Southern Highland Craft Guild: Meet the People
July 19, 2010 by Susan Murray
>This weekend the Southern Highland Craft Guild held its annual crafts fair in Asheville, NC. Even though it was a busy weekend at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, James and I made an extra effort to get there so we could see what all the “fuss” was about. And I am so glad we did. It was an amazing display of artwork and beautiful crafts of every type. I could show you a lot of pictures and talk about all the different things we saw but instead I am going to introduce you to two of the people we met: Marlow Gates of Friendswood Brooms and Anne Freels of Wingshuck.
Marlow, in case you haven’t guessed it, makes brooms. You can be excused for thinking that this is not the most exciting of crafts but you would be wrong. Each broom is handmade and the handles are specially crafted. Marlow can take pretty much anything and turn it into a broom handle. If you look closely at this picture you will see that he has made a broom with a fishing rod for a handle. One wonders whether that is a statement by a long-suffering spouse or a paen by an enthusiastic angler!
When Marlow was a little boy his father worked for NASA on the Apollo Space Missions. One day he saw an advertisement by a broom-maker in the Southern Appalachians who was looking for an apprentice to carry on the craft after he died. Marlow’s father was intrigued and went to meet the artist. He loved the craft and life style so much that he returned to his family, quit his job with NASA and moved them all to the Tennessee Mountains. Marlow made his first broom at the age of five and has been making them ever since. He and his wife, Diana, work together on the brooms and he is hoping his sons will continue the family business.
Marlow is pictured in the top photo with James and the hearth broom we bought. It has a pine knot for a handle which has been highly polished to show off the red color created by the fungus which caused the knot. He told us that we could bring him a piece of wood from one of our trees and he would make a handle just for us!
Not far from Marlow and Diana, was the stall of Anne Freels and her business, “Wingshuck”. Anne makes dolls out of cornhusks. She made her first doll in High School. Everyone was required to take a course on Appalachian crafts and after she made her first doll, she said, “Can I make another?!”.
Each doll takes about three to three and a half hours for her to complete. She dyes all of the husks herself using natural dyes. The body of the doll takes about two hours to put together and then she gets down to details. Her work is amazingly intricate. Dolls hold tiny fruits and flowers, hair is made of everything from flax to llama wool.
We bought these two witches to decorate our tables in October. Each doll comes with a small card giving information about its significance in Appalachian folklore. One of my favorites is the “kitchen witch”, poised on a broomstick to be hung in your window, it will keep your cakes from burning, your bread from falling and your household happy.
I wish we had had more time at the fair to talk with more of these interesting and unique people. It’s part of what makes Asheville so wonderful!