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What Does an Intern Do?

Posted on March 27, 2015
by North House Folk School

My name is Caleb Mattison and I'll be your resident blogger here at North House for the rest of the year.

As one of the four new interns at North House, I often hear something like this: "So, what exactly does an intern do?" I find it hard to answer that thoroughly in one sentence, so I thought I would use my first blog post to do some enlightening, since there is no sentence limit!

The Intern Loft.

Our internship started in February and ends around Thanksgiving.We live on the harbor in a beautiful timber-framed apartment that might be some of the best real estate in Grand Marais. The school gives us a monthly class stipend that we can spend on whichever classes are most exciting to us.

In exchange, we put in a full work week doing whatever needs doing.We help set-up and clean-up classes, shovel snow, make soup or pizza for student potlucks, answer phones and check students in, and work with the staff on administrative projects.

Wetsuit, goggles, life jackets? Check.

It was a howler out there.

And, there are always those interesting days at North House when we will be doing something totally out of the ordinary.During a particularly cold stretch of arctic weather in February the temperature was around -10 degrees and there was a 30 mph wind off the lake. This would normally be just fine and dandy for us northern folk, but the bubblers that prevent ice buildup around the Hjordis (our sailing schooner) were having trouble keeping up.The ice was creeping close to the propeller and threatened disaster. Fellow intern Martha and I joined Russ, our facility manager, on the dock to chop chunks of ice off the hull of the boat to protect the rudder and hull. We couldn't reach out far enough from the dock, so we laid a plank out, climbed onto the deck of the boat, and hung over the railings with poles, yelling at each other over the howling wind and chopping away until some big chunks gave way. No one fell in the lake and the boat was saved. Success!

Team Intern with John after finishing the new stools!

We have all spent a lot of time in classes already.As a group, the interns madeCrooked Knives with Jarrod Stone-Dahl (now we could go into the woods with nothing more than our crooked knife and an axe and fashion a pair of snowshoe frames), and we took a Windsor stool class with John Beltman (if you need to take a load off, our colorful stools can be found in the campus kitchen).

Ben shapes his stool seat.

Erin sewing a moccasin.

Inpidually, we have taken classes ranging from jewelry-making and boat-building, to axe and knife skills and nuno felting. I'm looking forward to upcoming basketry and meat preservation classes. What an opportunity for us to meet lots of instructors, observe teaching styles, and learn new crafting skills!

Intern crew and staff checking out Caribou Lake.

We have also explored and adventured around the Grand Marais area, getting to know this beautiful corner of Minnesota that we now call home. I have hiked up a few local frozen rivers, been skiing at Pincushion and Washington Pines, ridden on the back of a dogsled, and the whole intern crew is helping a local couple tap their maple trees and boil their sap. There is never a dull day up here!

Looking ahead, the internship will also include developing our skills as teachers and facilitators; we will teach mini-courses, demonstrate crafting skills, and by the end of the year we will complete a culminating project in an area of interest.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of being an intern (intern-esting?!) is seeing so many different crafts as they pass through the school.I am excited to learn about what is possible to make, and to see the crafts as they take shape in front of my eyes. I anticipate seeing how many ways I can incorporate northern craft into my daily life and needs. This year is about experimentation and curiosity.I am excited to have the opportunity to meet the instructors, many of whom are experts in their obscure art, and the students who come here to learn from them.

Martha, Caleb, Ben and Erin

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more updates on the intern crew as our year progresses, and for more postings about life at North House!