Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia
Beckley, West Virginia
A true haven for American craft, Tamarack is the nation’s first retail showcase of 100 percent West Virginian-made handcrafts, fine art, music, books and more. Tamarack has been an arts-and-crafts mainstay for more than 15 years and boasts more than 60,000 square feet and more than 2,800 artisans who welcome more than 500,000 annual visitors.
“Tamarack is the one-stop shop for all things Mountain State,” said Cindy Whitlock, marketing director for Tamarack. “It is a symbol of pride for West Virginians. Handcrafts offer insight into both the past and present of any community, and many artisans here create products based on generations of handed-down skills. Others have taken their creativity into untouched realms. For example, we have a woodworker who uses hand tools only, nothing that plugs in. He chops away at a log and fashions a bowl. Another artist cuts tin cans into colorful shapes for jewelry and photo frames.”
This expansive area includes a retail store, a fine-arts gallery, a theater, multiple working studios for resident artists and even a regionally themed food court that serves deli sandwiches, homemade soups, full entrees and freshly baked desserts.
“Weekends we invite even more artisans to display and sell their products while they work, as well as specialty foods vendors offering samples and book authors signing their books,” added Whitlock. “Every Sunday, there’s even a live concert in the theater. There’s always something to do, something to see or something to enjoy by yourself or show off to family and friends.”
Ozark Folk Center
Mountain View, Arkansas
For more than 100 years, people in Stone County, Arkansas, have come into Mountain View to barter and trade their crafts for goods. Because of this relationship between art and commerce, homemade items have always held a special value to this Ozark community.
In the 1940s, people started moving away from the area because there wasn’t much gainful employment. It wasn’t until the mid-’60s that some artists, painters and crafters decided to settle in the area to make a living and a lifestyle for themselves. It was with that mindset that the Ozark Folk Center was created: to keep those crafts alive.
“A great many places, you can go in and watch them make a craft,” said Jimmie Edwards, director of group lodging sales at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. “If you’re a group and you come here, and the blacksmith is making something, we can give you the hands-on experience. You can actually sit down with the master craftsman and learn how to make that craft with the expert. ”
What most groups love about the folk center is how it gives an insight into what earlier cultures in the Ozark region did to survive. From mountain music and dulcimer making to jig-dancing lessons and pioneer crafts, the center offers an entire cultural experience for groups, with country cooking at the Iron Skillet Restaurant on site to boot.
“The one thing that makes us different from others is that we are a people place,” Edwards added. “I like the ability to go to the different crafters and have things done that are one of a kind, like when I wanted to buy my son a special knife, and I talked with Tom, and we picked out an antler handle, and he made it all by hand. The artists here love what they are doing, and they’re more than willing to show their stuff off.”
Next: Kentucky Artisan Center
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