Meet The Maker
The Market on Oak celebrates the artists and entrepreneurs in our community and throughout Western North Carolina. Once you get to know our artists, we know you will want to have their products in your home and to give as gifts. Each artist puts their own individual stamp on their creations whether it is a hand blown ornament, a pottery mug or a handcrafted soap. You will know that each of our products has been touched by the artist before it reached your home.
Meet the Maker: Kimberly Gunter
Kimberly's business, The Gathered Pine, is located in Celo, NC. This is where the sights, sounds and smells inspire the creation of handcrafted cold process soaps, herbal salves, lip balms, body butters, lotion bars, soy wax candles and sometimes other various items. Herr soaps and body care products are made with a combination of select plants, herbs, spices, teas, butters, oils, clays, minerals, fragrance oils and essential oils.
Kimberly completed a nine month apprenticeship of herbal medicine at Sacred Plant Traditions, an herbal teaching center, located in Charlottesville, Virginia. We studied medicine making, wild plant ID, wild food preparation, kitchen apothecary practices, anatomy & physiology and foundations of different models of herbalism: Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, biomedical and.....the plants themselves.
In her spare time, she is obsessed with soap and soap making! It all started innocently enough.....right in her kitchen, where all good and wonderful things start! And it's still going on in her kitchen......she makes one small batch at a time. It is blended and poured into a homemade wooden mold that her fabulous husband made for her and then she hand cuts each bar.
Meet the Maker: Harty Farm
From Philadelphia to Mitchell County, from a life as a fire department lieutenant to a savvy farmer, the Hartys completely changed their lives and their livelihood in 2004. They love raising rabbits for food, growing mushrooms and keeping bees for honey at Harty Farms in Red Hill on Big Rock Creek.
The couple knew about the area because of an aunt who lived nearby, and had visited many times, fascinated by the minerals so prevalent here. “Every time we came over the mountain it just felt like home,”said Alice Harty.
The couple knew they wanted a new life as self-sustaining farmers, but they also knew they had a lot to learn to get there. “We had raised organic rabbits in Philly, but we learned more when we came here,”said Rick. “We took advantage of every learning opportunity we could, and we’re still doing that.”
The Hartys quickly realized that they needed to find a niche or two to be successful farm entrepreneurs. “We did a lot of research, looking at strawberries and shitake mushrooms, and took advantage of NC State’s Agricultural Extension Service,”explained Alice. “Then we read about bees and honey in the paper and took a course at Mayland Community College. That led us to add hives to our inventory.”
Growing mushrooms is paying off now for the Hartys. They are receiving help from Mayland to develop the local mushroom industry, and are involved with the new NC Mushroom Growers Co-op; they will be board members. They also teach a class on mushrooms on a volunteer basis, encouraging others to join the budding industry.
Their expertise in beekeeping is also growing, thanks to connections to local beekeepers associations. They are writing a grant to teach children about the importance of bees and nutrition.
In addition to tapping into all the educational resources available in the area, the Hartys also learn from their customers at the local farmers market where they sell their products. “We enjoy talking to our customers and learning from them—they teach us a lot, things such as the best ways to harvest honey and different ways of processing,”said Rick.
Alice and Rick both say that people in the area are very supportive. “They really want us to succeed, and you couldn’t pull us away from here now,”concluded Rick.
Their advice to entrepreneurs who are considering this area? “You have to work hard, but be flexible, and just stick with it. It also helps if you can divide and conquer the work.”
Meet The Maker: Rob Levin
Robert Levin was born and raised in Baltimore and currently lives and works near Burnsville, NC. He was formerly the Resident Glass Artist at Penland School of Crafts, and has taught in many exotic places such as Ireland, New Zealand, Rochester, Cleveland and Penland. He has exhibited widely in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and the former Soviet Union. His work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Corning Museum of Glass, the Museum of American Glass, the Contemporary Glass Museum in Madrid, the Mint Museum, the High Museum in Atlanta, the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, and the Ebeltoft Glasmuseum in Denmark. He has received a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Visual Arts Fellowship, two North Carolina Arts Council Fellowships, and a NCAC Project Grant.
Rob's beautiful handblown ornaments are featured in The Market on Oak.
