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Sawdust Festival, Quilt Show celebrates cooperative's anniversary

Sawdust Festival, Quilt Show celebrates cooperative's anniversary

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ABINGDON, Va. — Summer events at Holston Mountain Artisans will be in full swing this weekend when the nonprofit cooperative hosts its annual Sawdust Festival, Quilt Show and a History Tent, a special recognition of the cooperative’s 50th anniversary.

All of the special events, free of charge and open to the public, will be held at Holston Mountain Artisans at 214 Park St. in Abingdon from July 23 through Aug. 1.

Andrea Rhoton, director of the cooperative, said although the Sawdust Festival got its name from featuring woodworking artists, it has been expanded to include demonstrations of all craft-making. She expects as many as 200 visitors for this year’s event.

The Sawdust Festival is a teaching event that is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 24.

Numerous cooperative artisans will interact with spectators as they demonstrate how they create the things that make them craftspeople. The artisans will set up their booths in the parking lot behind the building. Tools and careful instructions will be available for anyone who wants to try their hand at woodcarving, including children.

The event will feature demonstrations by wood carvers, wood turners, quilters and basket makers. Other media include photography, barn quilts and dot painting.

“We want to reach out to all people who are interested in learning a craft in hopes the festival will inspire them to create and eventually become a member of our cooperative,” said Rhoten.

The Quilt Show will begin Friday, July 23, and run through Sunday, Aug. 1. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 25; and 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 1.

Dozens of traditional and contemporary-designed quilts will be on display and available for sale in the Annex building behind the craft shop. Visitors are invited to vote on their favorite quilts. The winner of the popular vote will receive a gift certificate to the shop.

A special section will feature “History Quilts” from the co-op’s past, including a Cathedral Window quilt that was made by the late Thelma Van Huss, who lived in Damascus.

Shearer explained that one of Van Huss’s Cathedral Window quilts was the very first quilt to sell when the cooperative held its first exhibit at the Virginia Highlands Festival’s “Flea Market” on the Barter Green.

According to her, about 20 craftspeople joined the cooperative for this first venture — exhibiting for one week at the annual festival. It was here that they were discovered by Barter Theatre’s director, Robert Porterfield, who offered them the use of his Cave House, which he had previously used to house Barter actors.

In recognition of the cooperative’s golden anniversary, the festival will include a History Tent with memorabilia from the early days when the cooperative first organized.

The exhibit will include old newspaper articles and photos as well as handmade toys, wood carvings and baskets made by members in the 1970s and 1980s.

“And we’ll be telling stories from our early days,” said Kathy Shearer, who, along with her husband, Rees Shearer, and their friends Sarah and Eric Reese, will be available to share stories and answer questions about the cooperative’s history. They welcome current members and former members to join them in the tent.

The couples were leaders in forming the cooperative in 1971.

Food vendors at the event will be Brad’s Tasty Dawgs and A.R.T. Cookies by Angie Taylor.

Follow Holston Mountain Artisans on Facebook to learn more about the artist members.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at

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