Bringing together Cherokee artisans and tourists from every corner of the globe, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual celebrated a decade last Saturday of presenting their Labor Day weekend Open Air Indian Art Market.
Regular patrons of Joey’s Pancake House will notice a different view when they enter the restaurant that is a social center of Maggie Valley.
By Shannan Mashburn • SMN Intern
Wood carver Cliff Hannah is deeply rooted in Western North Carolina.
The internationally renowned artist is from Sandy Mush and has family ties to Cataloochee, the pioneer community in Haywood County that is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
After years of sideline painting and photography as a pastime, a now retired Sue Weathers is finding an abundance of inspiration in the mountains of Western North Carolina — far away from her childhood home in England.
Since moving to Macon County five years ago, Weathers, who previously worked in laboratory safety, has been able to refocus on her first loves — painting and photography.
“Mostly what I’ve done, I’ve done here; I’ve learned to do here,” Weathers said.
Weathers does not paint many still-lifes and detailed portraits but instead emphasizes the shapes within a scene and the feeling the view evokes.
“What I paint is to do with the shapes that I see and also the feeling it gives me,” Weathers said. “I don’t do a lot of detail stuff.”
Weathers uses oils or watercolors, or both, to illustrate her picturesque surroundings in Macon County where she has lived for five years. “How can you not paint something like that?” Weathers asked. “I have just been taken over by the landscape.”
The watercolors offer a flatter mountain background, while the oils allow parts of the painting to stand out, giving the work perspective. Weathers avoids pieces that could be mistaken for photography — another art form that she has dabbled in since the age of 7.
“I don’t like my paintings to look like photographs,” Weathers said. “(Although) I like my photographs to look like paintings sometimes.”
Weathers received her first camera — a Kodak Box Brownie — when she was just six or seven. She later graduated to a Kodak 35mm camera
Her father was a master photographer and owned a retail camera store in England. He sold cameras and equipment, developed film, and took photos. Her parents would spend most of their days and nights working at the shop, and Weathers would spend the time painting or entertaining herself with other activities until early in the morning, sometimes 1 or 2 a.m., when the work was finally done.
“It was something to do,” Weathers said. “There is a lot of down time when your parents are working.”
With her early life immersed in photography, it seems only natural that she would delve into the art herself. However, her dad had qualms about the matter.
“I really wanted to do photos, but my dad didn’t want me to. He thought there were better things,” Weathers said.
So, she went to the University of Liverpool and earned a degree in science. Weathers then moved to Alberta, Canada, before settling in the U.S. Weathers moved to Rabun Gap about five years ago after living for a time in Florida and recently moved closer to downtown Franklin to be closer to the Macon County Art Council’s Uptown Gallery.
Similar to her painting, Weathers’ photos focus mostly on nature.
For the most part, Weathers allows her photos to speak for themselves and does very little doctoring.
“I don’t mess with my images very much, but I do saturate them,” Weathers said.
Weathers enjoys both mediums — one allows for more abstraction, while the other is more detail-oriented. One of her paintings is a perfect example. Weathers photographed a nature scene with trees lining a river and mountains in the background. And, although the photograph captured each leaf and crevice, it could not capture the way the sun hit the rocks well enough to Weathers’ liking. So instead, she painted it.
If she had to choose, Weathers said she would stick with painting.
“I think I am growing more as an artist with the painting,” Weathers said.
Weathers currently shows works at Uptown Gallery in Franklin and will open a studio in her home this summer.
For more information about the artist and her work, visit sueweathers.wordpress.com.
Allen Davis’ office is cluttered with planks and blocks of wood in various sizes and a handful of circular saws — typical office supplies for a wood turner.
“I always wanted a wood shop,” said Davis, who crafts and sells wooden works in a small building up from his house on Foot Hill Lane in Waynesville.
For the last 15 years, Davis has earned his living as a wood turner, creating bowls, sinks, pens and urns. Different from other types of woodwork, woodturning is the process of shaping wood on a lathe, or rather, a machine that turns the material as a carver works with it.
Davis said he likes to work with wood “because it’s such a challenge.” Each piece must be cut precisely in order to fit perfectly together.
Different types of wood have different viscosities. Purple heart and ironwood are “hard as nails,” Davis said, and must be cut slowly. If split too quickly, the wood will warp and the individual pieces that make a bowl or urn will not fit together.
The majority — about 80 percent — of the wood he uses is scrap, and most of his works include stars or three-dimensional blocks.
Geometry is a large part of his work, Davis said, including the patterns he uses and how the pieces fit together.
