Billed as “a yard sale for fiber people,” the 5th annual Anything Fiber Sale & Swap was held today near Black Mountain.
People with extra fiber, yarn, fabric, weaving or knitting tools, and fiber-related books reserved tables for about $20 each and sold their wares at garage sale prices. Admission was free.
If you’re looking for yarn – or fibers to turn into yarn – this is the sale for you. From wool to alpaca to everything in between…
It was also a great opportunity to dig for treasures and meet a lot of warm, friendly fiber folks!
I was also fortunate to meet Mikkel Hansen, who does restoration and maintenance of handweaving looms. He mentioned that he’s a member of the Western NC Fibers/Handweavers Guild. For a Guild winter project, he made the apron he models below. (Note fabulous matching red socks.)
Here are a few more shots from the sale…
While it sounds like the store that sponsors these events is closing this month, they swear that the show will go on and have vouched to make the Anything Fiber Sale happen every August. Details will be posted on their website.
I walked a way with a couple of great books for a total of $4. But even if you’re not a weaver, spinner, or knitter, it’s a great opportunity to chat with some laid-back and knowledgable artists who love to share their love of fiber.
Last week, a friend asked if I was attending the open house “at the craft school.” Unfamiliar with the event she was referring to, I asked: which craft school? Penland? John C. Campbell?
“No,” she said, “the one out at Haywood Community College.”
It turns out that the community college, just 30 minutes west of Asheville, has a professional craft program, which offers two-year associate degrees in clay, fiber, wood, or metal. And in March, they cut the ribbon for their brand new $10 million, 36,000 square-foot, LEED-certified Creative Arts Building. (Perhaps it should be noted that the cost of this project was not without controversy.)
An art school education in a state-of-the-art building at community college prices?! Hello!
I was excited to learn more, so I went to their Community Craft Workshop Day on July 22nd, which featured free craft classes in the new facility.
For the morning session, I took the “Make a Bracelet” class in the metal studio. The instructor, Terry Taylor (above, far right in the black t-shirt), is an alumnus of the jewelry program and a prolific author (Lark Books has published more than two dozen of his craft books). He also has very delightful and distinctive facial hair.
We were each given a couple strips of copper and encouraged to choose a fabric or other material. These were sandwiched between two sheets of copper and put through a metal presser, transferring the imprint of the material onto the copper band. After filing the edges, we finished the pieces with liver of sulfur or a torch, each giving a different patina. By the end of the class, I had two fancy bracelets – custom fit to my wrists.
We were in a small room within the metal studio; above is the larger room where degree students each get their own workspace for the duration of their studies.
Our class finished a little early, so I wandered around to some of the other workshops in the building to kill some time.
Each studio was simple, awash in natural light, and beautifully functional.
Between the studio spaces were wide hallways featuring craftwork – some by students, and some historical artifacts. The large scale woven works were stunning.
After lunch, I took the “Designer Pillow” workshop, adding a bit of expertise to my mostly-self-taught quilting knowledge. This course was taught by Lani Hendrix, who has taught upholstery and quilting at the college for more than 30 years. While the class took place in the new building, an older, adjacent building is home to a full quilting studio, which features two long arm quilting machines.
By the end of the day, I walked away with two chic bracelets, a cozy pillow for my couch, and a new sense of possibility. While it’s intoxicating to imagine stepping away from the work-a-day life for two years to study a craft skill, it’s also great to know that the Haywood craft program offers continuing education classes for adults with 9-5 jobs. And the prices! For example, this spring they offered an 8-week Beginning Weaving class on Tuesday nights for $115; and Fundamentals of Woodcarving for $110 (also 8 evening sessions).
Let’s just say there might be a jewelry making class in my future…
On July 8th, the Big Crafty hit downtown’s Pack Square once again. There were A LOT of booths, and it was REALLY hot! So hot, that I only took a few photos this time before taking my vulnerable, pale self to find some shade!
