Haywood Community College
Another key component of the growing studio craft community in western North Carolina was the establishment of the Haywood Community College’s Professional Crafts Program in 1977. Still in operation today, the Professional Crafts Program was revolutionary for combining the teaching of technical craft skills with the business know-how needed to make a living as a craftsperson.
Seeds of the program were planted when Gary Clontz was hired in 1974 to start a production pottery program modeled on a similar curriculum written for the Montgomery Community College (near the well-known pottery production centers of Seagrove and Jugtown, North Carolina). A few years later, the program grew into a comprehensive studio craft program with the addition of faculty in wood, fiber, metal, and, later, design. Over the years a core faculty would come to include the studio furniture maker Wayne Raab, the textile artist Catharine Ellis, the metalsmith Arch Gregory, and the design instructor Bob Gibson.
Illustrating the still-forming community of craft during the 70s, the founding teachers recall how most students came either from out of state or from other parts of North Carolina. There was not an active craft community in Waynesville at that time. Today, approximately 10% of the current Southern Highland Craft Guild membership is made up of Haywood graduates.
Amy Putansu teaching weaving to students at Haywood Community College, 2017. Photo by Jessica Duque.
Through their teaching, personal craft practice, and community service Clontz, Raab, Ellis, Gregory, and Gibson modeled for hundreds of students what it means to be part of a craft community. All were members of the Guild at some point during their career, and many served Guild committees. Clontz became the president of the board from 1998 to 2001 and from 2015 to the present. In addition, Ellis was a founding board member of Handmade in America, served on the boards of The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design and Penland School of Crafts, and in 2012 established the Western North Carolina Textile Study Group.