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By Betsy K. White. University of Tennessee Press. 183 pages. $39.95
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Vignettes of craftsmen and -women who turned out such utilitarian items as lap robes for buggy rides, wig stands and all kinds of pottery long ago are featured in “Backcountry Makers, An Artisan History of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee,” by Betsy K. White of Abingdon.
In this study, she tells of the almost-forgotten material culture heritage of this part of Appalachia in sketches of 75 potters, quilters, weavers, spinners, cabinet makers, gunsmiths, metalsmiths and artists who worked from settlement times in the 18th century until the late 20th century. She also gives a broad, historical overview of regional settlement and work patterns.
White, retired director of the former William King Regional Arts Center in Abingdon, expands on her earlier book, “Great Road Style: the Decorative Arts Legacy of Southwest Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.”
In her research, White has reached into the backroads, mountains and valleys to find artisans with unusual skills. Many of them are from Washington County, but she also writes about creative folks from Tazewell, Smyth, Wythe, Scott and Buchanan counties in southern Virginia.
Everything was made at home in the early days, she writes, and those artisans used their own cultural heritage and abundant natural resources to produce works like furniture and quilts, handed down through generations. They often supplemented farming with the skills of their trade.
White’s book is well-illustrated with 230 photographs, most in color, of these rare paintings, pottery, coverlets, sculpture, furnishings and even cornshuck dolls.