Douglas James Ferguson was born in Possom Trot, Yancey County, NC in 1912.  He received a degree in Art Design Studies from Mars Hill College.  From 1935 to 1947 he worked in the Ceramic Research Laboratory for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Norris, TN, where he acquired an interest in pottery experimenting with local clays.  In 1946 he started Pigeon Forge Pottery in an old tobacco barn with Ernest Wilson who was his colleague at the Ceramic Research Laboratory.

The Great Smoky Mountains inspired Ferguson's ceramics and he created bears, owls, raccoons and chipmunks as well as a functional line of vases, bowls, tumblers and other dishware.  He employed up to 18 local people in his studio and shop which was one of the first in the area to present high quality ware.  In 1995 he published Spirit of the Black Bear, a catalog to accompany his trademark glazed black bears.  It featured the rotund small whimsical creatures in various poses:  rolling, standing, walking.  Ferguson reproduced butter mold prints in clay:  wheat, snowflake, dandelion and the oak leaf.  Inspired by the content of local mud dauber nests he used red and gray clay found in Pigeon Forge.  Initially he utilized a mule at his pug mill to attract visitors.  He formulated many of his own glazes including a crystalline and crater glaze.  In 1957 he created the Clingdom Dome tea set which the state of Tennessee presented to Queen Elizabeth.  In that same year a major fire closed his business until he could rebuild.

Ferguson became a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1948 and remained active until 1998, receiving Life Membership in 1991.  He credited the Guild with "making the local people more aware of their potential, and giving the public a view of something they were more or less not aware of."  He won the Western North Carolina University Mountain Heritage Award in 1982 where his work was described as "spiritual" and they credited him with creating "in sculpture, pottery, and tile the life of our mountainland."  He earned two awards from the Tennessee Arts and Crafts Festival in Nashville.  He received the Rotary Certificate of Distinguished Service.  He was featured in books on Appalachian craftspeople by Bernice Stevens, Edward Dupuy and Helen Bullard.  In the fall of 1952, Ferguson attended a ceramics symposium by international artists at Black Mountain College.  Through worldwide travel, Ferguson studied ceramic techniques in Great Britain, Europe, Asia, and Egypt.

Ferguson participated in the American Craft Council and the Ceramic National exhibitions in 1963.  He served as President of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.  He was also a member of the Gatlinburg Rotary Club, assisted with the Gatlinburg and Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, and served on the Board of the East Tennessee Automobile Association.

In the 1970s - 80s Ferguson created a fountain with traditional Appalachian quilting designs at Mars Hill College, his alma mater, as well as a heritage wall mural in Blackwell Hall, the Four Seasons Mural, and the College Seal.  Ferguson died in 1999.  Pigeon Forge Pottery was closed in 2000. 

Isn't it incredible how a chance encounter can influence life's direction? 

Several years ago while visiting the Folk Art Center and considering a move to western North Carolina, Joan Berner met Liz Spear.  Liz Spear was weaving in the Folk Art Center lobby.  Through their conversation Liz shared with Joan what a wonderful professional crafts program Haywood Community College in Waynesville has.  Fast forward a few years and you will find Joan Berner, a recent graduate of Haywood, demonstrating felting in the Folk Art Center lobby as a new member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

After retiring from work as an environmental engineer in Rochester, NY, Joan Berner moved to Hendersonville, NC.  All her life Joan has enjoyed textile arts.  After moving to the area she enrolled at Haywood and graduated from their Professional Crafts Department.  She credits her education there with taking her love and skills as a dyer, weaver, and felter from personal interest to vocation.  She praises the fiber department as well as the business department in preparing her for making it as an artist.  She juried into the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 2012 and looks forward to participating in the July and October Craft Fairs of the Southern Highlands this year.  She also sells her work at Desert Moon Studios in the River Arts District of Asheville and enjoys teaching on occasion.

