The Blue Ridge Mountains and the foothills are a haven for artists, where natural beauty fuels the inspiration for their art. Western North Carolina has long served as a hub for handmade crafts across all mediums, making the region an epicenter for the arts community.
In Asheville hundreds of artists can be found in their working studios throughout the River Arts District. In Spruce Pine, the Penland School of Craft brings artists in from around the world to learn how to live more creative lives. And across the region the Southern Highlands Craft Guild showcases the work of over 800 of the finest Appalachian artists. Now, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is connecting visitors to these cultural resources through a network of craft trails.
The new initiative is called the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, and over the next 18 months, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area will roll out a series of curated driving trails throughout the region featuring 200 craft sites. Some sites have already been established, including 18 new artists, galleries, and arts events throughout Henderson County. Travelers can use craft trail itineraries for tips to round out their craft-hunting experiences with nearby foods, breweries, wineries, music, outdoor activities, and scenic views.
Handmade Craft in Western North Carolina
The Craft Trails will highlight artists across a wide variety of mediums including ceramic arts, weaving, glass blowing, jewelry making, bead work and more. All crafts featured are made by hand by artists who live in Western North Carolina. Visitors are invited to go beyond perusing galleries in search of handmade art to add to their collection, but also to get hands on with workshops and classes designed to teach new skills. This is why craft traditions in the Blue Ridge have remained such a vibrant part of the region – each generation has passed their knowledge to the next, and all with a passion to create are welcome to participate.
Where to Access the Blue Ridge Craft Trails
Information on the new Craft Trails can be found on the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area’s website. It includes filters to help you explore the craft mediums that interest you the most, or you can see all of the craft opportunities in a given region or town. New towns and experiences are being added to the trails system and by 2021 it will connect 25 counties that make up Western North Carolina.
About the Blue Ridge Heritage Area
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, designated by Congress in November 2003, works to protect, preserve, interpret, and develop the unique natural, historical, and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations. National Heritage Areas encourage residents, non-profit groups, government agencies, and private partners to work together in planning and implementing programs that preserve and celebrate America’s defining landscapes.
Primary photo features Rodney Leftwich of Leftwich Pottery.