Bringing a world of art into your own backyard

art frFor Norma Hendrix, it’s all about connecting the dots.

“I love working in a community of artists,” she said. “I really like pulling all of those dots together, where you create a sense of community with the energy of people working side-by-side.”

Waynesville galleries get ready to paint the town for the season’s first art walk

art frIf the litmus test of a community’s health is how strong its art scene is, then, by the looks of it, Waynesville is in tip-top shape.

Hundreds will take to the streets of downtown this Friday evening for the first Art After Dark of the year. For some serious art purveyors, it’s a time to study and muse over the latest works to emerge on gallery walls. For artists, its time to compare notes about the creative process.

Quality over quantity in Appalachia

art frDowntown Franklin is all sunshine, but it’s the calm before the storm.

Drifting through an array of stores and restaurants lining Main Street, the scene is quiet, but soon, with Thanksgiving falling into the rearview mirror, shoppers determined and curious will overtake the small town, in search of handmade items from regional artists. Strolling the sidewalk, one soon comes upon North Carolina Mountain Made.

WCU students practice ancient metalsmithing techniques

art frWhat sounded like a jet engine echoed out of the building tucked away on the hill.

Peering into the large bay doors of the metal studio at the Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro, the booming noise is coming from a foundry in the corner that was used to turn metals into molten liquid for casting.

Open Air Indian Art Market celebrates 10 years

art frBringing 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. 

Commissioned landscape now crowns Joey’s Pancake House

fr joeyspaintingRegular patrons of Joey’s Pancake House will notice a different view when they enter the restaurant that is a social center of Maggie Valley.

The rich history of an award-winning wood carver

art frBy 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.

Time to create: After a career in science, Macon artist finally finding her muse

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

Turning new life into wood

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.


From passion to profession

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

LIFESPAN opens up the world of art to everyone

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

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