“You are totally unlimited as far as what you can do with designs,” he said.
Davis uses 40 different species of tree. Among his materials are driftwood from Florida, California redwood, Louisiana swamp cypress and pecan, Mississippi tupelo or black gum, North Carolina dogwood and apple, and weathered South Carolina barnwood.
The wood sits in a kiln for six months where it dries out before it’s used.
Bowls are by far his most popular work. The base of an average bowl is 16 blocks around. Davis cuts the one- to two-inch trapezoidal pieces with one of his saws and uses tape to connect them in a circular shape. He uses similar, though more, blocks to form the upper layers of a bowl, creating a pattern. Davis then attaches it to a thick, round portion of wood that will later be molded into the bottom of the bowl.
Davis numbers and signs the bottom of each creation. The number corresponds to a detailed profile of each piece. Say someone purchased a large bowl for salad and would like smaller bowls to match, the customer can simply relay the number, and Davis will make a companion piece.
Davis worked as a professional, heading two Florida corporations during his career. But in 1997, he retired and moved more permanently into his 10-acre Waynesville residence, which he purchased 30 years ago as a second home.
He also returned to his former passion — woodwork. He had some experience working with wood in high school but had not practiced since.
To brush up on his knowledge, Davis registered for a wood cabinet-making course at Haywood Community College but was more drawn to woodturning. And when the rippling effects of Sept. 11 lowered the value of his retirement portfolio, Davis needed something to supplement his income.
His pieces range from $30 to $1,000, and he sells more than 1,000 works every year.
“This is our bread and butter,” Davis said.
His woodturning business has allowed Davis and his wife, Diane, to keep their home in Florida and travel to various destinations around the world, including their upcoming trip to France.
“We do a lot of traveling,” Davis said. “This pays for a lot of really neat vacations.”
Davis and his wife also travel to craft and fine art shows throughout the year. However, he only displays his work at exhibitions that are judged or paid entry.
At other shows, “People aren’t coming to buy,” Davis said.
He said his target audience is “serious art collectors” — people willing to pay an admittance fee.
His work is also featured in 72 galleries and stores throughout the U.S., including Sabbath Day Woods Gallery in Canton, Its By Nature in Sylva, Jarrett House Gift Shop in Dillsboro, and Kitchen Décor and Textures in Waynesville.
During his spare time, Davis gives demonstrations on how to turn wood.
“A lot of my efforts are to teach kids,” he said.
He has hosted workshops for at-risk teens at Eckerd Youth Alternatives Camp in Hendersonville and for Big Brother/Big Sister of Haywood County.
Davis is also a member of the American Association of Woodturners, Carolina Mountain Woodturners, the American Craft Council and Southern Highland Craft Guild.
For more information on Allen Davis and his work, visit winchesterwoodworks.net.
When asked to paint a picture of a dream vacation she would like to take, 68-year-old Hazel Wells began conjuring her image of an airplane en route to Hawaii. With impressive depth and detail, she incorporated her favorite color, blue, and flowers across the bottom.
Wells and other artists who are part of LIFESPAN have become professionals, selling and displaying their work at venues such as the Waynesville Recreation Center and Twigs and Leaves Gallery in downtown Waynesville.
LIFESPAN provides education, employment and enrichment opportunities to children and adults with developmental disabilities. Since 1973, the organization has grown from its roots in Charlotte to 20 locations from Haywood to Alamance counties. LIFESPAN started a creative campus in 2010, introducing clients to art, horticulture, and health and wellness enrichment programs.
Pamela Hjelmeir, the arts assistant of the LIFESPAN Creative Campus in Waynesville, started building the arts program on a local level a year ago. With an art degree from the University of Florida, Hjelmeir had plenty of ideas to inspire the participants.
She has introduced several artistic elements including painting, weaving, drawing and mixed media. Although many participants are non verbal, art allows them to communicate through creativity and illustrate their passions and thoughts.
“Everyone has their own special gifting and their own special talent,” Hjelmeir said. “We all have our weaknesses, but we all have unique contributions to make. You have to look beyond the disability and look at the ability of somebody.”
During the summer of 2010, Hjelmeir worked closely with participants to create art to sell to the community and raise awareness about LIFESPAN’s mission. Their debut appearance was at a booth at the International Festival Day during Folkmoot last July.
Having their work on display is a source of excitement and pride for the participants, who now consider themselves working artists after selling several pieces at various events.
