Introduced as an initiative to increase income for local crafters and their businesses, to boost cultural tourism, and to advance economic opportunity across 25 counties in Western North Carolina, The Blue Ridge Heritage Area has accomplished regional development of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails.
“We’re bringing buyers to the makers with the Blue Ridge Craft Trails,” Angie Chandler, executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, says in a statement. “We’re also amplifying the story of craft in our region that’s built upon a rich tradition, from the living arts of the Cherokee to the founding of Penland School of Craft, John C. Campbell Folk School, and the Southern Highland Craft Guild nearly 100 years ago.”
The drivable trails lead tourists to nearly 200 unique sites that operate in relative remoteness, away from the region’s high-traffic arts districts. Many itineraries favor the far-west towns of the mountains: Hayesville, Murphy, Robbinsville.
“I believe the Trail is more important than ever now [in the COVID era], because the world still needs a real connection to arts and craft … it leaves a door open for folks to have a personal contact with the artist of the art they love,” says Jo Kilmer, rustic artist and owner of Spirit Tall studio in Murphy.
“I’m thrilled that the Trails initiative has chosen Leftwich Pottery as a studio on the [Henderson County Outskirts] trail,” remarks Rodney Leftwich, a ceramics historian and well-known potter who’s long made his mark with unique incised vessels. “As a Western North Carolina native, I treasure local historic folk pottery,” he says. “Our rustic rural shop is not located near a big city or on a busy highway. Visitors will find a more laidback, down-home experience. No pressure, just good folks.”
To find out more about what’s open on the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, including directions to shops and studios, visit blueridgecrafttrails.com.