Did you know that there are nearly 500 fiber animal farms in western North Carolina and 400o fiber artists? I didn’t either until reading about Handmade in America’s new exhibition, Farm to Fashion in a recent Asheville Citizen-Times article. Yesterday I had the opportunity to check it out at HIA.

The show, which is sponsored by Echo View Fiber Mill in Weaverville, explores the fiber community in North Carolina, raising awareness about the importance of handmade clothing and bringing to light the networks which are being created to bring the raw materials of fiber arts into the hands of craftspeople. The exhibition not only highlights the final product, but the raw materials from which the art begins including sheep’s wool and plant materials used in natural dyeing.

Objects featured include coverlets, shawls, scarves, hats, and handbags using felt, wool, cotton and repurposed materials. Styles range from traditional to contemporary, all showing a mastery of skill and design. Many Southern Highland Craft Guild members are active in the locally sourced movement and have work in the show. The list includes: Mary Nichols, Teena Tuenge, Edwina Bringle, Eileen Hallman, Cassie Dickson, Dede Styles, as well as Haywood Community College and the Crossnore Weaving School.

This video, "Natural Dyeing with Dede Styles" is on display in the exhibition:

Here is more information from Judi Jetson of Handmade in America about the network of suppliers and artists working together to build the local fiber economy:

The WNC Fibershed Initiative's Mission:

To sustain and encourage the growth of the regional fiber and textile arts economy and professions through collaboration, education and innovation.

Approach: A group based in Asheville, North Carolina has started an initiative to grow the regional fiber economy, focusing on craft artists, fiber animal farmers and emerging fiber mills and processing businesses. Based on strategies of adding value to locally harvested materials and substituting local products for imports, they have identified 8 areas for attention:

· Develop an on-line directory of sources, makers & users of fiber, including

o Fiber Artists

o Guilds and associations

o Research and trade organizations

o Schools and colleges with fiber programs

o Retail stores and boutiques carrying local fiber and locally crafted garments

o Fashion & home furnishing designers

o Local manufacturers and custom mills

· Develop an online calendar for events and classes

· Estimate and track the size of the fiber economy

· Organize textile shows and tours

· Start a Textile Study Group

· Study feasibility for a Community Dye studio & Textile Center

· Support Fiber Entrepreneurship and identify $ for new fiber-related ventures

· Advocate wearing & making garments from the local Fibershed

Interested in Joining? contact Judi at jjetson@handmadeinamerica.org or call 828-252-0121, ext 304

Making a Corn Shuck Doll with Jan Morris

Beginning with natural corn shucks

And hand-dyed corn shucks

Making the doll's head

And arms

The doll's body

And skirt and apron

Finally the dolls are ready for a hike at the Folk Art Center.

Usually a studio conversation takes place at an artist's home or business, but in the case of Guild member Jan Morris, a conversation in the lobby at the Folk Art Center made just as much sense. It made sense not just because she is a regular craft demonstrator there, but because, throughout her life, Jan has made her studio wherever she is. Whether in a classroom at AB Tech or an elementary school, or at a craft fair or bazaar, or at her own dining room table, Jan has been making things and sharing her love and expertise with the world around her. Last week Jan was kind enough to teach April and Janet how to make a corn shuck doll.

Jan Morris became a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1982. She was making things by hand well before that, though. She started making pine cone wreaths and other decorations in the 1950s. One of her teachers was Mrs. Leonard Miller of the Sandy Mush Community in Buncombe County. When Jan asked Mrs. Miller if she could teach her, Mrs. Miller said she couldn't because her methods were trade secrets. In the next breath she added, "But there's nothing to stop you from watching me." Through the years Jan would develop her own methods and teach others the art of working with natural materials. She developed a strong friendship with Guild member Ann Buchanan and together the two taught each other.

Jan Morris became a professional craftsperson in the seventies. In 1972, her husband, Clyde D. Morris Jr., died. With children still at home Jan knew she must provide for them. While being a single mother is challenging in 2011, the difficulties back in 1975 were much greater. Employers were much less flexible and affordable childcare options were limited. At one point, Jan had to choose between a good-paying job and being with her kids on Sundays. Jan made the decision to become a craftsperson so that she could be home with her children. Jan joined the High Country Crafters and took several marketing classes. She made wreaths and other decorations and started teaching classes. She taught at AB Tech, Warren Wilson, Montreat, and area elementary schools. To create a more diverse body of work, Jan also started making corn shuck dolls. She recalls admiring the work May Deschamp at the Guild Craftmen's Fairs held at the City Auditorium in Asheville long before she became a member of the Guild. Eventually Jan would also begin wheat weaving, an artform she has perfected over the years.

In addition to demonstrating at the Folk Art Center, Jan also volunteers her time at Guild special events throughout the year. She and Guild member Sandra Rowland work with children at Fiber Day, Clay Day, Wood Day and Heritage Weekend. She enjoys working with children and being a part of the Guild community.

April Nance, Janet Wiseman, Jan Morris
SHCG Annual Meeting 2011 Arrowmont

Mary Dashiell works with Douglas Atchley in ceramic workshop.

Jen Swearington led a screenprinting workshop.

