William Holland School of Lapidary Arts

William Holland School of Lapidary Arts

The William Holland School of Lapidary Arts was founded in 1983 by Harold and Mary Lou Sparks as a non-profit organization devoted to providing quality Lapidary, Earth Science, and Jewelry Making classes to the widest range of students possible. At the time, Harold was serving as the president of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies. In this capacity, they discovered that, despite the multitude of resources for those wishing to learn Lapidary and Jewelry Making skills and the workshops member clubs offered a few times a year, there were no comprehensive schools to teach and preserve this priceless knowledge. Spurred into action, Harold and Mary Lou set out to find a place to build, not just a school, but a place where strangers from all states and even other countries could come together to learn in a peaceful, beautiful atmosphere and share with one another.

Together, they found just the place in the small town of Young Harris, GA. Before long, Harold and Mary Lou began to make their vision a reality. They called upon many rock and gem club members to donate their time, talents and funding with Harold using his charismatic manner to pull in an ever growing number of supporters and volunteers. Even those who just stopped by to check the progress would often find themselves pitching in. "Have you ever installed insulation?" Harold called to one lady and the next thing she knew, she was stuffing pink rolls into the walls of what was to be the center of our campus. Another couple volunteered for one day, but wound up spending a whole week, calling their daughter each night to say it would be another day before they would be home. Soon, the many volunteers became one big family as they worked together each day and shared their dinner each night. Before long, the classes, which had already started in the Spark's basement, were moved into the newly completed Spark's Lodge.

When it came time to choose a name for the new school, Harold chose William Holland in honor of the third president of the SFMS, cementing an ongoing commitment of our organization to not only teach and preserve the arts of Lapidary and Jewelry Making, but to serve the rock and gem clubs and lapidary community that played such a large role in making our existence a reality. To this day, we support the SFMS by offering them one week during which they can make exclusive use of the School's facilities to offer their own workshops. However, it isn't necessary to belong to a rock and gem club in order to enjoy William Holland.

William Holland School of Lapidary Arts is a hobbyist school devoted to preserving the Lapidary Arts and serving the Lapidary community. As such, our annual season runs from the third week in April and extends thirty weeks until the first week of November. All of the classes offered at our school, apart from the SFMS reserved weeks, are open to anyone wishing to take part. Founded on the principles of service and volunteerism, all of our instructors continue to donate their time, completely free of charge, to help us fulfill our mission. Most instructors sell the supplies needed by students in their classes for a nominal fee in order to cover the cost of the materials and tools they provide in their classes. We can never thank each and every one of these wonderful individuals enough for traveling here from all over the world to give of themselves and continue to fulfill Harold and Mary Lou's vision of cooperation and excellence.

For more information, review the other areas of our site, perhaps take a glance over our class schedule and you just might find you want to come and see just how much fun Jewelry Making and the Lapidary Arts can be.

Our Staff
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The William Holland School Staff and Board of Directors are devoted to serving the Lapidary Community and to upholding the continuing commitment to provide quality Lapidary, Earth Science, and Jewelry Making classes to the widest range of students possible. It is our pleasure to do everything we can to advance knowledge of these skills and to serve both our local community and the worldwide Lapidary fellowship.

William Holland School Staff

Being part of a wonderful organization like William Holland gives all of us on the staff a great opportunity to serve you. We always endeavor to provide a friendly and creative atmosphere for the students and instructors. We can never express the depth of our gratitude for each and every student, instructor, patron, donor, and dear friend that makes it possible for us to continue to make Harold and Mary Lou Spark's vision of service, community, and artistic freedom a reality.

William Holland School Director



Bob graduated from Dunedin High School in 1987 and served in the U.S. Army from 1988-1992 as a flight engineer on CH-47 Chinook Helicopters. He has studied at the University of Maryland, Daytona Beach Community College and St. Petersburg College. He joined the William Holland Team at the end of the 2010 season after 16 years in management with Wal-Mart. He loves the family atmosphere of the School.

William Holland School Registrar

Reid Johnson


Reid has been employed at William Holland since August of 2009. He is a self-taught web programmer and holds a degree in English and American Literature from Harvard University. He developed an interest in rock collecting, soapstone carving, basketry, and metal work throughout his early years and a continuing interest in customer service while working in retail, food service, and library science jobs. He is glad to be able to do what he can for the School, its instructors and students, and the Lapidary community.

