Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

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.

The Old Mill

Small general stores used to be a staple for small Smoky Mountain towns. They supplied all the goods that a supermarket now carries, only it wasn’t produced in 10 different forms by 5 separate companies…. It was a simpler time of course.  For people living in Pigeon Forge then, the current Old Mill was where the general store was.  Since then, Pigeon Forge has grown drastically, and what is now the Old Mill Restaurant operate a  general store to keep the old time feel from totally disappearing.

If you’re at the restaurant, do a little shopping for corn meal that was milled by the Mill’s own water wheel. You’ll also find a variety of area souvenirs.  The Old Mill General Store is a landmark that everyone should see at least once in their life just to experience the idea of what it once was like…. how people lived back then.

Old Mill area MapTake notice as you’re traveling through Pigeon Forge and you’ll notice a sign at traffic light No. 6 for the Old Mill and Patriot Park.  Take the turn onto Old Mill Avenue, past Outback Leather (on the right), before coming to a large water wheel on the right.  You’ve come to the Old Mill General Store and the Old Mill Restaurant. Spend a few hours, or if you don’t have time come back the next day.

The walls and tables of the general store are lined with jams, jellies, cookbooks, souvenirs and of course sacks of flour and corn meal.  It’s like you’ve stepped back to the turn of the last century, almost. The collectible Pigeon Forge t-shirts and things that greet you at the door probably weren’t around then.  Our advice is to keep going until you reach an aisle.  You’re sure to find something along the shelves that will just make your mouth water.  Cookbooks from churches and organizations in the area (maybe even one by Dolly Parton herself), jams and jellies from the foothills of the Smokies, and of course flour and corn meal.

Buy a bag of flour or meal while you are at the general store, especially if you’ve never had natural corn meal or flour from a mill, not processed in some far off factory.  Stop by and watch the mill at work while it’s in operation during the day.  You’ll see the corn and wheat getting ground the old fashioned way.  You’re witness to the making of a product that has been produced in this same location since 1830. Some things never change.