The 14th annual “Stecoah Arts & Crafts Drive About Tour” will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 27-28 in Bryson City, Stecoah and Robbinsville.
With their studios open to the public, the self-guided driving tour highlights artisans who have built a livelihood with their creative talents. Media include pottery, bee's wax lanterns and pillar candles, original paintings and drawings, fiber, quilts, photography, artisan cheeses and more.
Just mere feet from a bustling South Main Street in Waynesville resides a cocoon of creativity. With a steady stream of vehicles rushing by, one enters Jenny Bucker’s studio as if to step into a portal of a calmer ambiance. Vibrant, intricate paintings hang from any available wall space, while the sounds of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” echo throughout the cozy abode.
Amid the numerous businesses in Dillsboro, its cultural and economic heart lies in the plentiful art galleries and studios. From decades old locations to brand new operations, the town is an ever-evolving community, one with the drive and commitment to bring a beloved art haven into the 21st century.
Taking a left off U.S. 64 onto Settawig Road in rural Clay County, the busy commercial thoroughfare transforms into lush farmland. The mountain air gets sweeter, soothing late spring sunshine spilling into the open windows of your vehicle.
A few miles down the winding road, you enter the tiny community of Brasstown, with its one gas station and handful of buildings. You take another left and cross a bridge into Cherokee County. And though that bridge may just seemingly provide transport over the waters of Brasstown Creek, one will soon understand that the threshold is more than meets the eye.
Joe Frank McKee knows what Dillsboro is capable of. “It’s a fighting town,” he said. “There are more craftsmen involved here these days, which means if you’re making your product and selling your product, you have more of a reason to fight.”
Co-owner of Tree House Pottery on Front Street in downtown Dillsboro, McKee and his business partner, Travis Berning, have spent the last 11 years setting down roots and investing in what has become a premier pottery establishment in Southern Appalachia. And as the town itself celebrates its 125th birthday on Sept. 6, many businesses within the community are reflecting on a storied past, an uncertain present, and a hopeful future.
Bouncing around her gallery like a rubber ball, the energy of Teri Siewert is contagious.
“The ambiance here is something you can’t buy or make, it’s either there or it’s not, and it’s definitely here,” she said.
Staring into a 2,250-degree furnace, Tadashi Torii sees his passion come to life.
“I’m really calm,” he said. “I try not to be bothered by anything else. I try to create my inner-peace area and then go from there and concentrate.”
Sitting at her loom, weaver Amy Tromiczak feels right at home.
“It’s an amazing thing. You’re making cloth, and I love it,” the 25-year-old said. “It’s all about the whole process of choosing your fibers, deciding what kind of cloth to make, seeing it laid out on the loom.”
The loud pounding echoed from the end of the empty corridor.
Crossing the threshold of the last classroom on the left at Smokey Mountain Elementary School in Whittier, one could see — and hear — that the source of the sound came from the feverish hands of students during their afternoon art class. Like an army of woodpeckers, the pupils each hammered away at copper sheet metal in an effort to make their designs a physical reality.
There’s a buzz going on at the Mahogany House in Waynesville.
Normally, one could attribute that to a woodturning tool, handheld blowtorch or whatever else an artist might need to turn one’s vision into a physical reality. But today, that buzz is hearty conversation about the upcoming exhibit at the Haywood County Arts Council up the road on Main Street.