While demonstrating wet felting at the Folk Art Center recently, Joan shared with visitors the various processes of the craft including: lay out (forming the three layer material of wool batt, hand laid wool, and silk), wet out, roll, throw and full.  The process known as nuno felting was fascinating to watch as each element was "laminated" to form a new vibrant material.  Joan uses the material in her fiber wearables, combining it with her own woven, hand-dyed cloth.

Lay out

Wet out

 Roll (and roll, and roll, and roll...)



Material Joan created while demonstrating at the Folk Art Center

A sample of felt hats made by Joan

Fiber wearables made by Joan



(shown left to right:  Julie Merrill, Peggy Epton, Reiko Miyagi, Peter Alcott, Elle Henderson, Judith Heyward, Jenny Mastin)

The following artists successfully passed the image and object jury process to become members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in February, 2013:

Peter Alcott
Gatlinburg, TN

Ben Caldwell
Nashville, TN

Peggy Epton
Hayesville, NC

Elle Henderson
Asheville, NC

Judith Heyward
Hendersonville, NC

Jenny Mastin
Valdese, NC

Julie Merrill
Asheville, NC

Reiko Miyagi
Weaverville, NC

Ann Vorus Parkhurst
Brevard, NC

Learn more about becoming a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

Learn more about the history of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

Now that March has arrived so have daily craft demonstrations in the Folk Art Center lobby.  One of our first artists on this schedule was Pam Etheredge who has been here the last three days.

Having become a member in the Fall of 2012 Pam Etheredge of Afton, TN is new to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, but she is certainly not new to her craft.  She began making pine needle baskets when she was nine years old.  Her teacher was her grandmother and she was living in southern Alabama.  Materials for the baskets - long leaf pine needles were plentiful.  She learned the traditional method of using the pine needles along with sweetgrass as well as natural dyeing from her grandmother.

Years later Pam developed her own innovative technique of using linen instead of sweetgrass.  She waxes the linen as she weaves.  She also incorporates slices of walnut and pieces of wood into her designs.  Her baskets are exquisite - with a light weight that comes from using one needle at a time.  Many are taught by using bundles of needles together, but Pam prefers the fine structure of baskets woven with one needle at a time with stitches close to one another.      

Seeing her interact with Folk Art Center visitors shows that she is not new to sharing her work.  She is comfortable sharing her process and anxious to educate the public about traditional crafts.  She is a frequent demonstrator at Davey Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone, TN.  

Learn more about Pam's work.

Learn more about the Folk Art Center daily demonstration schedule. 
On Friday several SHCG staff from the Folk Art Center took a road trip to the Open House for Haywood Community College's new Professional Arts & Crafts Instructional Facility.  We have been following the progress of the construction and were so excited to see the new studios.  Hundreds of people were in attendance - community members, former students and faculty, and friends of WNC craft.

The facility is amazing!  Each studio was carefully planned to not only offer more space, but better space, from lighting to workstations.  In their former studios Haywood's Professional Crafts Department fostered some of the most talented artists working in western North Carolina and in the country.  With the new school Haywood's reputation as a premier craft school will grow and be an asset to artists as well as Haywood County and WNC.  In addition to professional studies, the building was also constructed with the community in mind so that people will have a wonderful place to taking continuing education classes.

While seeing the new studios was our main goal in attending the Open House we were also excited to see many friends along the way.  Haywood is an educational center member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and many graduates of the Professional Crafts Department go on to become members of the Guild. Current faculty members:  Terry Gess (Creative Arts Department Chair), Brian Wurst (Wood), Robert Blanton (Jewelry), Amy Putansu (Fiber), and Steve Lloyd (Clay) are also members of the Guild.  

We look forward to seeing the wonderful talent of the first graduating class in the new facility as the Folk Art Center hosts the Haywood Graduate Show in the Main Gallery April 27 - June 23.

Learn more Haywood Community College's Professional Crafts Department.

Learn more about the HCC Graduate Show at the Folk Art Center.

