Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Arbutus Folk School


Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Robert Kam sat down with Hillary Tully, executive director, and David Paul, president, of Arbutus Folk School to talk about the amazing skills you can learn in their classes.

“We’ve been working very hard to come out of COVID and get things opened up and try to get as many people taking classes as possible,” shares Paul. “We’re looking at a lot of fundraising as well. We were hit pretty hard during COVID. It’s a lot due to Hillary’s work that we remained alive.”

The Arbutus Folk School is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving traditional ways of making things through educational classes taught by highly-skilled artists. Their mission is to, “enrich lives and build community through joyful, hands-on learning with master artisans.” The school has classes in woodworking, fiber art, ceramics, blacksmithing, music, stone carving, and folk and traditional arts like block printmaking, music, painting, and more.  They also have special events and classes throughout the year, including youth crafts and storytelling. Pre-COVID they also had a lot of concerts and in-person events.

For youth ages 8-12, Arbutus offers a range of classes, including ceramics, batik and needle felting. Most of the other classes are open to anyone 13 years old and older. Most classes take place in the main building in downtown Olympia, but they also do classes around the county, including outdoor classes at parks.

During a class, you will learn how to use traditional methods to create something truly beautiful. This means classes use hand tools for the most part, with limited use of power or “modern” tools. For example, using special measuring tools, how to safely sharpen a chisel and how to  properly hold a saw. “I like to suggest it’s the things people needed to know before there was electricity,” explains Paul. From learning to make a toolbox out of wood to discovering how to take wool from its raw form all the way to a finished knitted scarf, Arbutus offers those seeking a new hobby step-by-step instruction from knowledge artists.

“That’s been a really interesting part of COVID,” shares Hillary, “so many people are ready to try a new hobby. I don’t know why, people getting creative. It’s just something about the times and so we’ve had a lot of people in the shop who are brand new to the craft and excited to learn.”

Ever wanted to make an arrowhead out of obsidian? Learn how to throw a pot or how to paint landscapes? It’s all waiting for you at Arbutus. “Arbutus school’s classes are just an expression of who’s living here and what they are skilled at and then who wants to share those skills,” shares Hillary. “All of our instructors are extremely good at what they do and they’re excited to share with students who are new to it or want to deepen their skills.”

Ready to learn something new? Or teach what you have learned? Arbutus is always looking for new teachers to share their craft. “We are working toward boat building,” shares Paul.  For more information, watch the full video above and visit the Arbutus Folk School website. You can also support them by donating. They always accept cash donations and also have a wish list for in-kind donations.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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