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1790s-Style Brooms by Marlow & Diana Gates

Marlow & Diana Gates


Leicester, NC

Using natural wood handles and broomcorn, we make each broom by hand with techniques that date to the 1790s. Diana prepares the handles by shaping, carving and sanding each one by hand.
Marlow then ties the heads on the handles in an intricate hand-woven Shaker design. We both share in the design, sewing and finishing of each broom.

About Marlow & Diana Gates

When did you first start making your craft?
I started learning broom making from my father, Ralph Gates, in 1977. Ralph learned from guild member, Lee Ogle, in 1972. My father, an areospace engineer, took us all on a vacation to the Smokies and met Mr. Ogle at his broom shop out on Glades road just outside of Gatlinburg. My father fell in love with broom making and the mountains right then and there. Two weeks later, Dad tendered his official resignation to NASA and we moved to the mountains to make brooms.

What mountains/state park to you most identify with? What region are you from?

My family and I still live north and west of Asheville in Big Sandy Mush. We have such beautiful mountains all around us.
How do you incorporate the mountains into your work?
Most all my broom handles come from local woods. I gather them in the winter months by hiking the woods and walking the creeks and riverbank at the base of these mountains.
Favorite season?
My favorite season is fall. It is the time of harvest and perfect weather. It is always my busiest time of year as a broom maker.
When did you join the Guild and why?
My family joined the Guild in 1979 as Friendswood Brooms and I grew up coming to all the craft fairs with my folks. My wife, Diana, and I joined in 2001. It was important for me to be a guild member and carry on our family's Appalachian mountain tradition. My father was very happy and proud to see that happen before he passed in 2004.
What is your favorite part of being a Guild Member? What is your participation in the Guild?
The Guild is my family. We still stick the Guild's founding principles of helping to keep the traditional crafts alive and supporting the members who make them. If it weren't for the Guild, there probably would not be as many broom makers today. There are more broom makers in the Guild now than ever before. I do my part as Guild member by serving on committees, participating in the Craft Fairs, demonstrating at special event days, and encouraging new members to join.
Do you teach workshops?
I teach classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School and workshops around the Southeast. I know of at least two of my students going on to become Guild members themselves. In essence, they are the 4th generation of Guild broom makers that all began with Lee Ogle.
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