By Emma Castleberry
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) has launched the Blue Ridge Craft Trails Gift Guide, which shows you where to buy the perfect gift along the drivable Blue Ridge Craft Trails. The guide features more than 20 artists and offers a diverse selection of gifting options, organized by categories like “Stocking Stuffers” and “For the Cook.”
“With so many options in both media, styles, variety and price ranges, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails have something for everyone,” says Andy Palmer, owner of In Tandem Gallery. “So many gifts are either mass-produced or just simply lack in being personalized or unique. Getting something hand crafted is so much more meaningful and knowing where the item was made or by whom—to me, that’s almost priceless.”
Below is a sample of what you’ll find in the guide.
Ronda W Cassada Basketry
Experience gifts are a popular choice for almost anyone on your list, and not only that, but you as the gift giver might be able to join in on the fun. Basket weaving classes with the renowned Ronda W Cassada are an intimate and creative way to spend a few hours and walk away with a functional craft. “I offer absolute beginner basket weaving classes and workshops,” says Cassada. “A group of friends—up to 10—can come and make a basket in a few hours, or enjoy an all-day Saturday class. I am offering gift certificates via my website for holiday gift giving.” The gift certificates last through next year.
“At Mica you will find distinctive, creative, perhaps even unexpected gifts to surprise your hardest to shop for,” says Mica gallery member Jean McLaughlin. From amateur geologists and gardeners to cooks and animal lovers, the broad inventory at Mica offers a variety of impressive choices in ceramics, wood, weaving, jewelry and printmaking at all price points. “Nita Forde’s cloth bags are perfect sizes for carrying lipstick or loose cash, cell phones or laptops, or just wanting to feel elegant while you are shopping, with prices from $16 to $92,” says McLaughlin. “In the works presented at Mica, you can see the rigor of craftsmanship, love of function, expertise with materials and the sensitivity that comes through each artist’s hand. With a wide range of prices, the gallery has work that’s affordable for everyone.”
Dogwood Crafters is the perfect stop on the Blue Ridge Craft Trails to stock up on stocking stuffers. The work of 85 crafters fills the space, so each item has a different style. Find a selection of collectible, felted ornaments; as well as honeys, jams, jellies and relishes; soaps and bath bombs; painted and stained glass; wooden bowls and boards; and gloves, hat and mittens. “There are 12 rooms filled to the brim with gifts made to suit every personality,” says Brenda Anders, who has been a member of Dogwood Crafters since 1978.
In Tandem Gallery
For the collector on your list, In Tandem Gallery is the perfect stop for holiday shopping. “In Tandem Gallery is a super spot for collectors of both ceramics and jewelry,” says owner Andy Palmer. “We have around 120 ceramic creators from coast to coast, with six living outside of the country. It’s really a who’s who in the ceramics world. Our 25 nationally-known jewelers create a huge range of aesthetics for anyone who loves necklaces, earrings, pendants, rings, most anything you’d want to adorn yourself with.”
If you’re looking to make an impression on the collector on your gift list, Palmer recommends checking out the high-end ceramic state pieces of Bennett Bean, whose work can be found in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution and the White House art collection. For jewelry collectors, consider the detailed cloisonné and enameled pieces by Mana Hewitt, a retired professor from the University of South Carolina School of Visual Art and Design where she was the senior instructor of jewelry making.
Visit BlueRidgeHeritage.com/HolidayGuide to see the full guide, read artist profiles and get map directions.