Here’s Katie from Concrete Lace out of Atlanta, GA. She patiently helped me pick out a lovely letterpress card for a friend.
This is Ryan-Ashley from Fray Knot. I was in love with her delicate, approachable jewelry (all priced under $30) and bought, well, too many pieces… I also got a kick out of her chipper, welcoming personality. Turns out Ryan-Ashley also gives knitting lessons and teaches classes at The Dry Goods Shop.
This lady from SewFew was getting a lot of attention for her stunning one-of-a-kind clutches made from fabric remnants. Delicious stuff…
Finally, I ran across this quilt collective called Tipsy Star Quilts. They had all sorts of lovely quilted goodies including blankets, throws, pillows, bags, potholders, accessories, etc. Apparently they have a store downtown in the old Battery Park Hotel, where they also host classes. Will have to check that out!
So that’s it for the summer 2012 Big Crafty. It was great to see such a wide array of vendors – and it seemed like there were many more non-Asheville/WNC folks selling this time. We’re on the circuit!
Well, it finally happened. After years of getting their catalog and dreaming about it, I finally visited Penland School of Crafts.
And I can confirm every rave review you’ve heard: Penland is craft heaven.
If you don’t know about Penland, I think the spirit of the place is best described by the Penland Vision:
“Penland’s programs engage the human spirit which is expressed throughout the world in craft. Penland enriches lives by teaching skills, ideas, and the value of the handmade. Penland welcomes everyone–from vocational and avocational craft practitioners to interested visitors. Penland is a stimulating, transformative, egalitarian place where people love to work, feel free to experiment, and often exceed their own expectations. Penland’s beautiful location and historic campus inform every aspect of its work.”
Hard not to fall in love with that – right?
The occasion for my visit was their annual Open House, held early each spring (this year it was March 3rd), which draws a stunning 350-500 visitors.
For such a pilgrimage-worthy place, there is surprisingly little sign that you are nearing Penland until you’re there. It’s about an hour north of Asheville, a drive that takes you through tiny towns and expanses of farmland – then up a mountain road and you find yourself here:
While we were driving there, it felt like we were the only ones who knew Penland existed. No other traffic seemed to follow or lead us. But once we arrived, it was clear that this is a popular event. Volunteers guided us through the packed parking lots and handed out maps of the grounds so we could find our way around.
During the Open House, you have free range to explore all of the different studios, with separate buildings for textiles, metals, clay, letterpress, printmaking, glass, iron, wood, and photography. Most of the studios offered hands-on activities; for example, you could make an enameled brooch in the metal studio, or try the pottery wheel in the clay studio. Some activities filled early and/or had significant wait times (like glassblowing and metals); and for an adult craft school, a surprising proportion of the visitors were children. It’s clear that local folks make this a day-long family outing.
What had the greatest impact on me were the incredible facilities. From old to new, each studio is large, well-lit, arranged for efficiency of task and movement, and seemed to contain the best equipment possible.
The letterpress and printmaking studios are clearly brand new and state-of-the-art.
The wood studio is spacious, bright, and has separate areas for different types of woodworking.
The weaving studio is a gorgeous stone and wooden space in one of the oldest buildings on campus; it boasts a full wall of windows presenting the mountain views.
Each studio certainly has its own personality, reflecting the medium within. The iron studio stood out as grittier, darker, and more industrial than the rest.
The glass studio was perhaps the smallest – but clean and bright, like glassware ought to be.
I didn’t get a good look in the clay studio, but did wander around the outdoor kiln yards for a while – many beautiful kilns designed by local potters.
I have to admit that one of my favorite places was the Coffee House – and not just because I was hungry! This seems to be both a dining hall for students when classes are in session, and a place to buy coffee, cookies, and other snacks. I can just imagine how many fond memories and good friendships have been forged here (craft pun intended).
In front of the coffee house there’s a volleyball court and a view of the studios on the hill. Can you just imagine how gorgeous this will be in May?
