The Ocrafolk School

Ocracoke will host an exciting new island venture this year, the OcraFolk School.  The school  will feature a one week long session of classes and workshops in a variety of disciplines the fourth week of October.

Come out to Ocracoke, learn a new skill or study island life, and enjoy this special place in one of the best seasons of the year.

Classes for October 21-26 will include:

Jewelry Making taught by island artist Kathleen O’neal

Kathleen has been making jewelry for 35 years now, and has had her own shop “Island Artworks” on Ocracoke Island since 1991. She has studied her art at Western Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, The University of Texas, UNC Pembroke, with Metalsmithing and Enameling Workshops at Arrowmont School of Craft, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Penland School of Craft, Penland, NC, and the Enamelist Society Conference Classes at East Carolina University. She has had shows at the Peachtree Gallery, Atlanta, GA; The NC Society of Goldsmiths Exhibition, Pinehurst, NC; American Crafters Gallery, New York, NY; and Eclectica, Savannah, GA.

Kathleen says, “With nature as our inspiration, we will create and enamel forms of copper and fine silver. Enameling will be the focus of this workshop, including cloisonne and basse taille. All levels are welcome, and creative experimentation is encouraged.

Island Cooking taught by former owner of the Back Porch Restaurant, Debbie Wells

Debbie began her cooking career in a small Atlanta restaurant, calling her mother every day to inquire, “how do you make this?” She went on to a full apprenticeship under French chef, Jacques Gely and an intensive professional course taught by Madeliene Kamman. In l979 she opened her first restaurant on Ocracoke Island, and in l984 purchased and founded The Back Porch Restaurant. Over her fifteen years there, she wrote The Back Porch Restaurant Cookbook, and was covered by Saveur Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among others.

This class will cover basic cooking techniques, including soup and sauce making, baking, saute, roasting, de-boning and filleting of meats and seafood, vegetable preparation and exotic desserts. We will prepare a five course meal together every day, all amidst an informal atmosphere of fun and good food!

Island Photography
taught by island photographer & author, Ann Ehringhaus

A long-time resident of Ocracoke Island, Ann Ehringhaus still loves photography after 30 years of shooting everything from whales to weddings to CD covers! Her book, “Ocracoke Portrait” is a classic, capturing the beauty, humor, and drama of island life. Ann’s artwork has been exhibited throughout the Southeast and is in numerous collections, public and private. She taught for ten years in NC’s Artist in Schools program. In this island workshop we will use film as well as digital cameras on field trips and also explore creative possibilities of the Polaroid transfer process. Be sure to check the school website for further details.

Painting in Watercolor with Grace & Ease  taught by celebrated eastern North Carolina artist, Mary Ellen Golden

Recently featured in “Our State” magazine, watercolorist Mary Ellen Golden lives in Wilmington, NC and operates a studio gallery downtown in The Cotton Exchange. She finds that “the beauty in the natural world around us is my favorite subject. We experience all sorts of beauty in flowers-color, shape, fragrance; the associations and memories which come crowding in. This ‘seeing and feeling’ experience is the most important part of being an artist.” Her work appears in numerous corporate collections, including General Electric, Boddie Noell, Bank of America, Japan Nuclear Fuel, IBM, First Citizens Bank, BB&T, DuPont, and Corning, and may be found in private collections throughout the world. Mary Ellen will demonstrate watercolor techniques and assist students as they paint their own Ocracoke watercolors.

Basketry: Materials & Techniques taught by island basket maker, Judith Saunders

Explore traditional and non-traditional materials used in basket-making with acclaimed artisan Judith Saunders, featured at the Ocrafolk Festival.

Judith has been weaving three-dimensional forms with a variety of materials for more than twenty years. She has had work accepted in many juried exhibitions including the New Waves Exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center of VA in 2005, Basketry International 2006 at the Dairy Barn, and the Northeast Basket Guild’s Waves of Tradition exhibition in Pawtucket, RI 2006 where she received the Handweavers Guild of America award.

