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Meet The Folks!

Paula Lane, 2013 Crafts Person of the Year.
 

With a pixie grin on her face, Paula Lane greets visitors to the Doll and Toy Shop at the Ozark Folk Center.

“Welcome to the Doll Shop,” says the woman who looks like everyone’s favorite kindergarten teacher.

Actually, Paula really is a school teacher. She retired from teaching and returned to her roots here in Mountain View, Arkansas. In addition to her way with children and the delight she brings to them as she teaches them tie their own dolls, she inherited the Ozark Storytelling gene. Adults love to sit and listen to Paula as she ties whimsical corn shuck dolls and shares tales of her mother’s family.

Erlene Carter - Doll Shop
 

Wrapping the layers of history and legend like the skirts on a corn shuck doll, Erlene Carter has a unique perspective on the Stone County region. An integral part of the Mountain View and Arkansas craft communities and a keen observer of humankind, she quietly perpetuates the traditions and values of the area.

Erlene was born in Stone County, Arkansas. She was born down by the creek, in the same house her mother was born in, a house her grandfather built. Both her brothers were born there, too.

“It was Rocky Bayou, but I didn’t know how to spell it,” said Erlene when she handed me her biographical notes. “I didn’t see it spelled out until I was grown and came back.”
 
 Mary Gillihan - Youth Programs
 

The woman’s eyes sparkled as she pulled on her young child’s hand toward the cabin.  “There’s Miss Mary,” she said. “She taught me to make ink out of pokeberries.”

 

Many young people have learned the mysteries of pokeberry ink, pinch pots and button games in the Mary Gillihan’s children’s programs at the Ozark Folk Center. Since 1974 Mary has been sharing her curiosity about the world and interest in the ways of the past with visitors.  “Now I’m getting the children of children who went through my Young Pioneers program,” said Mary.

 

In spite of her years of experience sharing the past, Mary Gillihan’s enthusiasm for life often makes her seem as young as the children she works with. Her intensity and appreciation for the drama of life have made her an admired and appreciated interpreter at the Ozark Folk Center.


Martha Laster - Spinning and Weaving
 

Spinning and weaving are naturally quiet and relaxing, but some fiber artists have a grace that outshines their art.   Martha Laster is one of those rare, wonderful ladies. In her gentle way, she has supported, encouraged and helped many aspiring spinners and weavers.  “It’s hard to put into words,” she said, looking around the Spinning and Weaving Shop. “But this has been the joy of my life the last ten years.”

 

Martha has always been fascinated with fiber arts, but in the late 1960’s she seemed to be alone in her interest. She couldn’t find any equipment or teachers.  “My husband got a spinning wheel kit out of a farm magazine and built me one,” said Martha.
 

Charles and Linda Widmer - Casting and Jewelry
 
From the humblest of beginnings – a cheese burger and wood carving – came the elegance and beauty that is Widmer’s Jewelry Shop in the Ozark Folk Center craft village.
 
Charles and Linda Widmer met when she was working as a waitress.  “He walked in and ordered a cheeseburger,” she said. “We left town together three days later.”
 

“I had to get back to Silver Dollar City,” said Charles, who worked there carving wood. “That was 30 years ago.”

He smiles across at Linda. “I’m getting old, she’s not.”
 
Jeff Glover - Chandler (Candlemaker)
 

Jeff Glover is as enthusiastic as a kid when he talks about the Candle Shop at the Ozark Folk Center.  “Candle making is a lot like cooking, and I love cooking,” said Jeff. “It’s a mix of art and science. You can experiment and create new things with simple ingredients.”

 

With his wife Traci, and their children, Fox,  and Rori, Jeff has added a new light to the ancient art of candle making. The family has transformed the little shop into an interesting blend of color and scent.  “We have cool candles that look like food,” said Rori.

Judi Munn - Potter 

When Judi Munn was young, she told her mother that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up.

Her mother told her that artists have holes in their socks.

So Judi went to college, got her teaching certificate and her master’s degree. But Art has a strong voice. When Judi had a chance to apprentice with potters Becki and David Dahlsted at the Ozark Folk Center, she took it.

Now Judi Munn is an award-winning potter – and her art is so beautiful no one will notice if she has holes in her socks.

Sharon Fernimen - Basket Weaver
 
When I needed a unique basket to hold yarn for my wall loom, I knew exactly where to go. Sharon Fernimen watched my hands as I described what I needed.  "It has to be rectangular, with a handle on the back,” I said, “and about this big.”

Sharon measured my hand spread and jotted a few notes. Two weeks later, I had the perfect basket for my weaving studio.

