Meet Instructor Peter Juhl

Peter will be teaching ‘Stone Balancing’ on July 20, an intriguing art form that combines natural beauty, design and a bit of luck! Folk schools are practically in his DNA, as his mother began taking him to Danebod Folk School in Tyler, MN when he was around 6 years old. He’s enjoyed it so much that he, his wife and daughter are now the folk camp directors.

What’s kept you interested in folk schools since you were a child?
I think the biggest thing is the emphasis on life long learning. That defined my family growing up and it continues to define me and my family today. I like the way folk schools embrace supportive, non-competitive learning. Not to get a grade or to get a better job, but because your life is enriched.

Photo Credit: Submitted by Peter Juhl 

What got you started doing stone balancing? I think the folk school approach toward creativity and experimentation contributed. It was a bit of a fluke – I was bored on a family vacation at the North Shore, and began to play with rocks. I successfully balanced a rock vertically – on it’s side, not flat. It looked so cool and was unexpected, I got intrigued. This was 25 years ago, I’m still playing with rocks. I love the idea of taking ordinary things, rocks, and creating sublime, beautiful pieces of art.

Did you work with your hands as a child? Yes, during camp at Danebod. However, I had poor handwriting and didn’t think of myself as handy. I didn’t consider myself artistic as a kid, and that is the message I received from adults, that I wasn’t artistic. I do recall my dad balancing silverware on the edge of his plate, hard to know if that was an influence on me, but I do remember that!
 

What do you hope participants will take away from your class? I hope they will be surprised and pleased at the art they have created, after some guidance and coaching. I know students at other classes always leave with huge smiles on their faces. People usually end up accomplishing more than they thought they could do.

There is some controversy about disturbing the rocks in their natural landscape. I’m glad you brought that up. In this class I emphasize that students need to be gentle with the land, they are encouraged to create their art, photograph it, then take the piece down and return the area as they found it. I’ll cover these guidelines in my class, including that people should not dig up stones, and that they need to be sure they are not on private property. Just like camping or hiking in the wilderness, the goal is to leave no mark.
 


Photo Credit: Submitted by Peter Juhl

Finally:

  • What fictional location would you like to visit? Middle Earth, of the Lord of the Rings fame
  • Irrational fear? I still constantly worry about my kids, even though they are grown and I know they are very capable
  • What skill would you like to have? The ability to draw and paint. Some of my family are very skilled in the visual arts, I would love to be able to do what they do
  • Favorite place in nature? Lake Superior shore, specifically Sugarloaf Cove
  • Any good books to recommend? My book on stone balancing! It’s the only one written Center of Gravity.