The Artisans of Toe River
There are dozens of craft studios and galleries throughout Mitchell and Yancey Counties in Western North Carolina. You could spend weeks visiting the various artisans and I guarantee you will find something for every taste.
The center of this universe is the world-renowned Penland School of Crafts and a visit to their gallery is a must. The Toe River Studio Tour is a good way to start exploring the area. Held the first weekend in June and December annually, I was lucky enough to once again go with my good friend who really knows her way around the studios and galleries – I am always happy to follow her lead.
Visiting the studios is a wonderful way to see artists in their own surrounding and is a great opportunity to chat one-on-one with these amazing and talented people. You can also purchase work, generally at better prices than in a commercial gallery.
We visited the iconic Cynthia Bringle, a potter who has been honored as a “North Carolina Living Treasure”; Jenny Lou Sherburne, who’s colorful work is among my favorites; and potter Gay Smith whose porcelain vessels and personality were equally charming. I always learn so much from these visits, the artists are so willing to answer questions as well as share information and great stories.
Check out the websites below, get a map and spend some time exploring this wonderfully, unique aspect of life in Western Carolina.
www.gertrudegrahamsmith.com (Gay Smith)
A Final Note:
I am sad to report that NC is dropping its state-funded program to house art studios at the Energy Xchange (which I wrote about last year). Apparently the methane powered energy was too erratic to supply the consistent firepower needed by the glass artisans. One potter remains for the final year of her three-year contract. Bridget Fox and her lovely Mudventions work will be on display and the remaining facilities will be utilized for educational purposes under the direction of Mayland Community College.