Over time, some things just get better and better. And that’s the way it is with the Foothills Craft Guild’s Fine Craft Show (November 14-16, 2014). Chartered in 1968 as a group with high standards in craftmanship, Foothills Craft Guild, known as the oldest guild in Tennessee, continues to re-invent itself, showing and selling some of the most creative, finest-made crafts in the area. The Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park, the now-recognized home for the fall event, invites guests to wander leisurely and peruse artistry in wood, fiber, clay, photography, jewelry and more. And this show promises to be even better attended than last year’s! (Click here for last year’s story: Fine Crafts and Whimsy, too: Foothills Craft Guild Show.)
It was the people, though, who attracted me to the carefully laid-out booths. Their wares. Their stories. Their passions. Quality drew me in to touch and see while meeting the makers in person. With 175 booths, here’s just a sampling.
It was fun catching up with Rikky, former art teacher at Halls Middle School, who’s bio says she’s an intensely casual observer. Whimsically painted bowls line the walls, shooting out happy color everywhere. It’s funny, she said, but when I look at the people in my booth, they’re all smiling. (Well, of course they are. Where else can you find colorful mugs, vases, bowls, etc., sporting carefully placed polka dots or loopy stylized flowers?) She pointed to a blue bowl with running figures and rabbits — similar motifs to “Running Man,” the bowl selected by the Smithsonian’s Renwick Museum of American Craft for display. Her work: imaginative American art at its finest!
Using long leaf pine needles, Sharron draws upon nature’s elements to create one-of-a-kind pieces, like the gourd container bordered with slim brown needles. (For a video created for Tennessee Crossroads of Sharron in her home in Cumberland County, click here.) With so many people asking How’d you do that?, Sharron put together a step-by-step visual for making an ornament of nothing more than a slice of a nut and carefully intertwined pine needles. Fascinating, to say the least.
So busy was Amanda talking about her distinctive black and white pottery to patrons that we hardly had time to snap a picture. But standing near her impressive display, she smiled that genuine smile that comes from taking pride in her work — not just creating a bowl, but also adding an intricate design. Bunny motifs sold well while I was waiting to photograph Amanda — but it wasn’t just the cute factor. Since these design motifs blend well with contemporary and traditional decor, most of the ladies I talked to were already discussing where and how they would display their purchases — no matter where the pieces would wind up in their homes.
Terri Cadman and Martha Cummins
Billed as “Original Designs Handcrafted in Wood,” the unique items for sale from Cadman & Cummins Studios were utilitarian as well as artsy! Pens, perfume holders, even shaving brushes were custom-crafted to show off woods from around the world. Great gifts for their looks alone, but with an extra bonus of being useful, too.
Manning the booth for creations by Jane Longendorfer (whose “Eloise” was one of our favorites of last year’s show) and herself, Jane Cartwright (janecartwrightpottery.blogspot.com) took time to explain the process of sgraffito: apply two layers of contrasting slip to a ceramic piece and then scratch off parts to reveal a design. Several tools are needed for the desired result, of course, but what caught my eye other than the craft of sgraffito was the playfulness of the cat design. Both artistry and whimsy in one piece! (You can see Jane’s work at the 5th Annual Holiday Show and Sale by Terra Madre, Women in Clay on Saturday, November 22 at The Pavilion at Hunter Valley Farm.)
Sarah Knox and Liz Anderson
Representing their Franklin, Tennessee, company, Modern Bronze, twin sisters Sarah and Liz talked to me about their hand-crafted bronze and copper jewelry, sometimes with added gemstones and fine pearls to complete original designs. Their eye for modern interpretations of traditional designs definitely appealed to both older and younger patrons.
York Haverkamp (Guest)
The earth-toned creations of York Pottery caught my attention first, but when I moved in for a closer look, I spotted something that I had seen before: a bottle with an inverted cup on top. It reminded me of something I had found sitting beside my bed in a traditional B & B several years ago, so I asked York what it was. He said it definitely could be something to hold water for a guest staying in a home overnight. But he also said it could just be a lovely vase. I said I liked both uses. And his glazes. And his simple artwork. And him. So glad this potter from Norris joined the show this year.
Mary Beth McClure
Glass artist Mary Beth McClure traveled from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, to bring these creamy, contemporary bowls to the show. Is the medium porcelain, I asked? Oh, no, she replied. That’s glass. (Deserving of a second look, I thought.) And sure enough, when I ran my fingers along the edge, I could tell — this was beautiful and unusual but definitely glass. Cloudy, simple, and undulating. Like no other bowls in the show.
Judy and Virgil Davis
Virgil was alone in the booth when I walked over to see the hand-crafted baskets that he and his wife Judy spend hours making. Some, he said, are made of purchased materials, but most of the really valuable baskets are made of ash. And our supply is dwindling. He talked to me of the ash borer, a huge threat to the area’s supply. I have enough to make baskets for about two more years. And I agreed it would be a shame not to have some of his double woven ash baskets in coming shows. We’ll just have to see, I guess.
Emily, former art teacher and now the maker of collagraph prints and handmade paper, introduced me to the art of collagraphy — a printmaking process using a base of applied materials onto something rigid. Emily takes old mat board and then lays various layers of paper on top to form a dimensional base. Next, she inks the form and presses paper on top. The process was remarkable, especially when you look closely at the technique. But her humor and eye for detail in the finished pieces really capture your attention first.
Antler art is how the work of Michael Malak is billed in the Craft Show program. And that’s because it’s made from natural sheds. I go to Albuquerque or Colorado or anywhere I can find this stuff. Then I make it into lamps, key chains, chandeliers, even ice cream scoops. We both decided it was unusual in Tennessee to see antler art, but Michael assured me it sells. My customers are mostly females, he admitted. They want something different!
Marie Clingan stopped for a brief moment for this picture, but we had to move out of the way of her customers. That’s just how it is when you have textiles as pretty as these shawls, scarves, and wraps. Everyone wants to touch them. Mary and her partners make and sell handwoven rugs and mats, too, and even do demos when time permits.
Intricate designs in glass is the only way I can describe what Shawn Bungo had to offer in his white booth showcasing doorknobs, pendants, and artsy configurations. Colorful pieces of glass swirled their way into clear, bulbous pieces that could be worn or used purposefully in several places in a home. No matter what you’d do with one of Shawn’s creations, it would be a conversation starter, for sure.
In the writers’ corner, Bill Landry posed for a picture. (Talk about someone I’ve admired for years being right there in front of me and smiling!!!) Autographing his Appalachian Tales & Heartland Adventures, Bill Landry is known all over East Tennessee for his Heartland Series chronicling the ways and cultures of the Appalachian people. What a joy to chat with him and Sam Venable, journalist and humorist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel!
Not every artist was standing or demonstrating. Some just sat down on the job! And here’s Jim McGie, creator of this one-of-a-kind rocker made of juniper. (Oh, to have a front porch and one of Jim’s rockers — any day!)
Be sure to check the website for Foothills Craft Guild for next year’s Fine Craft Show dates. It’s something to put on the calendar. With quality like this as the norm for the show AND the personable artists on hand, you don’t want to miss it.
For more information:
Fine crafts and whimsey, too: Foothills Craft Guild Show: https://ohtheplaceswesee.com/2014/11/09/fine-crafts-and-whimsy-too-foothills-craft-guild-show/
Foothills Craft Guild: http://foothillscraftguild.org/