The Artisans of Toe River



Work-in-progress at Gay Smith's studio.

Work-in-progress at Gay Smith’s studio.


Off back roads and tucked away in beautiful, woodsy settings, you will find these hidden treasures of Western North Carolina; pictured here Cynthia Bringle's studio.

Off back roads and tucked away in beautiful, woodsy settings, you will find these hidden treasures of Western North Carolina; pictured here Cynthia Bringle’s studio.


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.

A work area at Gay Smith's studio.

A work area at Gay Smith’s studio.

Check out the websites below, get a map and spend some time exploring this wonderfully, unique aspect of life in Western Carolina. (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.



About KFBuchsbaum

A lover of words, learning something new every day, exploring new places, and meeting people from different cultures is what feeds my spirit. One significant thing I learned from my years in market research is that time away from an experience dilutes the memories.  You lose the highs and lows and end up with middle-of-the-road impressions.  The reason I started to blog, was to capture experiences real-time, in the moment.  I hope my moments help you relive some of your own great adventures or maybe plan some new.

Posted on June 21, 2014, in North Carolina, North Carolina, Western, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. had the opportunity to visit/tour Penland last year — it was amazing



    Sounds wonderful and fun! Who did you go with and what did you buy? Millie Fuson


  3. Oooh. Next year invite me! Invite me! Looks like a fun outing.


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