Get back to the roots of the people who have lived in The Great Smoky Mountains by going to Gatlinburg’s Arts & Crafts Community to watch artisans or make something yourself – a keepsake from your Tennessee vacation – during one of the “Hands On” events.
“Carvers, weavers, watercolor artists, casters, soap makers, potters, wood workers, silversmiths and dozens of other artisans skillfully demonstrate their abilities before thousands of visitors,” the Community says on its Web site. Everything from dulcimers to stuffed bears, ceramics and baskets are being made and sold here.
The artists often will talk with visitors and discuss the history of their craft, which is one of the best parts of the experience. The community itself has been outside of Gatlinburg since the 1930s. Artisans used to work in downtown Gatlinburg but decided to move outside of the growing city to areas where they lived and invite visitors there. Check out more of the artist community history here.
Along the 8-mile loop are galleries, eateries, working craftsman shops. There’s glassblowing; candlemakers; The Chair Shop – a fourth-generation family continuing to make furniture; Ogle’s Broom Shop – third-generation artisans; Smoky’s Edge – a leather belt, wallet and bags, along with lathe-turned wood items. See the Member List.
“So many things to see and buy,” wrote Louisville, Kentucky, visitors this month on Trip Advisor.
“We went to several shops, the family really liked the glass blower, he was about the friendliest guy you could ever meet we got a few things there. Then we stopped at a rock/stuff shop and the kids have some strange fetish for rocks, the guy there was polite and helpful. They do have some beautiful things. And we stopped at an art gallery at the covered bridge. … It’s nice for something to do off the strip or if you are looking for arts and craft type stuff.
In March, visitors from Jackson, Mississippi, wrote:
“We do this circuit on every trip and really enjoy the diversity of crafts offered. The best part is getting to speak to the artist. All stops allow easy browsing and will answer any question.”
Among the artists and craftsmen you’ll find include:
ALEWINE POTTERY – “Genuine Alewine”
Hand-thrown functional pottery by Robert Alewine. You can see him work. The shop is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Sundays. 865-430-7828
Artist Ted Wolff crafts a variety of both production and custom blades as well as hand tools, leather sheaths to fit his or your special knife. He also carries Native American artifacts.
Artist Brandy Ward creates functional pottery inspired by the forests of the Smokies.
Each piece is hand thrown and the glazes are airbrushed to create unique works of art.
Open year round. See www.pottery.com or call 865-436-4700.
Colorful handcrafted pottery and visitors can browse and watch the potter at work, creating a
items ranging from oil burners and dinnerware to bathroom accessories since 1986.
This shop is all about hand-painted river rocks. Pam and Amy Scott, mother and daughter team, have been painting rocks for more than two decades. Each rock and each painting are different.
Watch the team at Fowler’s create one-of-a-kind decorative and functional clay items and take home a piece of the Smokies. Featuring clay works by Mike and Cheryl Fowler. Pottery
Classes also are offered. 865-412-1003.
This shop offers handmade Native-American inspired clothing made from deer and elk hides. Visitors listen to Native American music as they browse books, flutes, drums, knives & purses, along with original Poppen moccasins, Silver and beaded jewelry. 865-430-5840.
This native Gatlinburg artist specializes in detailed watercolors of birds, wildflowers and churches. Painted gourds also are on display. The gallery is downstairs and visitors can also see Louise working in the studio upstairs. 865-436-6921
Third generation broom makers at Ogle’s. Brooms, hiking sticks, walking canes, with custom carvings are available. 865-430-4402
Award winning woodcarver Otto Preske sells hand-carved fireplace mantels, caricatures and tree spirits. 865-436-5339 or cell 865-258-8225.
Marbling is the art of beautiful colors & intricate patterns captured on paper & fabric. Here, you’ll find hand-bound books, calligraphy, cards, boxed notecards & silk scarves. Visitors can watch the artist marbling upstairs at the gallery. Private and small-group workshops also are available. 865-436-6921
Stories, lives & spirits of the mountain folk and wildlife are captured by award-winning artists in this 200-year-old farm house. Paintings, cards, crafts & workshops also are offered. Look for the big barn with the girl on the side. 865-436-8445.
Hand-blown and sculptured glass work. Visitors can try their hand at glassblowing as well. Private sessions also are available with Sparky. 865-325-8186.
For more than 30 years, “Gatlinburg native Terri Waters has told her story of her love for the Smoky Mountain landscape through watercolor & oil featuring both original artwork & prints.”
A fourth-generation family continues to produce furniture and chairs using only solid hardwoods. Watch them work. There also are limited shop classes available. 865-436-7413
Founded in 1944 by Shirl Compton, the Compton’s still run Gatlinburg’s oldest continuously operating craft shop. See crafts by 4th and 5th generation native woodworkers, carvers and lathe turners. 865-436-7187
“This great community is full of talented artists and crafters. Great treasures abound,” a Johnson City, Tennessee, visitor wrote on Trip Advisor in March. “Wonderful hand-made items and great gifts. Lots to see and do. I was amazed at all the wonderful artists and talent!”
Also among the Arts & Crafts community are jam and fudge makers, as well as the Crystelle Creek Restaurant & Grill – a dog friendly restaurant on the creek with everything from ribs to fresh local trout and burgers to stakes and Italian dishes. The Fox & Parrot Tavern is another option – a British pub and restaurant.
Craft Shopping Events for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas
Happening this week is the Easter Craft Show in Downtown Gatlinburg April 17-20 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Dozens of booths “featuring one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts made by members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community” offer craft shopping all in one location in downtown Gatlinburg.
The Arts & Crafts community also has Annual Thanksgiving and Christmas craft shows in Downtown Gatlinburg. This year, those are being held Nov. 26-Dec. 1 and Dec. 2-Dec. 8.
For more information, about the events call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 568-4748.The historic Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is the United States’ largest concentration of artisans and craftspeople since 1941, according to VisitMySmokies.com.
Hands On Gatlinburg Event
Twice a year – October and April – studios throughout the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community offer more than 40 different classes during the Hands On Gatlinburg events. The events give visitors the chance to learn how to make crafts from the professionals themselves by way of a variety of do-it-yourself style classwork “from knitting to pastels, painting, jewelry-making, watercolor, scarf-making, weaving, pottery, crochet, woodworking, soap-making and much more.”
You will keep what you make – what a great memory from the Smoky Mountains! Plan your Tennessee visits around these events.
Whether you take the 8-mile loop in The Great Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community or you visit the Smokies for one of the many Art & Crafts festivals, you can watch all kinds of artisans and craftsmen at work.
Watch baskets being made from scratch. Watch unique painting. Watch whittling by hand and by chainsaw. Watch glass making, broom making, quiet quilting and more.
School of Arts & Crafts
If you want to learn even more, there’s a school “tucked away on a wooded hillside” in Gatlinburg – the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. The school, which dates back to 1912, today is an internationally recognized visual art education center.
The school offers workshops and community classes. Weekend, one-week and two-week sessions “offer a concentrated experience of working in a professionally equipped studio with dedicated and talented instructors and other students.”
The public is welcome year-round to visit the campus and view artwork by local, national and international artists in the School’s five galleries. The public also may visit the Artists-in-Residence studios. At the Artist Outfitters Store, visitors can buy tools and supplies as well as offering for sale selected artwork from past Artists-in-Residence.
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Of course, if you’re looking for the perfect souvenir to purchase on your Gatlinburg vacation, we highly recommend you stay close to these artists. Be sure you check out our post about the most unique souvenirs you can bring back from your Smoky Mountain Getaway.