Julian Guthrie (1914-1998), a boatwright from Harker’s Island, NC, has the distinction of being the first artist named a “North Carolina Living Treasure.” In 1930, at the age of twelve, Guthrie built his first sail skiff for his uncle from raw materials found in the maritime forest. Guthrie was owner/operator of a boat building shop, the Hi-Tide, for 35 years. From his shop, he sold boats from Maryland to Florida. He expanded his designs from the 20-foot skiff to 85-foot yachts and trawlers. Guthrie is also the creator of the “Red Snapper,” a commercial fishermen’s workboat with enough insulated capacity to remain in continuous operation for a full week. Although Guthrie retired from his shop in 1985, his influence continues today through the talents of younger builders whom he mentored and the pervasive "Guthrie Boat" recognizable along the southern end of the East Coast. Many folks would own nothing else. More about Julian Guthrie's work can be found in an oral history interview with Josiah Bailey III at UNCW. Image courtesy: Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center
Thayer Francis (1902-1990), of Spruce Pine, NC, received the Living Treasure award for his marquetry. Marquetry involves shaving layers of veneer from domestic and exotic woods, then assembling pieces of the veneers using the wood's natural shadings and grain to create a design. From his shop, the Thayer House of Marquetry, Francis produced works of art ranging in size from 10”x11” to 26”x20”, with designs including flowers, landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and reproductions of famous paintings. While Francis enjoyed producing scenes such as Grandfather Mountain and Mt. Pisgah, his favorite piece is known as the "Roman Girl at the Fountain." His piece “Tennessee Walking Horse” was displayed in a show at the Smithsonian Institution and he exhibited his work at the North Carolina State Fair for many years.
Sid Oakley (1932-2004), a native of Granville County, spent his life perfecting the potter's craft. In 1968, Oakley and his wife Pat started Cedar Creek Gallery. Over the past 40 years, this former tobacco farm has grown into a large enterprise with more than ten buildings and displays the work of over 200 artists and craftsmen. Oakley, well know for his glazing techniques, has received several awards and his work is in the permanent collections of many major museums and popular among private collectors. In 2006, Kathy Norcross Watts wrote the book, A Simple Life: A Story of Sid Oakley, that recounts her friendship and documents his story.
Bea Hensley (1919-2013) is a master of the blacksmithing demonstration and he has been a professional blacksmith for over 60 years. Hensley credits his neighbor, Daniel Boone VI, with his becoming a blacksmith when he became his apprentice after high school. From Boone, he learned an ancient "hammer language," once common among blacksmiths. Relying only on rapidly striking hammers to communicate, the smith and his striker give and carry out detailed forging instructions. Hensley's repertoire of decorative ironwork includes wrought iron wall sconces, railings, fireplace accessories, and chandeliers. Together with his son, Hensley operated a traditional forge in Spruce Pine, NC and gave traveling blacksmithing demonstrations. His son, Mike, carries on these traditions today. Hensley was also the recipient of a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1993 and the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1995. More information about Hensley and his work can be found in an oral history interview given at UNCW in 2003.
Robert and Ruth Rigaud, a Greensboro-based husband and wife team of musical instrument builders, are the first married couple to be selected for the Living Treasure award. From their shop, The Stringworks, the Rigauds create unique, hand-crafted guitars, mandolins, banjos, Irish harps, psalteries, violins, and dulcimers. A long-time lover of things musical, Robert Rigaud was a guitar player with groups in Asheboro and High Point before pursuing a career in musical instrument building. The Rigauds design and build guitars, exhibit at shows and festivals and repair and restore musical instruments. Their works have appeared in national media outlets and are owned by the biggest entertainers in the world.
John Braxton is a master gunsmith from Snow Camp in Alamance County, North Carolina. He is self-taught machinist and riflesmith who is considered a leading authority on North Carolina Long Rifles and whose replicas and restorations of early firearms are among the best in the country. He became interested in North Carolina flintlock and muzzle loading long rifles while he was still in high school and built his first gun when he was fifteen years old. Braxton specializes in weapons built between 1400 and 1865. Several of his rifles have won national matches sponsored by the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association. In New Hanover County, his military replicas include a reproduction of a Civil War gun carriage for an original Confederate cannon recently remounted at Fort Fisher. In addition to being museum quality, gun experts claim that a Braxton rifle also "shoots good."
Originally a ceramicist, Harvey K. Littleton began working with glass in the early 1960's. He has been called the founding father of the Studio Glass movement. In 1962 Littleton led a glassblowing seminar in which he introduced the idea that glass could be melted, worked, and blown by the artist in a studio, rather than requiring the regimented production process of the glass industry. At the university level, he established a glass studio and began offering graduate courses in glassblowing and glass art. Besides glassblowing, Littleton is recognized as the originator of vitreographs; prints made from sandblasted designs on glass plates. His work has been exhibited worldwide and his collections are housed in renowned museums such as the National Museum of American Art. Littleton has received many awards including the North Carolina Governor's Award for the Arts, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Glass Art Society and the James Renwick Alliance Award as the Master of the Glass Medium.
