Made in WNC examines the designer-maker movement through a regionally specific lens, considering how particular histories, geography, economics, technology, and education inform an international movement on a local level. Understanding the context for production, such as Western North Carolina’s legacy of the Craft Revival, the industrialization of the New South, and skill shortages caused by deindustrialization, begins to explain how this movement takes on specific, local distinctions.
The twenty-four textile, ceramic, and furniture studios and four artists included in this show are establishing hybrid forms of creative practice by redefining how craft, design, and production relate. Like most designer-makers, these studios produce on a small-batch or limited-run scale of production and combine craft-based practice with new technology. Their products are advertised to a design-focused consumer and are sold through a range of marketplaces, from niche, direct-to-customer sales to wholesale orders for large, international brands.
In addition to displaying work created by local designer-makers, this exhibition showcases a series of rotating installations commissioned from the North Carolina–based artists Libby O’Bryan, Daniel Johnston, Nava Lubelski, and Tom Shields. Like the studios, each artist has a unique and intimate connection to local industry. These installations provide critical context for understanding the themes of the exhibition and the connection between craft and industry more broadly. Taken together, this exhibition asks the viewer to reevaluate the relationship between the history of craft and industry in this region and reimagine what it could look like in the future.
Organized and curated by The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design’s Assistant Director, Marilyn Zapf, the exhibition is accompanied by a publication that includes a foreword by Executive Director Stephanie Moore, and essays by Bruce E. Johnson, Jeffrey A. Keith and Jeremy Press Taylor, Nathan Poole, and Marilyn Zapf.
Appalatch (Weaverville, NC), Blue Ridge Chair Works (Asheville, NC), Bow + Arrow (Asheville, NC), Cause and Effect (Asheville, NC), The Circle A Brand Mfg. Co. (Asheville, NC), Claire Minihan Woodworks (Asheville, NC), East Fork Pottery (Marshall, NC), Element Clay Studio (Asheville, NC), FEHLŌ (Asheville, NC), Hudson’s Hill (Greensboro, NC), Iron & Ash (Asheville, NC), Lightheart Gear (Arden, NC), A Little Weather (Leicester, NC), Melissa Weiss Pottery (Asheville, NC), Mudtools (Bat Cave, NC), New Colony Furniture (Bakersville, NC), Nick Moen (Asheville, NC), The Old Wood Co. (Asheville, NC), OUTRA (Asheville, NC), Overlap Sewing Studio (Asheville, NC), Raleigh Denim Workshop (Raleigh, NC), Shelter Collective (Asheville, NC), Sketchbook Crafts (Marshall, NC), TSUGA (Boone, NC).
On May 7-17, 2016 CCCD brought Made in Western North Carolina (WNC) to WantedDesign Brooklyn, an opportunity made possible by Explore Asheville. The exhibition was held during NYCxDESIGN, New York City’s official annual citywide celebration of design and received over 7,000 visitors throughout the week.
Libby O’Bryan (Asheville, NC), What is it Worth?, September 4-26, 2015
Artist Talk: Wednesday, September 16, 5:30 pm
What is it Worth? is an installation examining the process and product of textile manufacturing. Between concept design to sales, each stage of production process – weaving, cutting, sewing, finishing, and fulfillment – has been performed and filmed in an effort to view industrial production through a poetic perspective. Actions regularly preformed at Sew Co., the artist’s own sewing manufacturing company, and The Oriole Mill, an artisanal weaving mill that houses Sew Co., inform the work from real-life experiences. Industrial production of textiles has become ubiquitous to our lifestyles of consumption. The hand of the maker (who still exists even in a factory setting), the celebrated anomalies of making (which still occur on with a machine’s aide), and the value of the object has diminished. In turn, we have a depleting environment, a deepening socioeconomic divide, and de-skilled domestic labor force. The thirty blankets produced and installed in What is it Worth? represent a microcosm of an industrially produced textile. The repetitive nature of their construction processes are endless, but their individual life stories are unique. As performers, they have been compelled to more ambitious and inefficient tasks than the average blanket, exposing them to deeper imbedded meaning. What is it Worth? connects, disconnects, reconnects, separates, builds up, breaks-down, floats, fumbles, balances, and flutters. It is up to the viewer, as a member of our culture, to define the meaning of this project and asses its relative worth. The blankets will be sold for prices determined by the buyers.
