Many farmers and homesteaders ask me why we moved to the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. There are truly so many reasons, but one is the VERY vibrant artisan community that exists here and equally strong in and around Asheville, North Carolina, which is a stones throw away from us here. Today my wonderful husband and lovely daughter surpised me with a trip to the Fiber Arts Festival that is going on right now in Townsend, TN, right down the road from us. I was thrilled to go. For those of you interested in going, it runs through Sunday and you can learn more at http://www.smokymountainfiberartsfestival.org. It was truly a spectacular day meeting artisans from all over the South and also being able to simultaneously tour the Great Smoky Mountain Park Heritage Center with all the old buildings and history on display as the fiber arts festival was woven the entire way through the heritage tour you take at the heritage center.
This wonderful event was sponsored by so many regional organizations it really demonstrates the level of interest in artisan crafts that extend from the valuable bi-products of local farms – fiber/wool! The lead sponsor was the Townsend Artisan Guild with other sponsors being the Arts&CultureAlliance, The Peaceful Side Of The Smokies (Alcoa, Maryville, Townsend), Tennessee Arts Commission, Girl Scouts, The Smokky Mountain Heritage Center, and the Tennessee Valley Handspinners Guild.
Meeting the artisans, having the opportunity to get up close to the artwork-in-progress and to the artists themselves, was a real treat. I could ask almost any question I had from finding shearers for my sheep, meeting fellow shepherds/shepherdesses, learning about natural versus synthetic dyes, assessing latest prices of different fiber from alpaca and llama to wool from sheep and hair from goats and rabbits. I learned about some amazing classes I plan to take and also about Smoky Mountain Spinnery where I will be spending much time in the near future. They focus on teaching spinning, weaving and knitting with tons of supplies and a studio for classes and group activities.
From the beginning of our exploration of this event we were able to see artisans at work.
There was anything from spinning, to drop spindle, weaving, crochet, knitting, felting, rugs and more. Hands on classes are offered throughout the weekend designed to educate groups from middle schoolers on up to advanced artisans. There were close to 40 vendors at the event coming from Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Indiana, and Florida. I was simply amazed at how many vendors where here from Tennessee and North Carolina alone. This region is simply a fiber arts paradise like none other in the country. Since we raise Navajo Churro sheep of the famed Navajo blankets and also raise alpaca, we are thrilled to have moved to East Tennessee for events like this.
Let me take you on a tour through the event. This is me and my husband, farmer Mike. Since of course we got to simultaneously explore the heritage center which is truly a Smoky Mountain outdoor historical museum, you must enjoy your journey with us and farmers — a cool pop up stand visitors could pose with.
So, we headed off to meet vendors and see the sites.
One can only be awe inspired by the old buildings that are part of the walking tour of the Heritage Center. We absolutely loved the hand hewn logs and the joinery that kept the logs in tact. In the olden days there werent much devices to attach parts together, thus joinery became an art of its own to stitch logs together in secure ways. This joinery was lovely.
Above are a set of pictures inside their meat processing one room structure in the old days in the Smoky Mountains before refrigeration. The building on the left houses all the space for salting, curing and hanging meat – primarily pork. The picture in the lower right are the big cauldrens where they would boil the pig to be able to de-hair it and skin it. The picture on the left you see dark boards on the back wall. Those are all boards for skinning the meat. The big trough on the ground on the left is for salting.
During the tour we really had the best of both worlds. We were able to learn and meet others interested in fiber arts and we were simultaneously emersed in the oldest structures that were relocated here from the original dwelling from inside what is now Smoky Mountain National Park. Merging the old craftsmanship and artisanry together was truly special to be part of.
My family and I were so fascinated that the crowd that was part of this festival was so diverse. You had small children, school aged children taking classes, parents, singles, retirees, second career folks – the entire gambit – interested and engaged. It was very interesting to watch. The two big days of the festival are tomorrow and Sunday, yet I was impressed as to how many people were at the event seeing that we arrived just when it opened.
Below I have to show you some of the genius joinery that we witnessed and all of it so diverse and lovely.
I left the festival so insired. We are so busy at our farm. But, to see the wonderful artisan results as we did today just motivates us more. And, to see the interest and demand by the public here in East Tennesse was truly thrilling.
I went home and took these two pictures of our farm and I knew I was home. I have moved to an area of the country I love. The Smoky Mountains, its history and heritage and this artisan revival we are seeing makes me so pleased I moved and now live where I do.
Here is our own stunning little piece of paradise right down the road from where the Fiber Arts Festival is taking place.
We truly do live in paradise. We do not see another house from our home and look out at complete nature, our farm, the mountains and the gorgeous skies we also get here in the Smokies of East Tennessee.
We hope you enjoyed your journey with us through the Fiber Arts Festival we visited today along with some of the stunning historical structures being preserved and made available for tourists to tour here in the Smokies.
God Bless! L. Davis