And you certainly can’t have a school in the Appalachian mountains without a huge porch for rocking…
Finally, a couple of exterior shots of the older buildings on campus.
So that’s it from Penland for now. One of these days, when I’ve saved up some money and time, I hope to take a class there. In the meantime, I’ll continue receiving the class catalog and dreaming of this place where one can “exceed their own expectations” through craft.
I met Amy at a neighborhood barbecue last summer, and liked her warm, creative personality immediately. When I asked what she did for a living, she said she was the Executive Director of the Alliance for American Quilts. I thought to myself, “That is one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever heard of!”
During the party, we didn’t get to talk much about her organization. But I knew one day, I’d follow up and learn more about Amy and the AAQ. That time is now!
As you’ll read below, Amy is one of the speakers at the Pecha Kucha event on Friday evening (January 27th) in the River Arts District. I’ll be there, and I hope you will, too!
In a nutshell, what does the Alliance for American Quilts do?
The Alliance for American Quilts, a national nonprofit organization, supports and develops projects to document, preserve, and share the history of quilts and quiltmakers. The AAQ brings together groups and individuals from the creative, scholarly and business worlds of quiltmaking to advance the recognition of quilts and their makers in American culture. We have three core projects:
- Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (Q.S.O.S.), a grassroots oral history project preserving the stories of today’s quiltmakers from all over the US and abroad. Q.S.O.S. is archived at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center.
- The Quilt Index, a national online database of more than 50,000 quilt records bringing new access to detailed information and images of quilts from museums, historical societies, guilds, documentation projects and private collections.
- Quilt Treasures, a multi-media portraits profiling key quilt revival pioneers including quiltmakers, historians, collectors, teachers, business leaders. Both the Quilt Index and Quilt Treasures are partner projects of the Alliance, MATRIX: Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University and the Michigan State University Museum.
Also check out our 2011 Annual Report video—our mission in a nutshell.
How did it come to be headquartered in Asheville?
The AAQ relocated to Asheville in 2006 from Louisville, Kentucky. The organization was founded and run in the home of one of the co-founders for 13 years. When it came time to move the operations of the AAQ to a new home with a professional staff the board did a careful search to find a community with craft heritage where the AAQ could base its operations, benefit from synergy with other craft nonprofits and cultural tourism. Asheville was It.
Why is it important to preserve and document quilts and other handmade objects?
Quilts are valuable in so many ways and when we preserve and document them we are ensuring that our history is saved for future generations. They are historical documents whose surfaces record events (birth, death, engagement), dates (battles, weddings), people (makers, recipients, patrons), places (location made, community celebrations) and movements (political, social, religious). As objects quilts range from the ornate to the utilitarian and in the context of when they were made this difference tells us about the maker even in modern times. I wrote an article for Etsy.com last year about why it’s important to label quilts.
What in your background led you to be the Executive Director of a craft-related organization?
I’ve always enjoyed making things. I come from a family of creative people and live with and cherish objects made by family and friends. I went to undergraduate school at NC State University’s College of Design and studied textile design and drawing there and then got my graduate degree in mixed media art at the University of Michigan, focusing on site specific sculpture and drawing. After college I taught design and did software consulting for students and faculty at my alma mater —NCSU—and enjoyed that a lot.
When an opportunity came up to work with middle and high school students at SeeSaw Studio, an afterschool design and entrepreneurship program in Durham, I jumped at the opportunity. This was my first nonprofit leadership position and I loved how much diversity was required as executive director—teaching, fundraising, marketing, finance, board and community work. My work with the AAQ has similar diversity—plenty to keep me busy and always something new to learn, this time on a national scale.
Why do you think quilts are such beloved objects?
