The Southern Highland Craft Guild brings a long history to its members and visitors. It is based on the service of mission people to the rural mountain communities. Today it continues to serve and educate new generations in the importance of handwork to the mountain communities it serves.
In 1890 when Frances Goodrich, a Yale graduate, moved to Buncombe County, NC, to do missionary work for the Presbyterian Church, she could hardly have imagined what would eventually become of her “good work”. She found a few women who were still weaving traditional coverlets in wool and cotton, and from these associations Goodrich’s idea of a cottage industry that would assist mountain families grew. Allanstand Cottage Industries, which she founded in 1897, in Madison County, NC, would ultimately become Allanstand Craft Shop. Goodrich moved the business to downtown Asheville in 1908 and from her College Street headquarters, she would network with other leaders of the Southern Arts and Crafts movement. In 1928, many of them met at Penland School of crafts and the idea of the Southern Highland Craft Guild was formed.
By the 1920s there were many mission based people serving in the Southern Appalachians. A conference of Mountain Workers was started. It was at this annual conference that regional leaders like Alan Eaton, Olive Dame Campbell, Frances Goodrich, and Lucy Morgan met to exchange ideas. In 1926, Olive Campbell gave a speech to the assembly urging the formation of a cooperative arts organization that would educate mountain craftspeople in fine craft art and provide a market reaching a larger community. In 1928, eight future Guild members gathered at Penland, NC to discuss what such an organization would look like. Two years later the conference introduced the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild with an exhibition of handcrafted work.
Chartered in 1930, it would grow to become one of the strongest craft organizations in the country. Second in age only to the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, the Guild now represents over 900 craftspeople in 293 counties of 9 southeastern states. The Guild has partnered with the National Park Service for more than fifty years. It operates the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Folk Art Center. For information on the Craft Fairs of the Southern Highlands, Special Events, the Folk Art Center, The Shops, Membership in the Guild and links to our members that are online, visit our site.
The Craft Revival project
This website tells the story of the historic Craft Revival and its impact on western North Carolina. During the revival, North Carolina makers shaped clay, in turn, shaping the attitudes and values that contribute to today’s appreciation of the handmade object. Makers wove cotton, linen, and wool, weaving a sense of community that contributes to a strong sense of place. Craftsmen hammered metal, forging partnerships to effect change. Artisans worked with wood, building a regional economy based on individual talent and entrepreneurship. These activities placed value on quality, individuality, and workmanship. They remain evident in the 21st century in a region that is both dynamic and progressive.
The Craft Revival project, funded by the North Carolina State Library and led by Western Carolina University, is documenting these and other aspects of the historic Craft Revival. This database and website are being constructed from selected photographs, letters, pamphlets, records, and objects to create a cohesive story. Its website, database, community training and involvement is a work in progress. Today’s site represents its first year of effort. Over the next two years, we will be adding more details to the website and a significant number of images to the database. Please visit today and return again tomorrow to learn more about the historic Craft Revival in western North Carolina.