose” by Keith Tompkins

The class I will teach in July will be on designing and building what I call Modern Campaign furniture, a subject that has become a passion and practice of my woodworking. I am attaching pictures of one of my pieces that falls under this category which is now on display at the Peters Valley gallery.

Mulberry Trio, console table Mulberry, oak, steel, milk-paint. 52L x 36H x 17.5W inches,

Mulberry Trio, console table
Mulberry, oak, steel, milk-paint. 52L x 36H x 17.5W inches,

Mulberry Trio, console table parts.

Mulberry Trio, console table parts.

Mulberry Trio, console table, detail

Mulberry Trio, console table, detail

Next time I will show the school’s craft store and give a stage for a few artisans whose woodwork is as fun to look at as to hold and use.

Bellow is a partial list of some of the nation’s best craft schools:

Petters Valley School of Crafts, New Jersey

Penland School of Crafts, North Carolina

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine

Anderson Ranch Art Center, Colorado 

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Tennessee 

— Yoav Liberman

Editor’s note: If your favorite interdisciplinary craft school is not among those mentioned above, please list it, along with the URL and what you love about it, in a comment. And click here for a list of woodworking schools arranged state on our web site. If you can’t make it to a live woodworking class, you’ll find online webinars and classes on our site here.

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Showing 4 comments
  • rhram

    I would like to suggest that you include the Southwest School of Woodworking in Arizona. (formerly Southwest Center for Craftsmanship). Our school is the only woodworking school in Arizona that offers a full woodworking curriculum. We offer courses for the complete beginner to the experienced craftsman. We draw our instructors from local talent as wells as nationally known and respected masters.
    Raul H Ramirez
    Southwest School of Woodworking

  • David.Sandlin@valp.net

    you might want to look into Campbell’s folk school, one survey listed it in the top 10 adult oriented summer camps. They do a large number of crafts and cooking classes. For those interested in woodwork they have both a carver’s workshop and regular woodworkers shop. My son really enjoyed his week in their blacksmith’s shop. https://www.folkschool.org/

    • Yoav Liberman
      Yoav Liberman

      Hi DWS,
      Thanks for sharing this info with us. I did look at their website (and class catalog). The school looks like a great place with many classes to choose from. The chair making and turning classes are really cool. And of course, the beautiful campus undeniably support the learning experience. Again, thanks for letting us know about John C. Campbell Folk School.

  • ehudoren

    I am all green from jealousy. You lucky bast….
    Actually – it has nothing to do with luck but with your talent.
    Congratulations Yoav you sure deserve it

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