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Craft guild fair brings together fine craftspeople and is a showcase of ‘incredible work’

Jan Hearne • Jul 16, 2012 at 9:11 AM

One of the most prestigious venues for craft artists is the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, celebrating its 65th year, and running July 19-22 in Asheville, N.C.

Among the craftspeople exhibiting at the show will be Blair White of Johnson City and Rob Scaffe of Kingsport.

Blair, a jewelry artist, became a member of the guild in 1984, after a rigorous jury process.

“I’ve been doing this fair for the past, I guess, 10-plus years,” he said. “I took a hiatus for a long while, then I went back. It’s family.”

The Southern Highland Craft Guild was established in 1930 to bring together the craftsmen and women of the Southern Highlands so they could combine their resources and knowledge. White said the fairs, held twice a year, “give the opportunity to present your work in a community of excellence.”

While all of the artists are seasoned and proved, insuring the finest quality of work will be showcased, White said the fair is a source of inspiration, too.

“I go to the fair and I’m just amazed at the creative interpretations of the same materials. I work with metal; I sometimes call myself a jeweler. There’s a lot of jewelry there but it’s never interpreted the same way. There are so many creative expressions of the same material. The guild pulls together the best,” he said.

“I’m in such good company, I wonder if I really belong there. I haven’t found it in other organizations’ quality and presentation. I haven’t found it in other fairs. It’s an incredible collection of work.”

Rob Scaffe, originally from Charleston, S.C., now lives in Kingsport, where he does woodworking. He was juried into the guild two years ago. This will be his first guild fair.

Scaffe’s interest in woodworking began as a hobby in 1978 while he was in college in Charleston.

“More and more I got into this craft because of my interest in furniture,” he said. Though he admits to “straying” during the 1980s when Charleston was undergoing a great renovation. Scaffe began doing millwork, reproducing the historic detail Charleston’s architecture Charleston is famous for. Once he moved to Kingsport almost 15 years ago, he has tried to focus on furniture doing millwork only occasionally.

He says the hardest part of being a crafts artist is learning to market yourself. He hopes the guild fair will give him “a lot of exposure, get my name out there and get my work out to potential buyers.”

Scaffe works mostly in the Southern and Shaker styles, sometimes blending elements of the two. His woods of choice are cherry, figured maple and curly maple.

“I also like to do 18th-century American — Queen Anne, Chippendale. That’s mostly in mahogany. Mahogany and cherry are my two favorite woods,” he said.

Scaffe’s pieces included dovetailed joinery and hand-turned knobs. “I love knobs, it’s like decorating a cake,” he said. “I don’t draw them, I just go to the lathe and play until I find something I like.”

His furniture is 100 percent handmade solid wood traditional construction. He uses no nails or screws other than those needed to hold on the back. A piece he made just for the show — a Shaker-style sill cupboard — exhibits all these qualities.

In addition to White and Scaffe’s work, the fair will include pieces made of clay, jewelry, fiber, wood, glass, paper, metal, mixed media and natural materials, with styles ranging from traditional to contemporary.

Visitors may not just purchase fine crafts, but learn how they are made. A series of crafts demonstrations is planned throughout the weekend. Dede Styles of Swannanoa, N.C., will demonstrate spinning and natural plant dyeing Thursday and Friday; Cassie Dickson of Sylva, N.C., will lead visitors through the process of transforming flax into linen Saturday and Sunday. There will also be artists showing how they make heritage crafts, random weave basketry, spinning and knitting, and sunprinting. There will also be children’s activities led by Arts for Life, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting children and young adults facing serious illnesses.

And there will be music by artists such as Cary Fridley and Down South, Timberline, Whitetop Mountaineers and more.

The fair will be held at the US Cellular Center, 87 Haywood St., in downtown Asheville. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $8 for adults. Children under 12 will be admitted free, and group discounts are available.

For more information, visit www.craftguild.org or call 828-298-7928.

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