For those who desire an alternative to overcrowded stores or tedious online shopping this gift-giving season, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area offers its annual Blue Ridge Craft Trails Holiday Guide. A drivable trail through a wide swath of WNC, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails feature more than 340 curated artists and galleries offering high-quality, regionally handcrafted goods. “This guide features a sampling of the local, handmade craft you’ll find on the Blue Ridge Craft Trails in NC’s mountains and foothills,” says Leslie Hartley, director of communications for the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
Desmond Suarez, of Sabbath-Day Woods, chooses only Appalachian hardwoods certified as sustainable to craft furniture sold in more than 250 fine galleries throughout the US and Canada. “Choosing local crafts is not only a way of preserving the arts and crafts of the mountains but is also a way to give a gift that is unique and meaningful,” says Suarez. “It conveys a thoughtfulness in gift giving.” Sabbath-Day Woods has locations in Canton and Waynesville.
In 2012, Summer Merritt and her husband co-founded Pride & Archive, which in 2020 became a full-time venture encompassing jewelry and furniture making. The couple live and work in Weaverville and welcome visitors to their studio. “While working in a live/work space, it’s easy for it to become routine, but when visitors bring their enthusiasm, it can spark fresh ideas and energy, revitalizing the space,” Merritt says.
Her modern jewelry pieces are created from exotic hardwoods meticulously shaped and crafted by hand. To make pieces more meaningful and giftable, Merritt includes cards that provide information about the wood used, including its origin, history and properties.
For Hamilton Williams, of Morganton, an encounter with ceramics while in college derailed his goal of becoming an architect. Throughout his career, he has focused on creating functional stoneware pottery. He credits the Trails with helping to highlight the unique and distinct heritage of the WNC region. “As the world becomes more technological and automated, I believe appreciation for handmade items increases,” he says. “A mug or basket or wooden bowl made by hand is intrinsically unique from any other, and gifting a handmade item presents them with something that is truly a one-of-a-kind in the world.”
Uniqueness and eco-friendliness are good reasons to buy regional crafts as gifts and interaction with artists only enriches the shopping experience. “Purchasing locally handmade gifts also helps preserve the artistry and cultural traditions of an area by supporting the artists who have devoted their work lives to maintaining and expanding those traditions,” says Williams.
Find the Blue Ridge Craft Trails Holiday Guide at BlueRidgeHeritage.com/holidayguide.