Because of the Cherokee who lived in lands that would become North Carolina and our forefathers who settled in these Appalachian Mountains from lands afar, our region boasts a rich heritage of crafts. Passed down from generation to generation were skills such as basket making, pottery, woodworking and weaving—arts that used locally gathered plants, trees, clay and animal fibers to create items useful in everyday life.
Along the way, not content with just fulfilling a need, artisans sought to create beauty in the things they made, so much so that missionaries who came to the Southern Appalachians in the 19th and early 20th centuries attempted to preserve these handed-down skills and provide income for people who often led a hardscrabble existence. George and Edith Vanderbilt were involved in much the same endeavors with their Biltmore Estate Industries, housed in what is today Grovewood Village. This Appalachian Crafts Revival movement spanned the years 1895 to 1940.
Today, our region is home to many organizations and institutions that continue this celebration of traditional crafts, including the following:
Southern Highland Craft Guild (SHCG)
Begun as the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild in 1930, this initiative grew out of Allanstand Cottage Industries (ACI), formed in Madison County in 1897 by missionary Frances Goodrich. ACI became Allanstand Craft Shop and moved to Asheville in 1908. Twenty years later, the idea for a craft guild was born. Today the SHCG has nearly 900 members from Maryland to Alabama and four crafts shops, including the Folk Art Center, which serves as a home for SHCG. southernhighlandguild.org
The Center for Craft
This nonprofit organization advances and supports craft with, among other things, research, award programs, lectures and workshops. craftcreativitydesign.org
Penland School of Crafts
Founded in 1929 by Lucy Morgan, Penland is a national center for craft education, providing instruction to more than 1,400 people each year. penland.org
John C. Campbell Folk School
This noncompetitive school was founded in 1925 in Brasstown by Olive Dame Campbell and Marguerite Butler. Today the school offers more than 850 weeklong and weekend classes encompassing all of the arts. folkschool.org
Qualla Arts and Crafts
Founded in 1946, Qualla Arts and Crafts is the oldest Native American cooperative in the country. The Qualla Showroom in Cherokee displays and sells the work of the organization’s more than 250 member artists. quallaartsandcrafts.com