In addition to the gallery showings, LIFESPAN art was used on the Thanksgiving cards for the Haywood County Arts Council. Many participants won blue ribbons for their crafts at the Haywood County Fair and often show their work at state shows in Charlotte and at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Carrie Keith, an owner of Twigs and Leaves, was so impressed with the artworks’ level of professional appeal she purchased one of her own – a vibrant painting of a tractor. She hung it proudly in the room where her grandson sleeps when he comes over.
“I think it has a lot of fun color,” Keith said. “It’s amazing the talent they possess.”
In March the Waynesville Recreation Center mounted several pieces of their art along the walls facing the new fitness equipment on the second floor. Having LIFESPAN artist’s work at the fitness center has been an effective way to expose the organization to the community and ties into the program’s encouragement of health and wellness.
Each piece of art is priced competitively and fairly in regards to other arts and crafts being sold in the community.
“It’s not as though just because they have a disability we should lower the price,” Hjelmeir said. “It’s very fairly priced, and I have the responsibility to make sure that we protect their interest. They work very hard on these projects.”
In their studio at the LIFESPAN building, Hjelmeir combines group art activities and one-on-one instruction for each of the students involved. While group activities provide a fun atmosphere, one-on-one work allows participants to push their goals and show what they can do individually.
Robert Rogers is also a representational painter with a fascination with farms. His art is full of detailed fences, farm tools, animals and barns, one of which sold at Waynesville’s recent Whole Bloomin Thing Festival. He also admits a love for working with beads and weaving.
Stacey Delancey takes a more abstract approach to her work. She enjoys interactive projects and is drawn to mixed media. During instruction, Hjelmeir sometimes offers suggestions for color mixing and layering and helps them rinse off the paint brush between colors, but otherwise allows the students to create their unique vision.
“We don’t want to box in their creativity and say there is a prescribed formula because there is none,” Hjelmeir said. “It’s individualized just as much as they are.”
Participant Kenneth Grant creates most of his art around political themes and has painted presidential portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as well as military tanks and war arsenals.
Hjelmeir tries to organize regular field trips for the students to inspire their art. Some of these include swimming at Haywood Regional Health and Fitness Center and the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute.
LIFESPAN relies on grant money and monetary donations from supporters to purchase art and craft supplies. They are always looking for opportunities to show the work of the artists.
In the annual report for 2010, LIFESPAN reported that it had sold 1,125 pieces of participant’s art from all the communities totaling $21,667 over two years.
Hjelmeir is currently working to create digital portfolios of each student’s work and hopes to create an online store to sell each piece.
— By DeeAnna Haney • SMN Intern
Spiral Creek stands as a contrast to the everyday.
Away from jarring news reports and routine responsibilities, the Bryson City artists’ sanctuary allows guests to work with only art in mind.
During the day, students take arts and crafts classes from seasoned artists in an intimate studio bathed in light. All meals are taken care of and going to bed only requires a walk upstairs to one of three cozy bedrooms.
“It’s peaceful, but it’s kind of exciting when you’re in a group of people being creative,” said co-owner Dee Dee Triplett. “It seems like the air is different.”
A certain camaraderie tends to spring up around the dinner table each night among a newfound community of like-minded friends, says Triplett, who founded the new studio along with her husband Robert.
Part of the appeal of staying where you create is there’s no long drive back home from class at faraway schools. Guests also enjoy total freedom from chores.
“You don’t have to cook, you don’t have to make your bed,” said Triplett. “It’s just a total separation.”
Dee Dee Triplett has taught craft classes, including doll making and embroidery, at the John C. Campbell Folk School for 22 years already. Meanwhile, Robert taught coppersmithing and metal work also at the Folk School.
In 2004, The Tripletts decided to build their own small-scale retreat for artists from scratch. Spiral Creek would allow a small group of artists to be wholly immersed in art for days on end.
“The news that bombards us every day is scary if you listen to too much of it,” said Triplett. “When you can get away and do something that feeds your soul, it helps you cope with all of what’s going on. You’re doing something positive.”
Bringing the studio to fruition involved a long journey through actual construction and countless inspections. Dee Dee painted the entire interior of the two-story building and had to pick out all new furniture before Spiral Creek could open its doors.
“It seemed like a mountain to climb at first,” said Triplett. “Everything you did added three more things to your to-do list.”
Now, each room is fully outfitted with two twin beds, down comforters, ceiling fans, individual heating and air conditioning units, and a private bathroom.
“We tried to make it really comfortable,” said Triplett.
Spiral Creek will host about ten classes each year, mostly in the spring and fall. Future workshops will include quilting, papermaking, felt making, light metal and painting.
