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Feature Artists: Forging Futures Studio Craft in WNC


Rose Colored Reign. Dean Allison, artist

By Frances Figart

What is ‘craft’? Like its cousin ‘art,’ the word has received its fair share of classification and specification. Traditionally defined as functional art, craft today often has more to do with design. “The physical act of construction, the touch and manipulation of material, the actual process of making—these are craft,” says Rachel Meginnes, a fiber artist whose work is currently on display at Blue Spiral 1 in downtown Asheville.

Meginnes is among the two-dozen artists selected to participate in Forging Futures: Studio Craft in Western North Carolina, a survey showcasing craft artisans who excel in five disciplines: clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood. Although the opening reception, held Thursday, June 29, from 5–8 p.m., may have already occurred by the time you read this article, right now is a wonderful time to visit this free summer craft exhibition, jointly sponsored by Blue Spiral 1 (BS1) and the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design (CCCD).

The expansive exhibition occupies two floors of BS1’s large gallery. The CCCD curated and co-organized the show, which continues through August 25.

“Forging Futures is a reexamination of the first pivotal survey of Western North Carolina crafts, Pursuing Excellence, offered ten years ago by these two organizations,” says Michael Manes, BS1 gallery director. “This show will document the continued rise and prominence of studio craft in the region over the last decade.”

Forging Futures includes artists featured in the original exhibition as well as new talent. Most of them well known, the artists were selected for their ability to adapt tools, techniques and ideas that transcend traditional notions of craft. They provide a unique perspective on the modern and progressive Appalachian artist community.

“This exhibition offers the opportunity to celebrate more than two generations of artists who have laid a foundation of technical mastery and material creativity in this region,” says Marilyn Zapf, CCCD assistant director and curator, “and to consider how a new generation of makers are continuing to build and shape the future of studio craft today.”

The full-color catalog, Forging Futures, includes essays by scholars as well as photographs of each artist’s work. A percentage of the proceeds of all artwork and catalogue sales will be donated to the nonprofit CCCD.

Bridges. Tom Shields, artist

“The shaping of our ideas into tangible objects and experiences is quite specifically craft,” offers Meginnes. “The skills required in forming a clay vessel or forging a hammer are not so different from those needed to develop groundbreaking theories and influential legacies. Each of these endeavors requires inspiration, intention, invention, connection and follow-through.”

Blue Spiral 1 Gallery is located at 38 Biltmore Avenue in Asheville. Hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 12–5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit or call 828.251.0202.

Forging Futures Featured artists in Five Disciplines 

Clay: Lisa Clague, Josh Copus, Heather Mae Erickson, Eric Knoche, Michael Sherrill, Kathy Triplett. “Working clay and fire has truly become a common language that we are all speaking. I’ve been welcomed into the homes and lives of woodfirers all over the world, often without ever having met them previously and sometimes without even speaking the same language. The fire brings us together. It’s like a global nod of understanding.” ~Josh Copus

Fiber: Rachel Meginnes, Jessica Green, Amy Putansu. “Quilts, in both pattern and material, inform my work. Using vintage quilts destined for the trash, I reconstruct deteriorating tops and battings into paintings for the wall. I un-quilt the layers, stitch by stitch, with the intent of breathing new life into these worn and battered heirlooms. My objective is not one of preservation or conservation, but rather an honorific act aiming to appreciate the stillness, the beauty and the essence of the abandoned quilt.” ~Rachel Meginnes

Glass: Dean Allison, Alex Bernstein, Mark Peiser, Pablo Soto, Hayden Wilson. “My work involves portraiture and capturing physical details in glass that hopefully confronts the viewer with their own perception of others. I will be showing several cast glass pieces that document people and time in Forging Futures. Blue Spiral 1 does a great job of presenting artists doing interesting, quality work here in the southeast and it’s exciting to have them showcased in downtown Asheville.” ~Dean Allison

Metal: Elizabeth Brim, Hoss Haley, Andrew Hayes, Jaydan Moore, Zack Noble. “Asheville and the surrounding area is a wonderful craft community to be in at this time. The skill level and commitment people have to their craft is overwhelming. It is contagious and makes me strive to always make my work better. When I go to see an exhibition at the Blue Spiral or any surrounding gallery, I am always blown away by the level and quality of work. Our local craft scene is one of the best in the country.” ~Zack Noble

Wood: Brian Boggs, Dustin Farnsworth, Stoney Lamar, George Peterson, Tom Shields. “During the fall of 2016, I traveled to Kohler, Wisconsin for a residency at the Kohler Company. I worked on the factory floor in the Kohler foundry. I began with existing wooden chairs and wood parts I had fabricated before arriving. I made molds of these parts, which were then poured in iron by the foundry workers and then reassembled by me. Finally, they were powder-coated black to provide a waterproof finish so they could be placed outside without rusting.” ~Tom Shields

Tablet. Eric Knoche, artist

Forging Futures Special Events

Thursday, July 20, 6:30 p.m.—Why Craft, Why Western North Carolina? at Blue Spiral 1, free. Anna Fariello, Research Associate Professor at Hunter Library at Western North Carolina University, will reveal why craft has thrived in our region.

Thursday, August 17, 6:30 p.m.— Teaching Craft Panel at BS1, free. A panel of artists including Elizabeth Brim, Heather Mae Erickson and Michael Sherrill will discuss the various methods of teaching a craft, class room, craft school and apprentice, as well as the pros and cons of each approach.

Thursday, August 10—Celebrating Stoney Lamar 4:30–5:30 p.m. Forging Futures Reception at BS1 6:30–8 p.m. Seated dinner and program at CCCD 8–10 p.m. After-party with dessert and dancing The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design honors artist and board member Stoney Lamar at this special event including a private tour of Forging Futures at BS1 followed by a seated dinner and after-party at CCCD.

To purchase tickets: e-mail or call 828.785.1357 x103.


1 Comment

  • Wow, Rebecca! Beautiful work. N.C. agrees with you but we miss you in Savannah. Looking forward to your next visit.

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