About Federation Workshops

The William Holland School of Lapidary Arts is located in the mountains of north Georgia near the North Carolina border.  The Wildacres Retreat is a privately owned conference center nestled in the North Carolina mountains near Little Switzerland. Please visit their websites for additional information.

William Holland School of Lapidary Arts

The William Holland School Arts was started in 1983 When founder Harold C. Sparks as serving as the eighth president of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies (SFMS). At that time, he and his wife Mary Lou discovered that there were no schools where you could go to learn the Lapidary Arts, only workshops a few times a year. They set out to find a mountain top retreat where such a school could be built; a place where strangers from all states and other countries could come together to learn in a peaceful atmosphere and to share with one another.

Situated in the foothills of the beautiful Appalachian Mountain range, Harold and Mary Lou found a great spot in Young Harris, Georgia to build a retreat that we can all enjoy with the help of many rock and gem club members to donate their time, and talents to bring about the William Holland School of Arts, as it exists today. 


Wildacres Retreat

The Wildacres story begins in the 1920's when Thomas Dixon of Shelby, NC, acquired over 1,000 acres of wooded land on Pompey's Knob in McDowell County. Dixon was a lawyer, preacher, legislator, playwright, novelist, and actor. Dixon attended Wake Forest University where he received many awards. He was well known nationally as a preacher and public speaker and made three fortunes during his lifetime.

​Wildacres Retreat is a conference center offering its facilities to non-profit groups conducting educational or cultural programs on topics such as music, art, science, religion, lapidary, craft and writing. It is also available for staff and board retreats for non-profit organizations.

At an elevation of 3,300 feet, Wildacres is situated on 1,600 acres atop Pompey's Knob, a mountain near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.


General Information

Who May Attend

Anyone belonging to an SFMS club will be given 1st priority. SFMS members who are first-time attendees or those taking a particular class for the first time will also receive 1st priority. Student under 18 are welcome, but must be accompanied by a responsible adult and must have approval from the workshop director and the instructor to attend an adult class. Members of other AFMS regional federations will be given 2nd priority and may attend on a space available basis. Anyone not affiliated with SFMS / AFMS will receive 3rd priority and may attend by paying an additional fee of $50.

Registration Procedure

Applications from members of SFMS clubs will be accepted as soon as the schedule is posted. Applications from other regional federations and the public at large will be accepted beginning in March. Your club membership dues must be current and your club’s dues to the Federation must also be paid before you will be accepted as an SFMS member. If you have not received written confirmation of your application within 30 days, please contact the registrar or director.

Workshop Tuition

Please see the Class Costs page for more information on Tuition for William Holland and Wildacres Federation weeks.

Refund / Cancellation Policy

Refunds are at the discretion of the Education Committee and the Workshop Director; however no refunds will be made once the workshop has started. There is no adjustment for late arrival or early departure. No fee will be charged if a class is cancelled. If a refund is granted a $50 administrative fee will be retained.

Application Form

The application form is on the Registration page and must be filled out completely. You may also fill out the online registration form found under each class description. Please reach out to one of our registrars if you have any questions.

About Instructors

All instructors for our workshop program are volunteers and are not compensated for their time and effort. They may charge a materials fee for their classes. This materials fee is not part of the workshop tuition.

Check-In Day

·        Check-in for William Holland is SUNDAY afternoon.

·        Check-in for Wildacres is MONDAY afternoon.

·        Early check-in is allowed for William Holland only and is subject to an $20 per person fee to check in a day early.