That ability to work out ideas, patterns and designs serves her well at the basket maker at the Ozark Folk Center. Sharon has been interested in crafts most of her life. She taught herself crochet and cross stitch early on. She worked for eight years at the Flat Creek Dulcimer and Craft Shop, in Hardy, Arkansas.
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Tom Weir - Knife Maker
 

Crossing the threshold into the Knife Shop at the Ozark Folk Center takes you out of today’s world. Civil War uniforms and Indian leathers hang on the wall. Glass cases hold knives that date from the 1700’s on up to ones made yesterday. Strange animals, antlers and skulls are tucked into crannies.

It might be a bit spooky, if it wasn’t for the broad grin on the face behind the counter. Tom Weir looks like a mountain man, just come in from his cabin on the creek. In fact, he is, in many ways, and that’s the name of his business – On the Creek.

Steve Folkers - Cooper
Watching Steve Folkers explain carving spoons is like watching a dancer interpret trees in the breeze.
 
“When I started this one it was straight,” said Steve, holding his forearm up next to a green wood, roughed-out spoon. “But there was a knot hidden in it and as it started to dry it twisted.”
 
He performs an elaborate twist and curve with his arm as he raises the spoon for emphasis. The young man and his grandfather watch, entranced. Steve dances his way through showing the different ways spoons can be roughed out of tree limbs, his upper body swaying back and forth and his arms adding the twists and curves.
Lula Hudspeth - Quilter
Her fingers work quickly over the soft, colorful cotton. Dip, lift, tap, dip, lift, tap. It makes a regular rhythm. Then,  s-l-i-d-e, as she pulls the thread through. The arching designs of a repeating scallop appear quickly as Lula Hudspeth’s fingers keep up their dance over the log cabin rose quilt that she is stitching by hand.
“I grew up quilting,” Lula said. Her mother, grandmother and all her female relatives quilted. “I started quilting seriously about 17 years ago when I retired from school teaching.”
Dan Thomas - Luthier
He grew up with music, in Mountain View, Arkansas, its impossible not to. Most every Friday night he remembers being down on the Courthouse Square at the Hootenanny. His dad played guitar and his Uncle Ray played fiddle. Aunt Bertie Thomas joined in with fiddlesticks and they all had a rousing good time.
Danny Thomas went off to Jonesboro to go to college. After he and his wife Debbie graduated, they went to Missouri to teach school. “But we couldn’t stay away,” said Danny, with a grin. After a year they moved back home and have been here ever since.
 

Our legacy and our heritage - 

 
June 21, 2010 - Grady Spann
Grady Spann joined Arkansas State Parks in 1993 as the Superintendent of Parkin Archaeological State Park.  In 2002, after nine years at Parkin, he transferred to Historic Washington State Park to serve as the Superintendent.  In 2005 he transferred to the Ozark Folk Center State Park where he is our Superintendent.  Grady also serves as a park ranger after graduating from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in 1995.
 
Prior to working for Arkansas State Parks, he served in the U.S. Army for nine years as a military tactical intelligence and counterintelligence officer.  He was stationed at Fort Hauchuca, Arizona; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and in Washington D.C.  He currently holds the rank of major.  He has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and the Pacifist Medal from the Brazilian Army.


May 31, 2010 - Sonny Graves

With a gentle hand and a soft voice, Sonny Graves fits the harness around Tango’s neck. The tan donkey stands quietly, looking at the people lined up in front of the picnic swing gate. Man and donkey walk together into the center of the carousel and Tango stands in the right spot while Sonny hitches the harness to the boom in the center of the swing. The crowd watches quietly.

“Come on in folks,” says Sonny with a wave. “Come ride the Picnic Swing.”

An Arkansas native, Sonny moved to Mountain View 11-years-ago. Growing up in North Little Rock, he raised animals for 4-H projects and worked on a cattle ranch after school. They had horses on the ranch and he learned to work with them, too.

August 31, 2009 - Gresham McMillion

Visitors to the Ozark Folk Center know him as the “Best Bass Player in the Known Universe,” but that’s not how Gresham McMillion describes himself.  “I don’t like to brag,” said the blushing red-headed young man who started playing music at the Ozark Folk Center in 2000.

 
His music career started when he was 10-years-old. Gresham and his brother were going to bluegrass festivals in Louisiana with their mother. She plays guitar, piano and sings.  “My brother and I were bored,” said Gresham. “So I started playing bass and my brother played mandolin. Most parents have to push their kids to practice, but with us, it was the opposite.”

October 13, 2008 - Audrey Gilliam
“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.
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September 15, 2008 - Bill Standard
The extraordinary nature of the wood shop at the Ozark Folk Center shows long before you get to the door. The little garden to the side hides carved bears and wood sprites amid the lush vegetables. Petunias drape out over the carved dogwood flowers on the cedar window box. The warm red paint is accented by cheery blue-checked café style curtains. The round sign next to the door holds carved toys and dangles a carved spirit face. The wooden banner across the sign proclaims “Wood Shop.”

 “Howdy Folks,” booms the big voice as you push open the door. Bubba sits behind the counter in his trademark bib overalls. “C’mon in.”