‘Legacy Endures’ Introduces New Faces of the Southern Highland Craft Guild

Gourd by Marty McCounnaughey.

As the leaves begin to change up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Southern Highland Craft Guild looks forward to the opening of their new member exhibition.

As of Sept. 30, the main gallery on the second floor of the Folk Art Center,  will showcase 18 juried makers that have been accepted into the Guild within the past two years.

Legacy Endures is an introduction to these individuals and their craft in the media of glass, clay, metal, wood, fiber, paper, mixed media, jewelry, and natural materials.

For more than eight decades this process of sourcing quality handmade crafts has served as an integral method of growth for the Southern Highland Craft Guild. When the Guild was founded in 1930, it was to drive economic development to rural communities throughout the Appalachian region. Today, the Guild accepts approximately 20 to 40 new members each year. With a total of seven juries, both image and object, makers have the opportunity to apply multiple times throughout the year.

Membership in the Southern Highland Craft Guild requires a two-step jury process that begins with submission of five images. If approved, this round is followed by an invitation to present their collection or body of work. Makers are evaluated on quality in the categories of craftsmanship and design. Nearly a dozen of the Guild’s current members are selected to serve on the Standards jury, a peer-to-peer process. These members rotate annually.

With the mission to cultivate the crafts and makers of the Southern Highlands for the purpose of shared resources, education, marketing, and conservation, makers join the Guild for various reasons.

When I originally looked into joining the Guild I thought it was simply a professional organization, but I am finding that I have become part of a large family, with a rich history,” states Laura Peery, a member in clay. Her decorative, porcelain teapots and other ceramic sculpture will be on display in the exhibition.

Bladesmith Ken Hall says he applied to the Guild for “the great opportunity to cross-pollinate with other artists. It has expanded my perspective on what is possible to create.” Hall also expressed his desire to connect with the public. “I enjoy engaging the public about the process of making knives in hopes to inspire people to consider their own creative abilities.”

For Marty McConnaughey, not until acceptance did she learn about the benefits and opportunities of her membership. “Taking the plunge to demonstrate at the Folk Art Center has opened a whole new avenue for me.” Marty’s decorative gourds were on exhibition at the summer craft Fair in July. “I am honored to have my work shown with ‘the best of the best’ as fellow members value the art of hand crafting heirloom pieces and passing that knowledge on. The caliber of these artists encourages and challenges me to be exceptional in all that I do.”

Legacy Endures displays the following makers and their work: Christian Arnold in glass, Erica Bailey in jewelry, Valerie Berlage in wood, Amy Brandenburg in jewelry, Lauren Faulkenberry in paper, Lynne Fiorenza in jewelry, Grace Cathey in metal, Ken Hall in metal, Ann Hord-Heatherley in mixed media, Patrick Ironwood in mixed media, Marty McConnaughey in natural materials, Betsy Meyer in fiber, Tim Nester in wood, Laura Peery in clay, Audrey Sawyer in jewelry, Angelique Tassistro in clay, Jessica White in paper, and Laurie Young in glass.

Admission to the Folk Art Center is free. The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in east Asheville. Headquarters to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Center also houses three galleries, a library, a craft shop and a Blue Ridge Parkway information desk and bookstore.

About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the news editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for more than six years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.