Arts Craft Arts

WNC Crafts: WNC Makers Build on Rich Crafts Tradition

One of the most fascinating studies of Western North Carolina’s history is its crafts tradition, dating from the Cherokee through the Craft Revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to today. The Craft Revival was the flowering of traditional crafts in the mountains, encouraged by prominent women like Frances Goodrich, Lucy Penland, Olive Campbell, Eleanor Vance, Charlotte Yale and Edith Vanderbilt, who knew that that cottage industries could enrich the lives of Appalachian families. These days, woodworkers, potters, glass blowers, basket makers, fiber artists and so many, many more keep that rich heritage of traditional craftsmanship alive and well.

During the Craft Revival, many of the everyday items that began being made as necessities for home life—brooms, baskets, cloth, crocks—became highly sought-after products prized for the originality and quality that went into the making, as well as for their functionality. And makers found themselves with the ability to supplement income and pass knowledge along to future generations. Today, WNC honors that artisan past with galleries, studios, museums, educational opportunities, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails and more.

In our July 2022 WNC Crafts section, we visit with some of these modern-day crafters like Joseph Williams, who makes berry buckets out of bark and Claudia Lampley, who began making rugs using cast-off fibers. In July and August, crafts festivals abound including Asheville’s long-running Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, Burnsville’s Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair, Dillsboro’s Front Street Arts & Crafts Show  and Brevard’s Fine Arts & Crafts Showcase.

From a time when everything was “make do” to today when handcrafted items are often more sustainable and durable than anything mass-produced, WNC has been on the forefront of handmade industry. Show our many talented artisans some love by investing in lovely, well-made goods that will stand the test of time.

For the fascinating story of WNC’s crafts past, visit wcu.edu/library/DigitalCollections/CraftRevival.

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