The Fabulous EFMLS Wildacres Workshop Experience
By Helen Serras-Herman
The Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies (EFLMS) Wildacres Workshop takes place twice annually at a wonderful and very unique gathering place called Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina, near Spruce Pine and Little Switzerland, about an hour north of Ashville. The Wildacres Retreat sits hidden away amongst tall trees on top of Pompey’s Knob at the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains at 3,300 feet elevation. Over 80 different groups of artists, musicians, and writers visit Wildacres every year.
Wildacres Retreat, The Wildacres Retreat is located at the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
The Fall 2022 EFLMS Wildacres Workshop will be held September 5-11, 2022. The week starts Monday afternoon with dinner, and finishes Sunday morning after breakfast. The first EFLMS Wildacres workshop was held in 1973, almost 50 years of continuous excellent education.
Wildacres Lodges and paths – Photo by Andrew Herman, The Wildacres lodges blend into the natural background; walking paths offer serene moments.
The name “Wildacres” reflects the natural environment- the mountain laurels, rhododendrons, wild flowers, birds, chipmunks, large colorful moths, and all other wildlife that call the 1,600 acres home. It is a sanctuary for wildlife and artistic endeavors. The buildings usually buzz with students and teachers, but there are many walking paths and sitting areas that offer serene and quiet moments of solitude and reflection. A favorite zen moment is to sit in the rocking chairs at the beautiful, large flagstone porch and gaze at the layers of blue ridges, and far away, the observatory on top of Mount Mitchell. Rain and thick fog often adds an eerie atmosphere, and deepens the mystery of the place.
Rocking chairs & fog at Wildacres, A favorite zen moment is to sit in the rocking chairs and gaze at the layers of blue ridges, often covered by thick fog, which adds an eerie atmosphere.
The retreat includes two lodges for sleeping accommodations, a library, an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor auditorium for lectures and musical performances. Room accommodations are rustic and simple, but very clean and efficient. All rooms have private baths. All buildings are heated, but without air-conditioning, only ceiling fans. There are no TVs or radios anywhere. Three fabulous meals are served daily at the huge dining hall. Workshop participants and instructors gather around large round tables and share stories of the day, their creations, or background.
Many gather daily at the spacious lobby, also the best spot for the Hughes satellite-provided internet access. You know that you are in a remote area, when your cell phone is not working, except in a couple spots around the property, also depending on your cell phone carrier. As stated in their flyer, “all facilities at Wildacres are designed in an attempt to blend the graces of modern life with the beauty of the wilderness”.
At the dining room’s entrance lobby, a wonderful collection of minerals and gem sculptures, many of them made of North Carolina minerals, offer a glimpse of the local mineral wealth.
Mineral art collection, A wonderful collection of minerals and gem sculptures offer a glimpse of the local mineral wealth.
Lapidary class, The lapidary class is a favorite workshop
During the week, various workshops are offered. They include cabbing, faceting, intarsia, various jewelry-making techniques, scrimshaw, gemology, and gem tree making. Classes vary every session, broken into two semesters, some lasting two days, others all four. Classes start on a Tuesday and end on a Saturday, with Thursday being a day off, when field trips and nearby museum visits take place, or students simply rest. A tailgate with a chance to buy or sell hobby related items, an auction where everyone has fun, and a show-and-tell of the week’s creations also take place, all forging lasting friendships and memories.
Bead weaving class, Various jewelry-making techniques are offered. I took the bead weaving class.
The EFLMS Wildacres Workshop’s objective is to introduce participants to new and different lapidary and jewelry making art forms that they may not have encountered before or may have not ever thought to take on. Even if the class may not be something you want to further pursue, you can now at least appreciate the time, effort and skill that each of these art forms require.
Besides the hands-on workshops, at every EFLMS session an invited Speaker-in-Residence gives six lecture presentations during the week. As the speaker coordinator, I am very happy to announce that the Fall 2022 Speaker-in-Residence will be Dr. Tim Morgan.
Tim Morgan holds a Ph.D. in history, and taught history at the Christopher Newport University in Virginia from 1971 until he retired in 2005. He is currently a GIA gemology student, an active member of the Washington DC-GIA Alumni, a dedicated gem and jewelry researcher, and gem dealer.
Tim Morgan has been the Potomac Gemology Class’s instructor since 2017, held at the Potomac Community Recreation Center in Maryland. He works tirelessly to enhance the classes with new presentations and specimens, and is beloved by all his students. Tim also served as director for the Washington D.C. Bead Museum for two years (2007- 2008).
Tim Morgan was the Speaker-in-Residence for the EFLMS Wildacres Workshop in 2017, and returns with new talks about lesser known gemstones, including apatite, chrysoberyl, zoisite, and spinel. He will bring a wealth of knowledge and examples to fondle and examine up-close. Tim also taught the gemology workshop during the Spring 2022 Wildacres session. He is married to Michelle McMurty, a wonderful jewelry artist and gem lover, who is always by his side.
Speaker Tim Morgan, The Fall 2022 Speaker-in-Residence will be Dr. Tim Morgan accompanied by his wife Michelle McMurty
Plan on attending
The Wildacres experience is a fabulous one. The cost for the week of classes, room and board is unmatched as much is sponsored by the Wildacres’ Blumenthal Foundation (www.wildacres.org). The setting is incredible, the views are breathtaking, the serenity of the place is inspiring, classes and instructors are great, and the camaraderie is mind-blowing. I have been honored to be the Speaker-in-Residence three times and have incredible memories.
I hope that you will be able to join the Fall 2022 EFMLS Wildacres Workshop. You have to be a member of any gem and mineral society across the country affiliated with the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies (AFMS). Some clubs may even offer a scholarship for your attendance. Strict Covid-19 precautions are enforced. For information and registration please visit www.efmls.org/wildacres/.
Helen Serras-Herman, a 2003 National Lapidary Hall of Fame inductee, is an acclaimed gem sculptor with over 39 years of experience in unique gem sculpture and jewelry art. See her work at www.gemartcenter.com and her business Facebook page at Gem Art Center/Helen Serras-Herman
*All photos by Helen Serras-Herman, unless otherwise noted*