Create baskets using techniques suited to your individual interests and experience level, whether this means making your very first basket or adding depth to your current level of expertise. If your hands need a rest, you can spend time enjoying an extensive collection of baskets from around the world available for your viewing pleasure and study.

Model Boat Building taught by boat builder, Jimmy Amspacher

Jimmy Amspacher grew up pulling crabpots, hauling scallops, and culling fish for the commercial fishhouses of his home community, Atlantic, NC. Here he experienced firsthand what made a “good work boat,” learning from the fishermen and skilled boat builders of Down East, as they worked the waters of Core Sound. Today he maintains the same high standards of traditional boat-building in his models and in his backyard boatbuilding operation. Students will construct a plank-built wooden skiff model, using methods similar to those used in building a full-size juniper skiff.

An Ocracoke Sampler taught by Philip Howard, Rob Temple, David Senseney,& John Golden

Enjoy four days exploring Ocracoke island culture, history, traditions, ecology, and people, from four different perspectives.  Eighth generation islander, Philip Howard, will introduce you to the unique and fascinating history and geology of Ocracoke.  Captain Rob Temple, of the schooner Windfall, will pass along time-honored nautical traditions and let you experience first-hand what it was like to sail aboard a traditional two-masted schooner.  David Senseney will explore with you the wild side of Ocracoke (her beaches, marshes, and maritime forests), all with an insider’s perspective.  And John Golden, talented musician and recording artist, will examine the history of shipwrecks and their rescues, and the duties of lifesaving heroes and light keepers of the Outer Banks.

All of the above classes are designed to help fulfill the folk school mission, namely to:

  • preserve local cultural heritage
  • preserve hands-on skills in arts & crafts
  • encourage creative thinking & action
  • promote appreciation of the natural world
  • build community
  • provide off-season employment for Ocracoke residents
  • utilize existing island resources in the “off-season”
  • bring interesting & talented people to our community

A typical class schedule will be arranged as follows:


3-6 pm  Registration & Check in
6:30 pm  Group Dinner (family style)
7:30 pm  Meet Instructors

Monday – Thursday

8 am   Morning sing & coffee (light breakfast)
9 – 12 am   Classes (Monday morning will be an introduction to Ocracoke Island, including a walk about the village)
12 noon   Lunch
1:30 – 3:30 pm   Classes
3:30    Free Time
6:30 pm   Group Dinner (family style) [except Wed. — participants will make individual arrangements for Wednesday dinner]
7:30 pm   Evening activity (to be announced — music, dance, stories, etc.)


8 am   Morning sing & coffee (light breakfast)
9 am   School wrap up/sharing/”show & tell”
Afternoon   Trip to Portsmouth Island (depending on weather — additional fee & registration required)

Fees & Other Information:

Fees: $495.00 for a one-week class, including group meals.  Please contact the folk school for up-to-date & accurate information about a particular class.  Housing and materials (if necessary) require extra fees.  Again, please contact the school for detailed information.

Class sizes:  Most classes will average 6- 8 students, though some classes will be larger, and some smaller.

Housing: The OcraFolk School does not provide housing.  However, Ocracoke village boasts a wide assortment of accommodations, including motels, hotels, cottages, bed and breakfast inns, & campgrounds.  In response to your inquiry the school will send you information about island lodging.

Meals:  OcraFolk School fees include tuition and group meals (see schedule above).  Please contact the school for other details.  Lunches & Wednesday dinner are not provided for, but are available at many of the island’s fine restaurants & eateries.

The OcraFolk School is sponsored by the Ocracoke Preservation Society, a 501-C3 non-profit corporation.

Information on this web page was correct at the time it was originally published, but may not  be accurate at the time you read it.  The event is now under the auspice of Ocracoke Alive (   You can also contact the school by email if you have questions.