Another Arts & Crafts Connection
Last week’s column on connections turned out to have an even more current application than Grant Wood snagging a couple of first edition Elbert Hubbard books.
On Thursday I was in Asheville at the one-room Biltmore Industries Museum, next door to the Grove Park Inn. Biltmore Industries was a cottage wood-carving and homespun weaving business begun in 1905 with the financial assistance of George and Edith Vanderbilt, owners of the Biltmore Estate. The two original instructors, Charlotte Yale and Eleanor Vance, left in 1915 for Tryon, North Carolina, so two years later Edith Vanderbilt sold what had been called Biltmore Estate Industries to Fred Seely, manager of the Grove Park Inn.
Seely built five large Arts & Crafts workshops in 1917 on the grounds of the Grove Park Inn and ordered office furniture from the Roycrofters. The weaving and woodcarving business closed in the 1970s, but the buildings and their contents remained intact. Since then the Blomberg family who owns Biltmore Industries have restored the buildings as artisan studios, a gallery, a classic car museum, a café and the Biltmore Industries Museum, complete with a dozen pieces of Roycroft furniture and a handmade oak loom.
As I was inspecting their 65-inch tall Roycroft magazine stand, a man my age, assuming I worked there, asked if the museum had any Roycroft books on display. Since this was not your typical tourist question, I immediately turned my attention to him. He and his wife, I learned, were from the Philadelphia area and had come to Asheville scouting out possible retirement options. What I soon found out, however, was that he was also a Roycroft book collector who, as his hobby, bound books in the Arts & Crafts style.
Now he really had my attention.
Naturally, I then launched into my Roycroft – Grove Park Inn – Biltmore Industries story, culminating with a description of the three-day Arts & Crafts Conference every February, which he had not yet heard about (even after 24 years of advertising, three books and three websites!).
The man was definitely hooked on the idea of returning in February, but he and I could both see that his wife was less than enthusiastic. Knowing their return would hinge on her involvement, I kidded her about needing to escape the Philly winter in February. She nodded, then added, “My interest in Arts & Crafts is more specialized than my husband’s.”
“What is it you like?” I inquired (wondering what could be more specialized than Roycroft books).
“Well,” she lamented, “what I really want to do is to learn how to embroider Arts & Crafts patterns.”
She actually looked shocked as I rapidly described all of the hands-on workshops offered on Thursday and Friday before the conference officially opens, including, to her amazement, Ann Chaves’ all-day workshop entitled “Basic Arts & Crafts Embroidery.”
Suddenly the idea of coming back to Asheville in February sounded like a good idea.
What I didn’t have with me was one of our brochures, but they were headed back to the hotel to buy my Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts furniture book. Along the way they were going to stop in the Grovewood Gallery and pick up a brochure from the stack I had left a week earlier.
And so another Arts & Crafts connection was made, which will bring this couple back to Asheville in February, where they will connect with other Roycroft book collectors, as well as a dozen embroiderers in Ann’s workshop.
It’s what keeps the Arts & Crafts Movement alive.
Until next Monday,
Have a great week!
“People don’t collect Arts & Crafts because it’s different;
People collect Arts & Crafts because they’re different.”