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Appalachian arts series takes up felting and pottery

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 10, 2018 at 10:47 PM

UNICOI - The Tanasi Arts and Heritage Center is doubling down on its Functional Artways of Appalachia series of free, monthly, meet-the-artists workshops with needle felting and pottery making sessions scheduled March 19-24.

Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the series focuses on Appalachian arts that are both beautiful and useful.

The series offers participants opportunities to experience the artways of the mountains, meet professional Appalachian artists and create their own functional art pieces to take home.

The eighth edition of the year-long series will focus on needle felting with artist Brittany Smith, an artist in residence at the Tanasi Art Gallery located inside the Unicoi Tourist Information and Visitors Center at 106 Unicoi Village Place just off Exit 32 of Interstate 26.

Smith’s ventures in fiber arts began during her time at work on a cashmere goat farm that included a yarn shop. She taught herself how to needle felt a snowy owl using a kit purchased at the shop and has been needle felting ever since. A llama at her family’s farm in Unicoi now provides the wool for her artwork.

Smith will be demonstrating needle felting techniques at the gallery from 10-11:30 a.m. and 12:30-5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday, March 19, 20, 21 and 23. Participants will have an opportunity to try their own hand at needle felting from 6-8 p.m Thursday, March 22.

Because of the time-consuming nature of needle felting, which Smith describes as the sculpting of wool or similar fibers using a felting needle and other tools, she will prepare pieces at various stages in the felting process to work on throughout the week.

The event is free and open to participants of all ages. Registration is not required for the daily demonstrations and guests are invited to drop in at their convenience.

Pre-registration is recommended but not required for the Thursday evening session and may be completed online at www.tanasiarts.org/events.

Hearing, vision, or Spanish language translation assistance may be requested on the registration from or by email to [email protected]

On Saturday, March 24, the Functional Appalachian Artways series will turn its focus to pottery making with the help from the artists at Stegall’s Stoneware Pottery.

Stegall artists will demonstrate of the multiple stages of clay pottery making from 10-2 p.m. at the gallery. Finished pieces from Alan and Nancy Stegall’s line of functional stoneware pottery will also be on display.

The husband and wife team began designing and making their own pottery pieces while stationed in Hawaii with the U.S. Air Force. Clay working remained a part of their daily lives throughout their careers.

And they finally realized their dream of producing functional pottery at their home in the mountains of East Tennessee upon Alan’s retirement.

The Stegalls’ clean, simple designs are accented with colored, non-toxic glazes and stains that reflect the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The pottery event is also free with optional pre-registration and special needs assistance available at the Tanasi arts website.

Volunteers with a particular interest in needle felting or pottery or those in need of service hours are invited to help.

For more information, visit www.tanasiarts.org or email [email protected]

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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