About Libby O’Bryan:
Trained in fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, business administration at the University of San Francisco, and fine art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Libby O’Bryan melds her hybrid background into a conceptual art practice. Informed by her career in apparel production, O’Bryan creates environments that function outside the commodity driven marketplace as a container for the contemplation of everyday decisions and cultural norms.
Daniel Johnston (Seagrove, NC), 783-804, October 1 – 29, 2015
Artist Talk: Thursday, October 1, 6:00 pm
783-804 creates an environment that reverses the roles of viewer and object, putting the viewer in the spotlight. Encircled by the jars, the viewer is aware of their presence, but is deprived of the ability to see them independently in the round. The wood fired stoneware jars in 783-804 function as a series, as opposed to individual vessels. The installation allows the viewer to examine the industrial nature of craftsmanship. However, instead of industry as a means of production for the populace, 783-804 presents the efficiency of industry to the singular viewer in the context of fine art.
About Daniel Johnston:
Daniel Johnston began his career as a potter apprenticing with Mark Hewitt in North Carolina. He has trained with Clive Bowen in England, as well as studied traditional large jar-making techniques in Sawein Silikom’s jar factory in Northeast Thailand. Daniel is now working with installation art that examines craft through the context of art. Daniel Johnston Pottery was established in 2003 in Seagrove, North Carolina. The pottery focuses on functional wood-fired tableware made from local materials as well as large-scale ceramic vessels.
The project Emblematic has its origins in a series of limited edition embroidered artworks I had manufactured at a Weaverville, NC embroidery factory called AB Emblem. The name Emblematic riffs on the factory name, which contains the word “emblem” and also refers to the automated processes that working within a factory has introduced to my work. I like the idea of acknowledging and incorporating both my own history of hand-embroidered splatters and commemorations of accidental spills and drips and rips along with the history of the factory itself and the family that has run it for 5 generations. The manufacturing process at AB Emblem has changed so much in the 100 years or so that they’ve been in operation and in some ways has moved away from a kind of free-form artistry, the memory of which they are still proud – I’ve seen samples from 50 years ago of incredible manufactured textiles, containing gold or silver threads on gossamer-like webs and involving techniques that nobody at the factory any longer remembers how to recreate, the digitization of the machinery having wiped out the knowledge of analog programming required. I’m excited to engage with this nostalgia and use some of these artifacts or fragments of techniques in my works. Furthermore, machinery interprets and surprises with its own internal decision-making, it makes “mistakes” in different and exciting ways, introducing a new kind of imperfection and chaos to be wrangled, fought and respected, a methodology central to my practice as an artist.
About Nava Lubelski:
Nava Lubelski was born and raised in New York City and now lives in Asheville, NC. Her work has been displayed in Pricked: Extreme Embroidery at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. Lubelski has been Artist-in-Residence at CUE Art Foundation in New York City and the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, NC. She also took part in the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation’s Space Program in Tribeca in 2001 to 2002. Lubelski was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 2008, and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship grant in 2005.
Tom Shields (Penland, NC), Parts and Pieces, December 4, 2015 – January 9, 2016
Artist Talk: Friday, December 4, 6:00 pm
For eight years I have been exploring the found chair in its many complexities. The classic wooden forms have become so common we no longer notice them or consider the cultural and personal histories they embody. My work plays with these forgotten and discarded furniture objects in multiple ways. The chair is a blatant metaphor for the person; cabinets hide our secrets, while tables speak of community and support. Through these metaphors and their arrangements I explore the ways in which people interact. People and emotions are things that can never be predicted or controlled. No matter how we attempt to organize and structure interactions they are filled with chaos, love, struggle, and support. My arrangements of collected furniture reflect the complexities of the inter-personal systems we construct around ourselves daily. Beyond creating narratives I also ask the viewer to see these often overlooked pieces of design history on a purely aesthetic level. My placements of them challenge the viewer to reconsider their assumptions and step back to re-examine the form and history such objects embody.
About Tom Shields:
Tom Shields has been working with wood in one capacity or another for over 17 years. He recently received a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship Grant. His work is held in many museum collections including: The Gregg Museum of Art and Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, MA, The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, The Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, NC, and an outdoor installation at The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. He has shown extensively in galleries and museums throughout the United States including last years 0-60 – The Experience of Time Through Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a former Penland School of Crafts Resident Artist as well as a former Windgate Artist in Residence at San Diego State University.
Tour of Biltmore Industries
Saturday, October 17, 1:00 pm
Admission: Free ($5-10 suggested donation), registration required
Limited to 20 Participants.
