Immersed in art

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.”

For more information, 828.488.3883, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

Weavers bring finest of craft to WNC

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.

Preserving tradition Non-profit grows plants for Cherokee artisans

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.

Hand-made history for the Christmas tree: Local potter helps Waynesville museum through sale of ornaments

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.

A potter’s calling: For Sarah Rolland, the process is as rewarding as the product

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Sarah Rolland first connected with clay on an emotional level. With lunch plans to meet a friend who was taking a course in Haywood Community College’s craft program, Rolland walked into the school’s pottery studio — her curiosity immediately was piqued.

Nature inspired art

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education specialist Lee Sherrill dips out a cup full of water from a five-gallon bucket and holds it up to the small group of students gathered around. He inserts a straw and captures a drop of water.

Dazzle of Light: John Phillips’ new Fire and Light Glass Studio and Gallery in Otto offers artwork, classes and glass art supplies

By Michael Beadle

There’s a dance of light in a work of glass. Move around the piece and it changes color as if it were alive.

Carving his niche: Dennis Ruane’s career flows like his artwork

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Sitting at a workbench in the back of his gallery on Main Street in Waynesville, wood worker Dennis Ruane meticulously carves a tiny bearded man into the handle of a spoon. The spoon is a replica of one of his early pieces, being made for a collector up North who saw the work on the cover of Ruane’s novel Wooden Spoons.

Figuratively speaking

By Sarah Kucharski

Entering figurative sculptor Wesley Wofford’s studio one is struck by the sheer size of his works.

Franklin carver hatches a unique idea

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

The duck egg is just slightly larger than the chicken egg, its shell a little harder, making it the perfect egg for Rebekah Joy Brown to turn into a Christmas tree ornament.

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