Linda & I enjoy traveling (thanks, Sue for the inspiration and role modeling that we can go just about anywhere around the globe). For years we have schemed on retiring to the road for a time period (pack up the Hermit and become Nomads for a while). One joke I made, before knowing what the internet might progress to, was that by the time we reached retirement age and financial security, we could probably have all our books accessible by computer, and each day I could write an e-mail about what we did. Wow, how come I didn’t invent e-readers and blogs! Well, why wait until we retire (fully, as we are working on the slow movement toward retirement anyway).
One plan we have for retirement travels, when we have fewer “got to be at point B by nightfall”, is to get off the highway at any brown sign that comes up. You know those brown signs for obscure museums (I’m going to get the the Duck Decoy Museum in Maryland some day), National and State Parks and Forests, historical locations, etc. Thus, The Brown Sign blogs can begin.
This past weekend, we traveled to Asheville, NC. This is a destination for crafty sorts of people, with ample folk art museums and gallaries. Two which we visited were the Folk Art Center, near mile 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The stone, wood, and glass building is worth the visit and sets a rustic atmosphere for the displays. The range of crafts include old-timey style wood, fiber and ceramic pieces, where function dominates form; and, contemporary interpretations of tradiational styles, where form dominates function.
The upstairs gallery displays a permanent collection of traditional crafts, then several spaces devoted to contemporary artists’ works from the Appalachian region. The two times we have been to this center, the contemporary displays have shows several samples of works, with an emphasis on describing the process of creating these works. This can either enlighten one to the amount of time and effort to create something that we might spend less than a minute looking at, or make you wonder why someone would go to the trouble. That is the subjectivity of art.
While walking up the ramp to the upper level, spend some time admiring the prints along the wall and the quilts across the open area above the ground level store. These range from traditional quilt square designs to contemporary themes (a quilt with cocktail glasses on each square? Hmmm. My subjectivity goes for an different appreciation).
The ground level contains the craft store and a small Blue Ridge Parkway information desk and store. This is the world of eye-candy from hand made brooms (wood and reeds), dolls (corn husks), wrought iron hooks and tools, ceramic coffee mugs and platters (see the photo above), glass work, woven clothing and rugs, and jewelry. If you listen closely, you can hear a great sucking sound as the digital dollars rush out of your wallet or purse. Be sure to stimulate the economy a bit to keep hand crafts alive.
In case you need to stimulate the economy a little more, return to Rt 70 toward Asheville about a mile to come to the Guild Crafts store. Many of the same artists have works for sale here, but they have some different designs and a larger stock. Last year, we picked up the best ceramic bread pan here. Linda has cooked some of the crispiest loaves of bread in it. Unfortunately, the same craftsperson did not have another loaf pan for sale, so we donated the money to another craftsperson’s coffers.
If this experience does not satiate your crafts shopping hunger, or sparks additional interest, head into Asheville and wander the downtown streets to find all sorts of other craft shops. Many of these are in large open floor spaces with display areas for each artists. It is like going to a craft fair inside.