Sidney Luck received the North Carolina Living Treasure award for his pottery. With an electric turntable, knife, piano wire, kiln and his own hands, Sidney Luck has been turning Randolph County clay into kitchenware and museum pieces since he was ten years old. A fifth-generation potter, he was introduced to pottery by his father. But unlike his ancestors, he uses an electric wheel instead of molds. In 1987, Luck built his own shop and worked part-time while teaching in the public school system. After a nineteen year teaching career, he began working full-time at his studio in 1990. Today, Luck’s artwork is in private collections and shown throughout the United States. His shop, Luck’s Ware, is still producing the traditional, utilitarian pottery forms of his ancestors. Visitors can experience the ancient art of wheel-thrown pottery, from the mixing of the clay to the finished product. His son Matt continues the tradition by working with his father.
Arval Woody (1920-2012) knows tradition. The manufacture of handmade furniture has been in the Woody family for approximately 200 years. A fifth generation furniture maker, Arval Woody was born near Spruce Pine, North Carolina. According to the local family lore, the name “Woody” was given to the family because they were integrally involved in woodcraft. Arval's craft of chair-making is constructed using an Early American method. There are no nails or glue used in the main structure. The chairs tighten as the wood dries and strengthen. The wood he used consist of maple, oak, cherry, walnut, and ash harvested from the forests of the area. Founding Woody's Chair Shop in 1946, Woody has shipped chairs to all 50 states and world-wide. In 1952, Terry Sanford, then the Governor of North Carolina asked him to craft chairs for President John F. Kennedy’s children, Caroline and John Jr. His work has been exhibited in the American Craft Museum in New York and in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.. Woody was not only a furniture maker but a teacher and mentor to those who shared his love for wood. Those who knew him continue to speak of his wood mastery with awe and enormous respect. More information about Woody and his work can be found in an oral history interview given with UNCW in 2003.
Billie Ruth Sudduth considers herself a self-taught basketmaker. After a twenty year career in social work, she decided to devote her full-time to basketry and now lives in Bakersville, North Carolina. Inspired by the classical forms of Shaker and Appalachian baskets, Sudduth said her greatest influence was the 13th century Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci. Fibonacci’s Numbers, or the Nature Sequence, is the mathematical expression of the ratio 5:8 or 1:1.618, which is known as the Golden Mean. In nature, that ratio is found in the spacing of spirals on seashells and pineapples and in the arrangement of florets in the center of a daisy or sunflower. Her baskets are both visual and tactile – not separating from nature but being a part of it. Since 1983, Sudduth has worked as an artist, basketry teacher and owner of JABOBS – Just a Bunch of Baskets. She has taught basketry in several areas of the country, including North Carolina’s Penland School of Crafts and in the New Hanover County School District. Sudduth’s work has been displayed world-wide and at the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery. She is the subject of numerous publications and her work is collected by corporations and private collectors.
Ben Owen is the owner/operator of Ben Owen Pottery in Seagrove, NC, founded in 1959 by his grandfather, master potter Ben Owen, Sr. After apprenticing with his grandfather from 1977 to 1983, Ben III received an assistantship in 1987 to study business and teach pottery at Pfeiffer University. He graduated from East Carolina University with a BFA in ceramics in 1993, and has taught pottery and kiln building workshops at the Penland School of Arts and Crafts, the Hambidge Center, John C. Campbell Folk Art School, and Arrowmont School. He is inspired by the art of other cultures and is expanding the possibilities of clay in the same respects that his grandfather and father exhibited. Ben III has appeared on Good Morning America and been featured in Smithsonian and Travel Holiday Magazine. His work has been on exhibit in many galleries in North Carolina and the surrounding states, and he has served on the board of directors of the North Carolina Pottery Center.
Hiroshi Sueyoshi, a native of Tokyo, arrived in the United States in 1971 to help build Humble Mill Pottery in Asheboro, NC. After additional study in Virginia he returned to North Carolina in 1974 to work as a production potter in Seagrove at Seagrove Pottery. Sueyoshi has taught at the Sampson Technical Institute in Sampson County, Wilson Technical Institute in Wilson County and Cape Fear Community College in New Hanover County. He primarily works with porcelain using the Japanese techniques of neriage and nerikomi. His work celebrates the beauty of sculptural form in objects of use. Experts say that his shapes celebrate and blend the best of Japanese and North Carolina art traditions. Sueyoshi has exhibited his work and won numerous awards in exhibitions across the United States. His work is in private, corporate, and institutional collections including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution.