William Holland School Head Chef


Head Chef

Al was born and raised in Canton, Ohio where his parents owned and operated restaurants for many years. He is an Air Force Veteran with over 40 years of cooking experience from fast food to four-star restaurants. He joined the William Holland team at the beginning of the 2011 season and plans to continue serving stellar meals for many years to come.

William Holland School Receptionist



Wanda has been a member of the William Holland team since 1998. After meeting Suzanne and coming to William Holland, she fell in love with the School. She truly enjoys helping each and every one of the instructors, students, and dear friends that make William Holland possible.

William Holland School Retail Sales


Retail Sales

Toby retired from photography after 50 years and joined the William Holland team around the same time as his wife, Wanda. He too enjoys doing everything he can to help the School and its many instructors, students, and dear friends.

William Holland School Facilities Maintinence


Facilities Maintinence

Chuck has been a member of the William Holland team for several years now. If it exists at the School, he can and will fix it when something goes wrong. During the season, Chuck makes all needed repairs to machines, rooms, buildings, and campsites. During the off season, he is largely responsible for providing labor for the ongoing renovations to Sparks Lodge.

William Holland Retreat Inc. Board of Directors

The William Holland School Board of Directors volunteers their time to oversee the staff and operations of the School and to help chart a course that will keep the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts serving the Lapidary Community for years to come. Even more so than the staff, each one of these exceptional individuals is devoted to preserving the Lapidary Arts and handing down that knowledge to generations to come.

Chairman, William Holland Retreat, Inc. Board of Directors

Suzanne Wagner


Suzanne’s interest in the Lapidary Arts began before the founding of William Holland when her parents, the school founders, first got started with rockhounding. They did a craft show together where she exhibited shell jewelry alongside her parents cabochons. Suzanne was hooked, and went to every rock and gem show available and even took several classes before she stepped in as acting Director in 1991 when her mother became too ill. She has served on the Board of Directors since the School’s founding in 1985 and, after retiring as acting Director last year, is serving as Chairman of the Board.

Secretary, William Holland Retreat, Inc. Board of Directors

Rich Williams


Rich has been doing scrimshaw since 1983. His work has been featured in the National Engraver's Journal and he has taught, lectured and demonstrated his craft on television, in schools and museums and to various lapidary clubs and associations in Michigan, California, Ohio and Indiana. He enjoys keeping this historical craft alive and teaching it to others. Rich has been teaching Scrimshaw at the William Holland School since 2004 and was elected to serve on the Board of Directors in 2011.

Treasurer, William Holland Retreat, Inc. Board of Directors

Vivian Heath


Vivian has been teaching seed beading, basic stringing and pearl knotting since 1984 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2008. She is a professional knotter and worked for jewelry stores in Jacksonville, Florida. She owned a bead shop in Jacksonville for almost ten years where she taught classes and helped customers in bead design. Vivian first came to William Holland School in 1986 to take classes and fell in love with the area. She relocated to Young Harris in April 2006 and teaches six classes a year for the School. She also teaches for the SFMS from time to time. She also owns Beaded Bunny Hill, a bead and rock shop located at her home a few miles from William Holland.

Board Member

Harold Sparks

Board Member

As the son of the school founders, Harold has served on the Board of Directors since the School was founded in 1985. A retired government employee, Harold has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for 55+ years as well as serving as a police officer for 38 years and continuing active service with his local fire and rescue squad.

Board Member

Mike Sparks

Board Member

Mike was elected to the Board of Directors in 2011. As the son of the School’s founders, he is excited to take an active role in setting vision for his mother and father’s dream and to continue making William Holland an excellent and affordable place for rockhounds, artists, and crafters to learn and create.

Board Member

Sarah Lee Boyce

Board Member

Sarah Lee is a retiree from the Southern Bell Telephone Company and has been teaching Opal cutting since the early 1990s. She studied under Joe De Pietro, Emery Leppett and Dr. Paul Dowing. She has also taken jewelry classes from Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. Sarah Lee has served as the president of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies and currently teaches opal cutting at William Holland as well as offering classes in cabochon and opal cutting at her home outside of Charlotte, NC. She has served on the Board of Directors since 2009.

