Around Town: Local workshops teach shoemaking skills

A MILE IN HER SHOES: Deborah Robertson is an award-winning shoemaker who will teach the shoemaking process in upcoming workshops. “When I teach a new skill, I show and explain why we are accomplishing the task in this way and in this order,” she says. Photo by Michele Patterson

The hum of a sewing machine was a constant presence in Deborah Robertson‘s life growing up.

“My grandmother made all of her clothing and was very dedicated to getting her stitches just right,” says Robertson, an award-winning shoemaker and former Community Calendar editor for Xpress. “I think it was this devotion to making that led me to shoemaking.”

Robertson now hopes to pass that love of traditional cordwaining to others in the Asheville area.

Deborah’s School of Shoemaking will hold a series of four eight-week classes starting this month and running through the end of July. The first, Oxford or Derby? You Choose, begins Saturday, Jan. 15, and requires no shoemaking experience.

Each class runs four hours and will focus on such shoe types as boots, Mary Janes, monk straps and sandals.

“The workshop covers all the skills required for making shoes by hand and begins with measuring,” Robertson explains. “Fit is the most important aspect of shoemaking, and we will spend the first class learning about which measurements to take and practice taking one another’s measurements.”
According to Robertson, handmade shoemaking is experiencing a wave of popularity for a number of reasons.

“First and foremost, the creation of handmade crafts, and especially shoemaking, connects the head, the hands and the heart in a way that results in pure joy and a deep feeling of accomplishment,” she says. “To create for yourself a pair of shoes that you designed and built from scratch, that fit well, feel comfortable and are pleasing to the eye, well … there’s nothing better than that, nothing compares.”

Classes are available Saturdays, 1-5 p.m., or Wednesdays, 5-9 p.m.

All students must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. For more information, including pricing, visit

Deep tradition

Ramona Lossie and Mary W. Thompson are determined to keep the ancient Cherokee art of basketmaking alive for future generations.

“There aren’t that many weavers left, and most are elderly,” says Lossie. “And if it’s not passed on, it dies. But we won’t let that happen.”

Lossie and Thompson are among nine Eastern Band Cherokee artists whose work is showcased in the Center for Craft’s exhibition ᎢᏛᏍᎦ ᏫᏥᏤᎢ ᎠᎵᏰᎵᏒ Weaving Across Time. The show, which opened in December, will be on view until Friday, April 22.

The exhibition features 45 works — eight mats, 12 miniatures and 25 baskets — made within the last 20 years, using two of the oldest materials in Cherokee basketmaking tradition: mountain river cane and white oak. Unlike basket weavers, basketmakers are heavily invested in each stage of the process, including sourcing the river cane, felling trees and gathering plants for dyes.

“As a Cherokee artist, I hope visiting guests understand how much time and effort goes into the creation of my basketry,” Thompson says. “This is an important part of our history, and our cultural practices need to be continued. Not everything can be bought online.”

Thompson adds that her baskets are symbolic of Cherokee resilience.

The Center for Craft, 67 Broadway, is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Visitors can reserve 30-minute time slots for unguided visits to explore current exhibitions. For more information or to reserve a time slot, visit

Dragon tales

Jeff Hutchins made up Denton the Dragon when telling stories to his then-3-year-old daughter, Rachel. That led to Hutchins’ 2013 children’s book series, Denton the Dragon in Tales of Bubbleland.

And now the Black Mountain resident has written a musical based on the character.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts will present Denton the Dragon: The Musical! Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Jan. 7-15, along with two matinee performances Sunday, Jan. 9, and Friday, Jan. 14, both at 2 p.m. The play will feature five professional actors playing multiple roles.

Featuring 14 original songs, the musical tells the story of Denton, a 3-year-old dragon, who relocates to the city after living in a cave and must learn the cultural norms of his new community.

“After a career in television, Denton is my first foray into theater,” says Hutchins, who retired to Black Mountain with his wife 13 years ago.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is at 225 W. State St. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children. For tickets or more information, visit

Pink Dog show

Pink Dog Creative will host an exhibit of nine artists at its River Arts District studio Friday, Jan. 7-Sunday, April 3. The studio will hold a reception on Thursday, Feb. 10, 5-7:30 p.m.

The exhibit will feature a wide range of mediums and styles, including glass art, oils, acrylics, cold wax, encaustic, mixed media, textile art, portraiture, landscape and abstracts.

The featured artists are Lynn Bregman Blass, Karen Keil BrownJulieta Fumberg, Leene Hermann, Gayle PaulJoseph PearsonSarah St Laurent, Larry Turner and Cindy Walton.

Pink Dog Creative is at 348 Depot St. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. For more information, go to

Cherokee museum appointments

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian has appointed Evan Mathis as director of collections and exhibitions and Michael Slee as director of operations.

Mathis will manage the care, safety and security of the MCI’s paper and object collections and assist in the scheduling, design and implementation of exhibitions. Slee will oversee the museum’s day-to-day operations, including facilities and financials.

Mathis was most recently the supply department manager for Cherokee Indian Hospital. While not an enrolled member, he is an artist of Cherokee descent with close ties to the community.

Slee spent a decade at Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Transit. He is a citizen of the ECBI, a member of the Long Hair Clan and a member of both Raven Rock Stomp Grounds and the Walelu Indian Ball Team.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is at 589 Tsali Blvd. in Cherokee. For more information, visit

Hendersonville auditions

The Hendersonville Theatre is looking for actors, singers, dancers and those interested in working behind the scenes for three upcoming shows.

The group will hold auditions for those 18 and older for Sister Amnesia’s Nunsense Jamboree and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It also will hold interviews for people 16 and older for technical positions for both productions, as well as Red White and Tuna.

The auditions and interviews will be held Saturday, Jan. 8, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 9, 1:30-4:30 p.m. at  Main Stage Auditorium, 226 S. Washington St., Hendersonville. No experience is required.

Sign up for a slot at and fill out an audition form at For more information, go to

Clogging around the world

The Bailey Mountain Cloggers, Mars Hill University’s precision dancing team, has been invited to perform at Festival Days, an international folklore festival that will be held June 22-26 in Paralia, Greece.

“Traveling abroad to represent the USA, North Carolina and our university is an absolute honor,” Danielle Plimpton, managing director of the cloggers, says in a press release. “Not only do we share our dance and music traditions with the world, but we have the chance to experience other cultures and learn dances from several countries.”

The team’s most recent international trip included performances in Ireland and Portugal in 2019. In October, BMC won its 29th national championship, and the group performed in the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade in November.

For more information, visit


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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