This region of Appalachia is known for beautiful arts and crafts
May 24, 2021 at 8:00 AM by
Throughout the world cottage industry has always been a way of life among the people of the mountains. Did you know, for example, that the Swiss tradition of watchmaking originated in the homes of the people of the Alps? Some of it is still carried out in the chalets of mountain folk today. Indeed, whether watchmaking or woodworking, weaving or candle making and so much more, all kinds of arts and crafts have filled the evenings (and many days) of people in mountain communities across the globe. The notion of cozying up to the fire to do a craft instead of engaging in a commerce or other profession is appealing, especially if you live in a remote area.
Knowing this helps you to understand why the mountain heritage of the Smoky Mountains – and Gatlinburg in particular – is so steeped in arts and crafts. Pottery, printing, quilt making, woodworking, basket weaving and all kinds of other expressions of creativity can be found in and around Gatlinburg in ample supply. Significant for both form and function and sometimes just as a work of art in the purest sense – think of a glorious plein-air painting of a Smoky Mountain scene – these fruits of one’s imagination make for meaningful remembrances of your time in the region.
Sometimes, too, a craft may come in the form of homemade jellies or even moonshine. Note the large number of distilleries in Gatlinburg. You can bet that the tradition of concocting and cooking up spirits has gone on in the back woods and out behind cabins here for centuries! Check out this post on The Tennessee Whiskey Trail to learn about eight great distilleries in the Smoky Mountains, half of which are located in Gatlinburg.
Lucky for us that Gatlinburg presents an organized fashion for taking in the maximum number of arts and crafts within a concentrated area. Known as the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Trail, this eight-mile circuit is clearly highlighted on your Discovery Map. Designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail, this unique community of over one hundred artists and craftsmen ranks as a must see/experience in Gatlinburg. Here you can find some extraordinary gift ideas, see demonstrations on how works are made, chat with the artists and even attend an event or workshop.
Thankfully there are enough rainy days in these oh-so smoky Smoky Mountains to encourage you to spend time indoors to take in the many interesting boutiques, galleries and workshops on this loop. You’ll also find eateries and other places to restore yourself along the way. Highlights along the trail include Hills Creek Gallery, Misty Mountain Soap Company and Alewine Pottery where you’ll find some of the best goods of Appalachia. Don’t miss Hillbilly Deluxe, a shop that’s as popular as the Brooks & Dunn song of the same name; there, you’ll find a combo of regional arts & crafts with other fun gifts sourced from way beyond these tar hills. It’s best to leave your car behind and take the Yellow Trolley from downtown Gatlinburg.
Know, too, that you can find lots of other interesting purveyors of regional arts, crafts and goods outside of this designated area. Talking Turkey Stained Glass Studio is one such example. You’ll also enjoy making your way along the lovely East Parkway to discover other shops, dining establishments and places of interest. The Museum of Salt & Pepper Shakers, supposedly the only one of its kind in the world, takes the prize for one of the most enjoyable little museums you’ll ever visit. Who ever would have imagined that there could be such history, creativity and diversity in such a basic kitchen item? Best of all: Their gift shop is so good that it just might inspire you to start your own collection. Hey, why not?
Come to think of it, you’ll find so many different types of interesting goods in Gatlinburg that you’ll be in collectible heaven. Maybe that’s something like hillbilly heaven? Oh dear, best be headed out to do some fishin’ or else you’ll have to buy one of Gatlinburg’s beloved cabins to stash away your treasures. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea after all?