One of the benefits of belonging to an Eastern Federation club is the opportunity to attend the two federation-sponsored Workshops at Wildacres!
Imagine being able to spend a week totally immersed in the joys of our hobby - no interruptions from television, news, traffic, or worries. The setting is an idyllic mountain top retreat where you are well fed and cared for and you can take classes in many aspects of the hobby - lapidary, jewelry making, mineralogy, etc.
There is such a place and it's called Wildacres.
Coming to Wildacres is like a warm embrace by an old friend. After the windy, scenic climb up the Blue Ridge Parkway, the gravel and dirt road twists its way to the pinnacle of the Wildacres Retreat at 3300 feet. When you step from your car, the fresh aroma of deep woods welcomes you into this majestic silence and the beautiful lodge beckons entrance. Crisp wooden porches are clothed in welcoming rocking chairs and a flagstone patio unfolds below you with yet more rockers and a breathtaking panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The registration area is in the great room of the north lodge, a glass-enclosed lounge worthy of the finest ski lodge. Leather sofas and huge armchairs are arranged in three conversation areas with a gigantic fireplace dominating one wall. Handcrafted artwork is skillfully displayed and oriental carpets soften the polished hardwood floors.
Guest rooms are clean and spacious, lacking only a TV and telephone. The dining hall is a large, simple room that serves large, simple meals three times a day. There's a library, auditorium, and meeting room, as well as a canteen. Hiking trails crisscross the mountaintop and are rated on difficulty and duration. Workshops are all in outlying buildings, well equipped and expertly staffed.
The Eastern Federation has volunteers available 'round the clock to ensure smooth function and maximum enjoyment both in the classroom sessions and after hours. Class sizes are kept small so each student receives personal instruction every step of the way, and teachers are fully equipped with all the materials necessary to complete your project.
The keynote speaker gives six general interest talks during the week to the full assembly, but is available on campus for informal discussions. Mealtimes make excellent opportunities for in depth conversations and personal queries, but the evening porch sessions bring out the lively best of all participants.
Classes range from beadwork to bezels, from judging to geology, from photography to pewter work, depending upon the needs of the Federation and the availability of instructors. Metalworking classes often employ the use of torches and metal forming tools, while cabbing and faceting delve into perfecting a single stone. Intricate designs are produced in a never-ending variety and students are given an opportunity to show off their work at the end of the week. Other classes offered include wirewrapping, geology, photographing minerals and gems, beading, chain making, mineral id and scrimshaw.
Mid-week, there's a free day where students are encouraged to explore local attractions. Perennial favorites include gold mining, collecting trips to near-by quarries, road trips to Biltmore Mansion or Grandfather Mountain, hiking, and leisurely relaxation in the wonderful rockers. An afternoon tailgate session encourages participants to exchange, sell, or barter goods and there's an opportunity for some of the participants to give short programs which spotlight other interests the presenters enjoy.
As the week winds down and projects near completion, an evening session is dedicated to a 'good stuff' fund-raising auction. This is an opportunity to invest in the future of Wildacres since proceeds are often used to purchase items used in future workshops while you acquire lovely items in the process. Many of the instructors donate finished pieces, fabricated specifically for the auction. Individuals donate rough, specimens, memorabilia, books, or craft supplies relating to gem and lapidary work, and often, items purchased on free-day excursions.
The week culminates the following evening with a talent show. By this time, you've all become friends, so talent is optional. Songs, skits, jokes and recitations bring many to tears of delight while peals of laughter rock the room. Corny or clever, every act is applauded, every offering is appreciated. The spirit of mirth carries over to the canteen where everyone congregates to polish off the last of our snacks and drinks. Rocking chairs grind far into the night as folks realize our week is at an end. Memories are molded and friendships are solidified.
About the Wildacres Facility
Wildacres Retreat is a conference center offering its facilities to nonprofit groups that conduct educational or cultural programs and seminars. It is a true retreat, undisturbed by through traffic or noises of the city. I.D. and Madolyn Blumenthal of Charlotte, NC dedicated Wildacres in 1946, for the improvement of human relations and interfaith dialogue. Since 1972, Wildacres has operated as a public foundation.
Wildacres is situated on 1600 acres at an elevation of 3,300 feet atop a mountain called Pompey's Knob, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is halfway between Asheville and Blowing Rock in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains.
The primary support of Wildacres comes from its own resources and The Blumenthal Foundation. Wildacres receives gifts from individuals, businesses and foundations interested in the philosophy and programs that are held there.
