Artisans show off their wares at Gatlinburg craft show
Doll clothes, wood carvings, paintings, homemade soy candles and pottery were just a few of the items to be found the Convention Center this past weekend. That’s where the city’s Arts and Crafts Community hosted its annual Great Smoky Easter Arts and Crafts Show.
Artisans of all types gathered to show and sell their work. For many, demonstrations were part of the show.
John Devore, owner of Great Smoky Mountains D-Lite candles, said the eight-mile loop that makes up the community is the “best kept secret in East Tennessee.” He added, “I tell everyone, if you want graphic T-shirts and cheap jewelry, visit the shops. If you want authentic Smoky Mountain handiwork, you’ve got to visit the Arts and Crafts Community.”
Devore creates rock oil candles whose hardwood bases ensure stability. The fiberglass wicks work by feeding fuel to the surface without actually burning. As a result, the wicks need not be replaced, and there is no any mess. Customers can choose from single-wick, double-wick, triple-wick and menorah-style candles.
After receiving a candle in a bowl as a gift from his brother, Devore came up with the idea for slate candles. “It wasn’t stable, so I went into my garage and made one of these for my wife,” Devore said. “One of my neighbors came over and asked where I got it. I told him I made it. He said he wanted to buy it, but I told him it wasn’t for sale. He said ‘I’ll give you $150 for it.’ I sold it to him, and the next week, he came back and bought three more. That’s how it all started. “
From that, the business blossomed. Devore, a native of Indiana, originally began selling his candles at Village Fest in Palm Springs, Calif., an event started by musician Sonny Bono. “Within nine months, I was completely out of candles,” he said.
Artists from around the county and surrounding areas came. Musician Tim Simek, a Seymour resident, played dulcimer for guests as they perused his CD collection. Simik, who was the national mountain dulcimer champion in 1993 and the national hammer dulcimer champion in 2011, has been playing for 27 years. Primarily self-taught, he said his musical career began in the mid 1980s, when he got a summer job in the dulcimer shop at Dollywood.
Simek said that part of his job was to demonstrate the mountain dulcimer to the guests. “I probably got more practice my first week of work than most people get in a year,” he said.
Although he had never seen a hammer dulcimer before, his tasks included keeping the instrument in tune. “In the process of tuning the instrument, I realized that playing it would be similar to playing a keyboard with two fingers. I played around with it when we were slow, and before I knew it, I had figured out a couple of simple tunes,” he said. “The rest of it was just having fun with the instruments ... something that most people call practice.”
Jewelry designers Nika Keller and Talon Stewart of Asheville handcraft each bead in their jewelry using paper from magazines and catalogs that would otherwise have been thrown away.
“It’s something pretty made out of trash,” Keller said. “There is much beauty to be found in recycled materials. We like to think of the paper as tiny time capsules preserving pictures of lost tribes, great women, the wildness of nature, the Titanic and so much more,” she explains. The two have been designing paper jewelry for about four years.
“The furthest we can trace paper arts back is the Great Depression,” Stewart says. “During that time, women used to make curtains from magazine pages.”
Located three miles outside the city, the Arts and Crafts Community began in 1937 and currently features 114 craftsmen and artists. It is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. The historic loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts and Crafts trail.