NC Homespun Museum, 111 Grovewood Rd, Asheville, NC 28804
Join us for an exclusive tour of the NC Homespun Museum and former production site of Biltmore Industries, an arts and crafts enterprise renowned for its hand-woven fabrics. This six building complex, adjacent to Asheville’s Grove Park Inn was constructed in the Arts and Crafts style, in 1917 by the Inn’s architect Fred Loring Seely. In its hey-day, Biltmore Industries had a total of 40 looms in operation, producing some of the highest quality homespun fabric in the country.
During this tour, visitors will learn the history of textile production in the region and get to explore the museum, factory site, and select studios adjacent to Asheville’s Grove Park Inn. Biltmore Industries is an important example of the intersection of craft and industry in Western North Carolina in the early 20th Century. Historian and author Bruce Johnson writes about how Biltmore Estate Industries became Biltmore Industries in the Made in WNC exhibition catalogue.
New Marketing: Storytelling for Creative Entrepreneurs in a Constantly Changing Landscape (with Karie Reinertson of Shelter)
Thursday, October 29, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Admission: $25, registration required
Limited to 20 Participants. REGISTER HERE
In this 2 hour workshop participants will learn various methods for promoting their work online and in the real world. They will spend time considering the story they would like to tell about their business, and working with others on marketing ideas. This workshop is suitable for creative “solopreneurs”, artists, designers, and makers that would like to market their own work.
+ Consider what your story is and how to present it
+ Identify the core values of your business and why you want to market it
+ Look at different approaches to sharing your values with the world
+ Work with other participants on marketing ideas for other businesses
About Karie Reinertson
Karie Reinertson is the Co Founder and Principal Designer for Shelter, a multidisciplinary design studio that she founded in 2010 with her husband, Robert Maddox. Their interests lie at the intersection of art, craft, and design. Projects and offerings include modern residential and cabin design / build, interior design, creative direction and styling, product design including a line of handbags, display and exhibition design, and location and talent scouting. She lives and works in West Asheville with her husband Rob and kitten Moons.
Beacon Blankets: Portrait of a Swannanoa Textile Mill
Friday, November 20, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Admission: Free and open to the public
An evening of film, music, and stories about the rise and fall of the Beacon Manufacturing Company. Beacon Blankets: Portrait of a Swannanoa Textile Mill will begin with a reception featuring mill-inspired music by Robert (Bert) Brown, a native Swannanoa whose grandparents worked at Beacon. From 6 – 6:30 pm, filmmaker Rebecca Williams will be showing clips from her ongoing documentary project Blanket Town: The Rise and Fall of an American Mill Town, which examines the migration of the textile industry from England, to New England to the American South, and, with the advent of globalization, overseas. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion from 6:30 – 7:30 pm with previous Beacon mill employees led by acclaimed Appalachian historian Dr. David Whisnant.
ABOUT REBECCA WILLIAMS
Rebecca Williams is a writer, director, educator and digital media artist who has facilitated community-based arts and cultural development projects for the past twenty-five years in Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and North Carolina. She co-founded Serpent Child Productions, a non-profit professional arts company dedicated to the collaborative creation of multi-disciplinary art that draws on the history, stories and life experiences of community participants. Her documentary Blanket Town: The Rise and Fall of an American Mill Town has received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Humanities Council, the North Carolina Folklore Society, Alternate Roots and the National Endowment for the Arts.
ABOUT DR. DAVID WHISNANT
David E. Whisnant earned his Ph.D. from Duke University and spent thirty years teaching and conducting research at the University of Illinois, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of four books and scores of articles and reviews on traditional and vernacular culture, the politics of culture, and cultural policy in the American South, the Appalachian region, and Latin America. He has also been a consultant to many public sector folklore projects including the Smithsonian’s National Folk Festival. ashevillejunction.com
This project was supported by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
In-kind reception sponsorship provided by Burial Beer Co. (Asheville, NC), Smoke Signals Bakery (Marshall, NC), Hickory Nut Gap Farm (Fairview, NC), Roots (Asheville, NC), French Broad Chocolates (Asheville, NC), Biltmore Wines (Asheville, NC) and Greenlife Grocery (Asheville, NC).
Opening reception performance by Make Noise (Asheville, NC).
On March 22 from 7-8:30 pm, The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design (CCCD) and Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce will host a public meeting on affordable housing solutions for artists, craftspeople and makers. The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to engage with and learn from Artspace, a national non-profit organization based in Minneapolis, MN that specializes in creating, owning and operating affordable housing and studio/business space for artists and creative sector businesses.