Meet The Maker: Jon Ellenbogen and Rebecca Plummer
Jon Ellenbogen and Rebecca Plummer make stoneware pottery intended for daily use in the home. From dinnerware to centerpieces to bathroom and wetbar sinks, their attractive, durable, handmade objects add a unique personal touch to any decor.
Their Christmas ornaments and decorated eggs are a departure from their traditional stoneware. Because they are handmade, no two are alike, and all are very lightweight for hanging on a tree. For many families these ornaments have become cherished family heirlooms that will be passed on for generations.
Rebecca and Jon have been working together as Barking Spider Pottery for over thirty years. Their passive solar studio and home is built above the Toe River in the mountains of Western North Carolina.They have twin twenty-one-year-old sons Alexander and Christopher.
Meet The Maker: Marilyn Cade
In December of 1974 we moved to the North Carolina mountains, filled with enthusiasm for the romance of farming our own land. We were also filled with complete city-bred ignorance of farming. Over the years, we were helped by many real farmers, who are neighbors and friends today. Back-to-the-earth books showed me how to milk our first goat.
We discovered what parts of farming we really liked: lots of small animals and raising flowers and herbs. Today we have dairy goats with their own guard-llama, chickens, angora goats and rabbits for their knitting wool, various barn cats and a dog.
The idea of living self-sufficiently evolved into living in nature as an art form. That is, to make a small number of really lovely yet ordinary things, using the farm’s spring water, mint, comfrey, lavender and rosemary. Each 80 bar batch of soap is hand-made, hand poured. All the lavender products are made in quantities of about a dozen at a time.
In the beginning we made soap the truly old-fashioned way, with lard rendered on the stove from animal fats. Now we make only vegetarian soap, using coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil, with goat milk, essential oils and our own herbs.
Marilyn Cade and her husband Jerry are the owners of Mountain Farm, a working lavender, blueberry and goat farm open to visitors throughout the year. Marilyn offers soap-making demonstrations at the farm and at schools, and twice a year she gives two day hands-on complete process workshops in cold-process soap making.
Marilyn is a member of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the American Dairy Goat Association and Heifer International.
Meet The Maker: Linda Forbes
I often tell people that I am still “growing up”, but I was born and spent my childhood in upstate New York near the shore of Lake Ontario. I first visited these beautiful mountains twenty years ago, and I experienced immediately that this was HOME.
It has taken me since then, twenty years, to get here. I have a little house near the church in Pine Grove and sometimes join in their choir. One of my two sisters lives in the community of Linville Falls.
I usually have at least one knitting project with me at all times, because knitting is portable! I started knitting baby caps about five years ago and have made all sorts of styles and designs. It seems perfect to make hats with the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree logo and to pair them with matching snowy-white baby blankets.
Linda Forbes began knitting as a child under the guidance of her grandmother, mother and aunts. Since that time, she has dabbled in other crafts but has continued to knit throughout the years.
Linda enjoys spending time with family and being an aunt and a great-aunt to six little ones under the age of eight.
Meet The Maker: Marquitta Holtsclaw
I have been involved with various crafts for thirty years, working in many different mediums. However, when I started decoupage and began to realize the potential for extreme variations in one medium, I knew I had found a distinctive creative expression. Thankfully, I am self-taught. You see, I am a rules follower. If I had known the rules to decoupage before I started, I doubt I would have had the audacity to combine so many different elements in my designs. If I know the rules, I follow them; if not, well… I can create anything I want without limitations. People’s first response to my work is, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” That’s exactly what I like to hear. The Lord has blessed me with imagination and creativity, and I’m only now beginning to realize and use it.
My desire is to produce the highest quality of work possible, and I am continually researching new techniques and products to achieve this goal. I want my work to have unique beauty as well as functionality. Customers may use my plates for serving desserts, appetizers or light foods, but they are not dishwasher-safe. They are hand wash only. Whether my plates are used, or just looked at, the delight is mine.
Marquitta Holtsclaw lives in Spruce Pine, North Carolina with her husband Keith and son Sam. Marquitta has been creating decoupage plates for years as gifts for friends and family. She says she owes her newfound role as a licensed artist to the encouragement of a friend at the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce.
Meet The Maker: JJ Brown and Simona Rosasco (Fyreglas Studio)
JJ, a retired fire chief from Miami, Florida, moved to North Carolina in 2001 and built his glass studio. Simona, after meeting JJ in 2006, retired from her career in health care in Pensacola, Florida and relocated to the mountains. They both consider themselves to be blessed to live in these mountains surrounded by so many wonderful artisans.
