Craft Today:
HandMade in America

Chandelier by Sam Star

Glass Chandelier by Sam Star

HandMade in America was founded in 1993 with the belief that economic revitalization was not necessarily tied to luring industry to the region, but in making known the heritage and craftsmanship that are so vitally a part of western North Carolina. Since its beginning, HandMade has maintained a focus on promoting craft and culture for the benefit of the region’s community and economic development. Its programs focus on tourism, professional development, education, and outreach. Using partnership as an essential strategy, HandMade facilitates creative collaborations to strengthen community and enhance economic development.

Tradition has influenced the work of contemporary craft artists who live in the mountains of western North Carolina, a region that has historically positioned crafts as an essential part of regional culture. To connect these artists with the public, HandMade has created a number of publications and online resources. Two guidebooks—Craft Heritage Trails and Farms, Gardens, and Countryside Trails of Western North Carolina—feature over 600 craft studios and agricultural sites and include galleries, inns, and restaurants. A number of professional sourcebooks assist architects, builders, and homeowners with identifying craftsmen who create commissioned work. HandMade’s Craft Registry is an online directory that lists artists, galleries, resources, and events in western North Carolina.

William S. Rogers Metals Jenny Lou Shelburne ceramics Placeways Woodworking

Hand Crafted Home Renaissance 2008 included work by (left to right) William S. Rogers Metals, Jenny Lou Shelburne ceramics, and Placeways Woodworking

For craftsmen, HandMade supports a number of business training programs that cover marketing and professional development. These include the Arts Business Boot Camp and the Craft in the Building Industry program which aim to help craft artists develop successful careers within today’s challenging business environment. Both programs provide practical information about product development, pricing, marketing, and accounting.

Teacher workshop
HandMade in America’s Norma Bradley works with area teachers at a Craft Revival Teacher Workshop in May 2008
Exhibition at the NC Welcome Center
An exhibit at the NC Welcome Center on the historic Craft Revival included Daniel Boone VI ironwork, spring 2008

HandMade in America supports a number of outreach programs including educational exhibits that feature western North Carolina crafts and craft history at the I-26 Welcome Center in Madison County. Craft Across the Curriculum brings teachers and local craft artists together through hands-on workshops, with a goal of utilizing the region's craft heritage as a valuable educational tool for K-12 students.

A variety of partnerships support local initiatives to provide technical assistance through a number of targeted programs. HandMade’s Small Town Renewal and Community Development programs apply community driven methods for rejuvenating older, traditional business districts. Working with 13 western North Carolina towns, HandMade identifies sources of funding to support community projects such as walking and biking trails, landscaping, streetscape, and park development projects. The Appalachian Women Entrepreneurs program helps connect enterprising women with resources and markets to promote existing businesses and create new ones.

HandMade’s contributions to the economy, culture, and heritage of the region have been acknowledged by national media such as The New York Times, US News and World Report, National Geographic, and CBS Sunday Morning. In 2003, Worth magazine ranked HandMade in America one of the top 24 arts non-profits in the nation, saying it represents “the best of our country’s culture.”

- Submitted by HandMade in America, 2008