/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on February 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm
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Hard-to-find artisans found at Fireside

Nothing adds distinction to an urban decor like beautifully hand-crafted items. Additionally, you search for gifted artisans can be an investment.  The Fireside Art and Craft Show at Unicoi State Park has become recognized in its 35 years for truly fabulous arts and crafts. A juried show, Fireside has some of the best work you’ll see exhibited in one place in the Southeast.

You’ll find contemporary art, mixed media, watercolor, folk art, pottery and fiber arts. Also, the difficult-to-find old Appalachian crafts will be here, including broom-making, spinning, rag-dolls and blacksmithing.  Marie Land, a pine-needle basket maker, has been showing here for 34 years.

This is not a large show, where you slog through booth after booth of similar items. There are only 68 vendors, and they come from around the Southeast for this show. It’s held inside the beautiful Unicoi Lodge, just above Helen (see map.)

Another basket-maker who will be here is Jan Stancell. Many of her baskets are dyed with a rich hue she makes herself from black walnuts.

“I was always interested in crafts,” she says. “It was just natural to want to understand the old ways of doing things.” So she studied a number of Southern Appalachian shapes and methods, working with Cherokee basket-makers and South Carolina sea-grass weavers. Her favorites are traditional marketing and gathering baskets. “Basically,” she explains, “baskets you can use.” Jan has been both a student and a teacher at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. This famous school has been teaching and preserving the traditions of this area since 1925.

Jan also re-weaves or re-canes those woven chairs that are so comfortable and unsightly when they begin to unravel. If you prefer, she teaches a class on it so you can do it yourself. If you can’t make it to the show, you can find Jan’s baskets at Black Mountain Crafts, open by appointment.

Her craftsmanship and expertise is just one example of what you’ll find at Fireside. Another is Thomas B. Carr, who has been making wooden toys for 39 years.

“We use pine manufacturing cutoffs that would have otherwise gone into the landfill,” says Marie Carr, Thomas’ wife and partner in the business. They create custom designs and patterns, and proudly explain to visitors how their business, North Georgia Elf Works,  is 90% green.

Unicoi State Park has a 53-acre lake and hiking and biking trails. The 100-room lodge, where the Fireside Show will be held, has wireless internet and a gift shop that has hand-made quilts and local pottery. (Mountain trout is regularly served at the restaurant.)

“It’s a great place to be, especially this time of year,” says Jan Stansell. “You can get inside and be near a roaring fire.”  A veteran of many arts and crafts shows, she laughs and says, “It’s the only show that I consistently buy things at.”

Dates: Feb. 20-21, 10-5

Admission: State Park parking fee of $5 per vehicle.

(Photo: Courtesy Jan Stansell.)

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