Editor's Note: This post is the first in a series called "From the Archives" - a look back at the people who served and helped shape the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The author of the series is Bonnie Krause. Bonnie works at Allanstand Craft Shop and volunteers in the
SHCG Library.

O.J. Mattil
O.J. Mattil, he never used his first name Otto, was born in 1896 in Chattanooga, TN and earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Tennessee in 1920. From 1922 to 1929 as an agricultural extension agent for the University of Tennessee, he taught vocational education, agriculture and woodworking at the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School High School. His wife Francis was a public health nurse for the school. Mattil taught wood shop, animal husbandry, horticulture and poultry raising and visited rural farmers, giving advice on crop rotation and fruit tree pruning. His early visits to farmers along primitive mountain roads were on horses that he cared for at the school along with cattle. On later trips he drove his Ford, carrying the first movie projector seen in the area, showing new farming method films at small local school houses.

Mattil created the first woodshop at Pi Beta Phi School funded through the industrialist Louis E. Voorhees of Cincinnati. Voorhees would later donate his Tennessee property and buildings for the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the shop students constructed cabinets, furniture, mountain furniture reproductions, miniature beds and chests. He researched, searching remote mountain homes, then reproduced traditional mountain designs in his pieces as well as creating new designs. Many of the Gatlinburg, TN woodcarvers such as Carl Huskey studied and worked under Mattil and created their own woodshops and carving businesses.

In the 1930s - 40s Mattil taught adult education at the Tennessee Valley Authority Center in Norris, TN after the TVA created the lake and electrification at Oak Ridge. Many of his students were workers on the 1933 dam construction. He worked with the Civil Conservation Corp (CCC) and with young men in thirty-four east Tennessee counties.

Mattil joined the Guild at its official founding in 1932 representing his business Woodcrafters and Carvers. He participated in the first traveling exhibition of the Guild in 1933 under the American Federation of Arts sponsorship. That show with over 500 items traveled to Washington, D.C., New York, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and Kentucky. Mattil served on the Guild Board over 34 years, being President from 1937 to 1940and 1966 to 1967. He was regarded as "Mr. Craftsman's Fair" by assisting with the Guild fair from its founding in 1948 and leading its organization and set-up for 43 fairs. When the TVA founded the craft organization, Southern Highlanders, Mattil participated on the Board of Directors until it joined the Guild in the 1950s. He served on the Guild's Old Crafts Committee which supported a museum of old crafts for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park resulting in the historic farm at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Mattil was awarded a Guild Life Membership in 1965 and was declared "Director Emeritus" of the Guild in 1971. He died in 1976. Mattil and his woodworking were mentioned several times in Allen Eaton's Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands. Mattil and his incredible volunteerism over three-quarters of the twentieth century contributed significantly to the success of crafts and craft organization in the Southern Highlands.

Oscar Cantrell, blacksmith, and O.J. Mattill, photo taken at the 1959 Craftsmen's Fair
Claudia and John work on a collaborative project at Yummy Mud Puddle.

There are many paths which lead people to settle in the mountains of western North Carolina. For Claudia Dunaway the move to Burnsville was a sort of homecoming. She grew up in Reidsville, NC and has fond memories of visiting the mountains in her childhood. For her husband, John Richards – home is where Claudia is (and, of course, he fell in love with the amazing natural beauty of the area and the thriving arts community). The artists (Claudia is a potter and John is a sculptor) form Yummy Mud Puddle – the site of two studios and one gorgeous view. Claudia creates hand thrown stoneware and porcelain fired in a gas reduction kiln. John works with mixed media and found objects to make sculptures, lamps, and jewelry.

Claudia and John moved to Yancey County in 2003. By 2005 they were both members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. John recalls visiting the area before the move and one of the places which resonated with him, assuring him this was the right place for them was the Folk Art Center. He appreciated Allanstand Craft Shop and the exhibition galleries and their obvious support of regional craftspeople. Their work is now represented at the Folk Art Center, Guild Crafts, Parkway Craft Center and Arrowcraft.

Claudia’s attachment to the Guild was formed years earlier. Her mother was a lifelong advocate of the arts and took Claudia year after year to Guild fairs – in Gatlinburg and later in Asheville. She grew up wanting to be a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. After her graduation from UNC – Greensboro she studied under legendary potter and SHCG member Charles Counts at Rising Fawn in Georgia.

Claudia and John have been blown away by the inspiring and supportive community in Yancey and Mitchell County. With its close proximity to Penland, the area is a mecca for talented craftspeople. The couple (who have each lived in several other art towns) notes that it is like no other place on earth – not only the quality of work being made but the amazing support that is provided by other artists and area galleries. They are both involved with the Toe River Arts Council and regularly participate in the TRAC studio tours. Claudia also regularly exhibits at the Spruce Pine Potters Market. She also plans to exhibit at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, perhaps in October 2012.

Spending time at Yummy Mud Puddle is an opportunity to see a couple creating not only art, but living life as an artful collaboration. As business partners they share responsibilities. For example, Claudia handles the online elements and computer-related aspects of their work, and John makes regular trips to galleries to deliver work and check in with buyers. As artists they bounce ideas off one another and occasionally collaborate for exhibitions. They enjoy their lifestyle, living moment to moment, embracing the risks and solitude afforded craftspeople, and making up their own rules as they go along.

John and Claudia will be participating in an exhibition of their work at
W.B. Tatter Studio/Gallery in St. Augustine, FL.
Artists' Reception
Saturday, January 28, 5 - 9pm