Southern Highlands’ Craft Fair Celebrates 70 Years

CF_Demo Clements 2

Brandy Clements of the Silver River Center for Chair Caning gives a demonstration of chair caning at the craft fair.

By Dasha Morgan  – This coming Friday, July 21, the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands will open at the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville entering its seventh decade. Exhibitors will feature nearly 150 makers in clay, wood, metal, glass, fiber, natural materials, paper, leather, mixed media and jewelry in both contemporary and traditional work. The members will fill both floors of the U.S. Cellular Center on its upstairs concourse and downstairs arena level. The exposition at this extraordinary marketplace offers visitors a unique opportunity to connect with artisans, who are highly skilled and knowledgeable in their craft.
Being a member of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild is considered quite an honor and a statement of excellence. These are craftspeople who are masters in their media. All exhibitors at the Craft Fair must be members of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. To become a member they must pass a two-step jury process in which other peers in their media evaluate their quality of design and craftsmanship. One of the requirements to become a member also is living within the territory that is designated as the Southern Highlands. This is a 9-state region that covers 293 counties. This region was designated by John C. Campbell, the founder of the Campbell Folk School back in the early 1900’s. Our exhibitors live in that region, though not all are born and raised there. We do have members that have moved here specifically to be able to become a member of the Guild.

This year’s Fair will be more interactive and dynamic, and visitors will really have wonderful opportunities to engage with craft and makers. Local Cloth will be offering hands-on fiber experiences in silk painting and shibori dyeing, as well as spinning and weaving. Several other educational demonstrators include Brandy Clements of Silver River Chair Caning Center, mixed media collage artist John Richards, glassblowing by Christian Arnold and Laurie Young and WNC Fiber/Handweavers with drop in-spin and weave.
New this year, design vignettes will demonstrate how one can utilize craft in both form and function for the home. This has been made possible by local interior designers, architects and builders. The three vignettes for July are the Living Room, Dining Room and Bed Room, showcasing how handcrafted items can be easily incorporated into daily life, adding beauty and functionality. At 11:30AM on Friday, visitors will have the opportunity to hear more about the design process from the collaborators themselves.
Attendance over the years is generally from 8,500 to 10,000 visitors. Last year attendance in July was just around 9,000. Mountain musicians perform live on the arena stage starting Friday. Since the first Fair, the music of the area has been woven into the fabric of the Craft Fair experience. From old time to bluegrass, this tradition is kept alive today. Visit for a complete list of performances. This is the first year that it will be a 3-day event, as it has been a 4-day event for quite some time. The hours are Friday – Saturday 10-6 PM and Sunday 10-5 PM. General admission is $8.00; children under 12 free; a weekend pass is $12.00. This Fair is a wonderful opportunity to see these highly talented regional craftspeople all in one place and to support their endeavors.

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