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.