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Arts and crafts, as far as the eye can see

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As the center of one of the top folk art and crafts regions in the United States, this picturesque city is an ideal base for launching day trips to find and enjoy traditional and contemporary works.

More than 4,000 people residing in 23 western North Carolina counties make at least part of their living producing art and crafts. These include paintings, sculptures, intricately patterned and hand-sewn quilts, hand-forged jewelry, pottery with custom-created glazes, blown glass of delicate prism-like colors, ornate pieces carved from fine-grained native wood, fabrics woven of hand-spun wool, and much more.

Here you can spend a day, a week, a month, or even years seeing, learning about, and purchasing beautiful handmade art, and perhaps even shaping some of your own.

The area's first craft art was born among the indigenous Cherokee Indians. To this day, producing crafts continues as part of their heritage and culture.

European settlers later applied their handworking skills to cope with the harshness of the then-remote wilderness. In the process they created much of what is now referred to as traditional crafts.

Time passed, industrialization came, its jobs replacing much of the hardscrabble farming as a livelihood. And then the economyfaltered, leaving many searching for ways to earn a living.

Meanwhile, though often regarded as quaint and curious, folk art and crafts survived and even blossomed. This was due in large part to the foresight of those who founded institutions such as the Penland School of Crafts and the Highland Craft Guild, both currently celebrating 75th anniversaries, and the John C. Campbell Folk School, now 80 years old. All were started to help keep alive the unique mountain heritage, culture, and production of beautiful handmade art while also providing opportunities to improve lifestyles.

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