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From Scratch 2024

From Scratch weekend is a workshop designed for true beginners. If you’re interested in learning a new instrument or craft, this is the weekend for you! This year’s offerings include classes with expert musicians, artists, and the return of beginner ceramics. With more than 1,140 acres of forest consisting of breathtaking canyons, waterfalls, miles of hiking trails, and glistening streams, there’s plenty of exploring to do during your free time. Take a hike, go canoeing, or pick a porch and rocking chair to relax.

Registration Open Now

Classes: $210.00 - $245.00

Lodging prices (including meals) range from:

  • Lodge Room & Meals for 2: $355.00
  • Lodge Room & Meals for 1: $285.00
  • Cabin Bunk Bed & Meals for 1: $155.00
  • Commuter Fee & Meals for 1: $65.00

From Scratch is made possible in part by a grant from Alabama State Council on the Arts.

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Beginner Guitar with Ben Ayers

A musician from age 8, Ben Ayers grew up with the Old-Time, Bluegrass, Country, and Contest Fiddle traditions of his native Middle Tennessee and the Southern Cumberland Plateau, where he currently teaches K-8 Music at a number of local schools. Since 2011, Ben has played guitar, mandolin, electric and upright bass, and Irish bouzouki and tenor banjo in everything from Jazz Big Bands to Rock Trios, but his main focus has consistently been Old-Time and Bluegrass. After several years of regularly performing and collaborating on educational music-projects with virtuoso fiddler, Jim Wood, Ben started the alternative bluegrass band, The Yellow Dandies, with mandolinist Bailey Hill and he continues to teach, write, compose, and explore the world's traditional music.

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Beginner Banjo with Bailey Hill

Most folks don't realize that the hidden key to human happiness is simply playing the banjo. This may seem counterproductive, as the banjo is heavy, and you're probably used to hearing family members complain about how darn loud they are. In Banjo From Scratch, you will learn to be one of the loud ones! We will dive into the basics of clawhammer technique, some beginning fingerstyle work, and by the end, you'll have the skills you need to have a grand old time on the 5 string.

Things you need for the class: A 5 string banjo that can stay in tune and a recording device.

Bailey Hill is a multi-instrumentalist and experienced songwriter based out of Fultondale, Alabama. He got his start learning mandolin at The Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell, and soon expanded his horizons to banjo and guitar. Bailey specializes in American Old Time and Bluegrass music but has a firm grasp on contemporary acoustic styles as well. His experience in the world of teaching includes directing the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell, Banjo instructor at The Alabama Folk School’s Youth Camp, Ukulele Instructor for the Magnolia Nature Preschool, Youth Songwriting Workshop instructor for The Alabama Folk School, and Private lesson teacher since 2016.

Bailey is also an experienced performer. He has performed at The Acoustic Cafe, Artwalk Birmingham, The Birmingham Museum of Art, Samford University’s Children Week, FOOTMAD of Birmingham’s Monthly Contra Dances, Bluegrass on the Rim, and many more. Bailey’s passion for teaching and performing comes from a fundamental drive of wanting more music in the world. Bailey views music as not just a great hobby or job, but an excellent way to build community and fellowship.

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Beginner Fiddle with Amy Alvey

Finding The Fiddle Fever: Have you ever dreamed of playing the soulful and spirited tunes of the fiddle? If so, our “Finding The Fiddle Fever” is the perfect opportunity to kickstart your musical journey! This workshop is designed for absolute newcomers to the fiddle, offering a warm and welcoming environment where you can discover the joy of this timeless instrument.

Amy Alvey started playing violin 22 years ago, playing in orchestras in Southern California until she discovered old time and bluegrass fiddling in college. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Music in Violin Performance, studying with modern innovators of acoustic music such as Matt Glaser, Darol Anger, Bruce Molsky, Eugene Friesen, John McGann, and Mimi Rabson. Since then, Amy has dedicated most of her summers traveling to fiddler’s conventions, and has placed at prestigious old time fiddle contests, notably 10th place at Galax, 5th place at Mount Airy and 2nd place at Clifftop. She’s taught at camps and workshops across the country including the Swannanoa Gathering, American Dance and Music Week at Pinewoods ("Pinewoods"), Blackpot Camp, Dare to Be Square DMV, the Bellingham Folk Festival, and at the Dorrigo Folk School in Australia. These days, Amy’s approach revolves around studying field recordings and 78 “hillbilly” records, attempting to grasp the spirit of different fiddlers’ styles and how one can incorporate it in their own playing. She also tours nationally and internationally (Australia, U.K., Canada, Europe) with her duo, Golden Shoals.

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Beginner Mandolin with Jason Bailey

Are you looking to get better at the mandolin? Perhaps you have never played any musical instrument before and thought the mandolin would be nice? Maybe you already play some but need help with chord voicings, music theory or you just wanna learn a few fiddle tunes? Regardless of your aspirations, Jason can help. Beginners are not only welcome but are encouraged!

Mandolinist Jason Bailey has been performing and teaching professionally for 20 years. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Jason relocated to Nashville shortly after completing his third solo album release, Mandobug in 2010. This record, produced by mandolinist extraordinaire Matt Flinner, expresses Bailey's talents in new grass, jazz and celtic inspired genres. Bailey currently has five album releases. He has taught at the Alabama Folk School annually since it began fifteen years ago. For more information, visit his website at www.baileyjason.com.