The EFMLS sponsors two annual lapidary and jewelry-making workshops at Wildacres each year. Each session lasts for one week during which classes are given in areas such as Mineral Identification, Cabochon Making, Faceting, Soapstone Carving, Chain Making, Wire-wrapping and Wirecraft Jewelry, Precious Metal Clay, Lost Wax Casting, Intarsia, Micromounting, Glass Engraving and Etching, Fused Glass, Lampwork Beads and Pewter Fabrication. We also offer a course in Certified Judging and Exhibiting for those interested in improving their display cases or becoming judges.
We are so pleased to be able to have two wonderful sessions planned again this year. We hope that you and your fellow club members will join us at one of these wonderful sessions held at Wildacres, a special place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
What are the Requirements and Costs?
Workshop attendance is open to any active member of a Club or Society that is a member of the Eastern Federation. Individuals from the other Federations may attend on a space-available basis.
All registration forms MUST have 4 class choices listed, in the order of preference. Enrollees will be placed in the classes, as registration forms are received and once a class is full, the next chosen class with openings will be assigned.
Fees for the 2013 sessions of Wildacres are $380 per person. This fee includes room, board and classroom instruction. Most classes will also charge a nominal fee to cover materials and supplies. Once the week is over, you'll be able to take your completed projects home with you.
The week at Wildacres is divided into two parts or "semesters". Students take one class lasting either the full week (4-days) or two different classes lasting 2-days each. The day between "semesters" is a day set aside to allow participants to explore the region, participate in an old-fashioned tailgate session and relax.
Each Wildacres Workshop also features an expert in residence who gives daily talks about a variety of topics in his field of interest. These experts live on campus, often attend classes and interact with Workshop participants throughout the session.
Other Workshop Activities
Sharing Time is a series of mini-presentations or demonstrations of various lapidary skills, videos or slide presentations that are hobby-related, etc. These programs are generally less than 45 minutes each. Should you have any skill or other program you might like to share while you're at Wildacres, please indicate your desire on the application form.
The area around Wildacres is riddled with old mines and mine dumps. There is usually an organized field trip scheduled for the "free day" that occurs midway through each session.
"Good Stuff" Auction
As a way of enhancing future EFMLS Wildacres Workshops, one evening is devoted to an auction. Participants are asked to donate hobby related materials which are then auctioned off, often with amusing and profitable results. High bidders leave with wonderful additions to their own collections.
Participants who wish may sell or swap hobby related items. Always interesting and a wonderful way to see what others are interested in.
Stories, skits, musical interludes, jokes by participants; A fun way to end the week long workshop.
More About Wildacres
Among the many groups using the facilities are music and art master classes, religious and interfaith groups, mineral and lapidary societies, medical, social science, natural sciences, academic, environmental and senior citizens groups. All groups must be nonprofit and have planned educational programs.
Each group plans its own program and furnishes its director and staff. Wildacres supplements the programs with the aid of its staff and equipment and some recreational equipment, including scenic nature trails, ping-pong, and a canteen. Wildacres is not a holiday resort and does not cater to the traveling public. Only group reservations are accepted with a maximum of 120 people. Small groups can be accommodated at the same time. Due to health regulations, no pets are allowed.
There are two lodges, a dining hall building, a library and auditorium, a mineral and lapidary workshop and a pottery studio. All buildings are heated. Meals are served family style. All sleeping rooms have private baths and have either two twin beds or one double and one twin bed. There is a spacious lobby and several large and small meeting rooms. When weather permits, the patio can also be used for assemblies.
Wildacres has a lending and reference library and gem and mineral displays.
All facilities at Wildacres are designed in an attempt to "blend the graces of modern life with the beauty of the wilderness."
Points of interest in the area include the North Carolina Mineral Museum, Mineral and Gem Mines, Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Overlooks, Crabtree and Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, two 18 hole golf courses and tennis nearby, and Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies.
Wildacres is about 3 miles from the Little Switzerland post office. Nearest towns are Spruce Pine and Marion, NC. Access is available from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Gooch Gap, located between mileposts 336 and 337. Distance from Charlotte is about 112 miles.
If you're flying into the area, the closest airports are in Asheville (about an hour away), Hickory (90 minutes), Charlotte (2 hours) and Raleigh (3 hours). Check connections and costs from your departure/return point. There is no public transportation to and from Wildacres so if flying, plan to rent a car or arrange for a friend to pick you up.