This newly completed North Carolina trail is ideal for art lovers

West North Carolina is adorned with exceptional natural beauty, rich history, charming small towns and a thriving art, food and beverage scene. No wonder visitors come from very distant lands to play, stay and eat there – and now there is another important reason to visit this extraordinary region.

The newly completed Blue Ridge Craft Trail in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Site invites visitors to get in direct contact with artists in their studios. They are encouraged to browse and shop galleries full of original, locally made treasures. The trail covers an area the size of Maryland and includes 25 counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the foothills. It passes through the beautiful city of Asheville, as well as the border of Kuala, home to the Eastern Group of Cherokee Indians.

My husband and I had the pleasure of exploring the trail in the Wilkesboro area. Below are two examples of approximately 300 talented, dedicated artists participating in the Blue Ridge Craft Trail.

Note: Although this article was supported by the generosity of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Site and Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authorityall opinions are entirely mine.

Poplar bark basket from Brey Quality Crafts, shown against the poplar trunk
(Photo credit: Simon Lock / MyEclecticImages)

Quality Crafts of Brey: Where nature and craftsmanship go hand in hand

“Wherever your gaze travels, my hand is in landscaping,” said Betsy Bray of her 23-acre workshop. This is where Betsy collects materials to make stunning, originally designed baskets made of poplar, hemlock and other trees on her property.

A sample of baskets created by Betsy Bray from Brey Quality Crafts.
A sample of baskets created by Betsy Bray
(Photo credit: Simon Lock / MyEclecticImages)

Betsy combines the traditional white Appalachian oak basketry techniques she has been using for 30 years with collecting and preparing spring bark from sap-filled trees. From bark strips and other natural materials, she creates unique designs that can be used as containers for storing household items or serve as eye-catching accents.

Natural soaps created by Brey Quality Crafts.
Natural soaps created by Brey Quality Crafts
(Photo credit: Simon Lock / MyEclecticImages)

When you visit Brey Quality Crafts, you will also find whimsical, handmade soaps in charming shapes. They are also made from natural ingredients and dyes. Betsy teaches soap making lessons from time to time so you can learn how to make your own luxury soaps.

You can’t buy Brey Quality Crafts items online, but Betsy is available by appointment and you can purchase her designs from several galleries in the area.

A carding machine used at Sunset Fiberworks in the Wilkesboro area of ‚Äč‚ÄčNorth Carolina.
Carding machine used to process wool before spinning it into yarn at Sunset Fiberworks
(Photo credit: Simon Lock / MyEclecticImages)

Sunset Fiberworks: Where talented hands weave beauty and love into every piece

“I love teaching people who want to learn,” says Mary Freys of teaching her students the complex art of weaving. Together with her husband John, Mary runs Sunset Fiberworks at their home Sunset Farm overlooking the scenic Yadkin Valley.

The farm has been in John’s family for 200 years. When the couple retired from work in the big city, they moved to Wilkes County, and John built his wooden home on the site of the original hut that had burned down. This is where Mary and her 19 looms create exquisite scarves, towels for plates and scarves, as well as table mats and paths made of natural fibers – such as wool, cotton and bamboo.

Loom at Sunset Fiberworks in Trafill, North Carolina.
The loom is used to create a complex repeating pattern in Sunset Fiberworks
(Photo credit: Simon Lock / MyEclecticImages)

Mary’s main focus is teaching, but she usually has pieces for sale on a first-come, first-served basis. Because her students work at different speeds for different purposes, Mary prefers to teach students individually. Visits to Sunset Fiberworks are by appointment only.

Hit The Trail

Whether you decide to explore the Blue Ridge Craft Trail in the Far West, Central Mountains, High Country or North Carolina Foothills, you will meet exceptional potters, weavers, carpenters, stained glass artists and many other craftsmen. Find the perfect accent for your home or the perfect gift for a special person in your life, knowing that what you buy is handmade, unique and helps the growth of the region’s economy.
The trail website is easy to navigate and allows you to search by craft and location. And while doing the best-looking retail therapy, you’ll also be pampered with a piece of North Carolina’s paradise.

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