Demonstration in the Jewelry Studio
 Demonstration in the Pottery Studio

 Diannah Beauregard, Gary Clontz, Catherine Ellis, Arch Gregory

 Robin Kirby, Carla Filippelli
This article is the first in a new series on the blog called Teaching Artists.  Featured here, Guild member Leo Monahan shares his collage expertise in a series of workshops at Grovewood Galley in Asheville.  Article by April Nance.   

Leo guides students through the design principles of collage.

On the first day of Leo Monahan's workshop The Unexpected Image I he tells me and the other students, "A collage is never finished - it is abandoned."  It is with this straight-shooting wit and wisdom that he leads us through techniques such as collecting inventory, experimentation with design elements, arranging and rearranging, and finally letting go.

With a resume that includes teaching at the California Institute of the Arts, Walt Disney Imagineering, Toyko and Osaka Communication there is no doubt we are in good company.  Of course he is also an internationally recognized paper sculptor with work currently on display at Grovewood Gallery.  Visit his website to learn more about his paper sculpture.

The three day workshop offered time for students to experiment with techniques and helped us see the ordinary in a new way.  A blank canvas became a base of images held together by structure or theme, depending on the exercise.  Ultimately we learned that collage techniques promote creativity, visual awareness, and is a personal process that helps the individual overcome the fear of beginning any project in any medium or technique.   

On the first day he challenged students to only work with typography.  By cutting strips of text we learned the artful ways letters become shapes through positive and negative space.

On the second day our task was to build structure in an abstract collage.  Armed with dozens of magazines we began building an inventory of images.  We separated ourselves from the content of the periodicals by turning them upside down and using a frame to isolate color, texture, whatever caught our eye in an interesting way.  After compiling the inventory we built our structure onto the background.  Leo gave us feedback along the way and helped us consider design elements and coordinating principles as we worked, sometimes pointing out what we had done without realizing it.  (And just when we were taking our task and ourselves a little too seriously he told us a joke...)

On the third day our assignment was to create a collage with a theme in mind.  His beginning instructions were simple, "Do something.  Do anything."  With the freedom to experiment, arrange and rearrange we worked focused and joyful.  We appreciated our final product but also realized the importance of the process.  In a helpful handout provided during the workshop Leo writes:

"The process is more enriching to the artist than the final result.  The process is the reward.  Search, experiment, innovate and reinvent yourself through art, whatever that art might be."

In addition to The Unexpected Image I, Leo also teaches The Unexpected Image II.  Check the Grovewood Gallery website to learn more about these workshops.  To learn more about Leo's paper sculpture visit and read about him in the Laurel of Asheville.    
During the workshop Leo demonstrated paper sculpture techniques and collage techniques (shown above).
Collage techniques promote visual creativity and visual awareness.  
Earlier this month the quiet of February was pleasantly disrupted by over one hundred first graders from a local elementary school.  Working with the education committee, Deb Schillo organized a craft demonstration field trip to the Folk Art Center. 

Over the course of three days groups of students rotated through craft stations that included weaving with paper and yarn, broom making, hand building with clay, and yarn weaving a traditional "God's Eye" ornament.  I overheard teachers and students saying this was the best field trip they had ever been on!  It was inspiring the see the children's enthusiasm and attentiveness with their craft projects.  We are grateful to all the cooperative students, school teachers, Guild staff, volunteers, and craft educators who made it successful.  If you are interested in learning more about craft education at the Folk Art Center contact Deb Schillo:  828-298-7928.  

 Diana Gates of Friendswood Brooms gives students some hands-on learning about broom making

 Resident artists from Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts helped the kids with a coil-built pot.

 Carla and Greg Filippelli of Cranberry Creek showed the kids a yarn weaving technique.
 After learning a little about weaving on a loom the students had the opportunity to weave on their own loom.  Barbara Miller and Teena Tuenge worked with the kids at this station.

Mary Nichols showed the kids how she spins on a spinning wheel.

