Cultural Adventure No 29
You make several discoveries today about something you’ve always had. Your hands.
You stand there, slightly stunned. You’re literally holding history in your hands, and you thought you were just out for a little shopping trip. Cherokee’s allure is not limited to its rivers, mountains, and forests.
It’s also found under the roof of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., woven into the spirit of the artifacts that make Cherokee history tangible.
Born in 1946 out of a newfound market brought by the highway explosion of post-World War II growth and the 1934 opening of Great Smoky Mountains National Park next door, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. was conceived to preserve and promote some of the most exquisite aspects of Cherokee culture. More specifically, it preserves the craftsmanship, artisanship, and age-old techniques inherent to the authenticity and value of the items exhibited here. And it commercially promotes, via these same pieces, the quality, inventiveness, talent, and creativity of Cherokee handiwork for the whole world to admire.
Now, decades later, the success is evident.
With more than 350 artisan members, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. is the oldest and foremost Native American cooperative in the country, celebrating the journey of Cherokee arts from where it was, to what it is, to what it will be. Discover impeccable baskets painstakingly woven out of river cane and impressive masks carved out of buckeye. Find masterful pottery made of Kaolin clay indigenous to these parts and of such high quality it made its way, in 1767, into the first porcelain ware in the British Empire.
Be it the utility of weaponry, the decorative beauty of beadwork, the intricate skill of finger weaving, or the sublime self-expression of wood and stone carving–your walk through the gallery gives you context.
The one-of-a-kind, handmade, traditional pieces are representative of a society that once spread over eight states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia.
You look again at your hands, now filled with shopping bags. And you think, “It’s probably time I took on a hobby that’s more than just shopping.” Yes, today’s been inspiring in a lot of ways. Time to explore some of the outdoor beauty that surrounds and has long inspired the artists you’ve just met through their crafts.