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Archive for the 'Arts & Crafts' Category

Swain County Is Blazing a New Quilt Trail

Swain County has joined the countless communities across the nation with a quilt trail — barns and buildings adorned with painted square quilt patterns. It’s a growing trend that’s become especially popular throughout the southern Appalachians.

The county’s second quilt block was installed this past week, not on a building but on Bryson City’s Island Park. Above, members of the ‘Swain County Quilt Trail’ committee voice their appreciation to Anthony Viscusi and Tee Angel who donated the block. Ms. Angel chose the ‘double wedding ring’ design for the way that it “celebrates the park’s flora year around.”  The next quilt block will be installed on the Bryson City’s train depot courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. For more information, contact the Swain County / Bryson City Chamber of Commerce.

Pictured, left to right: Mike Glover, Anthony Viscusi, Tee Angel, Rota Krape and Ellen Snodgrass.

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Bryson City Artisans Gallery Offers Classes

Bryson City basket weaver Debra Mills fashions one of her favorite designs, a ‘cat head’ basket; so named because, when turned upside down, the reed basket’s pointed corners resemble cat’s ears.

Inspired by an old Ozark oak egg basket that belonged to her husband’s grandmother, Debra began weaving baskets in 1990. While mostly self-taught, she’s learned some of her techniques from other talented professionals through classes and workshops. And now, she’s passing that knowledge on through her own classes at Studio 19, the working studio and gallery she shares with three other artisans in downtown Bryson City.

Debra offers beginner and refresher courses for families and small groups. For more information, call 828-736-1605.

Studio 19’s other artisans are corn shuck artist Lori Anderson; functional gourd artist Joan Glover; and metal clay jewelry designer Jules Bottorf. All offer classes in their craft.

Studio 19
19 Main Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
Open 10 am – 5:30 pm Mon – Sat

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Bryson City Artist Fashions Gourds Into Functional Art

Bryson City artist Joan Glover practices a craft that is as old as mankind — fashioning hard-shell gourds – “nature’s pottery” – into beautiful, functional vessels.

In a few short years, what began as a gourd birdhouse hobby has grown into a full-time craft enterprise that takes Joan to major craft shows throughout the region. Her creations combine gourds with just about anything natural — feathers,  philodendron sheaths, jacaranda pods, wooden beads, basketry and tillandsia air plants.

And nothing is wasted. The gourd tops become vases or wind chimes, and the parts she can’t use are recycled. Another artisan uses the dried pulp in her handmade papers. And the seeds go back into the ground to grow more gourds.

You can see examples of Joan’s creations on her website. Or visit Sleepy Hollow Farm where she and husband Mike market organically-grown produce and farm-fresh brown eggs in Bryson City.

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Dillsboro Glass Studio Heats Up the Arts & Crafts Scene

With more than 4000 artisans at work in the North Carolina Mountains, the Smokies is indeed a hotbed of arts and crafts activity. And one of the hottest (literally) is the glassblowing studio in neighboring Dillsboro. Above, noted glass artist Tadashi Torii works in molten glass from an oven fueled by captured landfill gas at the Jackson County Green Energy Park.

Since opening in 2006, the Green Energy Park has provided studios for a variety of artists and businesses that utilize its green energy resources, including blacksmiths, metal artists, potters and the commercial growers that rent the Park’s greenhouse facilities. Tours of the Park are available by appointment. Call 828-631-0271.

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A ‘Model Citizen’ in More Ways Than One

The late P.R. Bennett was ‘Bryson City’ through and through — mayor for nine terms, firefighter for 51 years, business owner, town clerk and member of the Swain County Planning Board. And after retiring, his love for Bryson City took him in a new direction: meticulously creating small-scale replicas of Bryson City landmarks — the train depot,  Jenkins Mill, the Presbyterian Church and the iconic old Swain County Courthouse. He also built a model of the Davis House, the late 19th century chestnut log cabin that the National Park now has preserved in its Mountain Farm Museum in Cherokee.

All the models but the church are now on display at the Swain County Genealogy Society above the Police Department on Main Street. Hours are 8 am to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 8 am to 4 pm Tuesday and Thursday; and Tuesday night from pm to 8 pm. As Bennett wished, the Presbyterian Church model lives at the church on North Everett Street.

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For Local Artisan, One Good Turn Deserves Another

With chisel and lathe, Alarka woodturner Ron Thompson transforms chunks of wood into beautiful and functional household objects — from polished bowls to platters, boxes, toys, muddlers and spurtles.

So “what’s a spurtle?”, you ask. The Scots have had one in their kitchens for centuries — a decorative wooden rod used for stirring oatmeal and soups. And a “muddler” is a bartender’s tool, used like a pestle to mash — or muddle — fruits, herbs, and/or spices in the bottom of a glass to release their flavor. Well, you asked.