As children, we often choose quilts as the object that gives us comfort and security—it’s a natural fit. I think quilts that have lots of different printed fabrics are especially attractive to kids. One of my most memorable toys as a child was a fabric clown made from “yoyo’s,” which are small circles of fabric with the edge turned under. The yoyo’s are stacked and strung together in the middle with thread to form the body and head of the clown. I can remember flipping through all those different little circles of fabric before going to bed like I was counting money or something. Foreshadowing. I’m a bit of a fabric hoarder and I think that it’s this appreciation of the endless possibilities of putting fabric together that attracts many quilters.
Could you talk a bit about the Asheville quilting community?
Asheville is a great place to be a quilter and to see quilts. There is a large guild—the Asheville Quilt Guild–with around 300 members. There’s also an Asheville chapter of the new Modern Quilt Guild and lots of small quilting bees as well as fiber artist groups. The area has a rich tradition in quilting and joining a guild or taking a class at A-B Tech is a great way to get started. The Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University are great places to see quilts.
Are there any projects coming up this year that Asheville folks can be involved in?
The Alliance for American Quilts runs a quilt contest every year and we get a good deal of entries from our members and friends in Western N.C. The contest is both a competition and a fundraiser. Quilters enter small quilts in response to an annual theme (this year it’s “Home Is Where the Quilt Is”), winners are chosen by a jury and by our members and the prizes are amazing. This year’s Grand Prize winner will have their choice of any Handi Quilter machine quilting system worth as much as $20,000). The quilts are exhibited nationally and then auctioned on eBay to benefit the AAQ. We’d be honored to have anyone from Asheville and surrounds enter our contest this year. Visit our website for all the details.
Can you share one of your favorite quilt stories?
One of my favorite quilt stories is one that I’ll share next Friday, January 27th, during my talk at the Asheville Pecha Kucha event. It involves a very practical Kentucky quilter who created a quilt for her family that included a picture of a coffin for each person. I won’t give away the story because I’m cleverly using this teaser to get you to attend! If you can’t make it then you can find the quilt on the Quilt Index; search for “graveyard.” Spooky!
Located right downtown, but a little off the beaten path, is the Appalachian Craft Center at 10 N. Spruce Street. They specialize in “handcrafted, functional, North Carolina pottery and other traditional Southern Appalachian crafts in wood, fiber, and glass.” Two large rooms display oodles of mountain crafts at affordable prices.
Shopping here is a truly local experience. Jackie Craig – who has owned the business for 23 years with her husband, Andrew – says that about 95% of the items are made in North Carolina, with the rest made by artisans in other Southeastern states.
I asked Jackie what distinguishes the Appalachian Craft Center from other area galleries and shops that offer traditional craft pieces. She said it really comes down to two things: function and education. Nearly everything in the store would be classified as functional craft – tools for cooking, pitchers for pouring, blankets for snuggling.
But perhaps even more note-worthy is how these artisans have gained their skills. “These folks didn’t get fancy art degrees,” says Jackie. Instead, many of these throwing, carving, and quilting skills have been honed and handed down through generations. She gives the example of Owens Pottery, which claims to be the “oldest pottery shop in the state” (established in 1895). Jackie mentions that they’ve been producing their famous red-glazed pottery for five generations.
This sense of history and tradition is tangible at the Appalachian Craft Center. It’s a place that respects the past and the region’s heritage – but also doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are plenty of whimsical items – wooden toys, face jugs, quirky ornaments – scattered throughout.
Finally, I have to admit that one of my favorite things about the Appalachian Craft Center is its prices. They seem to take the stance that craft created by everyday people should be accessible to everyday people – and not just reserved for wealthy collectors. That we should all be able to take part in this heritage. And that’s a philosophy I can always get behind.
Check them out next time you’re downtown, or if you looking for a unique, local gift (ask about their gift baskets). Jackie and her helpful staff will be happy to share some stories with you.
Ok, not really… But I did get interviewed by Handmade in America! I say lots of thrilling, insightful things. And you can see an outdated photo of what I look like. You won’t want to miss it!
Thanks to Jamie and Gwynne for setting this up.