Appalachian Fair's craft artisans share their know-how

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Aug 20, 2019 at 10:53 PM

Old-time craft demonstrations in the Appalachian Fair Museum made for a very cool way to while away a hot afternoon Tuesday at the fairgrounds.

Blacksmithing, basket weaving, wood carving, chair caning, shuck doll making, pottery throwing, spinning, weaving, felting and other fiber arts were all part of the fun and amazement to be found in the museum’s “Unique Craftsmen Demonstrations of Times Past.”

Basket weaver Cathy Broyles, from Broyles Oak Porch Rockers, was one of the many skilled and conversational artisans hard at work and eager to share her knowledge.

On Tuesday she was quickly putting together a 20-inch basket she estimated would take her four or five hours to complete and easily sell for $40 to $45.

Broyles said she learned her skill more than 35 years ago from a county extension home demonstration instructor who later told her she was the only student she had who had made something more of her weaving than baskets. Her works have been part of the stock and trade at Broyles Oak Porch Rockers in Chuckey since her father founded the shop nearly three decades ago.

A special education aide at South Central Elementary School, Broyles has special permission from her principal to spend the week teaching kids of all ages at the fair. She was looking forward to a visit from a group of South Central third-graders who were scheduled to come through the museum on Wednesday.

Corn shuck dollmaker Susan Acito of Corn Shux has been selling her dolls at folk art festivals and shops round the region since she taught herself the craft from a book she found online five years ago.

She said while most corn shuck artists concentrate on wreaths she does traditional dolls, witches, angels, scarecrows, Native Americans and other novelty figures “because when people see these they smile.”

Locally, her works at be found at Dilly’s in Kingsport and at the Tanasi Arts and Heritage Center in Unicoi. For October, Acito and her dolls will be at the Harvest Festival at Dollywood.

Deborah Lowman, who was creating needle felt sculptures at the fair Tuesday while her husband, Doug, caned chairs and their daughter, Rachael, spun wool on a traditional spinning wheel, said their family enjoys talking to people about what they do. “It’s all about educating people about the traditional crafts and the crafts that are not traditional,” she said.

For blacksmith Lynn Morgan, from Morgan Forge in Chuckey/Greeneville, the demonstrations were all “the wonder in a child’s eye.”

“I demonstrate for the kids,” Morgan said. “I always watch for their little faces to light up. That’s why I’m up here.”

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