Blue Ridge Craft Trails Support Local Artisans and Boost Heritage Tourism in Western North Carolina

Carmen Haynes of Pine Needles and Things weaves a pine needle basket in the Blue Ridge NHA
Pine needle basketry is one of dozens of crafts featured on the Blue Ridge Crafts Trails, an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in western North Carolina.

Blue Ridge NHA

Asheville, NC (August 22, 2019) – This year, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in western North Carolina is celebrating its 15th anniversary and expanding the Blue Ridge Craft Trails project. At the 2019 "Gather ‘Round the Blue Ridge" annual meeting in August, the National Heritage Area announced they had received $125,000 in grants for the next phase of the Craft Trails to further promote heritage tourism and the unique handmade craft traditions of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Designated as a National Heritage Area (NHA) in 2003, Blue Ridge NHA’s mission is to protect, preserve, interpret, and develop the unique natural, historical, and cultural resources of Western North Carolina. In doing so, they also seek to stimulate economic opportunities for local residents. One of the ways they do this is to support the tradition of handmade craft that is so important to the Blue Ridge Mountain culture and heritage. Crafts such as blacksmithing, doll making, quilting, and woodworking have been passed on for generations. Members of the Cherokee Nation have an even longer tradition of basket weaving, pottery, beadwork, and carving.

A woman works on a small loom at the John C. Campbell Folk School
At many sites on the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, visitors can learn a traditional craft such as weaving.

Courtesy John C. Campbell Folk School

Through the Blue Ridge Craft Trails website and printed materials, locals and visitors alike can find destinations in 25 counties where they can experience this rich craft tradition for themselves. That includes everything from museums and galleries, where they can view and learn about craft traditions, to studios and workshops, where they can purchase from local makers—or even make a piece of original art themselves. Key to the project is the close involvement of local communities.

“Our goal is to increase income for traditional and contemporary artisans, enhance cultural tourism and improve local economies,” said Angie Chandler, Executive Director of Blue Ridge NHA. “We are building on Western North Carolina’s history as a leading center for craft production and education in the United States.”

Over the next 18 months, the Blue Ridge Craft Trails will evolve to highlight more than 200 craft artisans and cultural sites across the region. Travelers will also get tips on rounding out their experiences with nearby foods, breweries, music, outdoor activities, scenic views, and places to stay.

Cherokee women work on pottery and other crafts at Mountain Heritage Day in the Blue Ridge NHA
The Blue Ridge Craft Trails showcase North Carolina’s rich craft traditions by featuring local artisans, craft schools, and festivals, such as Mountain Heritage Day at the Mountain Heritage Center.

Blue Ridge NHA

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Last updated: August 22, 2019