Registration now open for spring classes at the Berea College Woodworking School at Pinecroft
November 16, 2023
By Paula Keshderian
BEREA, Ky. – Berea College’s Woodworking School at Pine Croft is ready for a busy start to the new year. Classes start in February with the school’s newly appointed director, Rob Spiece along with guest instructors from around the country.
For Spiece, this is an exciting new beginning. In 2021, Spiece moved from Pennsylvania to join Berea College Student Craft as director of woodcraft. Now, he is directing both Pine Croft and Woodcraft. Spiece comes from a studio furniture background, making unique pieces with original designs for clients across the country. In 2020, he was awarded the Wharton Esherick Prize for Excellence in Wood at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.
“I’ve been a teacher since 2010,” Spiece said, “I love sharing the methods I use as a professional furniture maker with home hobbyists who have a passion for woodworking.”
Spiece will teach “Foundations of Furniture Making” during the spring slate of classes. The course is a deep dive into techniques and fundamentals of solid wood furniture making. During this six-day class, students will start with rough lumber and end with a finished piece of furniture and the confidence to work safely using sound techniques that woodworkers have employed for centuries. “This class is designed to meet the needs of any woodworker—no matter their experience level,” Spiece said.
Along with Spiece, Katie Bister has joined the Pine Croft leadership team as a manager. Bister graduated from Berea College in May 2023 with a Technology and Applied Design degree concentrating on Artesian Studies. She learned woodworking during her years as a Berea College student while working in Student Craft. By the end of her sophomore year, Bister was the student manager of woodcraft—a position that prepared her for the Pine Croft position.
“I feel lucky to be in this industry from a young age and to be assisting classes with a supportive community of makers,” Bister said.
Four guest instructors will be part of the Spring 2024 class schedule.
“My goal is to show people what’s possible in the woodshop,” Spiece said. “There are so many different and exciting paths you can take. The amazing thing about Pine Croft is that we’re inviting the best of the best to come here and teach.”
Chairmakers Robell Awake and Charlie Ryland will teach a six-day class where students will build a traditional ladderback side chair in the style of the Poynor family—an Appalachian family that pioneered the making of ladderback side chairs.
Awake, Based in Atlanta, Ga., centers on Black aesthetic traditions and histories through scholarship and craft. While Ryland focuses on how class and craft consciousness overlap and help shape community. Awake and Ryland are the recipients of the 2022 Craft Research Fund—Artist Fellowship.
Beth Ireland is a wood turner, sculptor and instrument maker. She has been a woodturner for 40 years and will teach two classes while at Pine Croft. Her first class, “Learn To Turn,” will focus on the foundations of techniques for spindle, end grain and faceplate turning. Her second class, “Intro to Dulcimer Guitar Making,” will be a thorough introduction to the elements of creating stringed musical instruments.
Danielle Rose Byrd is a full-time carver and sculptor from Bar Harbor, Maine. Byrd blends traditional and modern woodworking methods in her creations.
Byrd will be teaching “Sculptural Bowl Carving,” while at Pine Croft. She wrote a book on bowl carving, “The Hand Carved Bowl,” which is an excellent resource for those interested in getting into sculptural woodworking.
“Our instructors range from traditional woodworkers to artists that push boundaries and challenge what “traditional woodworking means,” Spiece said. “All of us will give our students an experience that can’t be topped and get them excited about work at their own home shops.”
Pine Croft launched as part of Berea College’s Student Craft program in 2019, extending Berea’s support of craft to local, regional and national communities. Located adjacent to the Berea College Forest at 1865 Big Hill Road in Berea, the woodworking school is on the site of the former Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking. The Woodworking School at Pine Croft supports Berea College’s 128-year commitment to the preservation and promotion of craft.
The school was named “Pine Croft” after the title originally given to the property by Anna Ernberg, the weaving director of Berea College’s Fireside Industries. She made her home on the site in the early 1900s. The woodworking school continues the tradition of fine woodworking for which both Berea College and Kelly Mehler are well known.
Registration is now open for this year’s classes at the Woodworking School at Pine Croft. For more information, visit https://pinecroftwoodschool.com. For more information, call (859) 985-3224.
About Berea College
Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.