There are several staples in the Smoky Mountains: gem mining, hiking, waterfalls and craft shops. In Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community (GSACC) is the home to 100s of crafts and artisans that have established a community on Glades and Buckhorn roads right outside of town. Potters to woodworkers, painters to glass blowers, crafts of every shape and size. People from all over the country come to the GSACC to shop and pause in wonder at the amazing works of art that are being turned out in and in some cases handed down to the next generation.
When you visit Gatlinburg, you will see signs for the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community everywhere – plastered on some of the buildings and on each and every trolley. Finding the GSACC is just as easy. When you get to traffic light #3 turn up 321 and head toward Cosby, TN. You are going to travel 2.7 miles from traffic light #3. This will put you at the traffic light that is the turn off to Glades Rd. Once you have made the left hand turn onto Glades, you are now in the GSACC. You are now ready to experience one of the best arts and crafts communities in the southeast. As you drive along Glades road you will find that you are passing small galleries, craft shops and in some cases small craft malls.
The owners of these shops are the artists and crafters. In most cases the person that turned out the works of art that you are viewing is the person that you find sitting behind the counter. The best part is that in some cases you might catch them working while you are at their shop. You can watch the painter put brush to canvas and get creative, you can watch the potter at their wheel turning clay into a vessel or a vase or maybe you will be able to watch the woodworker with chisel in wood discovering the creature or creation that is hiding in the grain of the wood.
As you watch them work, take the time to talk to them about their craft. There is a reason that they are working in public. They want to talk about their art form. They want to explain to you why they work in the medium that they work in, they want to talk. Get them in a discussion of the piece that catches your eye. They will tell you the story of the photograph they took that they created the painting from. Instead of rushing through each of the shops at a break neck speed, try spending time in each shop. And if you have the kids with you get them involve din the discussion. Let them ask questions and you might find that you have opened their eyes to a whole new world.
Next time you find yourself in Gatlinburg, head to the Arts and Crafts Community. Follow one of the trolleys out of town to Glades Road and spend the day touring hte craft shops that line both sides of the road. Get some early Christmas shopping done and don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know the artists that run the shops.