Arts Craft Arts Education

Folk Art Center Exhibition Features Graduates of Professional Crafts Program

Grace Engel, artist

By Emma Castleberry

On Saturday, May 13, the Southern Highland Craft Guild will open an exhibition showcasing work by the 2023 graduation class from Haywood Community College’s (HCC’s) Professional Crafts Program. The exhibition will run through September 14 in the Main Gallery on the second floor of the Folk Art Center. Graduating students submit pieces to be juried by the program’s four faculty, all of whom are members of the Guild: Amy Putansu in fiber; Brian Wurst in wood; Emily Reason in clay; and Robert Blanton in jewelry. “What strikes me about this group is that their work truly embodies their own creative voices,” says Reason. “They have each produced pieces that are personally meaningful.”

Jennifer Hagedorn submitted a hand-built jar made from earthen red clay inlaid with fired white porcelain shapes, the contrasting colors an homage to wooden chests with mother-of-pearl inlay from the Philippines. The jar is inspired by the practice of folding 1,000 paper cranes in the hopes of being granted a wish. “When I immigrated to the US in 2013, I was in the belly of grief having left my homeland and family to start a new life,” says Hagedorn. “I started to fold paper cranes as an offering, hoping to be granted my heart’s deepest wishes.

Prayer Jar. Jennifer Hagedorn, artist

The new life took over, my paper cranes got tucked away in a box—a little under 200 of them. I thought to complete the gesture, this time through the expression of clay. There are 999 porcelain, diamond-shaped ‘cranes’ that I carefully imprinted into the jar like a prayer. The final crane to complete 1,000 cranes is the sculpture of an actual origami paper crane which sits on the lid.”

Jace Bibb left their career in social work to pursue a creative life as a woodworker in 2021, starting with the HCC Professional Craft Program. Before joining the program, they had limited experienced in furniture building and fine woodworking. “I would say I had never touched or used about 75 percent of the tools on day one,” Bibb says. “I really want to give credit to our instructor, Brian Wurst, for doing such a fabulous job in teaching safety and instilling confidence in me. I’m honestly a bit amazed at what I know and am able to do now compared to two years ago.” One of Bibb’s submissions to the exhibition, Rockin’ Chair, is a walnut and soft maple chair designed as a comfortable and stylish place for playing instruments.

“The Professional Crafts Program at HCC is the region’s best-kept secret,” says Hagedorn. “They want you to succeed. Wildly. You can’t put that in a brochure. You just have to follow your heart through those doors.”

The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of the Highway 70 entrance in east Asheville. For more information, visit or call 828.298.7928. For more information about the Professional Crafts Program, call 828.627.4674 or visit

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