Cynthia Bringle is recognized by potters as among the finest and respected teachers in ceramics, and her influence on her field and other potters can be felt around the world. Born in 1939 in Memphis, Tenn., she is considered a leader in her field. She studied both painting and pottery at the Memphis Academy of Art, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (BFA). She later received her master’s degree (MFA) from Alfred University in New York. Bringle lives in Penland, N.C. and conducts workshops and classes at the Penland School of Crafts, near her home and studio. She also teaches courses and conducts seminars at Arrowmont, Haystack and other institutions. Her work is included in both private and public collections around the world, including Charlotte's Mint Museum of Craft & Design, Ontario's Burlington Art Centre and Atlanta's High Museum of Art. Her work has been featured in exhibitions and sales exhibits in Japan, Canada, Italy and in states throughout the U.S..
Norman Schulman is a master ceramist coming from a career of more than 50 years of practice and teaching in his field. He has had more than 30 invitational and solo exhibits and more than 50 group exhibits. Throughout his career as a ceramic artist, he has taught and mentored many potters who have, themselves, become distinguished in the field. Schulman was born in New York City in 1924. He remained in the city and received a diploma from Parsons School of Design before attending New York University, where he earned a bachelor’s (BS) in Art. He received his master in fine arts (MFA) in ceramics from Alfred University, where he held teaching and research fellowships. With that degree in 1958, he began his lifelong career in ceramics, which, in addition to his studio work, included professor and head of ceramics and glass at Rhode Island School of Design and head of Ceramics at Ohio State University. His works can be found in many public collections, including the Smithsonian, American Craft Museum, Museum of Art and Design (NY), Mint Museum, Cameron Art Museum and Schein-Joseph International Museum. His works are also included in private collections throughout the U.S. and other countries.
Richard Ritter lives and works in the mountains of North Carolina near the Penland School of Crafts. He has been an active member of the Studio Glass Movement for more than 40 years, creating glass using murrini processes. His work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in numerous public and private collections including the Corning Museum of Glass, the American Craft Museum, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. In 1993 he was one of 70 artists whose work was selected for “The White House Collection of Craft,” a traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution. In 2000, Ritter was the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies School of Art and Design, the school where he was first exposed to glass blowing.
Mark Peiser lives and works in Penland, N.C. His interest in glass work began in 1967 when he took a glass course at the Penland School of Crafts. Two years later, he became the first resident craftsman in glass at the school and purchased nearby land to build his home and studio. He has been a leader in the Studio Glass Movement and is a founder of the Glass Art Society, of which he is now an honary member. Known internationally, Peiser's work has been included in numerous exhibits and in many public and private collections worldwide including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum of American History and the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass in 2004, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Glass Art Society in 2010.
The Penland School of Crafts is a national center for craft education dedicated to helping people live creative lives. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Penland offers one, two and eight week workshops in books and paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles, and wood. The school also offers artists’ residencies, community collaboration programs, a gallery and information center.
Monique Lallier is an internationally recognized bookbinder and book artist. Her studies began with masters of the craft in Montreal in the 1960s and continued with binders in Paris and Switzerland. Her work has been exhibited widely in such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and at the Biblioteque Nationales in both Paris and Montreal. Monique’s bindings are held in both public and private collections, stateside and abroad. In 2000 and 2003, Monique was awarded the Helen Warren DeGolyer Jury Prize for Design given by Southern Methodist University’s Bridwell Library. She served as the chair of the Standards of Excellence Committee for the Guild of Book Workers for twelve years and as the Director of the American Academy of Bookbinding for five years. Today, Monique continues to conduct binding courses and workshops from her studio in Summerfield, North Carolina and at several campuses of the American Academy of Bookbinding.
Don Etherington, renowned as both a leading conservator and a creative bookbinder, began his career at the age of thirteen as a student at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He went on to study bookbinding and design at the London School of Printing and trained in conservation with Roger Powell and Peter Waters. Don’s impressive career includes work at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence, the Library of Congress, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and Etherington Conservations Services, Inc. His bookbindings have been exhibited widely and are held in private collections as well as the collections of institutions such as the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Library of Congress. Don is also the co-author of Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, the first comprehensive attempt to compile terminology from all of the bookmaking and conservation fields. He has served as the chair of the Standards of Excellence Committee for the Guild of Book Workers for seven years and holds the position of fellow in both the American Institute for Conservation and the International Institute for Conservation. Today, Don continues to conduct binding courses and workshops from his studio in Summerfield, North Carolina.
Sue Marra, member of the Twin Rivers Quilters Guild in New Bern, North Carolina began quilting twenty five years ago when an unfinished quilt, in a traditional Sun Bonnet Sue pattern, came into her possession. She feels that her membership in local quilting guilds throughout the years has greatly enhanced her understanding of the craft and has stated that, "perhaps no other art exemplifies camaraderies as much as quilting." Despite technology's presence in the craft of quilting today, Marra prefers the traditional art form of quilting by hand, a style that demands patience and discipline. Additionally, she uses a technique called applique, which allows her the freedom to control every aspect of the design. Marra's award-winning quilts have taken top honors at numerous quilt shows, further demonstrating her hard work and dedication. Her latest work can be found hanging in Randall Library's Pelican Gallery, a nod to UNCW's coastal heritage.