Joan Berner, 2011 Haywood Community College Professional Crafts Fiber graduate, is no stranger to the classroom. And she is used to being on both sides of it. As a student, she has an additional Associate degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Bachelor’s degree in Education, and a Master’s degree in Education to show for it. As a teacher, she has taught home economics and now is an adjunct Professional Crafts Fiber instructor. In the middle of the mix, Berner worked for the program management and supervision of 54 engineers at a large manufacturing site.

This was before she heard about Haywood Community College’s Professional Crafts Fiber program. “I have not taken any course or program that has prepared me for my future job as well as the HCC Program in Professional Crafts,” Berner explains. “I have never worked harder at any degree nor found any as applicable to the real world as the fiber program.”

And she happened upon the program completely by chance. Berner and her husband were thinking about moving to Western North Carolina from Western New York.

“We were visiting the Folk Art Center and a graduate of the HCC Professional Crafts Fiber program was demonstrating,” Berner says. “She talked about learning the skills at HCC and I decided to check it out.”

Berner has always been interested in crafts. She learned to sew at a young age. She never dreamed she could make a business out of it.

Surprisingly to her, the HCC Professional Crafts curriculum is designed with this in mind. “The program’s unique perspective of marrying the technical skills with the business, marketing and photography perspective prepares students to open a studio and control their own career. Many programs prepare you to step into a position in your field. The Professional Crafts program helps prepare you to create your own business. Very few people graduate college and are immediately responsible to build their own business. This program prepares its students to do so.”

In the short time since Berner finished HCC, she has celebrated numerous successes. Some of these include:  acceptance in the Southern Highland Craft Guild, acceptance as the primary fiber artist for three years at a River Arts District Gallery, participation in many gallery exhibits and juried shows, and selection as a judge at the Georgia National Fair for all handweaving and felting entries for both amateurs and professionals for the last five years.

Berner says she enjoys the versatility of fiber. “I can make it be whatever I want,” she explains. “Bold, subdued, I can control every thread. I have total control over it.”

Now, Berner is sharing what she learned at HCC with current students. She works as an adjunct instructor in the program. “I attribute the many achievements in my short studio career to techniques and skills that I learned at Haywood.” And she is passing those skills on.

Donated photo. Haywood Community College 2011 Professional Crafts Fiber graduate Joan Berner enjoys making functional pieces like the one pictured. Since finishing HCC, she has celebrated many successes in the field.