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Mountain Dulcimer with Laurie Alsobrook

In this class Laurie will lead students in assembling their own dulcimer from durable cardboard, string it up, and then learn to play it. You'll find your way around the fretboard while learning tunes on this lovely instrument, plus you'll leave with your very own instrument and the skills needed to continue playing on your own.

After a full career in elementary education, Laurie Alsobrook has found a perfect blending of her two passions, teaching learners and playing the dulcimer. Laurie has participated in a variety of festivals, online and in-person. Festival credits include QDF, Black Mountain, Nonsuch, Dulcimer U, NGFDA, Dutchland, and Dulcimer Daze. She also served as co-host/organizer of the Stephen Foster Dulcimer Retreats, digital and in-person events.

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Herbal Medicine with Cameron Strouss

Foraging & Herbal Medicine with Cameron Strouss

Getting your bearings quickly when learning something new can be difficult; which is why I created this class! This is a massively helpful herbal primer covering the topics of Foraging, Herbal Concepts, and Herbal Preparations.

In the Foraging section of the class we will cover best foraging practices, resources, and supplies, when to harvest what parts of the plants, and more. In the Herbalism primer we will cover types of herbalism, educational resources, the history of herbalism in the US, herbal energetics, effective herbal dosing, and introduce important vocabulary and concepts, as well as introducing the 12 tastes of herbs. In the Herbal preparations portion of the course we will cover types of herbal extracts and administration, when to use which types of extractions, and the bioavailability of those extractions.

We will taste smell, and experience many herbal preparations over the course of the class in addition to going on a couple of herb walks to round out your introduction!

Cameron is an herbalist, medicine maker, wildcrafter, and teacher dedicated to educating and empowering people in reclaiming health, community, and connection to the land through herbal medicine and primitive skills. She is the owner and founder of Deep Roots School of Foraging and Herbal Medicine and has been formally studying herbal medicine for a decade. She has over 4,000 hours of Sciences and Herbal Education under her belt along with 7 years of clinical work, professional foraging, and formulating experience. Cameron is a graduate of the University of Montevallo (with a Biology Degree), the Southeastern Institute for Traditional Herbal Studies and The Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine with her Clinical Herbal Certification and has been awarded her FH and RH (AHG).

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Beginner Ceramics with Jen Manning

In this class Jen will walk you through the basic skills of hand building with clay. You'll learn about slab rolling, pinch pots, using slip, and more. She'll also demonstrate proper throwing techniques before letting you try your hand at centering and throwing clay.

Jen Manning is the owner and artist behind Abbe Hunt Ceramics a small batch pottery studio creating beautifully formed gifts for kitchen and table. She has several years of experience teaching hand building and wheel throwing to students of all ages and experience levels.

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Hand Stitch Quilting with Aaron Sanders Head

In this bend-the-rules primer, we’ll learn the basics of hand-piecing a quilt top through learning several traditional blocks, and how to make those blocks our own. We’ll assemble our blocks into hand-sewn samplers, and explore hand-quilting and tying techniques for finishing. This class is great for beginners, but also for more experienced quilters who are interested in approaching the fundamentals in a new way.

Aaron will provide plenty of naturally dyed and vintage fabrics for experimenting and creating blocks, but participants are highly encouraged to bring fabrics from home to incorporate into their work. These can be fabrics that are important to them, or fabrics they’d like to share from their collection.

Aaron will provide needles, thread and other required notions, but if participants have preferred tools, they are welcome to bring their own sewing kits as well. Participants should bring a twin-sized batting–this is likely more than we’ll use, but it’s great to have extra. My preferred batting is The Warm Company Warm & Natural Twin Cotton Needled Batting, but any batting will work fine, including batting scraps.

Aaron Sanders Head is a Southern, Alabama-based textile artist. Aaron was raised in rural Grady, AL and Hope Hull, AL, as the youngest of three children from an artist mother and an agricultural worker father. His grandparents were both rural mail carriers, and the times Aaron spent accompanying them on those trips cemented early on a fondness for rural areas and the importance of connection however it can be found. That learned sense of observation combined with inherited family traditions of textile and agriculture inform the unique visual language Aaron works in today, that exists in the worlds of quiltmaking, handwork and natural dyes. Aaron creates quilts and hand-stitched, naturally dyed textiles that explore the lived experiences of rural Alabamians.

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Basket Weaving with Sarah Bell

In this beginner basketry class, we will learn basic basketry tools, common basketry plant materials, and complete two small baskets using two different beginner basket-making techniques. Enjoy time weaving with fellow students, using your hands, and honoring this ancient craft.

Suggested Materials List for From Scratch Beginner Basketry class:

  • Pruners
  • Scissors
  • Awl
  • Pocket knife
  • Clothespins or small clamps
  • Flexible measuring tape

Sarah Bell is a fiber artist, sculptor, farmer, and educator based in Birmingham, Alabama. Descended from Chinese and American ancestry, she grew up using art and creativity as a way to find a sense of connection to her experiences of familial migration, grief, and home. She is greatly influenced and inspired by the use of natural and sustainable materials, ancestry of people and land, as well as ancient craft processes and land tending techniques that interweave into her daily engagement with place, materiality, and its impermanence.