Adirondack Folk School finds unlikely second home


LAKE GEORGE, NY (NEWS10) – The Adirondack Outlet Mall is a series of buildings housing what you might expect: clothing and shoe stores, gift shops and local restaurants that cater to some locals of Lake George and many tourists. But, if you travel all the way to the end of the Log Jam Outlets building, you’ll find an old storefront where people inside don’t shop. Instead, they manufacture.

Three students gathered around instructor Larry Benjamin on Thursday as he moved a metal tube through a pair of holes in one end of an almost entirely wooden canoe. It was day 10 of an 11-day course, at the end of which each student would have their own handmade wooden canoe – all made at the Adirondack Folk School’s new second home at the Log Jam Outlets.

“One of the best things about this class is that it doesn’t require any previous experience at all,” said Benjamin, leaning on one of the boats underway. “You have nothing to unlearn. It is also a team building experience. The four of us will be working on other people’s boats because four people make the job easier.

These four boats took up one-third of the nearly 4,000 square feet of space that the Adirondack Folk School uses as secondary teaching space. The middle third of the room is populated with tables and hands-on equipment, for classes like jewelry making and basket weaving. The final part of the space houses an assortment of looms, used for weaving.

The Adirondack Folk School’s new second home at the Log Jam Outlets in Lake George, NY The school’s main home is in Lake Luzerne, NY (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

This chart is just the beginning of the variety of courses offered by the Adirondack Folk School. Founded in Lake Luzerne in 2010, the school hosts teachers who conduct classes in a variety of hands-on forms of craftsmanship, from blacksmithing to glass art to woodworking. The outlet annex has been operating for about a year, hosting about 50 classes and prompting the school to hire seven new instructors during that time. The benefits of being there are many.

“There are a lot more foot traffic here at Lake George outlets than at Lake Luzerne, so we’re reaching an audience we wouldn’t otherwise reach,” said Scott Hayden, executive director of the Adirondack Folk School. . “It also gives us a tremendous amount of space – not just a physical space, but another larger studio to offer classes throughout the year.”

The school was approached by the Moore family, owners of the Log Jam Outlets building – and whose members themselves took Benjamin’s canoe-making course. The outlets are just off exit 20 of the Adirondack Northway, much closer than the school’s main house in Lake Luzerne.

The latest seven instructors join a story of about 150 to teach everything from making a ceramic bowl to building a banjo, all since 2010. About 50 of them teach during a given season. The running theme through all of them is to give students a hands-on experience where they can learn and develop a new skill, and come away with something unique and special.

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A close-up of three spider plants leaves a student strapped under fiberglass on her canoe built at the Adirondack Folk School. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

This is true in Benjamin’s canoe class as much as in any class. One of his students in the current session has flattened three spider plant leaves against the side of his canoe, embedded under the layer of fiberglass that covers the entire exterior of a boat once each batten of wood is carefully set up. Each student can also put a personal keepsake safely inside the boat – a tradition that takes Benjamin back to building a boat with his own daughter.

“I gave him a canister of film and said, ‘Put whatever you want in there, and I’ll put whatever I want in it.’ She came back after about 20 minutes, and I asked what she had chosen, and she said, ‘A piece of my baby blanket. What do you think?’ And I said, “Oh, that’s good – I picked out a piece of your baby blanket too.”

Benjamin keeps a third piece of this baby blanket in his wallet, just in case he and his daughter ever build another boat. He saw others put in letters, photos and memorabilia from deceased family members.

The school’s new location in Lake George does not change the fact that Lake Luzerne is its home. The Town of Lake Luzerne encouraged the start of the school in an effort to attract more visitors to town to boost the local economy. City resident Jim Mandle was inspired by a visit to the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Several years and hundreds of course sessions, the question “Can we do this here too?” was greeted with a resounding “Yes”. This answer is written on every chair, instrument, photograph and more to come out of school – now from one of two locations in the southern Adirondacks.

“Our school is where people go to check something off their to-do list,” Hayden said. “If people have something they’ve always wanted to learn how to do, they come here.”


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