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Artisan Nation

Western North Carolina artisans display their collective talent during American Craft Week, October 5-14

Clockwise from top left: Selinde Lanier, Angelique Tassistro, Georgia Bonesteel, Jason Burnett. Photos by Naomi Johnson

Clockwise from top left: Selinde Lanier, Angelique Tassistro, Georgia Bonesteel, Jason Burnett. Photos by Naomi Johnson

In the time it takes for a factory assembly line to crank out a 16-piece set of dinnerware, a studio potter may just start to throw a single bowl onto a wheel, still many steps away from the finished product. Chances are, the potter’s bowl won’t be dishwasher safe and may cost more than the entire factory-made set. But for all its convenience, the mass-produced set lacks something vital: a sense of dignity and quality that can only be transferred through the skill, attention to detail, and yes, love, of the maker. Handmade objects and their makers may have been overshadowed during the growth of the outsourced, global economy, but during American Craft Week, held this year from October 5 to 14, they’re celebrated and recognized as a force in creating a more sustainable, local way of living. 

Now in its third year and bigger than ever, American Craft Week — a national event — seems to have touched a cultural chord. “It allows crafters to see themselves a part of a movement,” says Sherry Masters, General Manager and Buyer at Grovewood Gallery and organizer of local efforts. But beyond that, the event draws a cross-section of supporters from other movements, too: those who want to buy local and those who reject the big-box mentality and its emphasis on cheap goods and quantity rather than quality.

Western North Carolina is taking a more prominent role in the national event this year, with nine new sponsors including the John C. Campbell Folk School (the lead sponsor), the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, Asheville’s Art in the Park, the River Arts District, Mountain Made Gallery, Alexander & Lehnert, the national-but Asheville-based Furniture Society, and The Bascom in Highlands. Claiming a bit more of the national spotlight makes sense from both a cultural and economic standpoint.

“Craft has been recognized as a unique asset of WNC mountain people for more than 100 years, with visitors flocking from around the globe to buy and learn from weavers, woodcraftsmen, potters, jewelers and glass artists since the late 1800s,”says Judi Jetson, Director of Economic Development for Handmade in America.  

According to a 2007 Handmade study, craft has an annual economic impact of $206.5 million in the region; ten times that of the tobacco industry and equivalent to the nursery, greenhouse, sod, and Christmas tree industries.

Nearly every corner of WNC will honor American Craft Week with events ranging from demonstrations to studio tours, gallery shows, speakers, and for both weekends of the event, the Asheville Art in the Park market held in downtown Asheville in Pack Square. Lead sponsor, the John C. Campbell Folk School, will be hosting its 39th annual Fall Festival, featuring art by over 200 artists, dance on two stages, and 40 craft demonstrations. Crimson Laurel gallery in Bakersville — one of the nation’s largest contemporary ceramics galleries — is hosting shows in each of its two exhibition spaces, but co-owner David Trophia says that there are numerous other events happening a short driving distance away, including a show at Penland School of Crafts in Spruce Pine. The gallery also provides maps to nearby open studios and suggestions on local places to dine and stay.

“The ceramics community has always been really like a family,” he says. “Potters share glazes, bricks, clay. It’s really fitting for us as a ceramics gallery to be part of a collective event like this. We really enjoy having these connections.” It’s just that spirit of connection that’s driving the craft movement and putting the handmade object back in the heart and homes of American collectors. 

A Sampling of American Craft Week Events
For a comprehensive list of events and the most up-to-date info, visit americancraftweek.com/wnc

American Craft Week Kick-Off John C. Campbell Folk School Executive Director Jan Davidson speaks on American Craft Week and craft in Western North Carolina. Friday, October 5, 6pm. Haywood Park Hotel Atrium, downtown Asheville.

John C. Campbell Folk School Fall Festival John C. Campbell Folk School, the main sponsor for American Craft Week, presents a celebration of Appalachian heritage, featuring over 40 craft demonstrations, food, dancing, and music. Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7. 1 Folk School Road, Brasstown. folkschool.org.

Asheville Art in the Park   Over 100 artists in media ranging from painting to pottery, exhibiting in booths in Asheville’s Pack Square Park. Saturday, October 6 and Saturday, October 13, Asheville. ashevilleartinthepark.com.

Stories by Hand: Jenny Mendes and Shoko Teruyama; Veil: Matt Kelleher; Ceramics by Susan Feagin A solo show of contemporary functional pottery by Matt Kelleher; two-artist show of sculptural and functional ceramics by Jenny Mendes and Shoko Teruyama. Ceramics by Susan Feagin. October 1 to 31, Crimson Laurel Gallery, Bakersville. crimsonlaurelgallery.com.

Craft Demonstrations Potters collective offers demonstrations by members Lori Theriault, Judi Harwood, Sarah Wells Roland, Karen Dubois and Melanie Mitchell Robertson. The Village Potters, River Arts District, Asheville. October 5-13. thevillagepotters.com.

Art on Main Exhibition In conjunction with Art on Main, an arts and crafts festival in historic Downtown Hendersonville, Wickwire fine art/folk art will host an opening featuring local craft artisans. Friday, October 5. Wickwire fine art/folk art, 401 North Main Street, Hendersonville. wickwiregallery.com.

East of Asheville Studio Tour An open studio tour in Swannanoa and Black Mountain. Saturday, October 13 and Sunday, October 14. eaststudiotour.com

Southern Craft: A Revival  In the Mountains  A lecture on local craft history by Anna Fariello, associate research professor at Western Carolina University. Friday, October 12. Handmade in America, Asheville. handmadeinamerica.org.

Pottery Demonstrations Pottery demonstrations will be presented throughout the month of October, including demonstrations by Charlie Brown of Brown’s Pottery in Arden and Sondra Hastings from Asheville. Mountain Made, 1 Page Avenue, Suite 123, Asheville. mtnmade.com.

Artist Demonstrations Artist demonstrations and reception to celebrate American Craft Week. Heartwood Gallery, 21 East Main Street, Saluda. heartwoodsaluda.com.

Black & White 3 The Folk Art Center Main Gallery presents work by members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Each craft media represented by the Guild appears in the show and nearly one hundred artists are participating. All Guild members have been juried into the organization, proving they are masters of their craft. October 5-14. Southern Highland Craft Guild, Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville. southernhighlandguild.org.

Cut, Bend, Fold, Color: Paper Sculpture & Collage in Dimension Grovewood Gallery hosts a solo exhibition of internationally known paper sculptor Leo Monahan. The exhibit features one-of-a-kind paper sculptures of mask-like faces from the past, color wheels, and still life scenes and landscapes comprised of vibrant boats, plants, birds, butterflies and more. Saturday, October 6. Reception from 4-6pm. Grovewood Gallery, 111 Grovewood Road, Asheville. grovewood.com.

Celebration! 2012 A juried exhibition of fine craft of approximately 50 craftspeople from across the nation, featuring baskets, ceramics, decorative and wearable fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper and wood craft objects. The Bascom – A Center for Visual Arts, 323 Franklin Road, Highlands. thebascom.org.

Bridge 11: Lia Cook A solo exhibition by internationally recognized fiber artist Lia Cook. The exhibition introduces several new works from her recent art-neuroscience collaboration and was organized by the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, 1181 Broyles Road, Hendersonville. Gallery hours are weekdays, noon-5pm. craftcreativitydesign.org.

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