|Wooden cowboy hats by Chris Ramsey of Somerset, Ky. (Ellen Albanese / Globe Staff)|
GATLINBURG, Tenn. -- This town is about as commercial as they come: chain hotels, fast food joints, and shops filled with plastic backscratchers and Dollywood trinkets. So it's a pleasant shock to step into the Arrowcraft Shop and find nothing but quality items handcrafted by artisans of southern Appalachia.
Arrowcraft is one of five shops of the Southern Highland Craft Guild (others are in Middlesboro, Ky., and North Carolina, one in Blowing Rock, two in Asheville). It sells a wide spectrum of handwork, including weaving, basketry, pottery, woodcarving, glass, and jewelry. We admired baskets by Edgar Shelton of Murphy, N.C., who begins each piece by selecting and cutting a white oak, then milling it and weaving the final product. Wood cowboy hats sculpted from solid logs by Chris Ramsey of Somerset, Ky., looked so fluid it seemed you could fold them up and stuff them in your pocket. (If you know your hat size, Ramsey can make one to fit.) The shop is particularly known for textiles, said Laurel Kiewitt, the assistant manager. Quilts, shawls, and scarves are marked with the name and hometown of the crafter, the fabric, and the method of construction -- sewing, weaving, knitting, crocheting.
Shoppers can walk away with vegetable seed earrings for as little as $5 or a quilt for $5,000. And the only backscratchers are wooden ones handcrafted in West Virginia.
Arrowcraft, 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tenn. 865-436-4604. craftguild.org . Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. December-April, 10-8 May-November, 10-6 Sunday year round.