Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 25, 2013

PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: In the pursuit of handcrafts

By Jean Clark
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Pleasant Hill has a long history of training and nurturing those of an artistic bent in their pursuit of handcrafts. Going back to the Pleasant Hill Academy days, teachers Tom Brown and Margaret Campbell taught the Academy students how to carve the heads, hands and make jointed limbs for the dolls Uncle Pink and Aunt Jenny based on real mountain people of the area.

After the Academy closed in 1947, their student Polly Page worked with Margaret Campbell and Earl Clark in the Craft Shop (now Heritage Hall), teaching and demonstrating her work. After the Pleasant Hill Community Center closed the Craft Shop, she built and opened the Polly Page Craft Center on the edge of Pleasant Hill in 1969 and continues to carve those dolls and others of her creation. This year Page was honored with the 2013 Folklife Heritage Governor’s Art Award by the state of Tennessee.

The Craft Shop included hand-carved animals, lathe turned wood articles, dolls, bowls, plates, baskets and woven articles. Margaret Campbell would spend a morning a week teaching young patients at Old General Hospital to braid rugs, cut, paint and string beads. Sarah Boyce (Alexander’s wife) started a weaving industry, which employed six women. Pleasant Hill Crafts became known far and wide and were on display in the Craft Shop showroom. Clark’s wood projects consisted of furniture and cabinet making, building construction and repair. Many homes in Pleasant Hill treasure pieces made in the Craft Shop including the Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC blessed with a communion table and two chairs, which graced its sanctuary for over 50 years.

Although Pleasant Hill no longer has a place to showcase handcrafted goods, many residents continue using their skills for their own personal satisfactions and occasional sales or donations of the products for worthy causes. Although Dick and Martha Lammers chose to downsize from their spacious dome home to a more convenient apartment, Dick still continues to craft marvelous scraps of wood into lustrous decorative or useful objects. The late Dr. Fred and Helen Munson provided funds for a woodworking shop next to the Blue Barn on Lake Rd., available by prior arrangement to those skilled with power tools. Heather Gunter, the Pleasant Hill town clerk, has established a specialty business of flowers and custom hair accessories (check out www.facebook.com/heathersbowtique12). Sharron Eckert has been creating art with long leaf pine needles for about 13 years. She exhibits and sells her designs at shows throughout the state, often winning prizes.

Since back in the 1950s, when nurse Alice Adshead started a craft group to sew for the Wharton Nursing Home and stitch projects to be sold, a group has met every Monday morning for that same purpose. They just held their annual Craft Boutique in the Blue Barn to raise money for the Adshead Fund, which supplements the needs of Wharton Homes’ elders. The Craft House at 115 Maple Circle (off Main St.) will be open Dec. 2-6 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. with their wonderful handmade items.

Uplands Village provides space for a clay room in one of its buildings. Barbara Everett has been learning how to “throw pots” and other methods of making earthenware. Hugh Thomforde has an extensive collection of handmade bowls. The monthly Sew ‘N Sew Quilt group gathers to work on personal projects and group projects for worthy causes. Contact Rita Kummer, rkummer@frontiernet.net if you would be interested in joining them. Rita is also an accomplished basket maker with unusual and traditional designs in her repertoire.

A recent column featured Jan Landis, puppeteer and master top maker. Shirley Berry has mastered native American beading for jewelry and belts. Wayne Edwards’ furniture refinishing and caning are works of art. Cheré Schatz makes delightful homemade stationery. Weavers Ruth Peeples, Jeanne Elrod and Margaret Vogel have provided lovely fabrics for their homes and families. Gail Ford is a fabric artist with a dramatic flair to her work. Grace Inglis produces unusual fabric items with a process called “shirret.” Carol Manchester has won several prizes at the county fair for her unique jewelry, scarves and other handiwork.

Pioneer Hall has often held an Artisans Day with locals demonstrating crafts such as spinning, weaving, woodcarving, basketry, tatting, quilting, corn shuck doll and seat making. The Earth Heart Center on Main St. makes their barn available for occasional craft sales. Lots of other people may have been left out. If you would like to fill Jean Clark in on your particular craft, please email her at jeanclark@frontiernet.net.

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This week in Pleasant Hill: The Grab thrift shop at 1944 West Main St. in Pleasant Hill will hold its monthly $1/bag sale on Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be closed Thanksgiving Day.