A bowl, a mug, a ring, a quilt, a scarf, a broom: time was when each of these things was made by hand, by a person skilled at the particular craft of making such things.
That time was not so long ago, really.
Transition to store bought goods did not stamp out crafts, though. Chances are, you may yourself own a piece of jewelry, a scarf, a bowl, a musical instrument, or a pair of boots hand made by a craft person.
The Southern Highland Craft Guild and the North House Folk School are two organizations which have helped craftspeople develop, teach, and market their work. You can visit each of them, online and in person.
The Southern Highland Craft Guild began a bit more than ninety years ago. Frances Goodrich was a Presbyterian missionary who felt called to serve the people of the southern Appalachians. In addition to her work teaching children, she met with mothers and started sewing and chatting groups where they brought their mending and discussed what might be done to improve life in the area.
Before her calling to missionary work Goodrich had studied art. The women came to know that she admired and appreciated what they knew as the old ways of creating things. She was presented with a forty year old coverlet that a relative of one of the women had made. From this began a discussion of who still knew the old ways, how they could share knowledge, what they could create, and how these goods could benefit the struggling economy of the region. Ninety years ago now, what would become the Southern Highland Craft Guild was on its way to forming.
Today, the Guild represents more than 800 artists in varied craft disciplines. There are four retail stores, among them locations in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, and the original location along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Artists work with regional schools, also.
The twice yearly Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands is always a fine place to meet artists and to learn about their work. This season, the Fair has moved online . The Fall edition will take place between 12 and 15 November, with artists, giving talks and demonstrations from their studios over social media, work for purchase to explore, and a raffle to enter.
The North House Folk School, near the banks of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota, focuses on crafts, lifeways and landscapes of the people who settled the area amd the Nordic countries from which they came. “Our programs, community and mission are at their best when accented by Lake Superior’s horizon and affirmed by the seasons of the North,” the administrators write.
North House began nearly 25 years ago, founded by a group of people dedicated to sharing and passing on the crafts and life ways of the northern Minnesota region. Their first offering included twelve classes; now there are hundreds, in subjects ranging from wildcrafting aorunf the lake to kayak building, boot making, Scandinavian metal working, baking all sorts of breads, weaving all sorts of traditional textiles, and many other subjects, taught by regional instructors and international guests. Connecting past and present and keeping these traditions going forward is part of the North House commitment, which they fulfill through classes, internships, outreach programs, and artisan development
How do you do al that when travel and gatherings are limited? Quite creatively, it turns out. On the campus in Grand Marais, there is a handful of classes held in person. There are several one off webinars on the schedule.
A wide range of classes have moved online. Subjects upcoming at this writing include book binding, baking biscuits and English muffins, making a traditional logbow and arrows, making a winter hat, and cooking with the seasons. #CraftingInPlace is another way North House is carrying out its wish to honor and share its location through video postcards, blog posts, and other material.
The Southern Highland Craft Guild and North House Folk School: sustaining and sharing creativity grounded in place and heritage as times change. In person and on line, both are well worth your exploration.
Photographs of people carving and man working on Celtic knot courtesy of North House.
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