Arts & Crafts Community: At a Glance
Far away from the hustle and bustle of big city life, the largest organization of independent artisans in North America is tucked away in the hills of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the form of the Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community. These skilled and dedicated artists and craftspeople create not only beautiful but also useful items using techniques handed down for centuries.
The genesis of the Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community occurred around 1937 when a group of local artisans, led by third-generation woodcarver John Cowden, decided that rather than plying their trades on the streets of Gatlinburg, they would move their work to the comfort and familiarity of their own homes and workshops. Cowden would become a charter member of the Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community, which officially organized in 1941.
The community still makes its home in Gatlinburg, with most shops maintaining daily operating hours of 10 a.m.-5 p.m. year-round. Located just three miles from downtown Gatlinburg, the eight-mile Arts & Crafts Loop runs along Route 321, Buckhorn Road, and Glades Road. Over 100 shops feature crafts ranging from elaborate quilts, old-fashioned straw brooms with hand-carved handles, intricately woven baskets, hand-dipped scented candles, Victorian ceramic pitchers, pottery, dulcimers, and handmade jewelry, as well as beautiful paintings of landscapes and mountain life, can be found along the loop. Potters and crafters can also be found working their magic with clay and cloth.
For those seeking a leisurely tour of the community, the Gatlinburg Art Tour and the Arts & Crafts Trolley offer a peaceful crawl through the heart of the area, which is also home to several specialty shops. Although it is not technically part of the loop, the Gatlinburg Welcome Center does its part to support local artisans by featuring products with the “Made in Gatlinburg” label. Plus, visitors to the Smoky Mountains can check out the local handiwork at the annual Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter shows hosted in downtown Gatlinburg at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Check out Smokies Adventure.com’s list of artisans involved in the Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community. More information can be found online at www.gatlinburgcrafts.com or by calling 1-800-565-7330.