Toe River Studio Tour Provides Handmade Holiday Shopping - NC Blue Ridge

This holiday season, give the gift of handmade art produced here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Whether you’re shopping for stylish home decor, a statement piece to add to your wardrobe or something functional for the kitchen, you’ll find it at the Toe River Arts Holiday Studio Tour, Friday, November 30, through, Sunday, December 2, 2018.

The tour features more than 100 artists in a variety of media. Potters, painters, glassblowers, textile artists, jewelry makers, blacksmiths, sculptors, carvers and mixed-media artists throughout Yancey and Mitchell counties open their studios for the three-day weekend. Guests are invited to meet the artists, see their working studios, learn more about the meaning behind their work, and purchase items to take home.

“It’s neat going into the studios and seeing how artists are interpreting similar media in different ways,” says Nealy Andrews, executive director of the Toe River Arts Council, which puts on the studio tour twice a year in June and December. “The spaces themselves are really inspirational, as well. Some are out in the woods or tucked in out-of-the-way places, but they’re all interesting.”

The studios are grouped into different geographical regions: Bakersville, Burnsville, Celo, Penland and Spruce Pine. As attendees travel from one studio to the next, they encounter area scenery and landmarks including downtown Burnsville’s Town Square, the Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway, the Quilt Trails of WNC and the organization’s namesake Toe River Valley. The renowned Penland School of Crafts attracts many artists to the area, but the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and small-town hospitality encourage them to stay.

“The tour helps us to communicate how much these artists contribute to the area,” Andrews says. “This is our opportunity to bring people into the area to experience the art on a personal level and support the artists by purchasing their work.”

The tour is free and self-guided. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Guidebooks with a list of participating artists, photos of each artist’s work and maps to the studios are available at the Toe River Arts Council galleries in Burnsville and Spruce Pine, participating studios and area businesses. Digital versions of the guides are available for download at

For more information about Burnsville, including lodging and dining options for the weekend, go to or call (828) 682-7413.