Come to the Folk Art Center to see the debut of the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s expanded retail space, Allanstand Interiors, on the second floor beside the Main Gallery.  Studio furniture alongside art and sculpture for the home will be featured in a variety of media including wood, metal, fiber, glass and mixed media. 

Combining an innovative mix of traditional and contemporary, Guild curator Nikki Josheff has selected work by SHCG members for the new space.  Allanstand Interiors will specialize in larger scale, one-of-a-kind pieces, which customers usually can only see in artist studios or at the Craft Fair.  The Guild is excited about this additional opportunity to connect collectors with fine craft and home furnishings.  SHCG artists selected to open the space include:  Hayley Davison, Brian Fireman, Michael Maxwell, Desmond Suarez, John Wesley Williams, Derek Hennigar, Brian Wurst, Chery Cratty, Greg Magruder, John Gunther, and Kathie Roig.  The work featured will rotate throughout the year.

 (work shown: John Gunther, K4 Glassart, John Wesley Williams)

 (work shown:  Edward Bordett, Michael Maxwell)

 (work shown: Derek Hennigar, Edward Bordett)

(work shown: Desmond Suarez, Chery Cratty)
 (work shown: Hayley Davison, John Gunther, Kathie Roig, K4 Glassart)

(work shown: Brian Wurst, Edward Bordett) 

Mary Frances Davidson was born in 1905 in Middlesboro, KY, into a family of third generation spinners and weavers.  She remembered her grandmother who "spun on the high wheel" and "wove 'jane." 

Davidson attended West Virginia University during the early 1930s receiving a degree in education concentrating on mathematics, social science, and French.  In 1941 she completed her Master's Degree in Education at Duke University.  She taught math at White Silver Springs High School in West Virginia for 10 years, then in 1944 moved to Oak Ridge, TN, to continue her teaching career.

Also in 1944 Davidson studied weaving at Berea College and Penland School of Crafts.  But it was Fannie McLellan's course in natural dyeing at John C. Campbell Folk School in 1948 that inspired and stirred Davidson when she saw great hanks of yarn in lovely soft glowing colors draped over a loom.  Davidson recalled, "That was the vision of color that was never erased from my mind.  The bug bit me."

Besides her public school teaching Davidson became a faculty member at Arrowmont School of Crafts in vegetable dyeing in1965.  This continued from 1967 to 1983.  She led her students on field trips to gather dyeing materials, which were used to produce yarns, and create notebooks full of recipes.  She taught numberous dyeing workshops across the country including Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida as well as in her home state of Tennessee.  In 1972 she dyed fibers for woven upholstery yardage u sed for a couch at the 1787 Gunston Hall, the historic Virginia home of colonist and Constitution signer George Mason.  In that same year she participated in the International Art Program of the US Information Agency.  Numerous books and articles have included her craft insights.

In 1950 wrote the booklet The Dye Pot.  The dedication reads, "To Mother, who never fussed if the sink was stained."  Based on Davidson's research and experimentation, the book promoted the "fun of picking blossoms and gathering leaves from your own yard to see what you get."  The booklet, reprinted in 1961 and 1974, sold over 30,000 copies.

From her home in the mountains near Galtlinbrug, Davidson created her dye recipes using berries, plants, tree barks and roots.  Her colors were exceptiona.  As writer cynthia Russ Ramsey sayd, "The tumble of small hanks in tones of gold, green, purple, pink, and beige offered a feast for the eyes."  Each year Davidson spun and dyed about 400 pounds of yarn.  She sold her yarns at Arrocraft for weavers and knitters.  From 1949 to 2002, as a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, she demonstrated dyeing at Guild Fairs and Fiber Day.  She received Life Membership in 1972 and continued with the Guild until her death in 2002.  She was 97 years old. 

In 1995 Arrowmont honored her at their 50th anniversary as a pioneer in extending the knowledge of native dyes and materials.  Sandra Blain,a SHCG member and former Director of Arrowmont said of Davidson, "She is one of the world's foremost authorities on vegetable dyeing and has alsways been willing to share her experiences and knowledge with others."