Like many area artisans, Ron sells his work primarily at craft shows and festivals, but also has items in Bryson City at The Cottage Craftsman. In May, the Marianna Black Library will showcase his work.

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Swain County Arts Center Showcases Local Talent

An exhibit of more than a hundred works of art by 31 Western North Carolina artists and artisans is currently on display through September 27 at the Swain County Center for the Arts in Bryson City. The Center is located in the Swain County High School complex and is free and open to the public during regular school hours – by appointment only – and during scheduled public events at the Center.

To visit, call Jenny Johnson, Director, at 828-488-7846 …and bring your checkbook. Most of the works are priced to sell.

The next show, scheduled for October thru November, will showcase the pastel, acrylic and mixed media paintings of Bryson City artist Peggy Duncan.

Swain County Center for the Arts  website
Eugenia (Jenny) Johnson, Director
1415 Fontana Rd
Bryson City, NC 28713
Phone 828-488-7843
Email JJohnson@swainmail.org

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This Year, Take a Learning Vacation in the Smokies

Preserving the rich heritage of traditional Appalachian arts and crafts is a passion for artisans throughout the Smokies. Their creativity and craftsmanship is on display at more than a dozen Bryson City area shops and galleries.

For some of these artisans, preserving that heritage includes sharing their knowledge through classes in pottery, weaving, basketmaking and quilting. Elise Pincu Delfield offers classes to locals and vacationers of all ages at her Bryson City studio-gallery, Pincu Pottery. Above, she introduces students (l-r) Katharine Beckwith, Haylee Gerard and Gillian Gerard to the potter’s wheel.

For other vacation learning opportunities in the Bryson City area, visit the “Learn Something New” page of the Bryson City online travel guide.

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And You Thought All Smoky Mountain Dancers Were Cloggers

You may associate southern Appalachia with square dancing and clogging, but another dance form is alive and well — bellydancing.

Recently, the newly-formed ‘Bryson City Bellydance‘ organization invited the community to a dance party, or “Hafla”, where dancers from Waynesville, Morganton and Bryson City performed different styles of bellydance.

The group’s mission is to “share the ancient art of bellydance with the Bryson City community through education, instruction and performance and to use this empowering dance form to create a sense of self and community for the women of Bryson City.”

The Bryson City Bellydancers above are (l-r) Raquel Moore, Kim Holt, Diane Cutler, Tayla Holt, Sarah Miller, Paige Christie. The group is currently offering beginner, intermediate, and cardio-bellydance classes and welcomes anyone interested in joining the performance troupe.

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Low Tech and No Plastic. Making Toys The Old Fashioned Way.

Before boarding the Polar Express train, Chloe and Owen LaVigne of Midlothian, Virginia paid a visit to the Appalachian Toymaker’s shop, located across the street from the train depot. Tim Hall has transformed his Bryson City Storytelling Center into an old-fashioned toymaker’s shop for the holidays, making hand crafted Appalachian wooden toys and spinning yarns. Above, Tim uses his Barlow knife to put the finishing touches on a ‘ball and cup’ toss toy.

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Bryson City Artist Turns Cornshucks Into Wildflowers

The most surprising thing about Lori Anderson’s exquisite wildflowers is not her attention to detail, it’s the materials she uses to craft her perfect reproductions. Each flower is made of cornshucks — a flame azalea (pictured), a dwarf crested iris, a flowering dogwood and many others — all native to the Smokies.

Flame AzaleaRecently accepted into the Southern Highlands Craft Guild, on Saturday Lori was demonstrating her craft at The Cottage Craftsman (above) in Bryson City, where her work is for sale. And she’ll be at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, April 21st thru 25th.

It’s the beginning of the wildflower season in the Smokies. For a blooming calendar, visit the Hiking page of the Bryson City Online Travel Guide.

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Bryson City Librarian Makes One-of-a-Kind Musical Instruments

By day, Jeff Delfield is the Librarian at Bryson City’s Marianna Black Library. And in his spare time, he’s a maker of unique hand-crafted musical instruments, filling requests from as far away as Australia.

Above, he’s putting the finishing touches on a tackhead banjo with a distinctive “patchwork quilt” design — a specific request of the buyer. To achieve the multicolored pattern, Jeff constructed the rim from eight different woods. And to fully display the beauty of the woodwork, he hid the head tensioning system on the inside of the rim, a technique he borrowed from the makers of Irish Bodhrán drums. The head is calfskin, the neck walnut and the fretboard is made of bloodwood.

Jeff makes just one instrument at a time, a process that usually takes about six weeks. You can see more of his hand-crafted folk instruments, including videos, on his Deep Creek Strings website.

