When I visited the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I was particularly interested in the artists and crafts of the area. Fortunately, I got to see several artists in action. I’m fascinated with the raw materials of art–the backstage view before the finished product.
On the auto tour of crafts just outside Gatlinburg, we visited Cliff Dwellers, a historic building inhabited by a co-op of artists. In addition to a very tempting gift shop, you’ll always find someone working there. Be sure to go around the building and up to the 2nd floor for the artist’s studios. Teresa Tyler, Basketmaker, worked away on a bowl-shaped basket, which she said she had to take apart once because it wasn’t coming out right.
Weaving is one of the traditional crafts–meaning if you needed it you made it–that has evolved into an ever-changing art form. . Weaver Bette Raymond was not there, but natural-dyed yarns always make a colorful picture.
We watched as the talented Pat K. Thomas, who makes marbled paper and fabric, dipped and spattered and streaked a long piece of silk in a vat and ugly splotches became a beautiful design. The marbler uses a lot of interesting brushes and tools in her work.
Pat told us she had studied at Arrowmont School, as had most of the artists who work at Cliff Dwellers. This magnificent institution has been training artistic craftsmen since the early 1900′s on its 14 acre campus. World renowned artists and teachers draw everyone from beginners to experts to weekend and week-long classes. When we visited, a team had just finished a 48-hour stint of feeding the wood-fired outdoor kilns to fire pottery under the direction of a master potter. They left behind the meticulous record book of the firing, and a pair of heat-proof gloves.
People learning metal work find inspiration in these samples of design.
Director Bill May says Arrowmont teaches about 20 different crafts to the 1200-1300 students who come through each year. But the facility is totally open to the public for viewing, as well. There are five small galleries featuring various kinds of work, and most workshops have balconies so you can observe without getting in the way of sawing wood or forming glass, etc. The workshops were not in use when we visited, but everything was neat as a pin–ready for the next class. Here’s a look at storage in the glass-makers studio.
These photos are my almost-weekly contribution to Travel Photo Thursday, sponsored by Budget Travelers Sandbox. If you go to that site, you can link to many other travel photos from around the world. (My trip was sponsored by local tourism agencies).
Are you a arts and crafts buff? Do you seek out working artists when you travel? Where have you found the most interesting experiences?