Go to Asheville Dec. 1 or 8 for the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Artists’ Holiday Sale to relieve Christmas stress.You’ll find handcrafted goods at 10 percent to 50 percent off, and you’ll meet talented craftspeople and see truly remarkable artistry. In addition to exquisite jewelry, there’ll be items made from a variety of materials, such as fiber, paper, glass and wood. And, of course, there will be ceramics. Rose Tripoli Mueller of Valdese is a ceramic artist and a member of the guild. The 70-year-old already has begun packing her unique masks, sculptures, containers and jewelry for the sale. Ask the Yonkers, N.Y., native about her work, and she’ll gladly talk about her pieces or invite interested parties to thumb through her portfolio, rich with photos of her incredible ceramic fountains and curious creations inspired by her aunt, who was a cloistered nun.What Mueller really likes to talk about, though, is the Southern Highland Craft Guild. She’s among a handful of members who earlier this year agreed to become representatives of the SHCG. Mueller travels in and around Burke County, telling groups about the guild and giving people an opportunity to see and handle samples of guild members’ work. In addition to displaying contemporary crafts, Mueller shows the work of members who preserve old methods and designs by creating items that look and feel just as they did when fashioned 100 years ago or longer.Mueller tells people that the SHCG, with headquarters at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, is an educational, nonprofit organization founded in 1930. In 1892, an art-educated Yalie-turned-Presbyterian-missionary named Frances Louisa Goodrich settled in a rural mountain community north of Asheville. Her job was to educate children and do social work, but her goal became to improve the lives of impoverished mountain families in Southern Appalachia. Goodrich encouraged women to revive traditional craft skills, such as those that had produced intricate woven products during the mid-1800s, and to sell their handmade goods.Some years later, Goodrich founded Allanstand Cottage Industries. The small enterprise commissioned traditional handcrafted products from men and women living in the Appalachian region and then sold them locally and through mail order. In 1908, Goodrich opened a shop in downtown Asheville. She incorporated the business in 1917 and deeded the property in 1931 to the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild, which had formed recently. The guild later became the Southern Highland Craft Guild.The first piece of handiwork Goodrich had seen while serving the mountain community was an antebellum coverlet with a complex double bow knot pattern. Mueller carries with her an example of that pattern when she travels to speak about the SHCG, explaining that many of the guild’s members replicate traditional crafts in their weaving, wood-carving, basketry, broom-making and pottery.“It has to be high-quality old” for members’ products to be considered heritage art, Mueller said. Heritage artists use the same materials, designs and methods as in days gone by.Mueller is not a heritage artist, but in addition to her contemporary ceramic products, she enjoys working with Victorian clay. “During Victorian times, mothers would make up this clay from salt and cornstarch,” said Mueller, who wouldn’t divulge her recipe. “Children did the modeling after Mother made the clay.”Before Mueller’s recipe hardens, she forms flowers and then paints them. “This is just a fun thing,” said Mueller. “My real work as an artist is fired clay.” Mueller, who holds a degree in art education from State University of New York Art School at New Paltz, has demonstrated working with Victorian clay during educational programs, something many SHCG members regularly do for the public at the Folk Art Center, in schools and for community groups. All educational events are free. The guild’s mission is to bring together the crafts and the craftspeople of the Southern Highlands for the benefit of shared resources, education, marketing and conservation. More than 900 artisans comprise the SHCG, all talented craftspeople who underwent a rigorous application process including having their work juried. Only artists living in the mountain counties of North Carolina and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia can join. A mere moment’s examination of Mueller’s work evokes wonder followed by curiosity: Where on Earth does she get her ideas?“A lot of inspiration for my work is Central and South America,” said Mueller, who, in her written artist’s statement, said, “I pray for guidance in my work. This guidance, at its best, helps me express the wordlessness of human experience, things such as love and forgiveness. Sometimes the information comes to me in a dream, an event, or a premonition only to be understood later.”Whatever the motivation, Mueller’s work is exceptional, a quality common among SHCG members. Mueller loves spreading the word about “this magnificent, age-old guild” and encourages people to contact her to do a presentation.Reach her at email@example.com.
Friday, Nov. 23, 2012
Artists guild preserves heritage of Southern crafts
Group to hold sale of unique items in December
These five clown-shaped teapots earned Rose Tripoli Mueller her membership to the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The clay pieces were juried in 2006.
Rose Tripoli Mueller works on one of her vases. She often incorporates a face into her work.
Want to go? The Holiday Artists’ Sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8 at the Folk Art Center, at mile marker 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville. For information and a list of shops operated by the Southern Highland Craft Guild, visit www.craftguild.org or call the Folk Art Center at 828-298-7928.