JJ and Simona live in Bakersville, North Carolina where they own and operate Fyreglas Studio. JJ is primarily self-taught having taken various workshops around the country. Simona has a BFA from University of South Florida. Together, they create one of a kind works in glass art, both functional and decorative.
Their glass Christmas tree ornaments are handmade, so no two are alike. Their fused glass plates are of the traditional log cabin quilt pattern and can be utilized in a number of ways, such as a votive or for Santa’s cookies.
Meet The Maker: Billie Ruth Sudduth
Basketry is actually Billie Ruth Sudduth’s second career. She spent almost twenty years as a school psychologist. In 1983, after a particularly demanding year, her boss suggested she do something for “fun” over the summer. Knowing of Billie Ruth’s love of baskets, it was suggested she take a basket making class at the local community college. The four Monday night sessions cost twenty dollars but totally changed her life. After fifteen minutes in that class, she knew she had found her life’s work. The early years were demanding because she maintained her professional career, was a wife and mother of two sons. Sixteen hour plus workdays became the norm and cooking and housework became extinct, indeed arts lost in favor of a new art form.
In 1989, Billie Ruth left her career to pursue basketry full time. It is appropriate that her baskets became mathematically based, having spent her professional career with testing, measurements, statistics, and math. Ironically, as a high school and college student, she hated math. She met Fibonacci, a thirteenth century mathematician, while teaching a “Math in a Basket Class” in a middle school. Incorporating Fibonacci numbers and the Nature Sequence in all her baskets created a style that was immediately identifiable and captured the attention of museum curators and collectors alike.
Fibonacci discovered that the same proportions occur in spirals throughout nature, whether it is the spirals in seashells, flower petals, the caps of acorns, or pineapples. The distance between the proportions approximates the golden mean or the golden ratio, which has unified design since ancient Greece. This discovery had a profound impact on the world of art, music, and architecture. Michelangelo used the proportions in creating the statue of David; Bartok used the numbers and ratios in his music, and Frank Lloyd Wright in his architecture. Billie Ruth Sudduth uses the proportions, ratios, and numbers in her baskets. When responding to her work, you are responding to the same proportions that occur throughout nature. The weaving uses a mathematical structure of spiral growth found in nature to create baskets with a rhythmic, naturally flowing design. She does not separate herself from nature but through her weaving affirms being a part of it. Billie Ruth is currently pursuing chaos theory, fractals, and sacred geometry and incorporating that research into her basketry.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Billie Ruth’s baskets are now in the collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Art in Racine, Wisconsin, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, the Asheville Art Museum, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama. They are also included in numerous corporate and private collections. Her highest honor came in 1997 when she was named a Living Treasure by the State of North Carolina. This award, presented to one craftsperson every other year, is the state’s highest honor in the field of crafts. She was the tenth recipient of this award and the first and only female to be honored. In 2002, she was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award by her undergraduate alma mater, Huntingdon College and in 2005, the President’s Medal for Achievement. In 2004-2005, she was awarded an Individual Visual Artist Fellowship by the North Carolina Arts Council. She has been selected to exhibit at the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show for the past twelve years.
Meet The Maker: Janie Devos
Janie DeVos, a native of Coral Gables, Florida, began her career in the advertising industry. After more than a decade in that field, she focused her time and attention on her love of writing. DeVos began her freelance writing company, Rainy Day Creations, in 2000, and began composing verses for several greeting card companies. Then, How High Can You Fly?, DeVos’ first hardcover picture book published through River Road Press, made its debut in 2001. In 2003, Ms. DeVos’ second hardcover picture book, The Path Winds Home, was released.
In 2015, DeVos’ first adult novel found a home with prestigious Kensington Publishing. Beneath a Thousand Apple Trees was released in the fall of 2016, and its sequel, The Art of Breathing, will be released in February, 2017. Recently, Kensington signed DeVos to a three-book series about old Florida, beginning in the 1870’s. The first book in the Glory Land series is set to be released in December, 2017, with the second and third books planned for publication in 2018.
Readers of Beneath A Thousand Apple Trees will find many familiar local places and characters as she gained much inspiration from the local apple orchard and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Janie lives in Mitchell County in a log cabin with her husband and beloved Bassets.