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Bryson City’s Iconic Landmark From a Slightly Different Perspective


Smoky Mountain Times reporter Aaron Morgan captured this image of yellow flowers, the Chamber of Commerce fountain and the Old Swain County Courthouse reflected in the Chamber window. The photo was taken around 9 p.m. in late May this year. Aaron used a tripod and flash at 18mm, f/14, 30 seconds, ISO 100.

An exhibit of Aaron’s photography will be on display at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City through the end of this month.

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Bryson City Theatre Group Attempts to Hide Murder


Ever try to throw a party an hour after the host has been murdered? That’s the dilemma facing the Wings Publishing Company in the mystery-comedy “It’s Murder in the Wings” now on stage at the Smoky Mountain Community Theatre in Bryson City. Remaining performance dates are Friday, July 24; Saturday, July 25; Sunday, July 26; and Monday, July 27.  All shows start at 7:30 PM.  Ticket prices are: $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for students ages 6 to 18, and free for children under six.

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Bryson City Building Has a Charles Heath Family History


When artist and photographer Charles Heath first opened his Bryson City Gallery, he did not realize that his grandfather had once worked in the same building. Then he learned that the Depot Street structure had once been occupied by Slayden Flakes Distributors, the wholesale grocery company where his grandfather Charley Browning was employed.

Charles’ family has long been a part of Bryson City and Swain County, North Carolina. His great-grandfather Samuel R. Patterson (1928 photo below) served the county as Register of Deeds and later as Swain County Sheriff in the 30s and 40s. That’s his badge, below.


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Live From Bryson City — Storytelling on the Radio and Online

Each Saturday, Tim “The Storyteller” Hall broadcasts his 9 AM radio show live from The Station Restaurant in downtown Bryson City. Above, Tim reads one of writer John Parris’ classic tales of Appalachia while diners enjoy their bacon and eggs. The show “Crossroads The Radio Program” is broadcast locally on WBHN 1590 AM and simulcast worldwide on Live365.com.

Tim, who is currently renovating Bryson City’s historic Citizens Bank Building for The Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians at Bryson City, will broadcast a special edition of “Crossroads” during the town’s annual Christmas Parade at 1:30 PM on December 6. After the parade, there’ll be storytelling and singing on the porch of the Calhoun House on Everett Street until 7 PM when the town’s annual Spirit of Christmas event begins.

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Bryson City Artist Carves Ghastly Pumpkins

Most days he assists customers at the N.C. Clampitt Hardware Store on Main Street in Bryson City. But come mid-October, Frank O’Neil is transformed into his alter-ego — the award-winning pumpkin artist. Above, Frank shows off four of his ‘ghastly’ jack-o-lanterns on the front porch of the Charleston Station gift shop.

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Two Artisans, Outstanding In Their (Corn) Field

David Higgins\' brooms and Annie Lee Bryson\'s corn shuck dolls

Today, handmade brooms and corn-shuck dolls are collectable crafts. But a century ago, in the Smoky Mountains of remote Appalachia, they were just two staples of everyday life – necessities for house-cleaning and entertaining the children.

Fortunately, such heritage crafts have not been lost over time. David Higgins, a Whittier broom maker, grows his own broom corn from heritage seeds. And he gives the corn silks to Annie Lee Bryson to use as hair on her handcrafted corn silk dolls. Above, David and Annie demonstrated their crafts at the 2008 Mountain Life Festival at the Mountain Farm Museum in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In Bryson City, their brooms and dolls are available at The Cottage Craftsman.

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Whittier, NC – The Way It Used To Be

Scale model of Whittier, NC, circa 1895

Founded by Clark Whittier in 1885, the town of Whittier, North Carolina once flourished as a lumber center before succumbing to the Great Depression. No longer incorporated, the quiet little community on the banks of the Tuckaseigee river is mostly residential.

If you’d like a glimpse of the original Whittier, stop by Gloria Nolan’s “Stuff’ & Such” consignment shop across from the Whittier Post Office. Working from old photos, Gloria has created a scale model of Whittier as it was in 1895. Above, Whittier resident Ann Hill studies the model, imagining her Smoky Mountains community the way it used to be.

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Axe Murders in Bryson City, NC Theatre

Cast of \

Did Lizzie Borden kill her father and stepmother with an axe? Judge for yourself when the Smoky Mountain Community Theater presents the play “Lizzie Borden of Fall River”  July 25-28.

Upcoming performances this year include Neil Simon’s “I Oughta Be In Pictures” in October, and a holiday play “Three Wise Men and a Baby” in December. The Bryson City theatre group was organized in 1981 and moved into the town’s old Gem Theatre building in 1989.

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