In our fast-food, big-box world, everything from the clothes we wear to the plates we eat from can be made cheap—used up and thrown away in the blink of an eye. More is more and quality is not an issue: if it falls apart, you can always buy a new one.
While this attitude has dominated much of the last half-century, there’s a better one that’s been gaining ground, across the U.S. and here in WNC: Time and effort matter; quality counts. Handmade objects elevate those who create and use them, proving that the way you make something means something. Craft keeps things real.
In the Southern Appalachians, artisanry has always been central to life and livelihoods. And during the first-ever American Craft Week, October 1-10, patience and initiative will get their due. “We’re hoping to build awareness of the great, heirloom-quality things that people make by hand,” says Grovewood Gallery’s Sherry Masters, who’s spearheading the local portion of the national celebration.
With all the media buzz about keeping jobs from going overseas, a crucial connection, she says, is often overlooked. “We want people to realize that you can build up local economies by supporting those who make a living with their hands.”
Events are happening in all 50 states, including a free symposium at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., on October 8. But with 33 regional events, WNC leads the country in Craft Week celebrations. “There’s just so much going on. It really brings home the history and the craft talent we have here,” says April Nance, public relations manager at the Folk Art Center.
While that venue embraces the message of American Craft Week year-round, craftspeople who usually do demonstrations will be adding hands-on activities to their presentations, and the Allanstand Craft Shop at the Folk Art Center will be raffling off a Cherokee basket with proceeds going to the Craft Emergency Relief Fund that helps struggling artisans. Demonstrations will also be happening at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, so that visitors can find out about events upon arrival.
“People who are coming to town to go to the Biltmore Estate or to a bed-and-breakfast may not really be aware that this area is also really well known for craft. This national celebration is a great way to get the word out that it’s all happening here,” says Nance.
A perhaps unintended benefit of the event has been to unite those very artisans who are making it happen. “We’ve become a good, close group,” says Masters.
Some Crafty Events
Saluda’s Heartwood Gallery (21 East Main Street, Saluda, 828-749-9365, www.heartwoodsaluda.com) celebrates its 25th year of offering American Craft with a reception and show on October 9, 5:30-8pm, Focus on Four, featuring the work of Western North Carolina potters Karen Newgard, Emily Reason, Sarah Rolland, and Robin Kirby.
Heartwood is also sponsoring a show, Craft in Community, on October 4, 5:30-7pm at the Saluda Center (64 Greenville Street, Saluda). Stoney Lamar, nationally renowned wood sculptor, will give a brief talk followed by a reception and show of the work of five area artists including, Lamar’s sculpture, woodturning by Mark Gardner, pottery by Kelly McCullough, tapestry by Holly Wilkes, and calligraphy by Michael Hughey.
All of the studios in the Grovewood Suite (111 Grovewood Road, Asheville, 828-253-7651, www.grovewood.com) will be open on October 9, giving the public a look at the work of fine furniture makers Hayley Davison and Brent Skidmore, the jewelry of Thomas Reardon and Kathleen Doyle, ceramic artists Rick Eckerd and Peg Morar, glass artist Carl Powell, flute maker Chris Abell, and book artist Daniel Essig. Chair maker Alan Daigre will be on hand at Grovewood Gallery’s upstairs furniture space to answer questions.
The East of Asheville Studio Tour (www.eaststudiotour.com) happens October 9 and 10, opening the studios of that area of the city, as well as Black Mountain and Swannanoa, and featuring 30-plus artists and crafters working in clay, fiber, wood, metal, glass and other media.
Cloth Fiber Workshop (51 Thompson Street, Suite D, Asheville, 828-505-2958, www.clothfiberworkshop.com) will hold textile dying and printing demonstrations on October 1 and 2 and a day-long fabric collage workshop with Margaret Couch Cogswell on October 9. Cogswell’s workshop is the perfect entry into crafting, says the Workshop’s Barbara Zaretsky, because it’s open to people of all skill levels, and Cogswell creates a relaxed atmosphere. “You’re learning new skills without even realizing it,” she says.
Little Mountain Pottery (6372 Peniel Road, Tryon, 828-894-8091, www.polkguide.com/littlemountainpottery) in Tryon is holding its 36th annual kiln opening on October 9 and 10. Potter Claude Graves is recognized as a “Traditional Artist” of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
Hand in Hand Gallery in Flat Rock (828-697-7719, www.handinhandgallery.com) and Wickwire Gallery in Hendersonville (828-692-6222, www.wickwireartgallery.com) will also take part in celebrations.
Visit www.americancraftweek.com for a full list of events.