Screenprinting workshop

Tom Roberson of the Asheville Visitor Center received the Honorary Membership Award.
(shown: April Nance, Lila Bellando, Tom Roberson)

Mike Hensley received the Heritage Craft Affiliate Award.

Homer Sales received the Heritage Craft Affiliate Award.

Ed Brinkman received Lifetime Membership Award.
(shown: Lila Bellando, Ed Brinkman, Hugh Bailey)

On Saturday, April 16, 2011 the Southern Highland Craft Guild held its 81st Annual Meeting at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. Prior to the Guild’s business meeting, special awards were presented.

Tom Roberson, Director of Visitor Services at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, received an Honorary Membership award. Honorary Membership awards are bestowed upon individuals for outstanding service or significant contributions to the Guild.

Mike Hensley, a blacksmith from Spruce Pine, NC, received the Heritage Craft Affiliate Membership award. This award is given to the traditionally trained man or woman, born or raised in the Guild region, whose work in an indigenous craft reflects the highest level of achievement and perpetuation of folk art in the Guild region. Homer Sales, a rifle maker from Fairview, NC also received the Heritage Craft Affiliate award.

Ed Brinkman, a ceramicist from Burnsville, NC and member since 1972 received the Lifetime Membership award which is given to active individual members in honor of outstanding service to the Guild.

Following the Awards Ceremony the 2011 business meeting was conducted and new members of the Board of Trustees were appointed. The Board members are: Teresa Brittain of Oak Ridge, TN (President), Tom Bauman of Asheville, NC (Vice President), Freida Terrell of Clyde, NC (Treasurer), Sandra Rowland of Murphy, NC (Secretary), Lila Bellando of Berea, KY, Hugh Bailey of Knoxville, TN, Rob Mangum of Weaverville, NC, Mary Dashiell of Meadows of Dan, VA and Alan Hollar of Newland, NC.

The Southern Highland Craft Guild is pleased to announce new members accepted into the Guild in January 2011:

Vicki Love
Knoxville, TN
Medium: Leather

Zoe Taddie
Weaverville, NC
Medium: Clay

Robert Blanton
Canton, NC
Medium: Metal

Drew Deane
Brevard, NC
Medium: Mixed Media

Alberto and Marcella Toro
Maryville, TN
Medium: Leather

Sue Grier
Leicester, NC
Medium: Clay

Christine Kosiba
Blacksburg, VA
Medium: Sculpture

Jim Kransberger
Asheville, NC
Medium: Mixed Media

Mary Carol Koester
Asheville, NC
Medium: Mixed Media

Hayley Davison
Asheville, NC
Medium: Wood

Gary Rawlins
Mars Hill, NC
Medium: Wood

Laura Cardwell
Candler, NC
Medium: Jewelry

Matt Tommey
Fairview, NC
Medium: Natural Materials

Diana Ferguson
Sweetwater, TN
Medium: Fiber

Ivan and Kathleen A. Ivanoff
Tamassee, SC
Medium: Leather

Brian Wurst
Asheville, NC
Medium: Wood

Brandy Clements
Asheville, NC
Medium: Mixed Media

Cathryn "Cat" Sewell Francis
Hendersonville, NC
Medium: Fiber

Juanita Smith
Boone, NC
Medium: Fiber

Ed and Kate Coleman
Swannanoa, NC
Medium: Clay

The Southern Highland Craft Guild represents artists living in the mountain counties of nine states from Maryland to Alabama. To learn more about how to become a member, visit our website.
Last week Janet, Denise and I hit the road and headed west to Gatlinburg, TN. February is a busy month of planning for us and whenever we can combine planning with visiting - all the better. We stayed at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and had a couple of Guild meetings. We also found time to visit with the good folks at Arrowcraft, take a winter hike and eat at the finest Gatlinburg restaurants including the Mountain Lodge (thanks to Jim Gentry's recommendation) and The Brewery (Laurey-Faye Long's recommendation).

Craig Sponburgh, Arrowcraft Manager

Arrowmont's Sandra J. Blain Gallery featuring 15th Sevier County Biennial Juried Exhibition

It's interesting being in Gatlinburg in February. Obviously there are not nearly as many tourists bustling about, but most places are still open and the atmosphere is very relaxed. The hike was beautiful because it had snowed the evening before we arrived. The trail runs right along the river and the rushing water and snow-covered path made for an invigorating walk.

Another highlight of the trip for me was purchasing a Claudia Lee necklace at Arrowcraft - I never seem to leave that shop without buying something. Craig and his staff do an awesome job keeping the shop beautiful! They represent Guild artists well!

While in Gatlinburg many plans were made for the Guild's Annual Meeting which will be held at Arrowmont on Saturday, April 16. We are excited about the opportunity to meet new members, do some Guild business, and most importantly to re-connect with friends. Mark your calendars and we will be sending more information to members once plans are finalized.

Special thanks to the Guild members and staff who were able to join us in Gatlinburg - from the Membership Committee: Laurey-Faye Long, Bill Henry and Hugh Bailey; and from the Annual Meeting Committee: Tamela Wells, Ray Snyder, Jim Gentry, Craig Sponburgh.

Laurey-Faye Long, Hugh Bailey, Janet Wiseman

Mary Dashiell, Jim Gentry, Tamela Wells, Janet Wiseman, April Nance