On Saturday, April 15th from 1-3pm, nine female makers of the Southern Highland Craft Guild will be hosting an opening reception for their ongoing exhibition in the Folk Art Center’s focus gallery. The reception is free and open to the public as each of the members will share work, as well as discuss the influence of Guild membership in their creative journeys. “Roots in the Guild: 9 Women Artists Today” opened last month with pieces from Jimmie Benedict, Ellen Crandall, Bernie Rowell, Gina Anderson, Pat Herzog, Judi Gaston, Ann Hughes, Diane Tunkel Hanson, and Rosa Kennedy.
These nine makers joined the Guild in the 70s as styles and designs were transitioning from traditional to modern and contemporary in craft. “A number of these individuals represented that change and growth,” says member Jim Gentry, and past Executive Director. “Women who were linked by geography, youth, creativity, a love of visual arts and an organization, Southern Highland Craft Guild routinely gathered to share work, inspiration and, no doubt, day-to-day concerns.”
The catalyst for this show and sisterhood reunion started with Ann Hughes finding a photograph taken in 1980 of the group at a party at her Friendsville, Tennessee home. These women met informally several times a year to share accomplishments and struggles as a way to combat the isolation of working alone in the studio. It also was a space for support and accountability.
“Participating in this show has provided an opportunity to look critically at our time together,” says Hughes. “I began by looking at Guild history and something stirred inside me as I read about Frances Goodrich and Lucy Morgan. I became personally connected with the Western North Carolina Craft Revival… a movement inspired and administered for a large part by women. Without being conscious of this at the time, I realize now that I was able to move forward in a profession that welcomed women with open arms.”
As members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the group of nine inherited numerous opportunities. The Guild offers history, administration, education, sales opportunities, national status, fraternity, and an enormous opportunity to participate. The Guild is second in age in the country only to the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts. Craft guilds of this magnitude are rare.
“In the early days of our group, the Guild brought us together through shows, committee work, and annual meetings. We incubated deeply into these years,…active and growing like weeds,” says Diane Hanson. “Having so much in common drew us together and we in many ways became sisters.”
Admission to the Folk Art Center is free. The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in East Asheville. Headquarters to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Center also houses three galleries, a library, a craft shop and a Blue Ridge Parkway information desk and bookstore.