‘A hidden treasure in the hilltowns’: Residential craft school at Snow Farm adapts in tough times

  • Right, Holly Kenny watches as students in a Flame Working class at Snow Farm in Williamsburg work on making beads in August. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2020 4:20:24 PM

Margaret Anderson spent her 50th birthday earlier this month in the welding shop at Snow Farm New England Craft Program, where the welding equipment sounds like “bacon sizzling in a frying pan.” 

Anderson, of Ashfield, spent her time this year — her 11th attending the welding workshop at the farm — creating a solid metal wreath adorned with a circle of flowers.

“I love taking things that other people think of as junk and turning them into a beautiful work of art,” she said. “For me, that transformation is really fun. I love the sound. I love the smell. I just get immersed in this creative process.”

The yearly workshop is something Anderson looks forward to every year. She doesn’t own welding equipment, so being able to use the welding studio on-site helps her grow as an artist. This year, she participated in two weeks of workshops in August and early October.

“For me, it’s the height of luxury as a working parent to spend a week while my only job is to create and to be with other people who are doing the same thing in this really encouraging supportive way,” says Anderson, whose children are 18 and 21. “I feel like it’s kind of hidden treasure in the hilltowns.”

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Snow Farm was able to continue its more than 30-year tradition of offering in-person workshops this summer and fall by limiting class sizes to six to eight students, adding plexiglass dividers, creating better air flow within interior spaces, socially distancing and wearing masks, Snow Farm Director Jo Murphy said.

“We definitely feel that Snow Farm as a residential craft school is an essential part of many people’s lives and that having an opportunity to be in a different space and to focus on your creativity is not only helpful for mental health, but also for physical well-being as well,” Murphy added.

Snow Farm offers workshops such as painting, welding, metal smithing, ceramics, textiles, stained glass, woodworking and mosaics across eight different studios located on old farmland, she said. Each annual season of workshop classes takes place from August to the end of October. 

Students who attend the program either stay on location for the week or are commuters. Their 2020 season concludes at the end of this month.

“We’ve really got some amazing reactions,” Murphy said. “We’ve got a lot of ‘thank you’s’ for reopening and there’s been a lot of gratefulness about people being able to come here and focus on their creativity.”

Anderson said she felt safe while attending 10 days of workshop classes.

“Each studio has a designated bathroom, so only people from one class are using that bathroom,” she noted. “And only our class is sitting at a specific table at lunch and even with that, it’s divided into a couple different groups. Most of my time was outside anyway. The welding shop is very well ventilated. It’s kind of a big open barn with all these windows and fans in every window.”

Sam Myers, a 50-year-old Goshen resident who is a stained glass artist and instructor at Snow Farm, was a student taking workshops at the art school before later becoming a teacher where she’s worked for the past 14 years.

She said when it was announced that workshops would continue this year, she was nervous about the coronavirus at first. But when she learned about the COVID-19 guidelines and practices at play, she decided to continue teaching.

“Because of the hard work of the staff at Snow Farm, it’s enabled people to respectfully keep their distance while having a wonderful creative break from the confinement of COVID-19,” she added. “I’ve had a great experience working and teaching at Snow Farm throughout this difficult time this year.”

For more information about Snow Farm visit snowfarm.org.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.
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