“We came to the land to create and over time the land and nature has created us.”
Ken and Michelle Workowski are genuine natural-builders, sharing their diverse and creative talents, years of collected building materials, and pure hard work to create an artistically-crafted, off-the-grid cabin for Driftless Folk School’s interns and guests.
“Ken and Michelle are great mentors! I will never look at boards in the same way again. I really learned how to counter sink and measure, and understand good carpentry and all the amount of detail and planning required. Everything they do with amazingly positive attitudes, a strong work ethic and a wonderful sense of humor. Their generosity went beyond the cabin, they taught me morel hunting and preserving, canning, bark peeling, how to drive a stick-shift and took me kayaking. They were so welcoming and generous.” These enthusiastic exclamations from Jess Schaner, Driftless Folk School’s intern at Bear Creek Farm, was building and living with the Workowski’s.
It is a profound gift to Driftless Folk School to have two such generous and deeply gifted artists build our first building, and pass on their legacy as great teachers and artists to our interns, staff and volunteers. They embody the long traditions of the Folk School model, of life-long, inter-generational learning and community building. Ken remarked on his satisfaction of mentoring younger folk and teaching skills that have the potential to open new pathways for employment and passion for craft. His joy is obvious when he expresses his delight in being able to pass on his love of beautifully crafted construction and using what is available in your environment.
Ken and Michelle truly personify life as art, they have chosen non-conventional work through their business~The Nature of Things. They gather their elements from nature and enhance their inherent beauty, through lamps, furniture, frames and all of their custom carpentry.
Their home is a remarkable example of their dedication to hand-made art from nature. Creativity hums from the pathway of skillfully laid stone, bordered by rainbow vegetable gardens that are interspersed with hand-hewn wooden sculptures. The music flows through their custom-sculpted front door, into a living space where “attention to detail” sings through every inlaid-tree cabinet door, hand-stripped white logged walls, bent tree railings, hand painted leaves of oak, chestnut, and maple dance across their living room floor, bone/wood and antler handles adorn every drawer, whittled spoons hang over their wood fired oven while morels dry in ribbons hung across the ceiling. A harmony that rings as clear as a temple bell and begs to have its story told. “We decided everything must have a story,” Michelle explained as they shared the joy of living in a hand-made home. She especially glowed about the stories where her kids had assisted in particular creations.
Driftless Folk School is deeply honored and extremely humbled by Ken’s incredible offer to volunteer to build our first building on the land with his personal supply of recycled lumber, windows, doors, tools, wisdom, patient teaching and grace (you should see him walk the roof ridge and unsheathed rafters-he didn’t tell us he was a dancer too!). This cabin (about 2/3 completed) embodies beautiful design, unique craft, dedication and the joy of our interns and volunteers that are experiencing the privilege of working alongside two humble and experienced artists. The Workowski gift to Driftless Folk School and community at large is a symphony of experience, beauty, craft, and tradition.
If you run into either one of them, please thank them for this summer of beauty, hard work, constant attention, self-denial and the love they bring to this extraordinary gift that we will be perpetually grateful for.