Board Member

Judy Peppers

Board Member

Judy’s art career began in the 1980s with painting. Love of color brought her to stained glass that soon became her second passion, kaleidoscopes being the focus. Next, fusing glass in a microwave kiln from scraps led to wire wrap as a medium to use the glass in jewelry designs. Since 1993 wire art has consumed a good portion of her time. In 2000 Judy began classes at William Holland taking numerous classes and in 2001 began lampwork classes. Since that time she has taken several workshops and courses from many instructors with glass beads becoming her focus. Judy has been producing and selling at art galleries and craft festivals throughout the Southeast since 1987. She has her own store, The Frog and Dragon, in Brasstown, NC.

Board Member

Nancy English

Board Member

Nancy is a retired nursing professor. She is an enthusiastic teacher, creative jewelry designer and values creative workmanship. Nancy and her daughter have been involved in lapidary and metalsmithing for many years. She has attended design and manufacturing workshops in Nashville, Tennessee; William Holland; Western Kentucky University; Atlanta, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky. Nancy has taught creative silversmithing in Nashville, Tennessee; Bowling Green; Cadiz, Kentucky and at William Holland. She is a member of the Middle Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society, and Kyana Geological Society. She has taught silversmithing at Wildacres for AFMS. As an active silversmith, she maintains a private workshop.

Our Facilities
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The School campus is located in scenic Northern Georgia, right in the middle of the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains. This beautiful and peaceful location affords our students an opportunity to take a break from their hectic lives and focus themselves entirely on learning, fellowship, and having fun. All of our lodge facilities offer fully furnished rooms with private baths and individual A/C units. All student rooms contain one full-size and one twin bed and Wi-Fi internet connection. Each lodge provides a communal lounge area where students can congregate and enjoy watching TV, reading, or just exchanging ideas. For more information on services provided by William Holland see our Policies and Guidelines.

Scenic North GeorgiaSchool EntranceWildlife

Sparks Lodge

Completed in the spring of 1986, Sparks Lodge continues to serve as the centerpiece of our campus. The upper floor is devoted to lodging; offering twenty-nine bedrooms. The lower level contains thirteen classrooms as well as our offices, dining, and kitchen facilities. Sparks Lodge is a fully handicap accessible facility. Both floors are accessible from ground level and access between floors is provided via a convenient elevator.

The porch, which encircles the second floor, provides a perfect spot to sit and relax with other students and to enjoy the natural beauty of the North Georgia mountains.

Sparks LodgeRocking ChairsPorch View

We are currently undertaking, through the kind donations of many patrons and rock and gem clubs, to update the lodge facility's rustic charm by renovating each of the rooms to provide a lighter, modern atmosphere. For information on donating to the William Holland School, see Donating to William Holland.

Our dining facilities offer a family atmosphere with buffet style meals served daily to all of our students.

Original RoomRenovated RoomDining Facilities


Directly across from Sparks Lodge, the Seabolt building offers three additional classrooms, including our Lampwork studio. It also houses the George Kasper Memorial Library and offers support facilities for our campground including restroom facilities and showers.

Seabolt BuildingGeorge Kasper Memeorial LibraryClassroom


Our campground consists of eleven campsites made to accommodate everything from tent camping to 50 foot motor homes and offers a wonderful way to experience the beautiful natural setting of our campus and still be only a few feet from the classes.


Mary Lou's Cottage

In 2002, Mary Lou's Cottage was added to accommodate our instructors. Located adjacent to Sparks Lodge, Mary Lou's offers 8 bedrooms, a spacious lounge area, a kitchenette and laundry facilities.

Mary Lou's CottageKitchenette/LaundryLounge

Otto's Lodge

Our newest addition, Otto's Lodge came into service on July 30, 2005 and added a modern, twenty-three bedroom facility that is often favored by those who enjoy a peaceful setting and the short walk to the main facilities along our spacious nature trail.

Otto's Lodge is named after Mr. Otto Glass, a long time instructor and dear friend to all of those who work and learn here at William Holland. He and his wife Mary donated the primary funding and much of the labor needed to complete Otto's Lodge. A member of the Pinellas Geological Society, Mr. Glass played an instrumental role in the School's fundraising and even ran many of the classes after the passing of our founder, Mr. Sparks.

Otto's LodgeNature TrailOtto's Room