Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is pleased to announce that ᎺᎵ ᏔᎻᏏᏂ, Mary Welch Thompson is the Spring 2021 Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow. Thompson is a second-generation basket weaver, potter and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) from the Big Cove Community in Cherokee, NC. Thompson’s Fellowship begins March 1, 2021.
“I have some weaving projects which I am looking forward to getting started,” Thompson said. “With spring coming, I can harvest fresh dyes for my cane splits. I do selective harvesting of mature cane prior to it dying back. Spring and Fall is usually the time we like to harvest basketry materials.”
The daughter of Geraldine W. Walkingstick and mother to daughter Sarah, Thompson links three generations of basket weavers. Her mother raised her by “making and selling baskets,” she said, and she shares that creative legacy with her own children and grandchildren.
“I have been busy following up on a few projects that I had put on hold, such as maintenance and roofing for my work shop. I have had some time to sit with my grandkids and make pottery during these cold, wet days. We really enjoy this.”
Thompson won awards for her baskets and pottery. Her work is in university, museum and private collections, including those of Senator Kay Hagan and country music star Merle Haggard. She created river cane double woven baskets with lids by commission which are on display at the University of South Alabama, Mobile. Her work is published in the National Basketry Organization’s Tradition & Innovation in Basketry Today, the invitational exhibition All Things Considered and in WNC Mountain Living Magazine. Mary demonstrates and teaches basketry in craft centers including Arrowmont, Sequoyah Museum in Vonore, Tennessee, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee, North Carolina, and the Georgia Art Museum in Athens, Georgia.
A veteran of the United States Air Force, Thompson served four terms representing the tribal members in the legislative branch of Tribal Government. As a mom, gardener, potter and basket weaver, she volunteers in the community and serves on several national and local boards. She served as juror for the 20th Sevier County Biennial Juried Exhibition at Arrowmont, currently on display.
For her upcoming Fellowship, she asks the Smoky Mountains community for their help finding new basketry materials from the land. She said, “I do need to locate a river cane patch, if anyone of your audience might know of any.
Basketry, as my more traditional art form directly relates to my surroundings. The forest and mountains contain all the resources. The knowledge needs to be shared.”
The Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellowship was established as a program of Arrowmont’s Preserving and Teaching Traditional Appalachian Craft initiative. The Fellowship offers traditional craft artists and cultural elders the opportunity, time, and space to learn, reflect and share their knowledge of traditional craft. The Fellowship includes a stipend plus resources to attend conferences or other educational opportunities. During their tenure, Fellows present a public lecture and mount a small exhibition of their work. The Fellowship is open to Central Appalachian traditional craft artists and cultural elders. Preference will be given to the non-classically educated artist. Learn more at https://www.arrowmont.org/appalachian-craft/fellowship/.