New Blue Ridge Trail Project Highlights Hundreds of Artists in Small Towns Throughout Western North Carolina
From hand-cut doormats in Murphy to pottery in West Jefferson, western North Carolina is a mecca for craftspeople. And now, thanks to Blue Ridge Craft Trails—a new online guide to Appalachia's more than 300 artist studios, schools, and galleries—you can experience all of it. Well, you can certainly try, at least!
With a footprint nearly as big as Maryland, the curated trails stretch across 25 counties, spanning from the westernmost corner of the state through the Qualla Boundary, Asheville, and the Blue Ridge Foothills, to quaint Mount Airy up north.
This vast part of North Carolina was federally designated as the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in 2003. As the National Park Service puts it, "the region's living traditions of craft, music, agriculture, and Cherokee heritage create a wealth of natural and cultural treasures unmatched in our country."
The Blue Ridge Craft Trails, developed by Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, has been in the works for four years. The nonprofit finally unveiled the network of trails highlighting all 310 artists and galleries earlier this year.
"We're preserving a skillset," Anna Fariello, Blue Ridge Craft Trails curator, author, and craft historian, told National Geographic. "We're allowing craftspeople to push their boundaries and to continue making, because we're hopefully providing them with an enhanced market."
Shae Bishop, one of the cofounders of Treats Studios in Spruce Pine, makes garments my interlacing small ceramic tiles. Another Treats cofounder, Annie Evelyn, makes chairs the "old-fashioned way," then adds whimsical touches to make them into statement pieces.
"So much about what humans do has changed with industrial and digital revolution," Bishop told the publication, "But we have this impulse to use our hands to explore things. I see myself as part of that history that's helping preserve craft."
For more information and to check out the trails for yourself, visit blueridgecrafttrails.com.