The North Carolina Arts Council announced today that two traditional artist teams from western North Carolina have been selected for the fourth annual “In These Mountains” Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeships.
Jim McDowell (Weaverville, Buncombe County) will mentor Nicholas Garrison (Asheville, Buncombe County) in traditional methods of wheel-thrown pottery, including clay processing, glaze formulas, and different methods of kiln firing. McDowell is one of very few Black potters working in western North Carolina, and has honed his craft in honor of his four-times great aunt Evangeline, an enslaved potter in Jamaica who made face jugs reflecting the religious rituals of her ancestors. Nicholas Garrison has already spent a year learning under McDowell, and will explore both the techniques and cultural narratives expressed through his mentor’s style of pottery and revitalization of the face jug tradition. Using pottery for storytelling and as a spiritual outlet, he will explore his own cultural heritage through McDowell’s mentorship. They will conclude their work together with a public exhibition.
Nancy Mahala (Creston, Ashe County) will mentor Genal West (Zionville, Watauga County) in traditional coverlet weaving and its accompanying fiber crafts, such as spinning and processing flax and wool, creating original patterns, and dyeing fiber using native plants in the area. Mahala is a member of the Blue Ridge Fibers Guild and an experienced teacher, and has been working with West for one year. As West advances, she intends to build her own loom and will begin teaching her own students and children. She will integrate what she learns as an apprentice in her classroom teaching by building a curriculum for the local high school in Appalachian traditional arts and crafts. Throughout the apprenticeship, the pair will demonstrate at local farmers markets and craft shows and attend gatherings of the Blue Ridge Fiber Guild. They will also demonstrate at the local high school in West’s art classes.
The Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeship grant provides financial support for a mentor artist and an apprentice artist to work together for a full year on the transmission of a traditional art form of their region, community, or cultural group.
The program is offered by the Folklife program of the North Carolina Arts Council and supported by “In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts and Culture,” an initiative of the regional arts organization South Arts.