The studio celebrated its debut this summer with a doll making class taught by two prestigious Dutch artists, Marlaine Verhelst and Ankie Daanen. Students learned to hand-sculpt dolls from air-drying stone clay, paint details with watercolor and even clothe the dolls in handmade outfits.
The Tripletts were expecting six people to show up but were met with 13 eager students. Publicity through the National Institute of American Doll Artists brought artists from as far away as Mississippi, Florida and Virginia.
All 13 hopefuls were accepted into the class, though some had to find accommodations elsewhere.
Triplett said that classes at the remote Spiral Creek will welcome beginners and professionals alike.
“A lot of people don’t think they are creative and they are,” said Triplett. “They just have to be allowed to create. You can show people how to begin and then their natural creativity can come out.”
By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer
This April, nearly 100 professional weavers and spinners will converge at Lake Junaluska in Haywood County for the Southeast Fiber Forum.
They’ll come to share their knowledge and learn new crafts — “everything from broom making to surface design to knitting to weaving to basketry,” says Marjorie Warren, board chair of the Western North Carolina Handweavers Guild and also chair of the Fiber Forum.
Attendees are members of the Southeast Fiber Forum Association, a group of 877 weavers hailing from Texas all the way to Virginia.
This year’s theme of the Forum is based on the United Nation’s declaration of 2009 as “Year of Natural Fiber.” The focus at the forum is on fibers that are natural and sustainable such as wool, linen, bamboo, cotton and flax — essentially, anything that isn’t synthetic.
“There is a great awareness this year, with everything going ‘green,’ of being environmentally conscious and using what is available to us,” Warren said.
Western North Carolina’s abundance of natural resources makes it a fitting location for the conference, with its focus on all things natural. The region is also fitting due to its long tradition of weaving, dating back thousands of years to the Cherokee who first wove baskets out of the bark of the rivercane plant. Today, many weavers still make a living from their craft, practicing it in all different forms. WNC weavers will teach classes at the Forum to weavers from around the country.
“We’re so fortunate in this area that we have so many wonderful teachers that we don’t have to fly everybody in,” said Warren. “This is a chance to showcase the teachers in our area.”
Two of the presenters from the region represent the diversity of the craft in Western North Carolina. Kathie Roig, a weaver who owns KMR Handwovens in Dillsboro, uses a complicated Swedish loom to weave her creations, which include functional items like placemats, scarves, tote bags and baby bibs. Roig uses sustainable materials like cotton to form her pieces. She also works with tencel, a unique material made out of wood pulp that drapes and feels like silk.
“It’s produced relatively environmentally friendly,” said Roig. “How you get yarn from things can be harmful for the environment, but tencel is relatively not.”
Roig, who teaches weaving at the prestigious John C. Campbell School of Folk Art in Brasstown, says WNC has a rare concentration of weavers in a small region.
“What I see is a stronger focus on having your craft really support you,” Roig said. “There’s many more folks here that are supporting themselves from their work and being successful at it.”
Beth Johnson, a weaver in Cherokee, emphasizes the use of natural fibers of many different kinds. Johnson works with the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources, which works to preserve the materials that Cherokees have used for thousands of years to make their crafts. At the moment, Johnson is working with some local bison ranches to obtain fiber from the animals. Cherokee at one time wove the bison fiber with their fingers instead of on a loom, making for very intricate pieces.
Johnson is also researching plants the Cherokee used to weave, including hemp and mulberry bushes.
At the Forum, Johnson is teaching a workshop that teaches a sustainable form of weaving similar to recycling. This form originated in Japan, and employs old kimonos cut into strips and woven into a lightweight fabric. Johnson makes scarves and bags with this method.
“Nearly all weaving traditions all over the world have some way of recycling stuff, whether through patchwork quilting or weaving rag rugs,” Johnson says.
The work of Johnson, Roig and other weavers who will be teaching at the Fiber Forum is on display at Gallery 86 in downtown Waynesville through Saturday, April 25. The public is also invited to check out the display of vendors and crafts at the Fiber Forum all day Saturday, April 18, at Lake Junaluska.
By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer
Not too long ago, the number of people who carried on the ancient Cherokee basket-weaving tradition had dwindled to just a handful. Today, the craft is experiencing a resurgence — thanks in part to local organizations helping to restore native plants vital to making the baskets.
By Michael Beadle
Terry Painter and his wife Anita love collecting ornaments for their Christmas tree each year, but they found that fewer and fewer ornaments bore any connection to the actual holiday.