A Deep-Seated Passion

Chair, Emolyn Liden

As a Brasstown native, Emolyn Liden spent her childhood at the John C. Campbell Folk School, where she learned to appreciate the mountain makers that came before her. 

“The Folk School opened the year my grandmother was born, and her father, my great grandfather, donated building supplies in the very beginning,” she tells Asheville Made. “The school has impacted my life in so many ways, and that’s a perspective I bring when I create work, teach, and perform.” 

Helping her mother, Martha, raise a spinner’s flock of Coriadale, Romney, and Shetland sheep had a massive influence on Liden as well.

“Watching my mom with the sheep in the barn or at the spinning wheel, I asked her questions, and she taught one skill and then the next,” Liden remembers. “First, she gave me the yarn and taught me to knit. Then, she gave me the wool and taught me to spin the yarn. Then, I bought a spinning wheel. Then, we’d pick marigolds to dye the wool, to make the yarn, to knit the hat. I’m sure she’s waiting for the day I’m ready for sheep.” 

In the meantime, Liden works with the Asheville-based nonprofit Local Cloth to educate the next generation of makers. This summer, for instance, Liden will coordinate several week-long summer camps designed to introduce children and teens to fiber art. 

“The camp is about learning how farms, animals, different fibers, resources, crafts, and products are all connected,” she says. “There is more to the story behind a cute knitted hat or scarf.”

There’s more to Liden’s story, too. Though fiber was her first love, metalsmithing stole her heart along the way.  

Cabin, Emolyn Liden

“I started taking jewelry and metalsmithing classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School and Penland School of Craft,” says Liden, who also graduated from the Professional Crafts Program at Haywood Community College. “I love the sculptural aspect of jewelry and how the material is changeable and permanent. One can melt it, forge it, twist it, bend it, bury it to create a strange patina, saw it, embellish it, and melt the metal dust back into a solid form. The sky’s the limit.”

Today, Liden creates adornments that ponder broader themes like time, heritage, legacy, and “what was customarily collected or used and now maybe forgotten.” As such, her portfolio ranges from heirloom-style rings emblazoned with mica to miniature pendants sculpted in the shape of armchairs. Fittingly, the fiber artist-turned-metalsmith toys with knitted wire, too.  

“I enjoy including a linear dance to draw our eye into knitted wire vessels or forging metal to curl like a ribbon,” she says. “What worlds can be created by combining these mediums with the skills of each craft?”

Emolyn Liden, Asheville. This summer, Liden will coordinate three week-long camps at Local Cloth (408 Depot St., Suite 100, River Arts District, Asheville, localcloth.wildapricot.org). Two Kids Weeks (ages eight to 13) will happen June 10-14 and August 12-16, and a Teen Week (ages 13 to 18) will happen July 29-August 2. All camps will run from 9am-3pm with extended-day availability until 5pm. Cost is $300. To learn more about Liden, visit lidenhandmade.crevado.com.

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