“Look what I’ve got here,” said Audrey Gilliam to the young man leaning on her counter. “Let’s do some origami.”

The youngster’s expression changed from tired boredom to concentration as he watched Audrey’s deft fingers fold the white sheet of paper.

“What is this?” she asked.

The adults in the room all started to give answers, but Audrey was firm.

“This is between this young man and me,” she said. “I don’t want to hear from the adults.”

Eyes intent now, the young man asked softly, “Is it an airplane?”

“Watch,” replied Audrey, fingers still folding.

“It’s so cool,” said a woman, watching over the boy’s head. “One minute it looks like a fish, then a star.”

Finally, Audrey paused, her hand on the flat paper shape. She smiled at the boy and said, as she turned the last fold, “What goes Ribbit?”

With that question, she pushed on the paper frog’s tail and sent it hopping towards the boy. He smiled broadly as everyone in the room exclaimed, “A frog!”

 

Audrey has always been interested in crafts. Her original loves were wood working and tole painting. In the 1980’s she started creating crafts for her livelihood. She sold in the Hayloft Craft Store for a while and then followed Charles and Linda Widmer to their shop on Main Street in Mountain View.

“I ended up with a wood shop that most men would envy,” she said.

She entered one of her paintings in a Decorative Painter’s Society contest and it was selected to hang in an exhibition in the Smithsonian. She also designed a doll called the Sit-Me-Anywhere doll and the patterns were published and marketed by Walmart for several years.

Even though she lived in the Mountain View area, Audrey didn’t know about the Folk Center until 1991.

“I lived in the country on a farm,” she said. “I hunted and fished. I once killed a 10-point buck with a bow and arrow.”

She loves music and has played around on a guitar since the 1970’s. She didn’t play seriously until some of her friends challenged her to play with them. As she began to improve, they pushed her to perform on the Folk Center stage. She teamed up with Bob Massago to play on stage for the first time.

“I owe a lot to the Folk Center for where I am right now,” Audrey said. Being a musician at the Folk Center has allowed her to play at Six Flags over Texas for five years and many other parks and special celebrations. She has several CD’s of her own music and, with her partner, Jim Kunkel, she does a weekly radio show on WRAY out of Princeton, Indiana. They also do the radio show that plays over the speakers in the Ozark Folk Center craft village.

Typically, she gives Jim most of the credit for the show. “He’s the DJ,” she said. “I’m the engineer.”

Nine years ago, Audrey began working in the Old Time Print Shop in the Ozark Folk Center craft village. She was looking for a position in crafts at the Folk Center, and there were openings in the Candle Shop and the Print Shop. She worked both shops that first year. It was the Print Shop that caught her heart.

“I love the Print Shop because it is mentally challenging,” she said. Bob Wilfong was her teacher and mentor in the shop. “The first time I set up a plate by myself, it was a card with a unicorn, I jumped up and down. I was so happy. Bob thought I was nuts.”

She loves the old-fashioned foot-powered printing press and has been known to tell people that when their computer crashes, she will still be happily printing. Her work in the print shop has allowed her to focus her crafting on paper.

Quilling, (rolling paper into intricate, old-fashioned designs) has been one of her crafts since the 1980’s. Now she uses this skill to make beautiful framed sayings that are popular for modern decorating. Origami is one of her newer skills, but her folded paper dolls, boxes and decorations are popular with collectors from all over the world.

“The Folk Center has allowed me to spread out with my crafts,” she explains. “Working in the print shop has let me focus on paper. It has allowed me to design.”

Visit with Audrey in the Old Time Print Shop at the Ozark Folk Center. The craft village is open from 10:00 to 5:00, Tuesday-Sunday for the month of October. Admission is $10.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.