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Jo Kilmer / Spirit Tall
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Offering workshops in making rustic furniture

Jo Kilmer got her start as a rustic artist in Missouri in 1995, when she first learned the art of bentwood furniture construction using locally gathered willow and progressed to working with willow bark in baskets, cabinets, and jewelry. She and her business, Spirit Tall, relocated to Murphy in 2006. Adapting her craft to include materials found in the Appalachian mountains of Western North Carolina, she began using native mountain laurel and other local wood in her current work.  

Spirit Tall is located on 12+ acre homestead on a quiet dead end road just two miles from Murphy and five miles from John C. Campbell Folk School. The artist has renovated an older home to serve as a studio and showcase, where visitors are immersed in the rustic world of her making. Follow the signs for a tour of a garden filled with rustic arbors and unique yard art. The artist’s house is filled with furniture that she made. Learn about the different types of wood that can be used to build rustic furniture, including willow, river birch, sourwood and more.  

Aspiring rustic builders are invited to join Spirit Tall for a fun and informative hands-on workshop. Workshops are typically a half-day and each participant builds their very own unique rustic creation to take home. In a 4-hour class, participants learn to bend and weave saplings into beautiful designs. For a more in-depth immersion into nature and the lifestyle of a rustic artist, Spirit Tall offers a 24-hour experience where visitors spend the night, wake in the morning to cut wood for their project, stop for lunch, and then build for the rest of the afternoon. The immersion workshop is a one-on-one or couples event, a unique experience offered yearlong. 

Kilmer has received awards and recognition for her art, including acceptance in the well-regarded Rustic Furniture Fair of the Adirondack Mountains. She travels extensively, sharing her skills, and has taught at the annual Woodlanders Gathering in Wisconsin. She is a featured artist in “Making Willow Furniture: Three Women Share Their Art” by Bim Willow. Besides her workshops and ready-made pieces, the artist also makes custom order furniture and garden arbors. Custom pieces include sideboards, chairs, tables and more. For the visitor wanting to stop by for a quick visit, her twig dragonflies and unique willow bark jewelry are available for purchase.  

Check out the website for hours or to make an appointment.


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