There is a hidden gem in the hills of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Known as the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, the 8-mile loop is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. The community has a rich history in finely made items including pottery, furniture, art and other unique crafts.
Early settlers of the Great Smoky Mountains became skilled at creating masterpieces. Out of necessity, the pioneers of our modern day Arts & Crafts Community did not have the ability to purchase essential items. Instead, they lived off of their land and honed their skills crafting their brooms, furniture, kitchen tools, baskets, blankets, and more. Generation after generation, these skills have been handed down and refined into what we now see in this historic community.
Art Studio of the Smokies
There are many attractions in Gatlinburg and surrounding cities, but none as authentic as the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Located 3 miles from downtown Gatlinburg, the easiest place to begin a tour is on Highway 321 (East Parkway). Here you will find a cluster of artisan shops including the Art Studio of the Smokies.
The Art Studio of the Smokies specializes in working with traditional mediums and modern digital computer programs. From watercolors to Adobe Photoshop, the Art Studio of the Smokies offers classroom instruction and private lessons. The studio is dedicated to helping up-and-coming artists hone their skills and build their portfolio.
The studio also offers a wide array of special events. Paint & Sip events have become very popular. The studio also holds birthday parties, wedding showers, bachelorette parties and children’s camps. Anyone visiting the Smoky Mountain area on a girls’ getaway needs to plan an event at the Art Studio of the Smokies. They also offer couple’s classes which are the perfect complement to a honeymoon or anniversary trip. The artwork created during the events is yours to keep and is sure to be a unique souvenir. The Art Studio of the Smokies is a family-friendly environment that is devoted to motivating others to find their medium. In fact, encouraging others to love art and create their own pieces is what inspires the owner, Camille, the most.
Camille was a graphic designer for twelve years and an art teacher for sixteen years before moving to Gatlinburg. A Georgia native, Camille was familiar with The Smoky Mountains and had always dreamed of having her own studio. Now her dream is a reality, and she enjoys the one-on-one time that she gets to spend with her students. She welcomes everyone into her studio, including both inexperienced individuals and accomplished artists.
The Smoky Mountains are a great place to get inspired, specifically the Arts & Crafts Community. If you are interested in painting your own souvenir, learning about graphic design, or holding an event at the the Art Studio, contact Camille and allow her to share her love of art and teaching.
Cliff Dwellers Gallery
Leaving the Art Studio of the Smokies and journeying down Glades Road, there are many treasures to be found. Approximately halfway down the Glades Road section of the tour, you will find the Cliff Dwellers Complex.
The Cliff Dwellers Gallery building originally sat in downtown Gatlinburg. The building was the home and studio of local artist Louise Jones. After his retirement and a few other ownership changes, the building was moved to the Arts & Crafts Community in 1994.
The Cliff Dwellers Gallery is currently owned by a group of 5 artists including Louise Bales. She got her start by accident when her sister-in-law submitted some of Louise’s artwork to the gallery at a time when they were jurying for new artists. Louise’s artwork was selected, and twenty years later she is still painting her masterpieces.
Along with her beautifully painted gourds, you will find works from the gallery’s other partners including rugs, pottery, baskets, dolls and tapestries. You will also find marbled papers and handmade cards. While Louise and the other four artists are unique from each other, they inspire each other and feed off of each other’s differences. Stop in and spend some time with Louise, Sherry, Pat, Theresa and Winnie.
After a visit to Cliff Dwellers Gallery, you will feel a deep appreciation for the time and skill that the artisans put into their work. The stunning pieces in the gallery make great gifts and souvenirs. If you are looking for a unique wedding, anniversary, or birthday gift, consider a one-of-a-kind piece from Cliff Dwellers Gallery or another Arts & Crafts Community gallery, like The Chair Shop.
The Chair Shop
Just a stone’s throw from Cliff Dwellers you will find The Chair Shop. The Chair Shop is owned and operated by Randy Ogle, whose woodworking skills rival the finest in the world. Randy’s grandfather began the business in 1956. Ogle is a fourth-generation woodworker and learned techniques and skills from his grandfather and father. Like many artisans in the Arts & Crafts Community today, he has carried on his family tradition.
Don’t let the name fool you. The Chair Shop offers much more than chairs. Dining room tables, bedroom furniture, and other large pieces are found in his shop. Randy specializes in commissioned pieces and enjoys bringing his customers’ ideas to life. He has crafted many custom bathroom vanities, kitchen islands, pie safes, and countless other prized pieces. Upon visiting his studio, you will find an array of items crafted from native hardwoods. Randy’s kitchen cutting boards are a customer favorite.
Randy Ogles’ style is vast and ranges from rustic to refined. While visiting The Chair Shop, be sure to ask for a peek of his woodworking shop. There you will see the tools and machinery he and his family uses, mounds of sawdust and wood shavings, and an array of on-going projects. If you have an interest in woodworking yourself, Randy offers a limited schedule of classes. A conversation with Randy will make you feel like family and will help you appreciate the authenticity and honesty of the people of the Arts & Crafts Community.
If you are looking for a genuine souvenir, look no further than the Arts & Crafts Community. The piece you choose, whether it is pottery, stained glass or another handcrafted item, will long outlive the standard tee shirt or taffy. The piece you choose is sure to be treasured for a lifetime and the memories you’ll make while hunting that special item you can share for years to come. Be sure to include a day (or more) touring the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community during your next visit to Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains.
Hands On Gatlinburg
We suggest visiting the Arts & Crafts Community between April 8th and 10th, 2016. The community will hold their first ever “Hands on Gatlinburg” event. More than fifteen studios will be offering classes, and you will have the chance to create your very own piece of art. The classes range from broom making, spice blending, woodworking, painting with different mediums and jewelry making. The “Hands on” event is the perfect time to receive individual attention from an authentic artisan. The teachers will provide all of the tools and materials and will guide you step by step, and you will get to keep your creations when the class is over. Make your reservation as spots are limited.
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