Region’s Finest Brings Stunning American Crafts Downtown - TribPapers

Region’s Finest Brings Stunning American Crafts Downtown

Erica Rollings creates stained glass panels. Photo courtesy of Southern Highland Craft Guild.

Asheville – Artisans will fill Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville Thursday through Sunday, July 21 through July 24th.  For only a $10 entry fee, you will be able to see an extraordinarily beautiful array of handmade items, from contemporary to traditional. There will be works in clay, wood, metal, glass, fiber, natural materials, paper, leather, mixed media, and jewelry. Both the concourse and arena levels of the venue will be used for exhibiting these striking handcrafted items. In addition, there will be live music and craft demonstrations throughout the day for all to enjoy as they shop.

A stunning rocking chair by David Scott. Photo courtesy of Southern Highland Craft Guild.
A stunning rocking chair by David Scott. Photo courtesy of Southern Highland Craft Guild.

This will be the 75th year of the craft fair, having been founded in 1930 by Frances Louisa Goodrich. In 2020, of course, many virtual events took place. The headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild are now at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild have undergone a two-step jury process as a part of the Guild’s legacy to uphold a set of standards established by their creative peers. They must reside in the nine-state Southern Highlands Region—Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and the Virginias. Only about 10% of all applicants are accepted into the Guild, so one can only imagine the quality of the items needed to become a member. It is considered quite an honor to have been accepted. The Southern Highland Craft Guild fosters opportunities for makers to build, market, and maintain their creative livelihood through continuing education, retail outlets, and mentorship. Many of these craftworkers would be forced to abandon their skills without the benefits of guild activities. The Southern Highland Craft Guild is an advocate for high quality craftsmanship and goods made, sold, and curated in the Southern Highlands.

At this craft fair in downtown Asheville, a wide variety of talented artists will be exhibiting. You will find Jude Stuecker, who studied at Penland School of Crafts and started a business making quilts and clothes. His colorful and striking quilts are a treat to see. Sarah Tremain makes stunning garments and accessories using natural dyes to dye the fabrics, using no toxic chemicals; Linda Caristo produces some amazing, beautiful pieces of jewelry using a rare enameling technique featuring insects and animals such as fish, butterflies, dragon flies, and hummingbirds. The time and effort it takes to produce one piece of jewelry must be considerable.

Erica Rollings creates stained glass panels with many themes, such as botanicals, rose windows, and anatomicals. These works are best described as paintings with glass. Stunning furniture pieces—chairs and tables—will be shown by David Scott in exquisite hardwoods (this will be his first show in 3 years!). Ray Jones makes finely tuned wood boxes; he doesn’t use any metal or plastic components. “I will be bringing some new box designs that I had time to develop during the pandemic, while all the art shows were cancelled.” I’ll also be bringing my “old favorites” and some new-to-me woods. All have websites that can give you a better understanding of what is involved in the creation of their pieces.

Music will be played on Saturday, July 23, and Sunday, July 24th at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm. The bluegrass music of Jonah Riddle & Carolina Express, The Buncombe Turnpike and Split Rail Bluegrass Bands will be at the Fair on Saturday, and on Sunday Luke Whittaker and the jazz band Hot Duck Soup will be at the Fair. In addition, there are craft demonstrations to learn about chair-making, wood carving, basketry, sandbox casting, trash assemblage, and marbling. Observing and interacting with highly skilled craftspeople as they create is entertaining and educational.

A Brief History of the Southern Highland Craft Guild

Though the Southern Highland Craft Guild was founded in 1930, its story begins quite a bit earlier. In 1892, Frances Goodrich, a New England-educated Presbyterian missionary, moved to the Madison County community of Allanstand. Her goal is to improve the quality of life for mountain families. Her means was the promotion of traditional crafts to a growing American market for authentic handicrafts.

According to” and text by Timothy N. Osment, “Today the Guild is second in age only to the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts. It represents over 900 craftspeople in almost 300 counties in nine southeastern states. In 1980, it moved its headquarters and Allanstand to the newly constructed Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville. The Center houses not only Allanstand, but also the Guild’s permanent collection, exhibitions in three galleries, a library, a craft shop, a bookstore, and an auditorium. The Folk Art Center is the Parkway’s most popular attraction, welcoming 250,000 people each year. From March through December, visitors can observe craftspeople at work as well as attend a series of educational events. The Center, free of charge, is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. ”

The Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, with many booths of fine craftsmen, is held twice a year, July 21–24 and October 13–16, 2022. It will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center, 87 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville. Hours are Thursday-Saturday, 10 AM-6 PM and Sunday, 10 am-5 pm, with tickets available online or at the door for $10. Other educational events are held throughout the year at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, such as Wood Day on August 13th and Heritage Day on September 17th. There has recently been a wonderful picture-history book published about the Guild! Images of America: The Southern Highland Craft Guild written by Guild archivist Deb Schillo and long-time Guild weaver Barbara Miller, is filled with wonderful pictures and history—available for sale at the entrance to the fair, in the shops, and in the online store.